Technology should replace human labor
In the last years technology has improved quickly. These technologies change the way we live a lot. To give an example, the smart phone enabled us to find all the information we want to know no matter where we are. Some other technologies automated tasks, which means people are no longer required to do those tasks. Like how the self-driving cars can replace drivers and how self-help checkouts replace cashiers.
Not everybody supports this trend but as pro, I do support this.
The burden of proof in this debate is shared. The participants have 72 hours to write their posts and the character limit is 10.000. Only people with at least 2 completed debates can accept this debate. If you have any questions/remarks, please post them in the comments.
Technology: the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems (1)
1. No forfeits
Round 1: acceptance (no arguments)
I thank Dpowell for accepting the debate.
In this round I’m going to argue that replacing people with technology is good and that it should be supported with three arguments.
Argument 1: Technology beats people in many tasks
The first reason people should be replaced with technology is because technology is often better at the task. Let me give four examples to sketch a better picture:
1. The self-driving car of Google can drive itself. This technology is better at driving cars than people are, because these cars get in way fewer accidents than the cars driven by people (1).
2. Computers can beat people in chess. After convincing victories in 2005 and 2006 it was proved that computers can beat the best chess players (2).
3. It turns out that computers are good at judging what personality people have. With 10 Facebook likes a computer can determine your personality better than a co-worker, with 70 likes it can beat a friend and with 250 likes it can beat a spouse(3).
4. The 3D printer is a new way of manufacturing. There are hundreds of applications, but one of them is that SpaceX uses the 3D printer to build rocket parts. The reason 3D printing is used is because it gives options traditional, labor intensive, manufacturing methods don’t give (4).
So, technology beats people in many tasks. So why should we support technology? Because if something is better it brings many advantages with it.
The self-driving car has the advantage that it causes way fewer accidents than people do, so fewer people get injured and fewer people die in traffic.
Knowing what the personality of a job candidate is can help recruiters determining who the most suitable candidate is.
This list can be made longer, but I think you get the point.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There is an even bigger advantage.
Argument 2: Technology enables us to spend time on other tasks
Many technologies that are invented reduce the amount of work people have to do. Some even get rid of it completely. Allow me to explain this in more detail with two examples:
The self-driving car enables people to do other tasks while in the car. Since many people spend a lot of time in the car, this is certainly a big time-saver. It also reduces the frustration people get when they get in a traffic jam. They no longer have to do the accelerating and braking themselves anymore.
The 3D printer enables people to manufacture things themselves. The old, simplified, supply chain looked like this:
So, time is saved. Why is this good? Because this allows people to get more done in the same amount of time. If it took 1000 hours to build a house in the past, but only 500 hours to build the same house in the present, why not spend 500 extra hours on improving the house? Adding an extra floor, central heating, air-conditioning or some solar panels. You now have time to improve your life, which in turn increases your utility a lot.
These are my main two arguments, but to make my case even stronger, let’s look at what technology did in the past.
Argument 3: Using more technology helped us in the past
In the past the majority of the people worked in agriculture. But over time more and more people stopped working in agriculture and started working in other industries. This is shown in the graph below.
The percentage of people who works in agriculture dropped significantly, because productivity increased. More productivity means that fewer people can still produce all the food we need. So, why did the productivity go up? Technology. This includes using fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, but the storage facilities also improved which meant food could be stored for longer without spoiling. Furthermore, tools like digging ploughs, tractors, mechanical threshers and combine harvesters enabled people to do more work in less time(6).
After technology made sure fewer people had to work in agriculture, more people could work in other industries, like education, research, recreation and transportation. In the present day only a small portion of your utility comes from food and a lot comes from.
Another important historic invention was the printing press. Before the invention of the printing press every single book had to be written by hand. Not surprisingly, there weren’t very many books and only a few people could read. But after the printing press books became cheaper. Since books became cheaper, there were more books. More books meant that reading became more and more important. So more people decided to learn to read. This led to a more educated population (7).
These examples show that in the past technologies had a huge positive impact on society. Extrapolating this trend and we come to the conclusion that future technologies will also have a huge positive impact on society.
I will now hand the debate over to Dpowell so he can give his arguments.
Here is a list of disadvantages of machinery.
There are a lot of disadvantages to machinery. I'm sure there's more disadvantages than there are advantages. The biggest problem is unemployment. This ruins the economy as it creates inflation and we can't buy anything. The government would have to hand out money, because we'd no longer be able to earn it seeing as there wouldn't be any jobs left. Then, all that money will go to the companies who will keep it, because we all know how the government doesn't tax the rich people enough. Replacing all human workers with machines is a great way to destroy any country.
Humans are important to our economy as well as our defenses and other jobs and things. There will always be something that we can do that machines can't do. No matter how hard anybody tries, they'll never create a machine that can do everything we can.
Thank you, Dpowell, for providing your long list of arguments. It seems like you’re using the gish gallop strategy (throwing so many arguments at the opponent it’s hard for him to rebut them all). Just because you have many arguments doesn’t mean you’ll win. To elaborate with numbers: 1+1+1 < 5. Three weak arguments are less powerful than one powerful one.
In this round I’ll rebut your arguments to show why technology should replace human labor.
1.1 Technology makes people lazy
In the past there were many jobs that were physically demanding. The heavy items in construction got lifted by hand, mail got delivered per bike, clothes were sewn by hand, etc. In the present most of the physically demanding tasks were made easier by technology. We use cranes to lift heavy items in construction, mail is delivered with the internet, clothes are made by machines, etc. So physically demanding labor disappeared. But those cranes had to be built, the e-mail service has to be programmed, the machines had to get designed, etc. All of these jobs are mentally demanding. People got lazier, but they also got smarter and better educated.
So technology makes us lazier, but also smarter and better educated. Is this change truly bad? If you ask me this change benefits society.
1.2 People will no longer learn certain skills
It’s true that certain skills are lost. There are in the present very few people who know how to weave a carpet by hand and this number is decreasing with the year. However, new skills appeared to compensate for the loss. We now have skills like programming, engineering and analyzing data.
1.3 + 2 Machines aren’t artists / human workers have advantages over technology
I never said every single human should get replaced by technology in the short term. It’s not required for me to argue that to hold up my side of the BoP. I merely have to prove the trend where people get replaced by technology is a trend that does more good than harm. This doesn’t include a short-term plan to replace every single person by technology.
1.4 Technology lead to use becoming very specialized + technology increase our dependence on others
These two arguments are heavily related to each other, so I’m going to rebut them with the same argumentation.
Con creates the impression specialization is bad. Allow me to tell a made-up anecdote to show that specialization is good.
There are two people, farmer Frank and builder Bob. Frank has a farm where he produces 1,000 apples a year. Frank does all of the work by hand and he is barely able to survive with this apple production. Bob knows how to make advanced tools like the tractor and those can boost the production of apples a lot. However, Bob doesn’t know a lot about farming, so even though he has advanced tools, he is only able to produce 1,000 apples a year. But then Bob gets the idea to work together with Frank. Bob trades the tractor and promises to maintain it, but in return he wants 50% of the apples that Frank cultivates. Now Frank has better tools and he is able to increase his apple production to 3,000 apples a year. He gives half of them to Bob, and keeps the remaining 1,500 for himself. That’s 500 more than what he had before he started working together with Bob. Bob also increased his apple income by 500.
This is a simplified example that show how specialization works. Both Bob and Frank specialize more and they also start to depend on each other. But in return they both are better off than if they were working on their own. So specialization and depending on others aren’t bad. They are ways to increase welfare.
1.5 Technology can be destructive
It’s true that some technologies like the atomic bomb are destructive. But just because some technologies are destructive doesn’t mean all technologies are. Take the internet for example. I know you’re using it and I know it hasn’t killed you. Furthermore, claiming that all technologies are bad, because some are destructive is like saying all Muslims are bad, because some attacked Paris a few days ago.
1.6 Technology pollutes the environment
It’s true that many technologies pollute the environment. For example, cars that run on gasoline and power plants that run on coal emit a lot of CO2. But how is this argument connected to the resolution? If we decide to use self-driving cars, they are still emitting CO2. But if we stick with cars driven by people they are still emitting CO2.
1.7 Technology causes conflicts between classes
So it looks like con suspects replacing people with technology will create conflicts between classes. So what? Multiple conflicts are doing more good than harm. Take for example the conflict between the Founding Fathers of the USA and Britain. Britain wanted that America remained a colony while the Founding Fathers wanted independence. One conflict later and America was independent. This was the first step in changing the USA in one of the biggest economies in the world.
1.8 + 3 Technology leads to unemployment
This rebuttal is so long, I split it into two different parts.
Part 1: ShadowStats isn’t reliable
Con claims the current unemployment in the USA is near the 25% and he uses ShadowStats as a source. This debate isn’t connected to a specific country. But since technology has a similar effect on employment all over the world this specification isn’t going off the topic too far. Now that’s out of the way, let’s go back to ShadowStats. I question the reliability of that site.
To show why I question the reliability, let’s take a close look at the graph. I posted it again so it’s not required to scroll.
The grey line is U6, the broadest definition of unemployment the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses. This is calculated the following way:
(Officially unemployed people + people who work part-time for economic reasons + people who are marginally attached to the labor force) / (civilian labor force + people who are marginally attached to the labor force) (2)
- Officially unemployed people: people who don’t have a job, but did look for a job in the last 4 weeks (2)
In October 2015 this was in numbers:
( 7,908 + 5,767 + 1,916 ) / ( 157,028 + 1,916 ) = 15,591 / 158,944 = 9,8%
ShadowStats adds long-term discouraged workers to both the numerator and the denominator. Since the unemployed according to ShadowStats is 22.8%(1) we can use algebra to calculate the amount of long-term discouraged workers according to ShadowStats.
(15,591 + x) / (158,944 + x) = 22.8%
Since all numbers were in thousands ShadowStats claims there are about 26,746,000 people who are long-term discouraged in the USA. That number is unrealistically high. Especially because the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on the amount of people who want a job, but haven’t looked for one in the last year, which is the same as the amount of long-term discouraged workers. This was about 3,263,000 in October 2015 (4). This is way lower than the number ShadowStats used. Therefore I question the reliability of the unemployment reported by ShadowStats.
I’d like to thank Ed Dolan from source 2, because he made this job easier for me.
Part 2: technology doesn’t lead to more unemployment
Since I question the reliability of the blue ShadowStats line, let’s look at the grey line (U6). It clearly shows that the unemployment is roughly 10%. This is about as high as the U6 was in 1995. But how is this possible? When technology replaces people, aren’t they losing their job?
It’s right that some people lose their jobs because of technology. For example, fewer people work in agriculture today than in the past. I already pointed this out in round 2. But there are two reasons why technology doesn’t lead to more unemployment.
1. New jobs are created
Technology increases spending power, which increases demand, which creates new demand for jobs. These jobs are mainly created in the caring, creative, technology and business services sectors (5). To give a concrete example, in 1871 there were 9,832 accountants in England and Wales and in 2011 there were 215,678 (5). The graph below shows this increase visually.
A very similar increase happened with bar staff.
So in some industries jobs disappear, but in other industries new jobs appear. But not all of the jobs that are lost can be compensated with jobs appearing in other industries. The second reason fills those holes.
2. People start working fewer hours
In the Netherlands there was the idea to change the work week from 5 days of 8 hours to 4 days of 9 hours (6). This saves 4 hours a week. Multiple companies in Sweden take it even further. They reduced the work day from 8 hours to 6 hours (7). Since every person works less, it’s required to hire a few more people to compensate for the loss in hours.
Technology actually ruins educations and makes us dumber than my oponent thinks. In this section I will delve in the eight ways that technology does this. Smart phones and computers emit a blue- enriched light that disrupts our melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that controls when we feel sleepy, this blue light messes up the process and we lose the ability to stay on a sleep schedule. The loss of sleep can cause increased bad attitudes, decreased focus at work, loss of memory and loss of brain tissue. This could kill your social life as no one would no longer want to be around you.
Though all this technology is bad, I'll admit that some tech. isn't bad and can actually help. People listening to music usually work harder and faster than those who don't. Also, people who listen to music while working seem to excel more than those who don't.
I’d like to thank my opponent, Dpowell, for his contribution in the previous round. In this round I’m going to defend against it to show why technology should replace human labor.
But first I’d like to point out that Dpowell brought up many topics in the previous round, but he didn’t rebut the arguments I made in round 2. I therefore consider them dropped. Now on to the defenses!
1. The blue light of technological devices messes up our sleep
Con brings forth the fact that the blue light from electronic devices is bad for your sleep. But have no fear, more technology is here! A few people made the program f.lux (1). This program adjusts colors in a way that greatly reduces the stimulating effects of blue light at night, solving the problem. Plus, it’s free so if you don’t have it yet, feel free to get it.
2. Technology is bad for education
My opponent believes technology is bad for education for two reasons. First of all, 87% of teachers agree that digital technology is creating an easily distracted generation with short attention spans. Furthermore, 64% of the teachers believe that technology is even doing more harm than good.
These are arguments based on authority. The problem with that is that the authorities can be biased. Because of that I question how legit con’s argumentation is. After all, adults complain a lot about the younger generation, which created a bias. This already happened in ancient times. More than 2400 years ago Socrates lived and made this quote:
"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” (2)
Even XKCD made a comic about the fact adults have always complained about the younger generation.
So I suspect teachers are busy complaining about the younger generation. Since the technology people use is the biggest difference between the current generation and the generation of the teachers, technology becomes the scapegoat of everything teachers dislike about the younger generation.
Because of all of this I suspect teachers are too biased to objectively decide whether or not technology does or doesn’t aid students in their education.
3. Technology makes our brains worse
Con brought fourth multiple points that show technology makes us worse at taking in information, memory and navigation. But before I start refuting this argument, allow me to cite a quote from Darwin, the man who started the evolution theory:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” (4)
This doesn’t just apply to species, but also to companies and people. How many companies sell carriages which have to get pulled by horses? Not many. They were all replaced by companies which sell cars. How many people who don’t know how to use a computer have a job? Not many.
So the parts of the brain that take in information, manage the memory and manage the navigation are only important if the tasks they do are still important in the modern world.
In the modern world there’s a lot of information within your reach. Taking in information is no longer very important. Filtering the important information out and forgetting the rest is a more important skill.
Memory is getting less and less important, because we can now store a lot of information in our phones. Why bother remembering if it’s easier to just write it down?
Navigation is also getting less important. Why bother training your hippocampus if you’re never going to use it anyway? Just use the navigation on your phone.
So people get less good at certain skills, but so what? Those skills are no longer very important anyway. Furthermore, if your brain uses less energy for some activities, it can use that energy to boost other parts of the brain which are used in the modern world.
Con talks about how the internet and video games can be addicted. But before I’ll address this, allow me to digress to heroin addiction.
First things first, what causes heroin addiction? Heroin, right? There’s even research backing this up. A rat was put in a cage with two bottles. One was ordinary water and the other was water with heroin added to it. The rat kept drinking the drugged water until he died. So to keep the rat healthy we should keep drugs away from them. Sounds legit, right?
It might surprise you, but it isn’t legit. More research about addiction was done by Bruce Alexander. He created a luxurious cage he called rat park. It had colored balls, tunnels, other rats, just everything a rat would want. It also had two water bottles. One willed with ordinary water and the other with drugged water. The rats rarely touched the drugged water at all. So, how is this possible?
It turns out that rats want to get attached to something. Normally other rats, but when those aren’t available they start to get attached to drugs. So rats don’t use drugs, because drugs are addicting. They are using it, because there’s nothing else to get attached to.
Now back to the internet and video game addictions. They aren’t addiction in and of themselves. They only become harmful when people aren’t able to get satisfaction from other sources, like bonds with other people. So con made a mistake in identifying what the cause of the addiction was.
This argumentation was made possible by this video from In a Nutshell - Kurzgesagt. https://www.youtube.com...
5. Costs of robot
According to con a robot costs $20,000 - $22,000 and he believes it’s easier to just hire a human to do the job.
But let’s do some math. The median income of an American was $53,657 per year. (5) So if you can replace 1 American with 1 robot, it takes 22,000 / 53,657 = 0.41 year for the robot to earn itself back.
But let’s be realistic. There are extra costs that are connected to the robot. Electricity, maintenance, etc. But there are also extra costs of a human worker. Coffee, a work place, the risk the worker gets sick, etc. But most important of all, the Americans who can get replaced the easiest by machines are also the people who earn little. So after taking everything into account it’s maybe more realistic to say that it takes about 1 year before a robot earns itself back. That’s still a pretty short time, so it seems like robots can be cheaper than people.
In a previous round con mentioned that he believes technology will create mass unemployment and with that high inflation. I already showed in the previous round an increase in unemployment is unlikely, because new jobs will get created and people get the idea to start working less.
But I also struggle with con’s logic about how rising unemployment could possibly lead to rising inflation. Especially because the Phillips Curve (see below) shows that high unemployment tends to correlate with low inflation.
When unemployment rises, inflation is not a problem.
7. Viruses and cookies
I don’t have many characters left, so consider this dropped.
Many topics came by during this debate, but it seems like most of the attention got focused on the disadvantages of technology. But let’s summarize the debate from my point of view.
Arguments for using technology to replace human labor, which con dropped:
- Technology beats people in many tasks. Example: self-driving cars that cause fewer accidents
Arguments against technology replacing human labor with refutations:
- Technology makes us lazy, but this is compensated by the fact people get smarter
The list of disadvantages is longer, but the arguments are of lesser quality. Furthermore, most of them were refuted while the arguments for technology weren’t. So vote pro!
I'd like to thank my opponent for this opportunity to debate this interesting topic. I'd like to apologize to somewhat breaking the debate's structure, but I'd like to point out that my arguments (points) from the last round still stands because it did rebut some of my opponent's points in round 2 and a lot of my opponent's points from round 2 can easily be found in that last round. Since I have already defended my points though, I'll use this final round for my conclusion.
In the past rounds me and my opponent have gone back and forth about whether or it'll be a good idea to replace human labour with technology. My point was that it wasn't. I brought up how no matter, how many people you replace, or how few, the country will go into an extreme economic crisis either way. Things are already bad here since we already owe China trillions of dollars. Also, any body can turn technology against us to get anything. The interenet is already a weapon, as it is used to steal people's personal information. Technology will also ruin relationships and families, more so than it already does. Technology also ruins our education and minds. It prevents us from remembering anything or learning anything. So we'll never obtain any skills at all, let alone new ones. Plus, by all techicalities, technology is a drug as we can get addicted to it. In otherwords. Technology has ruined our lives and will continue to do so. There's nothing we can do that will make it any better. Now the only question that remains is this. Do we want to have purpose in our lives? Or do we want a bunch of robots doing everything for us? In other sense. Do we want to have a chance at evolution or plunge into a de-evolution.
Again I'd like to thank my opponent for this opportunity to debate this topic and I hope to debate them again sometime. Also, because of what day I'm typing this up.... Happy Thanksgiving.
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