By: Cliff Smith, Aide to Congressman Gosar
In this time of serious economic hardship, Congress must engage in serious debate over serious issues. There are serious and substantive disagreements between Representatives of different persuasions and these differences need to be seriously discussed and debated as we work to move our economy forward. What should not guide Congress is an endless game of unfounded attacks that leads to trumped up fear mongering to gain partisan advantage, particularly, in this case, the fear of robots.
Yes, the fear of robots.
H.R. 1904, otherwise known as Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011, is a common-sense bill that exchanges about 2422 acres of federally owned land, rich in copper, for about 5344 acres of privately owned land, which is home to many sensitive eco-systems and endangered species. In so doing, this bill would open up one of the largest copper deposits in the world. In fact, this deposit is so large that this mine alone is estimated to produce roughly 25% of America’s copper consumption. The estimated economic impact of $61.4 billion, which would average out to roughly $1 billion per-year, add $19 billion to federal, state and local tax coffers. Roughly 3,700 jobs will be created. In fact, $700 million in private funds invested in the project, and over 500 jobs have already been created for work related to the site. So basically, the bill conserves a huge amount of sensitive lands, develops vast amounts of a natural resource vital to electronics, defense, and even green energy systems such as solar panels and windmills, and creates jobs.
But the bill’s opponents are complaining about robots. (See: 2:44:30-2:46:30)
In essence, some are claiming that this massive undertaking to extract a huge amount of valuable natural resources won’t create enough jobs, because all of the work will be done by robots. This sort of logic is reminiscent of those who opposed the creation of railroads, because they felt it would wreck the jobs of wagon wheel makers and horse breeders.
It is true, that modern mining technology uses robots to accomplish certain tasks. This is done for efficiencies sake, and for the sake of worker safety. Mining is a potentially hazardous task, and certainly a difficult one that must be done with precision. So using robots is a necessary and desirable part of the process, as it streamlines a difficult process and protects workers. Linking this to a lack of job creation, however, is absurd!
It hardly seems worth saying, because it is so obvious, but robots are part of a much larger process. You still need people to run the mine, to drive the trucks, to feed the workers, to dig the holes, to engineer the dig, to build the structures, to process the minerals, and, yes, to build, maintain, and control the robots. With respects to Arnold Schwarzenegger, we don’t have artificially intelligent, self-sufficient terminator robots yet. Finally, the copper its self provides massive real-world benefits to literally thousands of companies that hire many more people. It can be used for hundreds or thousands of different products, from piping to computers to cars to copper wiring.
Come to think of it, a lot of those components can probably be used to…make the same robots that some seem so concerned about.
To those who say this will not fix our economic problems overnight. Our economic problems were not created overnight, nor will they be fixed overnight. But to the people of Arizona, this will make all the difference in the world. H.R. 1904 aids in facilitating jobs and wealth creation with zero cost to the taxpayer and with no burden put on private business. Let’s not lose out on the big picture by obsessing over robots.