The renowned scholar Karl Marx once declared, “The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.” However, this unsettling claim is not entirely accurate. Indeed, the rapid development of technology has changed how we progress as a society, yet the utility of human thought is constant. There exists great fear regarding the labor force being fully automated and the human mind losing its vigor due to the growing reliance on technology. These concerns, nonetheless, disregard the advantages that human thought possesses over mechanical input. Technology will not render humans useless, as Marx suggests; rather, people will continue to modify their modes of work and thought while retaining the valuable innovation that machines simply cannot achieve.
It is an undeniable truth that the labor force has entirely changed due to the advent of certain technologies in the workplace. As an example, many occupations requiring data analysis have been fully automated since machines are found to be much more efficient at the repetitive calculations of figures. This phenomenon, however, does not implicate that humans will be ultimately inept in the future job market, for human input is always essential to the advancement of the labor force. As Robert D. Atkinson (2017) explains, human interaction is and will still be critical to numerous fields, such as social work, education, cosmetology, and personal healthcare, as full automation lacks the interpersonal skills intrinsic to human nature. In fact, technology has created new jobs. For instance, more than seventy percent of jobs in the United States alone involve some use of computers (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013), and this figure continues to rise. People are gaining new skills to collaborate, rather than desperately compete, with the technologies transforming today’s markets.
While many fear that machines are crippling us in regards to job relevancy, another fear lies in technology’s impact on human intelligence. Nicholas Carr, who wrote extensively on this topic, argues that we are now retaining less information than in the past due to our shift from books to online sources. As the Internet contains a multitude of sources easily connected to one another, Carr explains, readers are exposed to several hyperlinks directing them to many other online sources, thereby decreasing their retention of the original source and impairing their overall learning experience. Other pessimists state that humans are too reliant on technology because less effort is required to receive information, which is less intellectually engaging than learning material via more traditional means. Despite these arguments, technology has, in fact, improved our learning experiences. Although online sources do come with diversions, we use them in collaboration with books to enrich our retainment. The increased availability of information allows us to respond to more learning styles promoting efficiency in both the classroom and the workplace (Pew Research Center, 2016).
Although new technologies continue to transform how we work and think, human contribution is still essential to our ways of societal advancement. Machines are neither taking our jobs nor impairing our intellectual capacities; instead, they are expanding our abilities as humans. Thus, contrary to Marx’s assertion, we are not, and will not ever be, useless.
- Atkinson, Robert D. “Unfortunately, Technology Will Not Eliminate Many Jobs.” ITIF, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, 7 Aug. 2017.
- “Internet/Broadband Fact Sheet.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, 7 Aug. 2016.
- “Most Common Uses for Computers at Work: The Economics Daily.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2 Sept. 2013.
- Sehgal, Kabir. “The Internet Makes Us Stupid and Here’s Why.” Fortune, 16 Feb. 2016.
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