Automation will make work easier and still keep many workers employed

There is a big risk that automation will make more people lose their jobs.

This risk can be mitigated, but it require an enlightened government.

What do I mean?

1. Automation can make the work easier for people, but it does not need to replace the worker entirely. For example, a self driving bus can remove the tedious work of driving. But a bus driver can continue to be employed to take control of the bus under unusual situations. The bus driver can also provide customer service and ensure that customers pay the fare. The work of the bus driver becomes less strenuous.

2. An automated tray collection gadget can still use a worker to collect the bowls and utensils from the table, but it will do the heavy work of moving from one table to another. This will be less tiring for the worker.

The approach that I suggested can be described as “80% automation”. It leaves 20% of the work to be done by people. It is less costly to develop “80% automation” than to achieve “full automation”. I suspect that the cost of “80% automation” could be less than one-third of “full automation”.

Another advantage is that the “80% automation” can be introduced earlier and improved with time and experience.

Why do we need an “enlightened government”?

They will set the regulations to ensure that workers are employed to do the 20% work, and the wages are at an adequate level to meet the cost of living. They have to lead this process of change in an active manner.

Do you agree with this approach?


Tan Kin Lian




26 Responses to “Automation will make work easier and still keep many workers employed”

  • xoxo:

    in the REAL WORLD,it is difficult to achieve PERFECT EQUILIBRIUM among the FACTORS IF PRODUCTION,ie,LAND,LABOUR AND CAPITAL; particularly between LABOUR & CAPITAL( includes TECHNOLOGY).

    Too much application of one factor may be * detrimental* to the other.
    OVER-USE OF capital will cause PROBLEMS to labour,as can be observed already.

    The BETTER approach is NOT MAXIMI$ATION BUT OPTIMIsATION,i would opine.

    The PROBLEM arises becos of the GREED of businessmen as they keep replacing labour unceasingly with capital.


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  • SiJiânc:

    Don’t talk cock. No boss stupid like you: automate and still let you stay and pay you! Employers automate to make more money with better efficiency. Not make life easier for you!. Stupiak!

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  • TumasikPatriot:

    Using Bus drivers and table cleaner as an example is sheer RUBBISH…”THINK” lah tan ahhhhh!!! for your age and past experience you seem to be going Senile???…get Ivy to help more often with your POST leh!!!

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  • Tracey Ching:

    Comrade Ah Tan, you should automate yourself to Wuhan China. Time is not on your side. More than half your body is already in the casket. So hurry up, automate yourself.

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  • Another "PAP" in trouble:

    Straits Times: Businessman Goh Jin Hian could face legal action for breaches of director’s duties at troubled commodity firm

    Son of Woody Goh in deep shit.

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  • NotMyProblem:

    Automation should be encouraged in all industries; Automation assists human not replacing them. With Singapore’s low total fertility rate, it makes sense to introduce automation where ever possible.

    Example in hotels, vacuuming is now using robotic vacuum machines, delivery of room service can be done by robotic waiters. Bed making, linen changing and other choirs are still done by human.

    Very unfortunate, employers refuse automation because of machines are expensive, employing foreign workers is cheaper.

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  • Priority:

    Automation will be the trend…can’t stop the trand.
    More important is that our worker can still be gainfully employed even in the future.
    May need to learn new skills…

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  • Harder Truths:

    Automation will be preferred over humans in many areas to save costs. There will be no humans needed to operate anything or repair anything. China is already doing it to replace its ageing population. In a recession there is no incentive to keep someone who is more expensive, will stay for a short time or will never be as ‘hardworking’ as an automaton.

    Barristas now serve coffee made by machines, In banking and finance there are banks without people, lawyers have been replaced in drawing up legal documents. McDonalds has a few people-less restaurants. We already have driverless trains. So the future is already here to stay.

    This is just the beginning of massive job losses in all sectors. No one will be spared. If not sooner than later. But it will happen. People should not expect to go back to a past that is irrelevant and unoworkable in the New Normal.

    This will probably be the biggest change in $G’s history – even bigger than when the British landed in 1819.

    The problems $G faces are structural – the entire system will have to be replaced. If citizens think by tweaking policies set by a clueless bunch of political morons they can escape this change – then look out.

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  • Bad idea:

    Not practical to set workers to do 20% of work because of difficulty of measurement.

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  • xoxo:

    *automation* is just *noise*?
    We have oredy been *CECA-mated* by Indian FTs to the tune of 650K!

    Soon,we will be called India-pore.
    Even Indian-FTs’ grannies and grandpas are dumped here???

    Go around and do rough headcounts at public spaces.

    No wonder sgs get nudged out of banking jobs,IT and hospitals.
    Now,who can deny that sgs have been *CECAmated* out of our workplaces?

    Well,ask PRITAM TO CHECK REAL MOM DATA,if he can have access?

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  • Prof Wei Shin YU:

    In many cases, with today’s technology, it is not feasible or not justifiable financially to go for 100% automation. Take for example processing of roast ducks or bak kua.
    In these industry, 80% automation is the limit; but the no. of workers are foreign workers. So no worries.

    On the other hand, in nursing homes and hospitals, because the no. of foreign workers are strictly restricted, there is a shortage of manpower.
    Automation will more likely improve the level of service (e.g. less waiting time) and reduce human errors rather than reduce the no. of workers.
    For example, the use of our TransBOTer invention to reduce the patient bed transfer effort and time, will also reduce the risks of falls and injuries of the patients and staff,and OHSA.

    The Japanese, Swiss and Swedish automate so that they could afford to pay their employees more.

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  • Partial truth?:

    Automation…depends on cost of machine and its maintenance costs.

    I shall quote 2 examples not industrial related,

    Where i m staying my avenue have many elderly or quite a number people recovering from stroke or leg issues us. So far for 5 years i observed not more than 10 using mobility wheelchairs excluding other avenues. All this gadgets is supposed to help all these people but so why few take up ?

    Firstly , the cost of purchasing a mobility wheelchair not cheap. Easily 4 figures. Next maintenance cost . I spoken to one of the owners and users, he told me just replaced the 2 smaller front wheels cost $150. If replaced battery 500 dollars ( 2 batteries ) . And how long these 2 items last when he newly bought the wheelchair ? Approx only 1.5 years.
    Next if u travelling further e.g. from kovan home to hougang and suddenly breakdown in hougang, u can called some tow services back home which is at least 50 dollars.
    So if u observe carefully your own neighbourhood, take up rate not high. U guys can check it out and filled in anything i missed.

    Next , robot VACs . Not sure about industries but household type mostly after one year or at most 2 years people just throw. Not because majority spoil but rather they lazy or dont know how to strip down the VACs to clean thoroughly. After using for months, the robot VACs have dust, hairs, stains, fabrics stuck on wheels and other contact parts. My near by executive condo flats every year sure people throw away. The owners are rich ( i heard some are pilots , some medical specialists , some surgeons ). Some robot VACs only use for months only. So my house have 2 which they dumped it. Everything working with chargers and remotes. Of course i know how dismantle everything.

    And Yes i know i know. Called me cheapskate , i dont mind.

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  • Ministry Without Ministers ?:

    Since MacDonald can operate without people, Banks can operate without Bankers, Legal companies can operate without Lawyers – what about Ministry operating without Minister ?

    We can get a group of highly trained Political Scientists and Engineers to build a database using Artificial Intelligence to provide the appropriate solutions to our problems. That will save us a lot of money instead of employing the world highest salary Ministers who sometimes cannot think of the solutions or worse as seen on the TV sleep in our Parliament.

    Maybe a PM will coordinate with this group of people to improve the system. We may need to employ Ministers for important areas like Defense and Economy.

    Just think out of the Box.

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  • blueview:

    Mr. Tan Kin Lian,

    First and foremost, pray to whoever you want like a million times a day that very soon we’ll see a robotic maid/helper that can replace a human maid/helper.

    Such an invention will eliminate 80% of grieve of having a human maid/helper.

    The remaining 20% can be handled by the robotic maid/helper’s employer or their relatives.

    The BIGGEST and the most troublesome task that an employer has is to manage the needs of a human maid/helper plus their own purpose of hiring a human maid/helper. There are lots of benefits:
    - no salary to pay
    - no insurance needed
    - no abusing of any kind by anyone
    - no need to worry about the emotional side of things on both sides (employer and the helper)
    - a million more benefits……..

    Please Mr. Tan Kin Lian – look into this first and be an advocate for this invention. God will Bless you immensely.

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  • Prof Wei Shin YU:

    Incidentally, if our shipyards go for automation, they will re-capture the market from regional countries and create many admin/mgt jobs for local Singaporeans.
    The automation will also result in much faster throughput, which means bigger profits, and lower costs for the ship owners.

    Using multiple waterjets and spay nozzles simultaneously, and mounted on the “side forklift truck” instead of scaffolding,the hull cleaning, auto inspection and re-painting time can be reduced by up to 80%.

    Currently such operations are manually operated, not only slow but dangerous as well.
    Same goes for the highrise HDB apartments and the multi-million barrel crude oil storage tanks.

    Automation of ship hulls when anchored in port can save time, money,and the scuba divers’lives. And no one is made redundant,because it is not 100% automation — still requires a human to monitor the system.

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  • Automation:

    Automation will improve productivity and take over repetitive or hard labor or dangerous work.The smart trend will be here..
    It will not replaced workers but their work scope will change.
    Need to be prepared for the change and adapted to it.
    Those that willing to adapted will survived.

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  • Prof Wei Shin YU:

    Further to my last 2 posts, in SG, according to some reports, there are about 200k post stroke survivors, and 600k+ elderly, 1/3 of whom fall at least once a year leading to 2400 hip fractures (– a slow and very painful death) and other injuries.

    To improve the walking ability of the stroke patients and reduce the falls of the elderly and stroke patients (70% falls in the 1st 12 months), my Aus invented Automated Interactive Body Weight Supported Treadmill System was clinical trialed at TTSH for new and old stroke patients (up to 6.5 years post stroke and up to 72 years old) as well as for fall-prone elderly. All in, SG spent about $1.5m on this project.

    The results were much better than the std physiotherapy; some elderly threw away their walking sticks after only a few sessions and shouted miracle!
    What’s more, 1 therapist can now attend to at least 2 patients at the same time. Unfortunately,we were not able to interest any co. to commercialise and install 1 or 2 sets in every one of the 104 CC’s.

    Such automation could form the core technology for a Stroke Rehab City in SG, for foreign stroke patients as well, and create many meaningful jobs.
    However,there is great interest in China.

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  • Automated Bus Ramp:

    Every bus should be equipped with automated bus ramp so the driver need not go in and out of the bus to flip-flap the ramp. Poor driver. Why can’t his job just focus on fully automated driving? Yes, smart nation in the making?

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    Whither do Singapore? Yingapore?

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  • oxygen:

    NAIVE SIMPLISTIC THINKING pretending to know everything emanating from a robotic mind OUT OF TOUCH with the real world happening.

    @ Tracy Ching put it in a comical perspective when she spoke.

    Tracey Ching: Comrade Ah Tan, you should automate yourself to Wuhan China. Time is not on your side. More than half your body is already in the casket. So hurry up, automate yourself

    It giggle with uncontrollable laughter reading it BUT SHE IS RIGHT of “automate yourself which is an impossibility.

    IN THE REAL WORLD, technology can only PARTLY automate the most simple process BUT NOT THE PROCESS ITSELF.

    Here is one good example. An Australian gold-miner tried (and failed spectacularly) automation of the entire mining process (not just routinized parts of the process in underground gold-mining. Please see page 7 & 8 of this weblink.

    Automation technology makes Resolute Resources Limited Syama gold mine in Africa the world’s FIRST FULLY AUTOMATED UNDERGROUND GOLD MINE.

    - drilling
    - loading and dumping
    - ore haulage to surface

    and ON DOUBLE SHIFT that never happens anywhere in the world.

    DUMBEST INVESTORS BOUGHT THIS SHARE mistaken that production cost will fall to a budgeted US$ 750 per oz when gold price in 2019 was double of that.

    I DIDN’T. Its shares were underperforming, even now when gold price in August hit US$2080 per oz.

    Why? Very simple.

    Automated technology extracted every oz of gold also extracted every tonne of waste rock to get it. The budgeted costs is just engineering wet dreams or farts of fiction.

    Why I didn’t buy Resolute Mining? Very simple. I know since the early 1980s, the Japanese put car makers nearly fully automated entire operation to undercut Korean (cheap labor), to wipe out archaic labor practices of embedded car making technology in EU and USA.

    It didn’t worked for varied reasons – they also automated and consolidated via merger/acquisitions to gain economies of scale.

    The lesson learnt is what you can automate, your competitors can do the same IF IT WORKS.

    If it didn’t, you stuck with a dead baby.

    US put astronauts on the moon and brought them safely back to earth. FIRST IN TECHNOLOGY, how come they didn’t conquer the world in manufacturing? After all, oil companies have been using remote technology to wash off-shore oil rigs a few hundred miles away in the Gulf of Mexico – NASA TECHNOLOGY.

    The same as OZ iron -ore producers utilised REMOTE automated truck driving in mining camps loading up, haulage and shipping of iron-ore onto ships in Western Australia – NASA TECHNOLOGY SAME AS OFF-SHORE OIL RIG CLEANING.


    Technology is HYPED BULLSH*T.

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  • oxygen:

    HERE IS THE 5-YEAR interactive share price chart of Resolute Mining.

    You can expand the chart to full screen and change the historical reference to 5-year span to analyse its actual share price history.

    Those who bought at its peak of nearly A$2 per share in 2019 (thinking that they bought into the world most high-tech underground gold mining stock with strike-free double shift operations all year round) when Syama underground mining was commissioned, literally lost their pants.

    It is now trading around A$1.10 per share.

    Technology is never the “solution” of UTOPIA relief to the world’s problems. It just CHANGES the way we live and work.


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  • oxygen:


    JP MORGAN is worried about falling productivity.,Covid%2D19%3A%20productivity%20slipped.

    Highly urbanised rental apartments find no tenant as white collar workers moved to suburbs or remote geography away from rat-race density stressful, high costs living and dangerous public transport infrastructure dependency living in post Covid-19 era. Yes they use digital technology.


    No buyers probably. People prefers to live in small town, relying on electric bicycles and pedal-bikes for exercise and massive modern automated city (driverless) MRTs all over-built and under-used. The rest has to pay a lot more.


    It does not SOLVE humanity problems, just simply CHANGES the way we live and work – MOSTLY DISRUPTIVE of our work opportunities.

    There is Tik Tok, We Chat Alibaba, there will be more of its replacements and who knows in 5 years time, Facebook, Intagram for the mentally unstable momentary rejoice will all disappeared from our vocabulary.

    REMOTE WORKING HAS SLOWED DOWN PRODUCTIVITY – it is true, some investors will find it harder and longer to effect settlement and concluding their capital raising participation of entity they invested in. Restaurants and tourism is near dead.

    Even without the crash, supersonic travel via Concorde (which landed in LEE-jiapore decades ago) is forgotten history.

    I suspect same for automated driving too. Imagine this – already happened in USA, police chasing a high-speed car on highway thinking (mistakenly) a drunkard driver was on the wheel, resulted in reaction unanticipated – the automated vehicle picked up speed thinking it was “safer” to speed up to avoid a crash.

    So police chasing a “ghost” (automated) driver who speed up thinking mistakening the human driver (police) is chasing it. IT ENDED IN A CRASH.

    So if the same thing happened on public dense route in highly-urbanised traffic where the driverless car chasing the human driver and the latter panicked speeding up and run over the pedestrian red-light zebra crossing?

    TECHNOLOGY IS DISRUPTIVE AND CHANGES THE WAY WE LIVE AND WORK, but never the solution to our life complexities in any big way.

    There will be resistance – from Concorde to food production (pesticide pollution) to green energy (Fukushima aftermath shutting down nuclear plants in some parts of Europe).

    We live in the real world, not a fart of fiction.

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  • land of agents:

    tan kin lian, a former insurance agent, is talking without understanding what he is talking about.

    automation deals with decision science. there are many levels in the decision hierarchy.

    for the sake of tan kin lian, we simplify it to 3 levels.

    1, lowest level is the routine. any routine can be automated since it is a routine. most jobs in this category belong to the factory producing large volume of the same things over a period of time.

    2, second level is the semi routine. at this level, not every thing can be automated, especially requiring some form of human judgment in order to proceed.

    3, the third level is the fuzzy. zero nil zilch kosong can be automated at this level. because everything and anything is unpredictable and requires human judgment at all times.

    for tan kin lian to say 80% of this or 20% of that shows tan kin lian is talking about something he has no knowledge of.

    as the saying goes, tan kin lian is dangerous if he ever becomes a national decision maker as he is running on wrong theories due, probably, to a faulty mind or an uneducated mind.

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  • NotMyProblem:

    Prof Wei Shin YU:


    Using multiple waterjets and spay nozzles simultaneously, and mounted on the “side forklift truck” instead of scaffolding,the hull cleaning, auto inspection and re-painting time can be reduced by up to 80%.

    Currently such operations are manually operated, not only slow but dangerous as well.
    Same goes for the highrise HDB apartments and the multi-million barrel crude oil storage tanks.


    Automation and innovation are always the best ideas, but these investment is expensive.

    Employers would prefer cheap labour when it is available so easily.

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  • oxygen:

    @ land of agents

    IF @TKL’s mind is dancing on the edge of PAPpypolitics’ self-delusion that LEE-jiapore so-called “smart nation” delusion of technology (automation in substance) will somehow solve all our density-overpopulation problems, THEY BOTH ARE DEAD WRONG.

    land of agents:
    tan kin lian, a former insurance agent, is talking without understanding what he is talking about.

    Covid-19 pandemic spread in the dorms allegedly cleared of all infection, found revival of infection again. Density is causation, technology can’t provide for safe distancing in dorm living of foreign workers.

    The unknown lasting pandemic damage to the economy is scary – GLCs like Capitaland, Sembawang, Keppel group, Singtel/SIA have seen far better times and their balance sheet already deteriorated over the last decade long before the onset of Covid-19. If automation (read technology) can save us of these sinking national icons, we would have deployed “smart nation” logic and tools to saving our drowning souls.

    Smart nation catcall is PAPpypolitics puppy whistling calls. It only brought us to sharper relief of our truthful lack of awareness that it is in fact A SHAMEFUL CONFESSION THAT WE ARE A STUPID NATION – sinking.

    Technology (automation) is not the solution to our economic decay.

    IT CAN’T BE.

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  • Sojoürner:

    Think about a small subset such as autonomous driving. What happens when millions of drivers (bus, taxi, delivery, Uber etc) are no longer needed? Automation will take most of their current jobs, especially (to start) the low-paying, repetitive manufacturing and transportation jobs that are currently open to those who don’t have a degree. “Retraining” sounds great, but what exactly are people going to be retrained to do? Anything you can easily “train” can probably be done by a machine.

    Having worked in the policy arena for years, I have a pretty good feeling for revolutionary technological change. The problem is that the amount of jobs being created from automation is far less than the amount of jobs being destroyed. It’s easy to say that more jobs will be created and it’ll be an endless cycle.

    The difference is that AI will soon allow for a far greater level of automation than before. It’s very easy to foresee a future not too far away where AI controlled devices make large number of workers obsolete, and not just in blue collar jobs, but in white collar jobs as well.

    The problem isn’t the robots/automation. The problem is who owns the robot. If the productivity gains of automation flow predominantly to the company there’s a positive feedback loop that concentrates wealth. It’s pretty conceivable that we could have a small number of very rich people that don’t do any work, and a large number of very poor people also not doing any work, all the while the machines hum along.

    The pace of change today is much faster, and without programs to help people learn new skills and cope with geographic upheaval, we will sow the seeds for ever-increasing income and wealth disparity. As a venture capitalist, I take issue with the philosophy dejour that argues higher education should emphasize programs that train students for the job market, so they will be optimally employable when they receive their diploma.

    For an era where the jobs of tomorrow will not be the jobs of today, we would be far wiser to emphasize learning skills rather than job skills. Lifelong learning will be de rigueur in 21st-century.
    We’d better get used to it and be prepared.

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