I’m waiting for the day a drone delivers my latest impulse purchase from Amazon.com (don’t lie, we’ve all done it). If you haven’t heard about Amazon’s proposed fleet of aerial drones, then check out their introductory video below.
It almost seems too far-fetched to be true. An unmanned mini-helicopter drops a package off in my backyard thirty minutes after I order it online? Talk about same day delivery.
The drones do have their fair share of positive attributes. They’re more environmentally friendly because they don’t use fossil fuels, and since they don’t have to abide by the rules of the road, they reduce delivery time by hours. Amazon isn’t joking around with this idea: they’ve already started testing programs in the UK, and all of their promotional articles and videos say the same thing: it IS coming, it’s just a matter of when.
But, like most shiny new inventions, it’s not all sunshine and roses. The drones raise a lot of questions, and come with a few inherent problems. Let’s talk about the largest question that has plagued capitalist America since we invented outsourcing: how will this impact jobs?
Mary Cummings, a drone expert who also teaches at MIT and Duke, said “people shouldn’t worry too much about drones stealing their jobs. The technology will also lead to new jobs. For example, [I bet] robot maintenance will be a booming business in the future.”
Uh…that’s all well and good for someone who’s a drone expert with a pricey degree in computer engineering, but what about, you know, the rest of us?
Currently, Amazon uses UPS and occasionally FedEx to deliver packages, which means they employ thousands of men and women to do the actual driving and delivery. At the same time, of the 1,840,000 bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2012–13, the greatest numbers of degrees were conferred in the fields of business, health professions, social sciences and history, psychology, education, and biological and biomedical sciences. Fewer that 100,000 students received degrees in computer science or related programs.
Which means, statistically speaking, that the majority of the drivers and postal workers do not have the necessary skills to transition to a job like drone repair.
Additionally, a highly skilled laborer like a drone technician can’t gain the necessary skills with two weeks of training: it takes years of college (which is expensive) plus internships (probably unpaid, which technically illegal) and then three or four entry level jobs (with crappy pay and worse benefits) until you finally arrive at a job that pays well.
So yes, for some people, the advent of drone delivery is going to mean a slew of highly paid job opportunites, but for the postman, it’s far from a dream come true. The owning class is going to get richer from all the money the drones are saving, and the working class is going to get poorer from middle-life unemployment coupled with the fact that, you know, you still have to pay bills every month to keep a roof over your head and food on the table.
I don’t want to sound like someone protesting the creation of new technology out of fear; that’s not my intent. But there is no denying that massive shifts like this will absolutely change the future of our economy.