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Guest Blog: Thank a Robot

ARC Guest BlogThis guest blog was originally published as a Letter to the Editor in the Houston Chronicle, written by Dan Allford, President of ARC Specialties, RIA member and Certified Robot Integrator.

Regarding “Tax code gives robots an advantage over people”: Much has been recently written advocating the taxation of robots to offset job losses. Having worked in the field of industrial robotics my entire career, I feel obligated to argue on behalf of the machines and for all the people freed from the drudgery of manual labor.

Automation in U.S. agriculture has reduced employment on the farm from 50 percent of our population in 1900 to less than 2 percent today. Machines have been washing clothes and dishes since the late 1800s. Machines have been weaving cloth and manufacturing clothing since the 1700s. Everyone has benefited from plentiful, affordable food and clothing, all produced by machines. No one seems to miss plowing fields behind a mule, washing dishes by hand or weaving their own cloth and sewing their own clothes.

Humans have a long history of fearing machines. In the 1700s, textile workers called Luddites destroyed weaving looms and sewing machines, fearing that their jobs would be eliminated. If the Luddites had succeeded in stopping progress, the world would be a very grim place.

It is ironic that Bill Gates advocates for taxing robots, but personal computers with word-processing software have eliminated more than half the typists in the U.S. Why is eliminating a typist good, but when a robot is employed to perform heavy, dangerous work, that’s bad?

I don’t believe that farmers should pay a penalty for buying a harvester that picks cotton 50 times faster than a person. The consumer should not pay more for their cotton shirt to cover the farmer’s robot tax. That makes no more sense than taxing individuals when they buy a washing machine to automate their household chores instead of hiring help.

Our current level of prosperity is directly attributable to the improved efficiency that comes with automation. In 1960, one transistor cost $1, which is a billion times more than today’s cost, making cellphones and computers affordable. This astounding reduction is a result of automation.

Cost reduction due to improved efficiency is not recessionary, it is revolutionary. In this global economy, the most efficient producer of a product prospers, while inefficient producers go out of business. Robots keep U.S industry competitive, and our standard of living high. If the U.S. tries to save jobs by taxing robots, these jobs will simply move overseas. I know this because I install robots in 23 countries. Robots free humans to live longer, better and more creative lives. Progress is not just inevitable, it is desirable.

Next time you see a robot, be sure to thank it for doing the hot, dirty, dangerous jobs.

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