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Free Minds & Free Markets

Are Robots Going to Steal Our Jobs?

Many technologists think so, but economists aren't so easily convinced.

"The reality is that we are facing a jobless future: one in which most of the work done by humans will be done by machines. Robots will drive our cars, manufacture our goods, and do our chores, but there won't be much work for human beings." That's the dire warning of software entrepreneur and Carnegie Mellon engineer Vivek Wadhwa.

Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates agrees: Technology "will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill set," he has predicted. Gates has also proposed taxing robots to support the victims of technological unemployment. "In the past," software entrepreneur Martin Ford declared last year, "machines have always been tools that have been used by people." But now, he fears, they're "becoming a replacement or a substitute for more and more workers." A much-cited 2013 study from the Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment struck an even more dire note, estimating that 47 percent of today's American jobs are at risk of being automated within the next two decades.

The conventional wisdom among technologists is well-established: Robots are going to eat our jobs. But economists tend to have a different perspective.

Over the past two centuries, they point out, automation has brought us lots more jobs—and higher living standards too. "Is this time different?" the Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist David Autor said in a lecture last year. "Of course this time is different; every time is different. On numerous occasions in the last 200 years scholars and activists have raised the alarm that we are running out of work and making ourselves obsolete.…These predictions strike me as arrogant."

"We are neither headed toward a rise of the machine world nor a utopia where no one works anymore," said Michael Jones, an economist at the University of Cincinnati, last year. "Humans will still be necessary in the economy of the future, even if we can't predict what we will be doing." When the Boston University economist James Bessen analyzed computerization and employment trends in the U.S. since 1980, his study concluded that "computer use is associated with a small increase in employment on average, not major job losses."

Who is right, the terrified technologists or the totally chill economists?

This Time Is Always Different

In 1589, Queen Elizabeth I refused to grant a patent to William Lee for his invention of the stocking frame knitting machine, which sped up the production of wool hosiery. "Thou aimest high, Master Lee," she declared. "Consider thou what the invention could do to my poor subjects. It would assuredly bring to them ruin by depriving them of employment, thus making them beggars." In the early 19th century, English textile workers calling themselves Luddites famously sought to protect their livelihoods by smashing industrial weaving machines.

The economist John Maynard Keynes warned in 1930 that the "means of economising the use of labour [is] outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour," resulting in the "new disease" of "technological unemployment." In 1961, Time warned: "Today's new industries have comparatively few jobs for the unskilled or semiskilled, just the class of workers whose jobs are being eliminated by automation." A 1989 study by the International Metalworkers Federation forecasted that within 30 years, as little as 2 percent of the world's current labor force "will be needed to produce all the goods necessary for total demand." That prediction has just two years left to come true.

This year the business consultancy McKinsey Global Institute issued a report that analyzed the potential impact of automation on individual work activities rather than entire occupations. The McKinsey researchers concluded that only 5 percent of occupations are fully automatable using currently available technologies. On the other hand, the report also estimated that "about half of all the activities people are paid to do in the world's workforce could potentially be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies"—principally the physical work that takes place in highly structured and predictable environments along with routine data collection and processing.

In March, the consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers concluded 38 percent of jobs in the U.S. are at high risk of automation by the early 2030s. Specifically, jobs in transportation and storage, retail and wholesale trade, food service and accommodation, administrative and support services, insurance and finance, and manufacturing are particularly vulnerable.

And that 2013 study from Oxford's Martin Programme on Technology and Employment? Economist Bessen points out that of the 37 occupations it identified as fully automatable—including accountants, auditors, bank loan officers, messengers, and couriers—none has been completely automated since the study was published. Bessen further notes that of the 271 jobs listed in the 1950 Census, only one has truly disappeared for reasons that can largely be ascribed to automation: the elevator operator. In 1900, 50 percent of the population over age 10 was gainfully employed. (Child labor was not illegal in most states back then, and many families needed the extra income.) In 1950, it was 59 percent of those over age 16. Now the civilian labor participation rate stands at 63 percent.

Of course, the jobs that people do today—thanks largely to high productivity made possible by technological progress—are vastly different than those done at the turn of the 20th century.

Are We Working Less?

In a 2015 essay titled "Why Are There Still So Many Jobs?," MIT economist Autor points out that most new workplace technologies are designed to save labor. "Whether the technology is tractors, assembly lines, or spreadsheets, the first-order goal is to substitute mechanical power for human musculature, machine-consistency for human handiwork, and digital calculation for slow and error-prone 'wetware,'" he writes. Routinized physical and cognitive activities—spot welding car chassis on an assembly line or processing insurance claim paperwork at a desk—are the easiest and first to be automated.

Wikimedia/D J ShinWikimedia/D J ShinIf the technologists' fears are coming true, you'd expect to see a drop in hours worked at middle-skill, middle-wage jobs—the ones politicians often refer to as "good jobs." And indeed, in 2013, Autor and David Dorn of the Center for Monetary and Financial Studies in Madrid found a significant decrease in hours worked in construction, mining, and farm work between 1980 and 2005; the researchers concluded that this was because the routine manual and cognitive activities required by many of those middle-class occupations were increasingly being performed by ever cheaper and more capable machines and computers. They also found a 30 percent increase in hours spent working at low-skill jobs that require assisting or caring for others, from home health aides to beauticians to janitors.

But this year a better-designed study by two more economists—Jennifer Hunt of Rutgers and Ryan Nunn of Brookings—challenged that conclusion. Instead of focusing on the average wages of each occupation, Hunt and Nunn sorted hourly workers into categories by their real wages, reasoning that the averages in certain jobs could mask important trends.

Hunt and Nunn found that men experienced downward wage mobility in the 1980s, due largely to deunionization and the decline in manufacturing. Beginning around 1990, the percentage of both men and women in their lower-wage category declined, while rising in the higher-wage group.

After adjusting for business cycle fluctuations, they found that there was a small increase in the percentage of workers in their best-compensated category (people earning more than $25.18 an hour) between 1979 and 2015, with very little change in the other groups—certainly nothing that looked like the radical polarization Autor and others fear.

So far, robots don't seem to be grabbing human jobs at an especially high rate. Take the much-touted finding by MIT economist Daron Acemoglu and Boston University economist Pascual Restrepo in a working paper released in March. Since 1990, they say, each additional industrial robot in the U.S. results in 5.6 American workers losing their jobs. Furthermore, the addition of one more robot per thousand employees cuts average wages by 0.5 percent. The pair defined a robot as a programmable industrial machine that operates in three dimensions—think of spot welding and door handling robots on an automobile assembly line.

In total, Acemoglu and Restrepo report that the number of jobs lost due to robots since 1990 is somewhere between 360,000 and 670,000. By contrast, last year some 62.5 million Americans were hired in new jobs, while 60.1 million either quit or were laid off from old ones, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The impact of robots, in other words, is quite small, relatively speaking. Moreover, when the researchers include a measure of the change in computer usage at work, they found a positive effect, suggesting that computers tend to increase the demand for labor.

In 2015, economists Georg Graetz of Uppsala University and Guy Michaels of the London School of Economics analyzed the effects of industrial robots on employment in 17 different countries between 1993 and 2007. In contrast to the Acemoglu and Restrepo study, "We find a negative effect of robots on low-skilled workers' employment," says Michaels in an interview, "but no significant effect on overall employment." Their study also found that the increases in the number of robots boosted annual economic growth by 0.37 percent.

Where Did the Jobs Go? Look Around!

In a 2011 television interview, President Barack Obama worried that "a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers." To illustrate his point, Obama noted, "You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don't go to a bank teller." But the number of bank tellers working in the U.S. has not gone down. Since 1990, their ranks have increased from around 400,000 to 500,000, even as the number of ATMs rose from 100,000 to 425,000. In his 2016 study, Bessen explains that the ATMs "allowed banks to operate branch offices at lower cost; this prompted them to open many more branches, offsetting the erstwhile loss in teller jobs." Similarly, the deployment of computerized document search and analysis technologies hasn't prevented the number of paralegals from rising from around 85,000 in 1990 to 280,000 today. Bar code scanning is now ubiquitous in retail stores and groceries, yet the number of cashiers has increased to 3.2 million today, up from just over 2 million in 1990, outpacing U.S. population growth over the same period.

This illustrates why most economists are not particularly worried about the notion of widespread technological unemployment. When businesses automate to boost productivity, they can cut their prices, thus increasing the demand for their products, which in turn requires more workers. Furthermore, the lower prices allow consumers to take the money they save and spend it on other goods or services, and this increased demand creates more jobs in those other industries. New products and services create new markets and new demands, and the result is more new jobs.

You can think of this another way: The average American worker today would only have to work 17 weeks per year to earn the income his counterpart brought in 100 years ago, according to Autor's calculations—the equivalent of about 10 hours of work per week. Most people prefer to work more, of course, so they can afford to enjoy the profusion of new products and services that modern technology makes available, including refrigerators, air conditioners, next-day delivery, smartphones, air travel, video games, restaurant meals, antibiotics, year-round access to fresh fruits and vegetables, the internet, and so forth.

But if technologically fueled productivity improvements boost job growth, why are U.S. manufacturing jobs in decline? In a new study published in April, Bessen finds that as markets mature, comparatively small changes in the price of a product do not call forth a compensating increase in consumer demand. Thus, further productivity gains bring reduced employment in relatively mature industries such as textiles, steel, and automobile manufacturing. Over the past 20 years, U.S. manufacturing output increased by 40 percent while the number of Americans working in manufacturing dropped from 17.3 million in 1997 to 12.3 million now. On the other hand, Bessen projects that the ongoing automation and computerization of the nonmanufacturing sector will increase demand for all sorts of new services. In fact, he forecasts that in service industries, "faster technical change will…create faster employment growth."

Since the advent of the smartphone just 10 years ago, for example, an "app economy" has emerged that "now supports an astounding 1.66 million jobs in the United States," Progressive Policy Institute economist Michael Mandel reports. According to the Entertainment Software Association, more than 220,000 jobs now depend on the game software industry. The IBISWorld consultancy estimates that 227,000 people work in web design, while the Biotechnology Innovation Organization says that U.S. bioscience companies employ 1.66 million people. Robert Cohen, a senior fellow at the Economic Strategy Institute, projects that business spending on cloud services will generate nearly $3 trillion more in gross domestic product and 8 million new jobs from 2015 to 2025.

In 2014, Siemens USA CEO Eric Spiegel claimed in a Washington Post op-ed that 50 percent of the jobs in America today didn't exist 25 years ago—and that 80 percent of the jobs students will fill in the future don't exist today. Imagine, for instance, the novel occupations that might come into being if the so-called internet of things and virtual/augmented reality technologies develop as expected.

PROyeowatzup/Creative CommonsPROyeowatzup/Creative CommonsIn a report this year for the Technology CEO Council, Mandel and analyst Bret Swanson strike a similar note, arguing that the "productivity drought is almost over." Over the past 15 years, they point out, productivity growth in digital industries has averaged 2.7 percent per year, whereas productivity in physical industries grew at just 0.7 percent annually.

According to the authors, the digital industries currently account for 25 percent of private-sector employment. "Never mind the evidence of the past 200 years; the evidence that we have of the past 15 years shows that more technology yields more jobs and better jobs," says Swanson.

Mandel and Swanson argue that the information age has barely begun, and that the "increased use of mobile technologies, cloud services, artificial intelligence, big data, inexpensive and ubiquitous sensors, computer vision, virtual reality, robotics, 3D additive manufacturing, and a new generation of 5G wireless are on the verge of transforming the traditional physical industries." They project that applying these information technologies to I.T.-laggard physical industries will boost U.S. economic growth from its current annual 2 percent rate to 2.7 percent over the next 15 years, adding $2.7 trillion in annual U.S. economic output by 2031, and cumulatively raising American wages by $8.6 trillion. This would increase U.S. GDP per capita from $52,000 to $77,000 by 2031.

The Unknown Future

"Electrification transformed businesses, the overall economy, social institutions, and individual lives to an astonishing degree—and it did so in ways that were overwhelmingly positive," Martin Ford writes in his book Rise of the Robots. But why doesn't Martin mourn all the jobs that electrification destroyed? What about the ice men? The launderers? The household help replaced by vacuum cleaners and dishwashers? The firewood providers? The candle makers?

To ask is to answer. Electricity may have killed a lot of jobs, but on balance it meant many more. Developments in information technology will do the same.

Imagine a time-traveling economist from our day meeting with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and John D. Rockefeller at the turn of the 20th century. She informs these titans that in 2017, only 14 percent of American workers will be employed in agriculture, mining, construction, and manufacturing, down from around 70 percent in 1900. Then the economist asks the trio, "What do you think the other 56 percent of workers are going to do?"

They wouldn't know the answer. And as we look ahead now to the end of the 21st century, we can't predict what jobs workers will be doing then either. But that's no reason to assume those jobs won't exist.

"I can't tell you what people are going to do for work 100 years from now," Autor said last year, "but the future doesn't hinge on my imagination." Martin and other technologists can see the jobs that might be destroyed by information technology; their lack of imagination blinds them to how people will use that technology to conjure millions of occupations now undreamt of.

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  • sarcasmic||

    A century ago something like over ninety percent of the population was engaged in food production. Now it's like two percent, thanks to machines. That means we must be at like eighty eight percent unemployment, at the very least! There are no jobs! The machines took over food production, and now there at no wants or needs left to fulfill!

  • sarcasmic||

    RFTA you fucking tool.

  • Libertarian||

    Give him hell.* It's absolute stupidity. My god, look at Bill Gates and his idea to tax robots!*

    *though I think "RFTA" is a bit unrealistic

  • Empress Trudy||

    RTFA.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Nice piece, Ron, but why is Donald Trump president? If productivity in manufacturing has increased so greatly, why aren't the people in manufacturing rich and happy? My theory: most manufacturing jobs were "good jobs" not because they're in manufacturing but because they were union jobs. The U.S., western Europe, and Japan used to have a monopoly on modern manufacturing. That's been destroyed. Unions in the West have lost their bargaining power, and they've collapsed (most spectacularly in the U.S., of course). Competition, principally from Asia but also from Eastern Europe and Latin America, pulls manufacturing wages down, and, in areas like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, pulls down the wages in all the low-skill occupations. You don't have to be a Piketty guy to look at the data on income inequality and see that it's rising, or perhaps reverting to the levels that prevailed during the good old days prior to WWI. The "Golden Era" of the 1950s and 60s may have been an abnormality rather than the "natural" result of letting markets take their course. People don't vote for a man like Donald Trump if they're happy.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Funny, I actually saw it as positive that at least one article made no mention of Trump at all, who I'm frankly sick of hearing about.

    For a group of people who purport to want government and politicians to have a less influence/interference in peoples' day-to-day lives, many of us sure love to make everything about the current president or the last election. That kind of talk just feeds the gargantuan egos the idiotic political class already has. I think the bastards deserve to be largely ignored or at least frequently ridiculed.

    But to answer your question, maybe Orange-utan's election has less to do with manufacturing productivity or wages and more to do with his running ran against the only person who was terrible enough that he could actually win. I didn't vote for either loser, but I have to hand it to both major parties for running what amounts to joke candidates.

  • swampwiz||

    Yes, Trump's opponent was putrid, but Trump's victory is attributed to his telling his base that he would bring back *good* jobs while keeping the Welfare State that they depend on, along with throwing the illegals out.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Yep. Trump was the ONLY candidate offering ANY solutions to voter concerns. And, thanks to the intellectually bankrupt libertarian establishment ... two seasoned former governors were left to campaign on a platform of ... nothing ... just the slogans and soundbites demanded by the anti-gummint goobers.
    We can't take back America until we take back our movement.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Yep. Trump was the ONLY candidate offering ANY solutions to voter concerns. And, thanks to the intellectually bankrupt libertarian establishment ... two seasoned former governors were left to campaign on a platform of ... nothing ... just the slogans and soundbites demanded by the anti-gummint goobers.
    We can't take back America until we take back our movement.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    Re: Anal Vanneman,

    You don't have to be a Piketty guy to look at the data on income inequality and see that it's rising, or perhaps reverting to the levels that prevailed during the good old days prior to WWI.


    Actually, you DO have to be a Picketty or a similar charlatan to look at the data and think that income inequality is "reverting to the good old days prior to WWI", since prior to WWI about 93% of people in America lived in farms and could not even dream of the level of wealth that even poor people TODAY enjoy.

    So yes, you HAVE to be a Picketty. That means, a liar, a shyster, a Marxian. Same thing.

  • mortiscrum||

    Theories of income inequality revolve around relative wealth - and I don't mean relative to what lower class people had 100 years ago. There's ample evidence that satisfaction with our income has more to do with how that income compares to the people who live around us, and not what that income is in an absolute sense.

  • Michael Hihn||

    most manufacturing jobs were "good jobs" not because they're in manufacturing but because they were union jobs.

    (LOL)
    Then be PISSED at liberal Democrats for destroying our best union jobs in the 1986 tax bill they wrote -- with a DOUBLE tax increase on new investments in factory machinery. This drove manufacturing back to the postwar years, where we suffered FIVE back-to-back recessions in only 16 years, 1945-1961. We emerged from the war as the only industrial base still standing, but 16 years later collapsed to what KENNEDY described, "among the lowest in economic growth."

    Then Republicans increased the number of shareholders from 10-100 for ... tax exempt corporations. When liberal dumbfucks like Piketty babble about inequality -- corporate taxes down sharply and income reported by the rich up sharply ... THINK ... Corporate profits were simply SHIFTED from taxable corporate profits to taxable personal income. DUH.

    Obama fucked the rust belt again, with "expensing" of new investments (instant write-offs) ... FOR SMALL MANUFACTURERS ONLY. How many best-paid union jobs are in SMALL-MEDIUM manufacturers?

    Even crazier, when liberal ideologues fuck corporate profits they merely fuck shareholders, right? Who owns the vast majority of corporate America. Wait for it ...,.

    PENSION FUNDS.

    So liberal fucked BOTH union jobs AND now mostly bankrupt union pension funds. Who's Piketty? (lol)
    Anything else?

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    The "Golden Era" of the 1950s and 60s may have been an abnormality rather than the "natural" result of letting markets take their course.

    Yes, it was an anomaly resulting from nearly every industrialized country on earth except the U.S. having been bombed to shit during WWII.

  • Michael Hihn||

    !!!
    Where do I send your trophy?

  • Inigo Montoya||

    I admit to having a bit of a man-crush on Bailey ever since his "End of Doom."

    I've lost count of the number of minds I've blown from countering the silly arguments people make about how the world is going to end due to overpopulation, water shortage wars, complete deforestation, etc.

    This is not to say that I'm a blind optimist. I'm very concerned about stuff that few outside of libertarian circles ever seem to think about, namely governments taking away more and more of our dwindling freedoms.

    But I certainly don't stress over crap like peak oil, peak farmland, peak employment, or any other such peaks. I lump those ideas in with the 18th-century scientists who said humans would never be able to travel at speeds above 35mph without being ripped apart.

  • gaoxiaen||

    The world is going to end when I die. IDGAF

  • loveconstitution1789||

    "But if technologically fueled productivity improvements boost job growth, why are U.S. manufacturing jobs in decline?"
    US manufacturing jobs declined but US manufacturing of products and imports of products allowed for higher standard of living. Plus, new jobs are created like robot maintenance.

    Its fine to count jobs as an indicator of doing well. However, manufacturing jobs are the best way to have nationwide employment. The USA could have massive manufacturing base that was run almost entirely by robots. There would be a whole bunch of jobs relating to the robots creation and maintenance.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    What a maroon. Can you spell nonsense?

    The best way to have full employment is to get the government out of the way. Most jobs created by government are unproductive parasitic bureaucrats, like adding calorie counts to menus, making sure kitchen curtains are the right size shape and color, or even speed nazis on the freeway.

    Preparing personal income taxes requires something like the equivalent of 3 million full time jobs. All those jobs are overhead, unproductive, contributing nagatively to the economy.

    As for manufacturing ... fuck you and your top down prescriptivity. The economy will sort itself out just fine on its own. But if you want an answer, then ask yourself what people will do with all that stuff they manufacture. Someone has to buy it, and they won't buy it unless they can use it, and where will that be if the only jobs are in manufacturing? In fact, who will sell the products, or even distribute them, or service them?

    What a fucking maroon. Typical top-down prescriptivist who knows better than free markets and free minds.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Free market is the best as I was saying and will allocate what jobs are needed much better than government. Just because "manufacturing jobs" are replaced by robots does not mean that the market will not adjust for the betterment of Americans.

    You don't read well do you?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    However, manufacturing jobs are the best way to have nationwide employment.

    This is what you lead with. Did you mean something else? You should have written something else.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Only a government lover would think that implies government control.

    I did not lead with that. It was the second sentence in the second paragraph.

    Just admit you were wrong and move on.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Only a closet statist would think mandating some social configuration can be disguised as not requiring coercive government.

  • Robert||

    Where'd s/he say anything about mandating?

  • Robert||

    You must've been fun in the pizza threads, imagining commenters as opining for pizza controls.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Is ANYTHING funnier than watching two anti-gubmint Gomers debating each other ... with competing, memorized soundbites ... to see which one is the craziest?
    (rhetorical question)

    (Anyone who thinks I included Robert there, well .... (censored))

  • eyeroller||

    This article seems to assume that robots have no rights or feelings.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Sexbots should have feelings but no rights. How else would I enjoy the Walk of Shame?

  • Ship of Theseus||

    Silver lives matter.

  • ||

    That's alloyist!

  • Mark22||

    Queen Elizabeth I refused to grant a patent to William Lee for his invention of the stocking frame knitting machine [...] "Consider thou what the invention could do to my poor subjects. It would assuredly bring to them ruin by depriving them of employment, thus making them beggars."

    Same economic illiteracy, same regal approach to government and liberty: is Hillary the reincarnation of Queen Elizabeth, or is Hillary actually the Queen herself? She seems old enough.

  • Michael Hihn||

    More babble

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    Them immigrunt robots takum er jebz!

  • Don't look at me.||

    Send them illegal robots back to where they come from!

  • Mark22||

    But if technologically fueled productivity improvements boost job growth, why are U.S. manufacturing jobs in decline?

    Because the new jobs are in a different sector, obviously, often unrelated to the robots themselves.

    It's not that "replacing workers with robots creates jobs in robot maintenance" (which it does, and those jobs aren't count as manufacturing either), it's that "replacing workers with robots frees up labor that can work in any sector".

    An assembly line worker might well go into something like landscaping.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Have you no feelings for the fighter pilots?

  • sarcasmic||

    I worked for a few years as a machine operator. Plastic injection mostly. Now I work in software. Funny how that works.

  • Cloudbuster||

    "Of course this time is different; every time is different. On numerous occasions in the last 200 years scholars and activists have raised the alarm that we are running out of work and making ourselves obsolete.…These predictions strike me as arrogant."

    That's not really a reasoned argument. It's just a wordy version of "Nuh-uh!"

    It's like standing under a boulder being propped up by a pole, and repeatedly kicking the pole, and making the argument to people warning you that "I've kicked the pole five times now, that means that each time I kick the pole it further reinforces the argument that the boulder isn't going to fall on me!"

    we can't predict what jobs workers will be doing then either. But that's no reason to assume those jobs won't exist.

    Magic hand-waving isn't an economic theory.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    You've made exactly zero points.

  • mortiscrum||

    His point is that just because people have expressed concern about technology in the past, and been wrong, doesn't mean that people will continue to be wrong about it.

    Humans have adjusted well overall to changing technology, but not without casualty. Also, all theories of technological advancement center around the advancements happening faster and faster. It's perfectly plausible that changes in the job sector begin to happen too quickly for people to keep up.

  • Sevo||

    "Humans have adjusted well overall to changing technology, but not without casualty. Also, all theories of technological advancement center around the advancements happening faster and faster. It's perfectly plausible that changes in the job sector begin to happen too quickly for people to keep up."

    "Not without casualty" claims mortiscrum.
    Yep, all that techno-change has only meant we support a healthy and wealthy population immensely greater than when we ate rocks and lichen, but there were 'casualties'.
    Hint: You're not nearly as bright as Malthus, and he couldn't have been more wrong.

  • mortiscrum||

    I generally don't bother responding to people like you, but sometimes I can't help myself...

    "Not without casualty" is a reference to the fact that improvements to society generally usually don't happen without cost to someone. Even if overall everything is loads better, someone probably drew the short end of the stick and came out worse. This is exactly what's been playing out with globalization and manufacturing jobs in first-world countries.

    My point is just that sometimes (oftentimes) when things change drastically, people get left behind. This isn't an argument to say the change shouldn't happen, it's just a note that the people who push for and benefit from the changes the most have some moral obligation to assist the people who didn't benefit so much.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Not really.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    For some peace of mind, here are some jobs that employ a whole lot of people, but didn't exist 15 years ago: social media coordinator, app developer, drone filmmaker, 3D printer manufacturer, Bitcoin speculator, tablet screen repairman, digital nomad, Uber driver, YouTube celebrity, smartphone cable importer, blogger, president (of South Sudan, that is), gene analyst, Alibaba importer, self driving car tester, cargo ship kite manufacturer, fracking expert, medical marijuana grower, and I could go on and on. Humans are adaptable, and this discussion has been going on for thousands of years, not just 200 years.

  • mortiscrum||

    This is exactly why I've somewhat come off the idea that we're heading towards a complete crisis on jobs. I used to be pretty convinced of it, but now I'm not so sure.

    I can still see a situation though where the job market begins to change so quickly that it creates a crisis of a different sort. For instance, it might become the norm to get a degree or some type of training and only have that be worth something for 10-15 years at most. New jobs will be created and old jobs will become obsolete that to remain employed people will have to continually retrain. If this cycle happens fast enough, it could create a great deal of instability in the jobs market.

  • sarcasmic||

    Wow. That was like totally persuasive and stuff, you know? I mean, that boulder metaphor was like totally spot on and stuff! It is exactly the same as saying machines will make all jobs obsolete, you know? Like freeing people from one kind of job means that they never work again! Ever! People are like so stupid and useless that once their job is like replaced with a machine, they can never do anything ever again! You're like so smart and stuff! I want to be just like you when I grow up and stuff, you know? Like... Wow man!

  • SQRLSY One||

    I blame it all on robotic foreigners! We need to start taking a close look at all those "Made in America" factory-produced goodies, and start asking, "Was this made by an American robot, or a foreigner robot?" Good jobs for good AMERICAN robots, I say! Democrat robots, republican robots, it doesn't matter… They're not allowed to vote, anyway! And if we can't find enough good AMERICAN robots, then we need to start building everything by hand, using only our hands and our teeth, and wood, rocks, and mud! THAT will bring our jerbs back!

  • Longtobefree||

    "Democrat robots, republican robots, it doesn't matter… They're not allowed to vote, anyway! "

    What makes you think they do not vote? Maybe not vote directly, but they count the votes; same thing.
    5,000 people use a voting machine. The machine reports 4,000 votes for, 1500 votes against. Who knows?

  • SQRLSY One||

    The greed and hypocrisy of top corporate management has been thoroughly documented, and I'm not trying to apologize for them, for that. But in all fairness, we should understand their perspective. The government does not require many (if any) benefits be paid to robots, nor require safe operating environments (for the robots as opposed to humans). Limited protections for humans is good, but have we gone too far? Corporations are required to pay Social Security, workman's comp, unemployment, and tons and tons of insurance mandates for the humans. Whether or not I need or want (or object to, on a religious basis) alcohol and drug abuse therapy, organs transplants, sex assignment changes, or space alien abduction therapy, a lot of all this stuff is mandated, in insurance coverage. No opt-outs and price cuts for you, or for me! But not so for the robots! Should it be any surprise that the robots are taking our jobs?

  • mortiscrum||

    "We should roll back a bunch of the protections and improvements to worker's conditions so that hiring is cheaper, thus pushing off the day when robots take our jobs" doesn't sound like a great plan. Like, I understand the logic, but making sure there's lots of shitty, dangerous, low-paying jobs with no benefits just so people have somewhere, anywhere, to work feels crazy to me. Big-picture, isn't that the point of robots? So we don't have do those annoying tasks any more?

  • SQRLSY One||

    No, just... Just, Government Almighty get out of my way! If I want to take a job where they offer health insurance that does NOT (by mandate) require that birth control, alien abduction therapy, organ transplants, drug and alcohol abuse therapy, etc-etc-etc, all be covered... At greatly inflated expense... Then I should be able to DECLINE selected coverages if I want to! If the space aliens abduct me, I PROMISE not to go crying to my shrink! Less insurance mandates should translate to me being able to get a job easier (less expense to my employer). Means I get to compete with the robots on a more-level playing field...

    Minimum wage is part of the same trouble...

    I'm not asking for that much, am I?

    PS, so far, I have not seen the owners of the robots, all falling all over themselves, sharing the profits that they make, with those who do not own the robots. FORCING them to share (via Government Almighty) stinks if you ask me. Better solution is, level the field so that I can compete with the robots, if I want to.

  • mortiscrum||

    I don't think most people are going to see it that way, though. Describing a situation where one is "free" to work a crummy job - when the alternative is very plausibly not to work at all - and most people would not consider that a triumph of free markets. They'd call that a shitty situation that needs to be changed.

  • Sevo||

    mortiscrum|6.6.17 @ 3:32PM|#
    "...They'd call that a shitty situation that needs to be changed."

    And idiots like you would agree.
    Fuck off, slaver.

  • EscherEnigma||

    " If the space aliens abduct me, I PROMISE not to go crying to my shrink!"
    Do you also promise to to not have PTSD, anxiety, or other trauma-induced disorders that impact your productivity?

    Because that's what those are for. To reduce the impact of various disorders and trauma allowing you to be more productive again.

  • SQRLSY One||

    I should at least have the freedom to NOT take insurance coverage for space alien abduction therapy if I want to decline coverage. I can pay for it myself if I need it! Just like I pay for my own oil changes, I am not mandated to get that covered in my car insurance. There are WAAAY too many mandates, and way too many parasitical hangers-on!

  • Michael Hihn||

    You conservatives are so eager to be brain washed, manipulated by your ignorance, as proven by the oil change example. We don't buy insurance for oil changes because ,... with for it ...

    it's maintenance both cheap and predictable. Insurance is for unexpected and costly risks.

    But "costly" is relative to income level. So we have Cato "scholars" humiliating our movement by saying low-income Americans should have $6,000 health care deductibles. If YOU get cancer, do you have $5,000 to start avoiding near-certain death? Fucking stupid. Or Medicare Vouchers that SOUND like privatization but are even crazier. Most obviously, insurance is the wrong market! duh

    Likewise, wacky claims that insurance should be a cafeteria of optional coverages rests on a failure to understand premiums at all. Health insurance places people into risk POOLS, to ,..... ummm .... spread the risk!! Why do think individual health care costs so much more?

    When the conservative and libertarian elites start screeching that pregnancy coverage for males increases premiums for males, what do you do? Jump to your feet, beating your chest and bellowing like a goober? Or ask, "by how much?"

    Which would John Galt do?

  • SQRLSY One||

    Trust me, I understand premiums! I understand that they are WAAAAY the hell too high, because do-gooders persuade themselves that THEY know better than I do,what coverage I want!

  • Michael Hihn||

    Trust me, I understand premiums!

    Trust me. your comment proves the exact opposite.

    because do-gooders persuade themselves that THEY know better than I do,what coverage I want!

    (shudder).

  • SQRLSY One||

    I am thinking that we should disguise ourselves as robots, and assign ownership of our robotic selves to a trusted friend or family member. Trusted human owner (of myself) can then collect rental fees on me, take a small administrative fee, and kick the rest back to me! Problem solved! Now I can be allowed to compete with the robots, if I desire to bypass all the mandates!

  • dschwar||

    +1 Mr. Roboto.

  • Longtobefree||

    All of the economists in the world, laid end to end, will not reach a conclusion.

    Abolish robots, support the buggy whip makers.

    Are these the same guys that code the climate change models? We know Gates is, what about the others?
    When it is time to railroad, railroads come. When it is time for robots, robots come.
    (spoken into my computer, which did the typing. Silicon lives matter, but not much)

  • SQRLSY One||

    "When it is time for robots, robots come."

    And I would add...
    When it is PAST time for simple robots as we know them today, robots will ***CUM***, and reproduce w/o human assistance. Then we will be obsolete!

  • ace_m82||

    I am an economist (in that I have a degree in it and continually study it). Getting an actual job in "economics" usually means you work for a governmental agency or a "think tank" in DC, and I avoid those like the plague.

    Here's the conclusion:

    Get government out of the economy and everything will be much better.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Oh yay, we can all go back to bartering for everything.

  • marshaul||

    Do you try to come up with the most astoundingly inane non sequiturs, or does it just come naturally?

  • Michael Hihn||

    Get government out of the economy and everything will be much better.

    Preaching to the choir has been a total failure. Tribal thinking cannot get the job done -- especially when the tribe is far less than 10% of the voters.

  • Robert||

    Know what job I can't imagine machines ever replacing? Answer isn't Hitler, it's salesman.

    Well, OK, I can't imagine a Hitler machine either. But I can imagine a machine replacing Titler; YouTube already did.

  • Longtobefree||

    Salesmen?? Really?
    You ever buy anything on the web? How many salesmen did you see?

  • Mithrandir||

    I do think we will find work for people when Artificial Intelligence truly comes of age. I don't think it's exactly clear what that will be though. Will people seek more creative work? Will people pursue more academic studies? Will we create a labor force to start building structures for use in space exploration?

    I'm not exactly sure, but I do think it's certain that automation in the age of Artificial Intelligence will be a major disruptor. I just think humanity will find ways of being productive. Personally, I'm all for the space exploration option.

  • DarrenM||

    We can eventually develop the ability to install AI modules directly into the brain brains which would increase their brain power tenfold. This would allow people to retrain for new jobs much more quickly. Just install a new program. :)

  • EscherEnigma||

    ... yeah, that actually decreases the value of human capital.

    If you can train up a worker from "newb" to "master" by uploading a new program, then experience, skill, and so-on is devalued: a veteran of the field is worth as much as someone that's never touched it before. All jobs become low/no-skilled jobs.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Um, we're already seeing it.

    People get shitty retail jobs. After the 2008 crash, the biggest amount of "job growth" has been in crappy retail jobs.

  • Don't look at me.||

    And with the bright future of retailers, well, you know the rest....

  • marshaul||

    And when do you imagine this "AI revolution" is going to occur? So far, there has been amazingly little advancement into the development of anything reasonably called "intelligence". Algorithmic pattern-matching and database learning have become remarkably good, but these endeavors occupy the overwhelming majority of effort in the field of so-called "artificial intelligence", and yet have almost nothing to do with it except in the most superficial sense – useful though they undoubtedly are.

  • Mithrandir||

    I never said AI revolution dipshit.

    Though to humor you, have you heard that IBM's Watson is now better at diagnosing cancer than a panel of experts?

    http://www.wired.co.uk/article.....cal-doctor

    Additionally, DeepMind's AlphaGo is retiring from AlphaGo, but the team is seeking opportunities to utilize the system in the medical and legal fields.

    That being said, I don't think you understand the difference between Artificial Intelligence and Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). When you think of programs becoming sentient, that's AGI. You don't need AGI to have massive automation though.

    As a CompSci grad student, I'm working on an AI program that will scan a company's financial statements and instantly "spread" the statement and break down the relevant financial ratios. It will then send this information to a large relational database that will allow comparisons between companies in related fields.

    Underwriting and financial analysis fields could be completely automated if successful. However, I'm under no impression that my programs are sentient. That's just one of many possible examples.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Umm, cancer has NEVER been diagnosed by "a panel of experts" Your link is to a claim by IBM .... about IBM! Do they pay you to troll for them?

    As a CompSci grad student

    Who knows nothing at all about computer use in cancer diagnosis. (Since YOU say that's relevant)

    I was diagnosed with cancer less than a month ago -- very small, thankfully, with zero spreading ... and am now in treatment. Anything else?

  • ||

  • Longtobefree||

    And yet, no one has implemented a robot to accurately filter spam internet work from home jobs from posting. So there is hope yet.

  • mtrueman||

    ""faster technical change will…create faster employment growth."

    Whatever happened to the idea that technology saves labour and lets us enjoy more free time? There is no point in developing and investing in technology if it results in more, not less drudgery and servitude, or employment, if you prefer.

  • Empress Trudy||

    One thing that automation does is shrink the floor space and overall structural requirements to services that no longer need to house people to do them. What for example do you gain when all your burger flipper jobs are handled by machines - end to end .Well for one thing you gain the ability to shrink the entire store down to little more than a vending machine. And then what? Lower the cost of entry for franchises by 95%. Once you lower the barriers to creating a small operation in this example, nearly anyone can do it. Consider what you could do in an economy when starting a business is available for the price of car? Would there not be jobs created?

  • mtrueman||

    More meals from vending machines? Is that a plus or a minus?

  • EscherEnigma||

    "Consider what you could do in an economy when starting a business is available for the price of car? Would there not be jobs created?"
    There would probably be an initial boom when the technology first starts coming out, but as it matures you'll see the "small business owners" shrink and get pushed out by people that aggregate the "small businesses" and introduce efficiency of scale into the process.

    Or to put it another way... chain stores. The ability of chains to pressure out actual small businesses is pretty well established.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Or to put it another way... chain stores. The ability of chains to pressure out actual small businesses is pretty well established.

    The "pressure" is called competition. And the determinant is what we call the sovereign consumer.

    Never forget, it's not business that progs want to replace with state sovereignty. It's the sovereign consumer they hate.

  • Longtobefree||

    Congratulations; you have invented the food truck.

  • Jon_Roland||

    Such analysis fails to comprehend that automation saturates a labor economy, so that while it may create more jobs for a while, eventually even those jobs are automated, and we can expect to see a fairly sudden collapse in demand for human workers as the saturation peaks. The entire process could complete within a decade or two.

  • marshaul||

    No, rather it explicitly asserts that there is no evidence that this "saturation" even occurs at all.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Ummm, the DRIVER of automation us PROFITS.
    The RESULT is LOWER PRICES.
    Lower prices are new markets and more stuff,
    More stuff creates more jobs.
    And competition picks the new winners and losers.
    Back to step one and keep repeating.

    But it's all quite new and hard to see .... The Industrial Revolution.

  • TJJ2000||

    Those worried about machinery --- Do you really believe working stupid is better than working smart? WT???? Who in there right mind is gonna pay $1/marble to count marbles for them??? Trying to curb machines is just a way of trying to curb a smarter, more efficient and progressive society. Funny how the term "progressive" became such a misnomer.

  • EscherEnigma||

    "Do you really believe working stupid is better than working smart?"
    When you define the terms that way, you probably won't find many that disagree with you.

    But here's the thing: what do you do about the people that can't "work smart"? Sure, factory jobs that get replaced by robots create new "robot maintenance" jobs. But most of those factory workers are unable to do that new job. Fact is, if you go to a McDonalds and see a 40-year old woman behind the counter, chances are she isn't going anywhere. She's about peaked in her career path. You take away that McDonald's job, and she's not going to "work smarter", she's going to find another crappy job that doesn't pay well, provides no benefits, no retirement. And she'll stick in that job until it goes away too.

    So sure, folks that can work smarter will do so. But not everyone gets to be an astronaut. And that's something a lot of these articles blatantly ignore.

  • marshaul||

    No, they don't "blatantly ignore" it. They all recognize and admit that some people will get the short end of the stick, as inevitably occurs with creative destruction.

    The reality is that 100 years ago virtually no working adults would be able to pick up work in software – there's simply too much too learn for a person who doesn't even know what a computer is to be productive at such an endeavor. And yet today, kids grow up learning to think algorithmically, and programming jobs are ubiquitous and routinely filled by individuals with little (if any) advanced schooling in the field, or even extraordinary aptitude.

    And then there's the ability for need to influence learning outcomes. Hypothetically, do you imagine that a sci-fi universe of humans who have to learn the operation of, say, life-support systems which haven't even been invented yet will die off because some "40-year old woman behind the counter" today would be completely lost?

  • Fk_Censorship||

    Yeah, so hold back society and screw everyone because a 40 year old lady who works at McDonald's can't adapt. With this logic, I can't even!

  • tommhan||

    Gonna take our jobs? Robotics have been taking our jobs for a long time. Factories have been moving to less human labor and more automation for a couple of decades.

  • mtrueman||

    "Do you really believe working stupid is better than working smart? "

    Best not to dive in too early. Great Britain pioneered the world in industrial innovation, it was also the first to experience obsolescence, and it's never recovered its former lead.

  • grimfate||

    Machines have the potential to be better than humans at pretty much everything necessary for employment. We are really not that far away from an autonomous humanoid robot that will be smarter, faster and stronger than a human. It will be able to work harder, for longer, more accurately, more efficiently, and without stealing from the till. Once we have these, cost will be the main factor that will prevent the entire unskilled market from being replaced, as well as probably the threat of uprising from the workers being replaced and probably a little fear or discomfort from people forced to interact with the robots.

    And this isn't technology creating new areas for people to seek work in; this is automation. Automation is the replacement of people with machines.

    Eventually robots will be better than humans at everything and there will be no need for humans in jobs because robots will be better at whatever that job is. And if robots are doing everything needed to make more robots - from extracting the raw materials to creating the parts to assembling the robots - then they will be extremely cheap to manufacture. What do we do when nobody can do anything better than a machine can do?

  • Don't look at me.||

    If robots are doing ALL the work, then everything would have near zero cost. We could all retire.

  • buybuydandavis||

    That all the robots are better than us does not imply that their cost is therefore $0, only that we are not particularly economically viable as workers.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Step back a bit. Your context is too narrow.

  • marshaul||

    Indeed, grimfate is perfectly describing a post-scarcity economy, which is a common topic of utopian science fiction. Aside from the fact that we are no where near even approaching this outcome (progress towards meaningfully real "AI" has essentially not even begun yet), it's not hard to imagine that humans could find things to do with their time, though they likely would have no compelling need to do so.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    Grimfate does not understand the concept of comparative advantage.

  • Gerald4||

    Mr. Ronald Bailey,

    Even if President Trump repeals President Clinton's NAFTA and his PNTR for Communist China, those higher paying and taxable wealth creating assembly line manufacturing jobs are not coming back to the USA because those jobs are now replaced by robots and robotics in China, and/or they are relocated to other third world nations.

    US citizens that knew how to manufacture things are now probably long gone and maybe even dead and buried.

    US workers refused to work for Third World worker wages, so those jobs relocated to those third world nations.

    New jobs for US workers could be created in the USA to design, manufacture, build, operate, maintain, and repair the future manufacturing robots for worldwide sale.

    These jobs would/will require STEM educations so that these college graduates will have the critical thinking skills, concentrated focus abilities, and technical knowledge required for US citizens to be employed in the creation of these robots.

    Without a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) human database in the USA, the artificial intelligence and hardware for any of the future robotic and automation machines for manufacturing products will NOT be designed, developed, manufactured or built in the USA.

    The USA would also need a technical workforce with STEM knowledge as will be required to operate, maintain, and repair these robotic manufacturing systems after they are created by the Engineers and Scientists.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Deat Mr Gerald4

    In 1986, the Tax Reform ACT ,,,, authored by DEMOCRATS ... included a double tax increase, targeted at ... wait for it ....

    MANUFACTURING!

    In world competition, our industrial base was driven back to the immediate postwar years ... where we had collapsed from the only industrial base still standing to "among the lowest in economic growth" .. after 5 back-to-back recessions in a mere 16 years.

    After the war, our trade competitors, forced to rebuild, converted from new-deal-style tax policies to very pro-investment tax policies. They totally demolished our industrial base ... in a mere 16 years.

    Kennedy and Reagan ... with IDENTICAL tax cuts ... "across-the-board, top to bottom, personal and corporate" (JFK's description) plus special incentives for investment ... were followed by the ONLY two economic booms since the 1920s. (Reagan's from BY FAR the worst recession since the 1930s).

    Those tax policies are what progressives repealed ... jamming it up the asses of hapless conservatives (and libertarians) as badly as they do today.

    Might that suggest a pattern? Perhaps even a solution? And that you may have been totally flim-flammed by some academic dumbfuck theorists?

  • Gerald4||

    Mr. Ronald Bailey,

    Even if President Trump repeals President Clinton's NAFTA and his PNTR for Communist China, those higher paying and taxable wealth creating assembly line manufacturing jobs are not coming back to the USA because those jobs are now replaced by robots and robotics in China, and/or they are relocated to other third world nations.

    US citizens that knew how to manufacture things are now probably long gone and maybe even dead and buried.

    US workers refused to work for Third World worker wages, so those jobs relocated to those third world nations.

    New jobs for US workers could be created in the USA to design, manufacture, build, operate, maintain, and repair the future manufacturing robots for worldwide sale.

    These jobs would/will require STEM educations so that these college graduates will have the critical thinking skills, concentrated focus abilities, and technical knowledge required for US citizens to be employed in the creation of these robots.

    Without a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) human database in the USA, the artificial intelligence and hardware for any of the future robotic and automation machines for manufacturing products will NOT be designed, developed, manufactured or built in the USA.

    The USA would also need a technical workforce with STEM knowledge as will be required to operate, maintain, and repair these robotic manufacturing systems after they are created by the Engineers and Scientists.

  • Big Ed's Landing||

    The Chinese have been outsourcing to Africa for lower wages, because as the standard of living goes up in China, the workers get paid more and now the oligarchs have to find cheaper workers.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Africa's also closer to the massive US market.
    Consider the irony -- Chinese oligarchs proving the moral and economic superiority of capitalism.

  • Big Ed's Landing||

    The Chinese have been outsourcing to Africa for lower wages, because as the standard of living goes up in China, the workers get paid more and now the oligarchs have to find cheaper workers.

  • John Ullman||

    Why is a future with little work dire? It sounds like paradise to me. Hopefully obsessing about growth and employment rates will soon look like trying to improve health by balancing the four biles. If people were not in fear of, or experiencing the harm of, not having food, shelter, healthcare, and education, what would they do? Perhaps they would do things similar to what I call "appropriate" (most say primitive) societies do, or did before "first contact". They would work four hours a week, and entertain themselves the rest of the time with music, dance, making beautiful, useful things, exploring their world, and dare I say it? Making love.

    Beating your brains out 55 hours a week for a few rich psychopaths isn't the only way to live. Think about it.

  • EscherEnigma||

    "Why is a future with little work dire?"
    Well, because it's either a utopia or dystopia. And if you checked out the UBI thread, then you should know that a lot of folks round here consider the utopia to be impossible. So imagining the dystopia is about all that's left.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Most of them misread the UBI article, which was kinda poor anyhow,

  • Gerald4||

    President Bill Clinton (and his Labor Secretary Professor Robert Reisch) can now say, "Once you were employed and were able to feed your family until I signed NAFTA into law and that economically caused your manufacturing job to relocate from the USA to Mexico because you would not agree to work for the same wages that Mexican citizens would work for."

    President Clinton can also say, "Once you were employed and were able to feed your family, until I unilaterally created PNTR for Communist China and this economically caused your manufacturing jobs to relocate from the USA to Communist China because you would not agree to work for the same wages that Communist Chinese citizens would work for."

    President George W. Bush can also say, "Once you were employed and were able to feed your family, so I created fourteen additional Free Trade Agreements (with Jordan, Morocco, and other young democracies of Central America) and this economically caused your manufacturing jobs to relocate to these third world nations because you would not agree to work for the same wages that citizens in these third world nations would work for."

  • Gerald4||

    And now President Obama can now say, "Once you were employed and were able to feed your family, so I created a bunch of multiple new Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, and Peru plus several other Asian and South American nations and this economically caused your manufacturing jobs to relocate to these third world nations because you would not agree to work for the same wages that citizens in these third world nations would happily work for."

  • Michael Hihn||

    So you don't like Obama. Neither do I. Butt is he really as totally stupid as Trump and his cult?

  • Gerald4||

    And now President Obama can now say, "Once you were employed and were able to feed your family, so I created a bunch of multiple new Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, and Peru plus several other Asian and South American nations and this economically caused your manufacturing jobs to relocate to these third world nations because you would not agree to work for the same wages that citizens in these third world nations would happily work for."

  • Big Ed's Landing||

    It's hard to believe that so many smart technologists are falling for the same faulty reasoning and distorted thinking that led to the Luddite movement in England's industrial revolution. Maybe they are so busy writing code that they never read any history or studied economics.

  • Michael Hihn||

    DAMN! I scrolled down to make a sarcastic comment about Luddies. Well done!

  • Jon_Roland||

    I discuss this in my new science fiction novel, Wayward World (on Amazon). It would go like this. Machines would displace humans in the workplace. All humans. Humans would get a basic income, but it would have to be paid for by taxing the machines, for which it would be a cost of doing business. The still-competitive machines would then compete to reduce those costs to zero, by making the money worthless. Humans would have to leave the cities, to a subsistence life in the wilderness. (19th century technology.) Most would die off, leaving a machine civilization and a small remnant human population.

    But you can read my book.

    Establishment of a basic income would result in instant hyperinflation, which would render money worthless by itself.

    GB Shaw has his character Alfred P. Doolittle sum it up this way:

    It means he's up against middle-class morality for all the time. ...
    I ain't pretending to be deserving... no... I'm undeserving, and I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it, and that's the truth. -- Alfred P. Doolittle, My Fair Lady.

    For many people poverty is a lifestyle choice, not the result of oppression.

  • marshaul||

    machines would... reduce those costs to zero... Humans would have to leave the cities, to a subsistence life in the wilderness.

    Do you not even see what a massive non sequitur this is?

    If costs are zero, then robots can perpetuate themselves because.... why not? There is no cost. And if costs are zero, then people can afford whatever lifestyle they want because... why not? There is no cost.

    Derp.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Do you not even see what a massive non sequitur this is?

    He's trolling to promote his book, all across this web site,. What will be the average IQ of buyers he attract this way?

  • Flaco||

    "only one has truly disappeared for reasons that can largely be ascribed to automation: the elevator operator. "

    The People's Republic of New York continues to employ elevator operators. Really.

    http://www.theegg.org/wp-conte.....-RATES.pdf

  • epsilon given||

    One aspect about automation that often isn't pointed out is this assumption that a given automation device *always* replaces a human, rather than make it possible for a given human to do even more things.

    One example: 24-hour ATMs haven't completely replaced the need for tellers in banks: some issues, such as getting exact change, or resolving a problem with a bank account, require access to a human teller. Banks have *never* provided tellers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; ATMs make it possible for me to deposit money, or withdraw money, at any time during the day, without regard to business hours.

    Another example: I won't likely be in a position to ever hire people to help me make slide rules (something that I am thinking of making for educational purposes). I can potentially buy a small CNC mill and lathe machine, however, or perhaps a robot; thus, I can potentially create a business that would otherwise not exist, without any job being stolen.

    ATMs have already been blamed for the loss of jobs, and I wouldn't be surprised if, the moment I set up a CNC machine in my basement, I would be accused of taking jobs away from people...even though, if these machines were to disappear overnight, the loss of service isn't going to be filled by humans, simply because using humans to fill these niches is just too costly, and always has been!

  • Michael Hihn||

    ATMs have already been blamed for the loss of jobs

    The number of tellers has increased since ATMs ... which allow banks to open more branches.

  • Longtobefree||

    And now the ATMs are being replaced by phone apps - - - - - -
    The beat goes on and on

  • Josh The Radio Dude||

    I, for one, welcome our new cybernetic overlords...

  • Michael Hihn||

    Sorry, you can't have sex with them.

  • Longtobefree||

    You can get screwed by them.

  • Michael Hihn||

    I yield. To a far better smart-ass than myself.
    For now.

  • Eman||

    As do I. The idea that machines could have the will to do things they weren't programmed to is a categorical mistake, I think. They can follow rules so complex that they seem, to our limited human faculties, sentient, but its just horsepower. They're not proto-people, they're really complicated calculators, and following rules is, like, the definition of constitutional government.

  • Longtobefree||

    Remember,as hard as it seems, all a computer can do is distinguish between a one and a zero. And add very, very, very fast.

  • Michael Hihn||

    The software is in the next room? Who knew?

  • buybuydandavis||

    Ron, do you care at all anymore?

    In 1950, it was 59 percent of those over age 16. Now the civilian labor participation rate stands at 63 percent.

    Something else has changed in labor force participation rates since 1950, yes?

    Women's labor force participation rates have jumped from about 33, then climbed to a peak of 60 in 2001, and now is back down to 57.

    Meanwhile, men's labor force participation rates have steadily collapsed from a high of 87, down to 69 today.

    18 point drop for men, *already*, while physically demanding jobs have shrunk, meaning *more* men should have been able to be working, not less.

    Men want to be working. They didn't all just dosey-doe with women and start raising the kids while women went out to work.

    13% didn't have jobs in 1950; 31% of them don't have jobs today. And the drop between 2008 and 2015 was the *steepest* ever in the recorded data starting in 1948. Think about that. Having *already* weeded out the weakest 27% by 2008, the strong remainers are losing ground *faster* than ever, losing 4% more since then. 31% of men aren't in the labor force now, lowest ever, and we've supposed been out of recession for years. People are talking about this as "full employment", with 31% of men on the couch.

    The male labor force participation rate has been crashing for 70 years, and faster recently. The trend couldn't be more plainly inexorable.

    Hiding that under an aggregate male and female rate is totally bogus.

  • buybuydandavis||

  • Michael Hihn||

    Something else has changed in labor force participation rates since 1950, yes?

    Nothing relevant to his point, the effects of automation.

    Hiding that under an aggregate male and female rate is totally bogus.

    You fail to say why.
    You seem to have an axe to grind, with no idea what that has to do with automation.

    You may be too young to understand the drop in male labor participation above the age of 16.
    Check percentage of males enrolled in universities. In the 50s, a tiny fraction of today, and we were working instead.

    Community colleges were just beginning in the late 1950s, and evolved into a major factor -- public tuition, and no dorm required for most. Today, we have students in majors that aren't even needed for as job in that field
    The first gal my son brought home to dinner told us she was working toward an associate degree for airline reservations. My wife left the room quickly. She had over 20 years at United Airlines, in reservations, and knew the gal could get hired tomorrow, with no more than a high school diploma! THAT is where many of those males are today.

    The only thing bogus here is your assumption that you have any idea what you're talking about,

  • buybuydandavis||

    You fail to say why.

    Did you forget about this part?
    Women's labor force participation rates have jumped from about 33, then climbed to a peak of 60 in 2001, and now is back down to 57.

    Or you just don't understand how averages work?

    The jump in female labor participation rates because of cultural changes in the acceptation of women in the workforce masks the drop in male rates in the aggregate.

    If Ron wants to make an argument about education, the peace corps, or going on mission to save the heathens as accounting for the drop in labor force participation, I'm all ears, but looking simply at aggregate rates when the acceptance of women in the workforce changed massively in that time is bogus math.

    Try to keep up, grandpa.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Hiding that under an aggregate male and female rate is totally bogus.

    You fail to say why.

    Did you forget about this part?
    Women's labor force participation rates have jumped from about 33, then climbed to a peak of 60 in 2001, and now is back down to 57.

    Did you forget: What does that have to do with automation?

    Or you just don't understand how averages work?

    STILL fail to say why.

    The jump in female labor participation rates because of cultural changes in the acceptation of women in the workforce masks the drop in male rates in the aggregate.

    Did you forget about this part? "Nothing relevant to his point, the effects of automation."

    If Ron wants to make an argument about education, the peace corps, or going on mission to save the heathens as accounting for the drop in labor force participation, I'm all ears,

    NOW you CONFIRM that you have no fucking clue what he's talking about.
    Ummm THE TITLE IS IN LARGE, BOLD TYPE.

    but looking simply at aggregate rates when the acceptance of women in the workforce changed massively in that time is bogus math.

    WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH AUTOMATION? Can you hear me NOW?.

  • buybuydandavis||

    You fail to say why.

    Did you forget about this part?
    Women's labor force participation rates have jumped from about 33, then climbed to a peak of 60 in 2001, and now is back down to 57.

    Or you just don't understand how averages work?

    The jump in female labor participation rates because of cultural changes in the acceptation of women in the workforce masks the drop in male rates in the aggregate.

    If Ron wants to make an argument about education, the peace corps, or going on mission to save the heathens as accounting for the drop in labor force participation, I'm all ears, but looking simply at aggregate rates when the acceptance of women in the workforce changed massively in that time is bogus math.

    Try to keep up, grandpa.

  • buybuydandavis||

    You know why a lot of these people are going to school? Because there are no job prospects. So they degree themselves in hopes of standing out. And they kill time on the government dole/loan in a socially respectable way.

    You say the gal can get a job tomorrow. Really? How many applications do they get for that job? My niece works in the airlines. She puts up with shit conditions to keep that job. Because she knows she can't just stroll into another airline's office and get one. Your young lady friend is making herself uselessly credentialed to gain a signaling advantage in a marketplace with greater supply of labor than demand.

    Maybe not in your market. Could be.

    But plenty of markets have hundreds of people applying for every one of these "HS degree only needed" jobs.

    The ocean of new degrees masks a demand for labor that has not kept pace with supply of labor. It is a demonstration of the point. Fewer labor hours are being demanded than the supply of them, and required skill levels go up. Pretending that we can just keep edumacating ourselves up until we're all PhD computer scientists is denial. Some people just can't do it. Automation and the associated changes in the workplace render people economically unviable.

  • Michael Hihn||

    All this because progressives destroyed our industrial base -- ad our best-paid union jobs.

  • Michael Hihn||

    All this because progressives destroyed our industrial base -- ad our best-paid union jobs.

  • buybuydandavis||

    And it really is different this time.

    We used to always have the competitive advantage of our brilliant squishy brains and nimble fingers. Both of those are going fast.

    Machines get cheaper/faster/better every year. We don't.

    We're down to 69% for men. How low does that need to go for you to perceive a problem?

  • Michael Hihn||

    We're down to 69% for men. How low does that need to go for you to perceive a problem?

    How long will it take you to learn that your comparison elsewhere on the page, also a blunder, is to the 1950s ...when hardly any males were in college compared with now, and were instead working. Now they're in a classroom, replaced by more new women that missing males, which explains the numbers you misrepresent.

    And what does any of that have to do with ..... the effects of automation?

  • buybuydandavis||

    More people in college? Another demonstration of demand for human man hours not keeping pace with supply. And that low end skills are becoming economically unviable.

    Grandpa doesn't understand how automation replaces labor. Sad.

    I suppose things didn't change much in his day. Or his memory of the changes have gotten a little foggy.

  • Michael Hihn||

    More people in college?

    Since the 1950s of your own table - MANY more.
    Which kinda demolishes your hysteria mongering again. Like I did here -- 11 times.

    http://reason.com/archives/201.....nt_6866271

    Why do you now sink to childish jokes about my age? Your parents FAILED?
    And you're getting your ass kicking by a 75-year-old ... 9 times on this page.
    So far.

  • Budbug||

    Robots and A.I. will DEFINITELY make human "labor for survival" obsolete. Survival, however, will be free, with a guaranteed basic income that may be augmented by providing services, arts, or innovation.

    Either that, or WE will BECOME sophisticated machines.

    Either that, or Skynet....

    If any of these options doesn't happen soon, though, I don't care. I'm old...

  • Michael Hihn||

    Luddites have been predicting that -- and failing -- for 200 years.

  • reasontert||

    Dey terk er jerbs!

  • Fred G. Sanford||

    Economists base their conclusions on data from prior years; they try to use the past to predict the future, which is why they are so frequently wrong. The problem isn't robots per se, it's AI. Robots still require human operation and control. If we get to the point where robots are designing, building and repairing robots, on the other hand, or computers which write the software for all other computers, we probably will have a labor problem. The reality is we are entering uncharted waters and no one really knows what the result will be.

  • AlmightyJB||

    EXTERMINATE!

  • TGoodchild||

    "Imagine, for instance, the novel occupations that might come into being if the so-called internet of things and virtual/augmented reality technologies develop as expected."

    Robot hooker receptacle cleaner-outer. The race to the bottom has been won.

  • Eman||

    Yeah, having your livelihood disrupted by technological progress is doubtless uncomfortable, but it still seems kind of insane to me for anyone to complain that there just isn't enough work to be done.

  • Michael Hihn||

    There will always be Luddites.
    Sometimes enough to elect our President!