Youth Disenfranchisement is Baked In

In fact, tech and engineering companies are creating products and businesses that rely on it.

Another quick hit from Arstechnica today:

The construction industry is set to expand significantly in the coming years. In 2013, Arcadis, a construction consultancy, reported that construction output will grow by more than 70 percent to $15 trillion worldwide by 2025.

“By 2050, there’ll be two billion additional city dwellers—sustainable urbanization will be a major construction challenge and the industry must strive to find innovative new products and solutions, to contribute to building better cities,” Bruno Lafont, chairman of Lafarge, a building materials company, said in a statement at the time.

As the skilled construction workforce gets older, and with fewer younger workers coming up to replace them, older workers can potentially work longer and suffer from fewer injuries with an exoskeleton.

If Ekso Bionics can capture even a small slice of those future construction jobs, it seems set to do well.

The third paragraph makes no sense coming after the first two.  Fact 1:  The construction industry is going to expand significantly in the next ten years, and likely beyond.  Fact 2:  There will be 2 billion more people living in urban areas by 2050.  This implies that much of this construction will occur to accommodate these people.

Fact 3:  The skilled construction workforce is getting old, and there won’t be enough young workers to replace them.

Wait.  What happened to those 2 billion new city dwellers?  A lot of them are going to be young or middle aged.  I’m sure they’ll want jobs, and it looks like the construction industry will be booming just as they get into the cities, which are where all that construction will be happening.  It sounds like a perfect match, and so Fact 3 seems completely out of place.

Oh, they want skilled workers.  Training, particularly for skilled manual labor, is expensive.  I’m not sure if its more expensive than buying a bunch of mechanical exoskeletons for aging workers, but it sounds like the industry is keen to find out.  And what’s even more expensive than training new workers is hiring so many of them that the labor market gets tight and wages increase across the board.  Maybe that $12,000 exoskeleton is the cheaper option.

Regardless of the explanation, the notion that “there aren’t enough young, skilled laborers” is bullshit.  Youth unemployment is particularly high everywhere.  Give them good jobs, give them training, pay them well, and you won’t need geriatrics in exoskeletons.

(That said, I love this exoskeleton technology.  I just disagree with the economic environment that is apparently driving it.)


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