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In Sweden, People Embrace Innovation. In America, People Fear Innovation.
The adoption of automation and artificial intelligence fosters divergent perspectives between American unions and those in countries like Sweden. While American unions often view automation as a threat that will displace jobs, Swedish unions welcome new technologies as an opportunity to improve productivity and wages. These contrasting attitudes reflect broader differences in global competitiveness and highlight why workers across industries should collaborate with automation rather than instinctively resist progress.

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Automation in Mining and Manufacturing

In the Swedish mining industry, automation has provided clear benefits to both companies and workers. Miners like Mr. Persson can operate machinery remotely in safer and more comfortable settings, reducing their exposure to hazardous conditions. As the WSJ notes:

Mr. Persson, 35, sits in front of four computer screens, one displaying the loader he steers as it lifts freshly blasted rock containing silver, zinc and lead. If he were down in the mine shaft operating the loader manually, he would be inhaling dust and exhaust fumes. Instead, he reclines in an office chair while using a joystick to control the machine.

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An image showcasing an example of what Mr. Persson does at his mining job

With mining being one of Sweden’s biggest industries, employers need to remain competitive in the global markets as wages are high and working conditions are set through national contracts negotiated by unions and employers’ associations. Adopting automation and other innovations that make the mining company efficient is key to remaining profitable. Since workers have shared in the gains with higher wages and have a safety net to rely on incase they get unemployed, it's understandable why majority of Swedish people have positive views on automation.

Similar adoption of automation in American auto manufacturing however, has been met with resistance. Demands by the UAW to raise wages while limiting automation have reduced the competitiveness of US factories compared to those in other countries. Rather than securing jobs, this reluctance to automate may accelerate offshoring and layoffs at home. When comparing the performance of non-UAW factories to UAW factories, the non-UAW factories were found to be more productive, more efficient, and more innovative than the UAW factories. As free markets dictate, the companies that rely on the competitive factories will do well while the companies that rely on the uncompetitive factories (aka the UAW factories) won't do well.

**Hollywood Falls Behind the World

Generative AI has faced recent controversy in Hollywood as writers and actors fear being displaced by machine-generated content. With the studios having entered into an agreement with the writers and actors guilds, the concerns surrounding AI and its impact on the writers and actors remains uncertain. While the WGA agreement established that AI cannot be used to undermine a writer’s credit or be used as a means to reduce a writer’s compensation, the contract however, leave room for studios to train AI using preexisting material. Some celebrities, like Singaporean actress Jamie Yeo and soccer star Lionel Messi have embraced AI. Through deepfake technology, they're able to appear in many different AI-generated advertisements and appeal to more demographics. For only a couple hours in front of a green screen and a couple more hours in the recording studio, they're able to appear in more advertisements than ever before. This allows them to scale their earnings from appearing in advertisements.

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Film studios stand to benefit enormously from adopting generative AI. As virtual and augmented reality open new avenues for entertainment content, generative AI can help studios meet the demand for faster, cheaper production. Without these tools, output will slow while costs rise. Sony's CEO notes AI can solve major speed issues in filmmaking. Further, generative AI can unlock new creative possibilities not achievable manually. However, if studios lag in adoption, they risk losing out to AI-focused competitors creating scripted content on demand. While these algorithms generate the raw material, Hollywood still maintains an edge through its unrivaled ability to add nuance, emotion and humanity. By combining AI capabilities with their signature human touch, studios can release captivating stories faster and more affordably across emerging mediums. The key is proactive adoption to realize these productivity and creativity gains.

The divergent perspectives on automation between American unions and those in Sweden highlight that embracing new technologies can actually benefit workers. As seen in the Swedish mines, automation made jobs safer by removing workers from hazardous environments. It also led to increased productivity and higher wages as employers prospered. Similarly, actors and studios stand to gain from AI tools enhancing creativity and lowering production costs. Rather than instinctively resist progress, workers across industries should advocate for the adoption of automation and AI.

With the right policies for profit-sharing and skill development, these technologies can make jobs more satisfying while raising pay. Workers worldwide have much to gain when automation is seen as an opportunity for collaboration rather than a threat. Adopting this mindset can propel industries forward.


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