Written by Al Jazeera
The recent proposal made within the Board of Directors to use robots to replace their human workers after a worker strike reflects the recently arisen sentiment of corporations to prioritize innovation over their employees and brings into focus society’s emphasis on technological innovation rather than human lives.
After the Amazon Board of Directors learned that their workers went on strike from Amazon warehouses Saturday morning due to negative sentiments surrounding worker conditions and employment benefits, a couple of board members focused the discussion on replacing human workers with robots, turning the debate into a more concerning direction.
When discussing this issue, Vice President and CTO Werner Vogels proposed using artificial intelligence and moving all of these jobs of the workers on strikes to automation as a solution, notably shifting the dialogue away from how to better cater to these workers' demands.
Additionally, while the general sentiment of the committee was that this wasn’t feasible at all, the fact that this was even brought up begs the question if technological innovation should be valued more than human lives.
The dialogue of machinery replacing human capital is not a new one, as the possibility that artificial intelligence and other cutting edge technologies creating unemployment has been a long-standing fear among domestic, particularly blue-collared, workers.
By replacing human muscle and effort at a much more accelerated speed, recently developed technologies have driven economic progress and business growth. However, this has created a population of millions of citizens who are simply unable to contribute to their society economically and has generated greater amounts of damage to an already declining middle class. Unfortunately, by looking at people simply by their economic value, we’ll be moving even further into a society with no regard for each other lives.
“If this is not the biggest example of success in innovation and automation, I don’t know what is”, stated Vogels triumphantly. Unfortunately, what many consider to be successes in innovation and automation is also killing our economy in terms of unemployment and rendering our fellow people as useless to our world.
If we prioritize progress in technology over human lives, where will we be going as a society? Will we ourselves turn into the very robots we’re replacing each other with? By going in the direction reflected by the discussion in the Amazon Board of Directors, it seems that we as a society are headed into a dangerous future where we only see each other as worthless machines, not people.