Planning for Automation

By Daily Editorials

February 12, 2019 4 min read

As we look to decide how to rebuild and reinvest in a post-Hurricane Michael community, one thing to keep in mind is the future of "disruptions."

You can plan for disruptions like you can plan for hurricanes, but it only gets you so far. Therefore, whenever possible, think about the things that haven't been thought about — that is, what might you need in the future that you can build cheaper today.

Whether that's a new road, a new form of transportation or charging docks instead of pay phones, thinking about the future the way you thought about the past simply won't do. It's not smart investment, and you're only setting yourself up for future expenditures that you could have prevented if you planned in a different mindset than you have in the past.

Tourism-driven economies will be affected less by automation than industrial-driven economies, but automation still is forecast to have an effect on Northwest Florida, according to a recently released study.

Axios, an online news site that also publishes a host of newsletters, recently published a map that showed the expected effect of automation on each county in the United States.

While Florida was clearly shown as being less affected by automation than other parts of the U.S., especially the industrial Midwest, a few counties in Northwest Florida — Santa Rosa, Walton, Bay and Franklin — were predicted to have 1 out of every 4 jobs — or more than 25 percent — affected by automation.

Tasks that are repetitive — i.e., easy to replicate by man or machine — were the most likely to be automated, and the report, which used data from the Brookings Institution, suggested that businesses will need to "take charge of reskilling and upskilling huge swaths of displaced workers."

This is especially evident now, when unemployment is low and wage pressures are biting businesses' bottom lines. It's expensive for any business to pick up and move, and low-income workers have little incentive nor the means to. That's why schools like the Tom P. Haney Technical Center become even more vital in training workers for industries that pop up over a span of a few years. (In 1999, for instance, Google and Amazon were both operating, but few people outside of California had heard of them. Now they're among the most sought-after jobs, and communities throw money at them to have a chance at landing their new headquarters.)

That's not to suggest that it's prudent to follow the "build it and they will come" strategy, but each part of a whole is important when looking at the big picture.

When faced with a monumental task like cleaning up and rebuilding after a hurricane, it's important to plan for advances like automation that will disrupt and reshape the economy over the next two decades. We are in a position to get ahead of that curve. We shouldn't waste the opportunity, but embrace it instead. Spending money is not always a bad thing — especially if your aim is to invest in a more productive, profitable future.


Photo credit: at Pixabay

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