Machines are starting to phase out high-end white-collar jobs

The Washington Post reports a machine called “Sedasys” has taken over for anesthesiologists in some medical procedures. The device puts patients under, monitors their vital signs, and brings them back to consciousness after the procedure. A nurse or doctor stands by only to intervene if something goes wrong.

It’s a disruptive technology that has caught the medical world off guard.

Take colonoscopies. Anesthesiologist fees average about $2,000 per procedure. Sedasys costs just $150-200 per use. That’s at least a 90% reduction in costs… and it has human anesthesiologists concerned.

Until now, automation has disrupted only blue-collar employment overall—say, car assembly line workers. (We noted automation’s impact on drivers’ jobs in the April 15 Daily.) But robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are starting to cut into the purview of other subsets of the labor force… including traditional white-collar occupations like doctors, lawyers, computer programmers, and journalists.

  Automation frees up human resources for higher purposes. It slashes production costs and improves productivity. Access to more goods and services at lower prices enhances human beings’ standard of life. But this important question remains:

What happens once machines are better at everything?

Martin Ford addresses this in his book, Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future. He sees humans as unable to keep up with the speed at which automation takes over the labor force.

According to Ford, this will result in mass unemployment and a greater divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” It will lead to tremendous social instability.

Ford proposes massive new welfare spending to support the displaced labor force. Our experience has shown that approach only takes a problem and makes it worse… but the questions he raises are ones we should all be asking, right now.