There’s a humble sense of ‘validation’ that comes from seeing your opinions and prognostications confirmed by no less an icon of business thought than the Wall Street Journal. We’ve devoted past articles to two tech topics in particular that have recently been validated in the Journal and which support our thesis that technology is the future of manufacturing. The two topics in question are how the advent of technologies including (1) 3-D printing and (2) today’s new robots can be the progenitors of not less, but more employment in the U.S. economy.
In the August 8th Journal (page A13) author and former hedge fund manager Andy Kessler opined that the “Luddites are wrong” when The Economist magazine suggested that “technology may destroy more jobs than it creates.” As Kessler writes:
“The road to wealth does indeed pass through the graveyard of today’s jobs. But history shows that better, higher paying jobs are always created by technology – even if no one seems to remember this during periods of creative destruction.
The trick is to lower the cost of new machines and inventions that can do things never before possible, making them available for wide use.”
Kessler then goes on to illustrate by examples including blood markers, gene therapy, funding platforms and two more we’ve espoused in the past: 3-D printers – which work almost like laser printers to create actual objects—and which we first wrote about here; and today’s newer robots, like “Baxter” from Rethink Robotics in Boston, which we first wrote about here. And actually, we wrote about both of these new trends in a single post on 21st century manufacturing here.
He reminds us how 3-D printing is changing how things are made, and can be bought today for between $1,000 and $10,000. Recall that today’s $200 laser printers were once $10,000 (I remember selling them then) and as much as $17,000 before that. Already, 50,000 3-D printers have been sold, and with a key patent expiring next year, sales are expected to soar in an industry of hard-to-find auto parts, industrial designs and jewelry. The printing of human tissue is even now being discussed.
Meanwhile, the $22,000 Baxter robot is as we’ve noted before, easy to train and human-friendly. It’s destined not to replace people, but to augment them. They’re especially effective in performing repetitive and/or dangerous tasks. But best of all, as Kessler notes, “they can do things that haven’t been done before.” Robots will change the way SMB manufacturers operate, lower costs and “create a hiring binge for those savvy enough to use them.”
So while some politicians and policy makers blast technology for destroying jobs, the truth is, the upside potential to create even more, better jobs is the place to bet.
Fortunately, those same pundits, politicians and policy makers will be there to take the credit when the time indeed comes.