As the uncertain future of automation looms over broad sectors of the American economy, people from all economic walks of life have been left pondering worrying questions. How will automation impact my industry? How will it change my day to day life? Will I lose my job to a robot? Above all else, one question remains pertinent; do Americans have a legal right to work?
Even the most ardent advocates of automation will concede that robots can’t truly replace everyone; there will always be a plethora of jobs capable of being done only by humans. Nonetheless, massive quantities of jobs in our economy, particularly in areas such as manufacturing, retail, and transportation, are vulnerable to automation. How, then, will the coming wave of robotic automation change our nation’s economic and legal landscapes?
Right-to-work laws already exist in many forms throughout the U.S., yet these laws focus primarily on unionization, rather than automation. No legislation nor precedent as of yet exist to determine whether an American has a right to a job over, say, a robot. Nor is any such thing realistically likely to come into effect.
Nonetheless, labor unions and independent workers alike will certainly take steps to insure their economic well-being against automation, particularly in the field of law.
Legal actors should prepare themselves for a future where they may be dragged into a civil or criminal case regarding automation. If a company automates a position, and the robot or programming later causes a severe error or crisis to unfold, how might a prosecutor go about trying their case?
Lawyers will most likely be largely unsuccessful should they try to argue that their client’s right to a job supersedes a company’s right to automate. Yet they may find themselves more successful bringing lawsuits against those same companies when an automated function of their business causes personal or economic injury to another. A shrewd legal actor may argue that tragedy could have been averted, should there have been a human overseeing a job.
These kinds of scenarios are not hypothetical; thousands of manufacturing, service, and transportation jobs are already undergoing massive change due to advances in automation and programming. Lawyers and legal actors may even find their own jobs jeopardized by the onslaught of technological advance; routine paperwork can be done effortlessly by computer programs in a fraction of the time it takes a human, and complicated text can be quickly analyzed and interpreted by machines.
As the tides of time turn forth greater and greater advances in robotics and programming, legal scholars will be forced to confront questions such as these. Wise judicial actors should get a head start on these issues today, rather than suffer them tomorrow.
How might automation impact your job? Do you think legal actors have reason to fear computers taking their jobs? Leave a comment down below!