Today, consumers take the idea of low-priced goods for granted. Shoes are a good example of something that everyone in basically any income level can afford, and the reason for that affordability is partially thanks to machines.
In the early days of manufacturing, goods like shoes were made by hand. This process was expensive because a person could only make so many shoes, even in an assembly line. There was only so much stitching one could do in a day. Machines changed much of that process, and machine-assisted manufacturing has made it easier to produce goods at a cheaper cost. Manpower hasn’t increased, but output has.
During those early days, there were luddites, as there are today, who decried this new technology as dangerous. They claimed handmade goods would vanish, and that machines would make work obsolete. They were not totally wrong on all accounts, but handmade goods have far from vanished. The handmade nature has bestowed a certain quality. Work did not become obsolete either, although some jobs did. People adapted then just as they will adapt now.
What automation accomplished was something more. It freed us up to apply ourselves to work that truly matters, which helped grow our civilization.
Automation might make some of our current work obsolete, but it won’t be a substitute for well-made products. Art is a good example. Art has value precisely because it is man’s expression of the world around him. It is something machines, by nature, cannot duplicate. Machines can do a lot, but they cannot substitute the human experience. The next time you’re concerned about automation, consider the benefits that new technology brings, and how we can adapt to this changing world.