The history of human society is replete with examples of advances in technology overrunning the ability of societal organizations to efficiently handle the resulting massive societal dislocations. The social impacts of the “Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th Centuries” illustrate how profound such effects can be.
The automation-computer-robotics revolution now underway also has the potential for serious societal changes. In this regard public works activities are subject to increasing amounts of automation with impacts upon current and net total employment and training needs. To evaluate the present status of automation in the USA, questionnaires were sent to public works authorities in 110 cities or agencies. The current degree of automation, the impact upon employment and the skills now needed by public works employers were queried. It was found that in most cases automation was just starting; but that as complete automation as was possible was inevitable given the increasing complexity of the tasks, the demands of the public and the long term prospects for public works funding.
In many cases the candidates now in the work force were not properly trained for automation needs. Retraining and changes in the educational system appeared necessary if the employees now needed were to be continuously available. Public works management as well as several labor organizations appeared to be aware of this need and were organizing to handle the training problem and the changes in employment qualifications now necessary. It appeared to be a consensus that the larger societal effects of automation should be handled by society as a whole.