What it is: Liam is Apple’s robot for disassembling iPhones to retrieve recyclable materials. Liam also represents the future of jobs in America.
Back in the 80’s, England’s newspaper unions insisted on printing newspapers using hand placed type instead of modern computers. The reason was simple. Avoiding automation retained more jobs. The problem was it was expensive and inefficient and ultimately unsustainable.
So when you hear of politicians talking about bringing jobs back to America, it all sounds good until you realize that most people without a job simply want their old jobs back with all the benefits. In other words, they want to go back to the old days when manual labor was necessary because there were no other choices.
It’s easy to go back to the past to create jobs. Instead of word processors, we could go back to typing pools that employed hundreds of typists. Instead of copying machines, we could go back to hiring scriveners, people whose sole job was to reproduce documents by hand. Instead of using modern machinery to construct skyscrapers, we could go back to doing everything by hand with shovels and picks.
In other words, it’s easy to go back to the past to create jobs. The problem is that going backwards is never a solution to the future.
There are actually plenty of jobs available. The problem is that former steel workers or auto assembly line workers don’t have the skills needed by today’s employers. Even if they developed the necessary skills, they’re competing against younger, fresher applicants. That doesn’t mean they can’t reinvent themselves to do new jobs, but it does mean that getting nostalgic about bringing the past back seems far simpler than learning new skills and competing against a younger generation.
Donald Trump recently boasted how he kept 1,000 jobs in Indiana by keeping Carrier from moving to Mexico. What Trump fails to realize is that the company is still shedding jobs and most jobs won’t be the old fashion blue collar jobs that once sustained the US economy. In short, Carrier is cutting costs and jobs by relying on robots and automation.
If you think about Apple’s Liam robot that disassembles iPhones, you can already see the future of jobs in America. Old jobs like postal carriers and assembly line workers are going away because technology offers simpler and faster solutions (email and automation). Donald Trump wants Apple to build products in America. If they do, they’ll simply rely largely on automation, which is what Apple does with their Texas plant that manufactures Mac Pro computers.
The future is robotic automation on assembly lines just like the future of writing is no longer typewriters but word processors and the future of accounting is no longer adding machines but computers running spreadsheets like Excel. Expecting accounting firms to go back to adding machines and paper accounting just to create more jobs is about as delusional as hoping Apple and other companies can bring back old fashion blue collar jobs to America without relying on automation.
If people really want a job, they’ll have to realize that going back to the past is never the answer but going forward to the future is. It’s much easier to hope for an old, well-paying job again and it’s much harder to work to reinvent your skills to a new job, but that’s the only solution. Going backwards will never move you forward. Automation is here to stay just like copying machines, email, and spreadsheets are here to stay. The future of employment is never the past. The only question is when will people finally realize this?