Amazon Could Have More Robots Than Employees In Seven Years, Investor Predicts

 Ark Invest CEO Cathie Wood predicted that Amazon could use more robots than humans by 2030.

The portfolio manager, who makes her investment decisions based on companies she believes will create disruptive innovations, noted during an interview with CNBC that Amazon is currently increasing automation to a tremendous extent.

“Amazon is adding about 1,000 robots a day,” she remarked. “If you compare the number of robots Amazon has to the number of employees, it’s about a third. And we believe that by the year 2030 Amazon can have more robots than employees.”

Wood noted that other firms will more quickly adopt automation due to its cost advantages. “We are just at the dawn of the robotics age. And I would say artificial intelligence and battery technology are all a part of that movement as well,” she continued. “For every cumulative doubling in the number of robots produced, the cost declines are in the 50% to 60% range.”

Wood has nevertheless come under criticism over the past several years as her Ark Innovation ETF, which invests in disruptive companies involved with sectors such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and genomic research, remains 70% below its peak nearly two years ago. The fund recently rebounded nearly 28% after technology companies rallied on the stock market.

Amazon employed more than 1.6 million people at the end of 2021, according to its most recent annual report. The company, which emphasizes worker productivity over other metrics, experiences excessive turnover rates in its warehouses and fulfillment centers across the country. Amazon predicted that they could run out of individuals to hire in the United States by next year, according to leaked internal research obtained by Vox, which added that executives believe increased automation and higher wages could slow the crisis.

Amazon indeed unveiled nationwide pay increases toward the end of last year: average hourly wages for employees in customer fulfillment and transportation are slated to increase above $19.00 per hour, with employees earning between $16.00 per hour and $26.00 per hour depending on their position and location in the United States, according to a press release. Walmart unveiled similar wage hikes last month such that average pay for employees across the nation will now surpass $17.50 per hour.

The phenomenon comes as private and public sector employers struggle to fill positions. There exist roughly 10.5 million job openings and 5.7 million unemployed individuals across the economy, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reflecting a constrained labor market that has worsened inflationary pressures as firms increase compensation.

Other companies that rely upon unskilled labor have likewise moved to automate their operations as the worker shortages disadvantage employers in the job market. McDonald’s recently created a test restaurant in Texas in which customers can use kiosks and a mobile app to grab their orders from a conveyor belt rather than interacting with customer-facing staff, while Chipotle tested a robotic tortilla chip maker in a California location.

The higher pay and increased automation comes as state and federal lawmakers call for higher minimum wages. Amazon supported recent proposals to raise the national minimum wage above $15.00 per hour, causing some commentators to note that the move would most likely harm small businesses with which Amazon competes for employees.

Discussions surrounding technological unemployment over the past several decades have centered around blue-collar workers losing their jobs to automation. However, the widespread adoption of ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence language processing tool that can debug code or write emails in a matter of seconds, has led some to conclude that many white-collar professions could also be rendered obsolete.

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