My question is about the increased use of self-serve checkouts in grocery stores. There are also self driving vehicles including the use of drones for deliveries. These are examples of technologies that will eliminate a significant fraction of jobs. As consumers, employees and citizens, what can we do to stem the tide of job elimination by automation?
Let me suggest a different approach. People could welcome technologies that save on human labor if it did not also threaten jobs as you rightly are concerned about. The key point is that it is not technology that threatens jobs; it is capitalism that controls and uses technological change to increase profits for a few rather than reduce labor for the many. Take a simple example: if new machines can replace old ones within an enterprise such that workers produce twice as many units of an output as with the old machines, here are the two options for such an enterprise. In the typical capitalist enterprise, the owners/directors can and will likely fire half the workforce, keep the other half working and have the same revenue from selling total output at the existing price. Profits will have gone up by the amount saved for the capitalist by not having to pay the wages of the half of workers just fired. That is but one option. The workers in such an enterprise would much prefer a second, different option: reduce every worker's workday to half the time (say from 8 to 4 hours). The the same output as with the old machines would result; the same wages would be paid to the same workers; nobody would be fired; and output, revenue and profits would be the same as with the old machines. In short, option two brings the benefits of technological change to the workers - in the form of a vast increase in leisure time with no drop in wages. If workers were in charge - as in a workers coop - they would much prefer option #2 over option #1 and likely act accordingly. In conclusion, our task is not to stop automation but rather to grasp and follow the logic that if we changed the economic system - moved beyond capitalism - automation would benefit and thus be welcomed by workers rather tha being feared and opposed because of how capitalists have always used technical change.