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Automation can defined as the use of control systems together with other information technology applications in controlling industrial processes and industrial machinery hence plummeting the need for human involvement. Control systems include programmable logic control, numerical control, and other industrial control systems. Information technology in this case entails the technologies that are aided by a computer such as CAD, CAM, and CAx. (Britt, 1994).In industrialization automation is more than mechanization. Automation reduces a great deal of human sensory and mental requirements whereas mechanization provide human with machinery to help them with work that require muscular involvements. Processes and systems have also been automated.
The effects of automation on societies and on individuals have been weighty. On many instances, many time-consuming or rather unpleasant tasks are now machine performed. Automation has had a profound impact in many greatly visible industries that are beyond manufacturing. In the medical industry processes like primary screening in radiography or electrocardiography can now be done at a greater accuracy and speed by automatic systems. In this industry robots have been employed to help the doctors to analyze and treat patients. In the laboratories, the examination of human sera, genes, tissues and cells are now carried out by automatic systems. The many bank visits to get cash and to transact have been reduced by the automated teller machines. Generally, the automation of industries is the one responsible for the shift of the world economy from agrarian to industrial economy in the 19th century and in 20th century from industrial economy to services economy (Britt, 1994).
The prevalent effect of automation of industries brings up many social issues. Among them is the automation impact on employment. Effects of automation concerns date back to history at the beginning of the industrial revolution. During this period, the social movement of the textile machine operators of English referred to as the luddites complained against Jacquard's automated weaving looms. They used to often destroy the textile machines when they felt that they were putting their jobs at stake. When the industry automation was introduced, there was a widespread fear because workers thought that computerized systems would displace human operators and this would lead to massive unemployment.
An increased industrial automation lead to high unemployment rate and it has taken place indiscernibly in recent years. This is so because many jobs in the manufacturing industries that have been left are offset by a one-time increase in Information Technology jobs at the same time. It has been argued that the opposite has most of the times been true, and it has also been argued that automation has led to high employment rate. In this point of view, many more people have been allowed to enter into higher skilled managerial jobs and specialist contractor/special consultant’s jobs by the freeing up of labor force. The se are characteristically higher paying job opportunities. The disadvantage of this shift is that most of the under skilled labour is highly demanded in first-world countries for the reason that few people are available to fill such job vacancies (Debelle, Vickery, 1998).
The profound transformation of the communications industry is another good example of how the automation of industries has impacted the lives of people all over the world. Today, the many calls that used to pass through human operators are now under control of automatic switching machines. The telephone operators that was Once-ubiquitous have now been replaced by answering machines and automatic telephone switch boards. Other examples of automation in communication industry are the communication systems such as communication satellites and the local area networks (LAN). A LAN functions in the same way as an automated telephone company. However, they can not only transmit voice but also they can transmit digital data between various terminals in a system. The satellites which are essential for the transmission of video signals or telephone all over the world rely on automated guiding systems which place and keep hold of the satellites in predestined orbits.
The travel industry has also been revolutionized to a great extent by the automation. Automatic reservations, automatic instrument landing systems, automated navigation and automatic pilots have all been employed in the industry. However, as a result of industries automation, there is drastic dislocation of employment patterns. In a case where a machine can handle the work supposed to be handled by ten workers many of the workers must be repositioned. When one machine can do the work of ten workers, most or all of those people must be relocated or retrained to learn newer and higher skills. Whether or not this is a wholly negative impact has been strongly debated. As population and consumer demand for the products of automation increases, new jobs have been created.
All these aspects of industrial automation have led to structural unemployment. This is nature of unemployment where there is a mismatch between the demand of workers in the labor market and the well trained and qualified workers seeking for employments. In such a case even if the number of available job opportunities is may be equal to the number of people who are unemployed, the number of unemployed people may lack the skillfulness needed for the jobs or they may not be residents of the country or the part of the world where these jobs are available. This form of unemployment is as a result of many dynamics within the labor market which can never be as flexible as in some markets such as the financial markets. Workers lack opportunities for the reasons of training and moving costs plus much inefficiency in the labor markets. Inefficiencies in the labor market may be monopoly power or discrimination.