Intellectual Alarmists Fear Automation

On May 5, 2015, the first autonomous commercial vehicle to operate on an open public highway in the United States was unveiled to international media at Hoover Dam, outside of Las Vegas.

Fear of change has always been with us. New inventions bring change.  To stop the source of change in the late 1800’s, Congress considered abolishing the U.S. Patent Office to prevent change on a theory that “everything had been invented.”  Automation is not easily accepted because many people do not want to give up the steering wheel, accelerator, and brakes of their car, and speculate a massive job loss. Change creates inherent opposition because of unknown consequences. Overlooked is that new technology historically has created new types of employment.  The development of the automobile eliminated the horse and buggy transportation and created a worldwide transition to a huge new industry and built a highway system.  The Internet overwhelmed the conventional postal system with instantaneous written communications and brought about electronic publishing.

Automation will bring many changes to include the development of many new industrial development and expansion of existing production processes. When employees  are eliminated from traditional occupations, human error is avoided with reliable machine performance.  Still with us will be management stupidity that is unable to ensure for reliable oversight of automated systems.

Driverless interstate freight trucks will create a need for toll roads that bypass big city freeway congestion.  A straight  shot through Arizona with a reduction of some 75 miles would start at the I10 Safford junction and make a nearly straight line in a northwest direction to Casa Grande with a new toll road directly to Buckeye, and reconnect to Interstate 10 to Los Angeles or a shortcut to Parker for destinations through Bakersfield, California, or north to Salt Lake City.  Autonomous 24-hour continuous truck travel has a need to be routed to reduce travel miles but there is no need for existing truck service stops. In addition, the passenger of an autonomous passenger car arrives at their destination rested, relieved of stressful driving.

Automation is likely to replace the fuel tax to a “miles traveled” fee, as power vehicles may include other sources such as electronic batteries or hydrogen. Driverless vehicles will change the needs to service, housing and perhaps separate truck and auto traffic routes. Air travel may change to include combined air, hotel and driverless taxi bookings. Already air shipping firms plan for pilotless aircraft and the shipping industry is planning  for crewless container ships.

Automation will open new doors in combining vegetable farming with electronic power generation. Today’s emphasis on abolishing greenhouse gases overlooks the vital role of CO2 in making the grass grow green and growing of forests for timber.  Millions of years ago, our atmosphere, harsh with CO2  levels, were 15 times greater than they are today.  This toxic atmosphere with sunlight was very photosynthesis along with water, provided accelerated plant growth that accumulated lots of lush vegetation that became todays source of coal.  It is not far-out science fiction that a coal burning electric power plant without a smoke stack, with zero emissions would be the source of  CO2    to provide large green houses where 10 crops of vegetables could be grown each year.  It is a reasonable concept that all the CO2 emissions from a coal burning power plant could be used to accelerated crop growth.  Excess power at night could provide high intensity light to continue nighttime growth. Other trace fumes would be collected for commercial sale. It would be an electronic power plant with no smoke stack that would prevent no conflict with the EPA.  Also, the fly ash residue is an excellent binder in concrete and asphalt and would be another source of revenue.  Even the remaining vegetation of the vegetable crop after harvest is good feed for dairy cattle and their manure is a source of methane gas, which is a clean fuel.  The leftover manure can be composted and packaged as a soil conditioner.

During the two or three week growing cycle in CO2 rich atmosphere, the plants will release oxygen.  As  oxygen is lighter then CO2, it will rise to the ceilings of the huge green houses and be released by sensors to improve air quality.  As population increases, there is an increased demand for farm produce that displaces conventional farm land.  New areas can become a common site for the smoke stack-free electric power plant, and automated CO2 accelerated green houses, near coal fields in the southwest where the sun shines bright.  The list goes on and on of the by-products of an automated no-smoke-stack coal burning power plant with an automated green-house farm.

For every job lost, ten new career opportunities may arise. First, for every new automated system developed, it will require software specialists and conventional engineers to design and manufacture these automated systems.  Next, every new automated facility, needs to be financed, marketed, maintained, and managed, which command higher salaries then are available for manual labor.  Colleges and universities need to expand their curriculum to include the science and engineering needed to ensure for reliable automation with coal- burning power plants that capture CO2 and all other pollutants and restores the coal mining industry.  As automation reduces the cost of products and services while increasing  higher-paying professional positions, leisure activities will be needed.  Our welfare society needs to be replaced by developing a national ethic of a personal responsibility for self-improvement of new skills for tapping the wealth of automation.  Automation will bring about massive changes in our economy. The key for the survival of a displaced workforce that provided manual labor, is not to allow them to become perpetual welfare recipients.

Our intellectual media commentators should not fear automation because of an ill perceived loss of manual labor employment.  Technology change immediately brings lots of low hanging fruit for those who have the initiative to establishing for themselves a very profitable niche. Automation clearly brings a survival of the fittest that must break the dependence on welfare systems that is evolving in a minimum wage that is becoming a living wage for a family of four. Automation is a wake-up call too, for those laborers who have been replaced by automation to not sit by and wait for welfare. They need to look for the low-hanging fruit and become self-sufficient.

The greatest threat to ensure for an effective transition to automation is stupid management systems. The development of  reliable failure free automated systems must disregard conventional hierarchy management systems.  Automation is the work product of teams of engineers and software specialists who combine various technologies into a system.  To ensure for reliable performance, there must be a test and evaluation with physical tests of exposure to all circumstances and service test s for operational performance.

New age of management is to provide a professional climate for development terms and for maintenance and service technologists to ensure failure-free automated system performance.  Automation will create a new economy that will offer opportunity for a highly motivated specialized professional innovators and workforce.

On May 5, 2015, the first autonomous commercial vehicle to operate on an open public highway in the United States was unveiled to international media at Hoover Dam, outside of Las Vegas.

About David V. MacCollum 64 Articles
David V. MacCollum is a past president of the American Society of Safety Engineers and was a member of the first U.S. Secretary of Labor's Construction Safety Advisory Committee [1969-1972]. He is the author of: Construction Safety Planning (Jun 16, 1995) Crane Hazards and Their Prevention (Jan 1, 1991) Construction Safety Engineering Principles (McGraw-Hill Construction Series): Designing and Managing Safer Job Sites Jan 8, 2007) Building Design and Construction Hazards (May 15, 2005)