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Recession, Tech Kill Middle-Class Jobs

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the middle-class-jobs-had-it-coming dept.

Businesses 586

Un pobre guey writes "'To understand the impact technology is having on middle-class jobs in developed countries, the AP analyzed employment data from 20 countries; tracked changes in hiring by industry, pay and task; compared job losses and gains during recessions and expansions over the past four decades; and interviewed economists, technology experts, robot manufacturers, software developers, entrepreneurs and people in the labor force who ranged from CEOs to the unemployed.' Their findings: Technology has consistently reduced the number of manufacturing jobs for 30 years; people with repetitive jobs have been easy to replace in the past, and task jugglers like managers and supervisors will be likely targets in the future; companies in the S&P 500 have expanded their business and increased profits, but reduced staffing, thanks to tech; and startups are launching much more easily these days. The response to the article includes the dutifully repeated bad-government-is-at-fault and don't-worry-it's-like-the-Industrial-Revolution memes. But what if this time it's different? What if delegating everything to machines is a radical and fundamental new change in the course of human history?"

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Chicken Littles (5, Insightful)

SillyHamster (538384) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673803)

What if the sky is really falling?

Re:Chicken Littles (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674003)

...as acid rain! Oh maya gods, they were right.

Too soon, or do we have to wait for the end of the next cycle?

Re:Chicken Littles (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674017)

To sum up:

  "To understand the impact of tech on skilled labor (where automation is extremely questionable) , we studied the impact of tech on unskilled, easily automated labor"

"Technology has consistently reduced the number of manufacturing jobs for 30 years; people with repetitive jobs have been easy to replace in the past, and task jugglers like managers and supervisors will be likely targets in the future"

When we come up with a real Computer AI, wake me up to care about "middle class" jobs... until then why not focus on the question of what we are going to do with all unskilled labor that is currently being replaced?

Re:Chicken Littles (4, Funny)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674079)

why not focus on the question of what we are going to do with all unskilled labor that is currently being replaced?

"Let them eat cake" as long as possible, followed, of course, by revolution. In this case, the revolution will, in fact, be televised. Probably won't fix anything, but not avoidable either.

Re:Chicken Littles (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674177)

When we come up with a real Computer AI, wake me up to care about "middle class" jobs... until then why not focus on the question of what we are going to do with all unskilled labor that is currently being replaced?

The same thing we do every night after work.

We consume as much drugs as possible and watch TV.

As intended. (0, Troll)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673813)

The death of the middle class over the past 30 years has been intentional. Our leaders seek to return us to feudalism, and have been very successful at that. Remember that, next time you see a politician crying about the middle class.

Re:As intended. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42673903)

The idea that our government could plan anything this complex and succeed is preposterous.

Re:As intended. (1, Troll)

sxpert (139117) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674019)

the goverment are just the puppet heads

Re:As intended. (-1, Troll)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674093)

It's not "your government", doofus.

Re:As intended. (-1, Troll)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674279)

The idea that our government could plan anything this complex and succeed is preposterous.

Who said the government planned it. It could have been planned by their corporate overlords.

Re:As intended. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42673951)

The death of the middle class over the past 30 years has been intentional. Our leaders seek to return us to feudalism, and have been very successful at that. Remember that, next time you see a politician crying about the middle class.

So, since this article posits that the rise of technology is also what's killing middle-class jobs, our leaders are... us. Right here in this tech-centric website. Discussing and promoting tech. The tech that's killing middle-class jobs.

Nope, nope, too inconvenient. Has to be teh evul shadow comspeeracy and teh evul evul gummervents lookin' to take our guns and our jobs! Whew! That's much less depressing, and way easier to polarize!

Re:As intended. (5, Interesting)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674131)

Tech could just as easily extend middle class jobs, if we chose productivity over cost efficiency. The problem is the people making those decisions seem to lean heavily towards saving their wealth, rather than investing and creating more. We ought to look into why they are making that decision, and also, why they are the ones who get to make it.

Re:As intended. (1)

Jeng (926980) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674229)

You would probably be amazed at how much of that is just the average individual making choices on their 401-k's.

I know I would, if I ever actually bothered to look it up..

Re:As intended. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674267)

Most people can't make many decisions about their 401k. I can pick from like 10 vague choices; small cap US, small cap international, mid cap US , mid cap international, etc.

Re:As intended. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674313)

did you know that 90% of americans were once farmers? and then they got pushed off the land by the emergence of technology and corporate farming (we're still in the 19th century here, folks). and THEN those people and their children took jobs in heavy industry (Carnegie, Mellon...) and extraction industries like logging and mining. And THEN the heavy industry jobs moved offshore and the extraction industries automated and wound down a bit. and THEN those people and their kids took jobs in engineering and technological industries. and THEN Japan took over the automotive and consumer markets. Remember the '70's "japan has won the war". And THEN... well OBVIOUSLY it's a HUGE CONSPIRACY perpetrated over several generations by... some... bunch of people who... well...

Re:As intended. (1)

Jetra (2622687) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673955)

Feudalism? More like Aristocracy. Feudalism would be if honor was still a necessary quality. Also, without middle class, you don't have the main workers that sustains a feudal empire (While not necessarily middle-class, I'd like to think of merchants and scholar fitting in this section).

Re:As intended. (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674065)

The rulers of this country (i.e., the corporations) would do well to remember something as they push people into more and more desperate circumstances: Desperate people do desperate things.

Re:As intended. (4, Insightful)

swb (14022) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674069)

I sometimes wonder if feudalism isn't the economic system that is just historically more sustainable over time than anything else once your population exceeds the numbers associated with tribal organization.

How long have we actually had "capitalism" and the kind of capitalism that assumes that its participants should pay fair prices or receive fair wages? Historically it seems like a total anomaly and it requires a ton of energy (political, economic, human) to sustain it.

Given the chance, those who can will hoard resources and charge exorbitant prices for them and will pay as little as possible for labor, with no concern over the standard of living of labor. Slavery isn't inconsistent with feudal organization.

At least in agrarian feudalism there were some limits -- underfed agricultural labor tends to produce less, putting the entire enterprise at risk, and some kinds of feudalism, though unfair by many standards, evolved to at least have a sort of reciprocal welfare, where the continuance of the system was more important than its efficiency.

Re:As intended. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674263)

How long have we actually had "capitalism" and the kind of capitalism that assumes that its participants should pay fair prices or receive fair wages?

A better question would be when did we have it?

Re:As intended. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674083)

The death of the middle class over the past 30 years has been intentional. Our leaders seek to return us to feudalism, and have been very successful at that. Remember that, next time you see a politician crying about the middle class.

Feudalism? Like to pay 10% tax?

Re:As intended. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674095)

The death of the middle class over the past 30 years has been intentional. Our leaders seek to return us to feudalism, and have been very successful at that. Remember that, next time you see a politician crying about the middle class.

What's good about having a very select few rich at the top, is that the revolution is so much easier to organise.

Re:As intended. (4, Informative)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674135)

reduction of people in manual labor jobs is intentional or if not intentional then the intentional GOAL of progress. that's what enables us to have droves of scientists, armies of professional athletes and more artists per capita than ever in every field. just a hundred years ago most people were occupied on producing basic necessities like food - now pretty much everyone in developed countries is fed, yet very few of us work in food production. that's on purpose.

doesn't have much to do with feudalism though. quite the opposite. you want feudalism, you keep everyone on manual labor, you keep everyone on leash - you don't just set them free to do whatever they please with all the information in the world. you pay few to tax them to feed the masses.. that's more akin to socialism and the star trek goal there is to eventually have just very, very few of us toiling on food production and have everyone else do research and production of whatever gimmick devices they want.

Re:As intended. (3, Insightful)

tnk1 (899206) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674249)

Feudalism ended for a reason, and it's not coming back unless the conditions that generated it come back around again. I consider that a possibility if we run short on resources like oil, without a backup plan, but it won't come from increased efficiency like automation.

The thing that people forget is that when automation becomes more and more ubiquitous, it becomes cheaper and cheaper. Eventually, the common people will own the means of production without a revolution because the means of production will be self-producing, intelligent, and widely available. The computer I am typing on is more powerful than a supercomputer from a few decades ago. My $499 tablet runs more applications, with more colors, networking and sound, than my 4,000 dollar desktop did in the 1990s.

Yes, jobs where you get paid 70K to fetch tools from a tool bin are going to be history. That's not a middle class job. That's a blue collar job with a ridiculous salary.

Who's fault? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42673817)

Clearly, it's all Bush's fault.

All of it.

Re:Who's fault? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42673849)

No, it's your parents' fault for not having an abortion.

obamacare at least starts the move to unlink healt (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673827)

obamacare at least starts the move to unlink healthcare from jobs.

Re:obamacare at least starts the move to unlink he (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42673875)

Do you know why, in the US, health insurance is typically linked to your employer?

Re:obamacare at least starts the move to unlink he (0, Flamebait)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673991)

That is for a ton of reasons, but lets hear your most likely insane ramblings about it. It could be fun.

if he won't (5, Informative)

nten (709128) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674285)

I will go ahead of the AC won't. During the depression progressives froze wages, business responded by offering incentives like health care and dental to work around the wage freeze when recruiting talented workers. It became an expected benefit, and then a codified one.

Income inequality (1, Troll)

Nimey (114278) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673831)

You forgot trickle-down economics.

Re:Income inequality (2, Funny)

Phrogman (80473) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673915)

Trickle down - thats the rich pissing on the ever increasing poor classes.

Re:Income inequality (1)

mc6809e (214243) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674041)

Lowering the highest marginal income tax rates beat back inflation in the early 80's and helped to provide capital for funding the technological advances and products of the last 30 years.

And yeah, some people became rich being a part of all that. So what?

Re:Income inequality (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674075)

They are already basically at the 1987 rates and far below the 50% top marginal rate of 1982.

At some point we have to pay for stuff.

Re:Income inequality (0)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674097)

So what?

Middle class incomes stagnated, that's what. The rich got a *lot* richer, everyone else got jack shit.

Re:Income inequality (1)

Jeng (926980) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674273)

People talk shit about the trickle-down theory, but it did actually happen, it trickled-down right on past the border to China and Indonesia and India and etc...

And the profits from that were sent to the top using an express elevator completely bypassing the middle class.

how many times do we get this story? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42673841)

Tech has always been for getting things done faster, better and cheaper. Get over it.

Important but we can't change it (1)

johnwerneken (74428) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673853)

Sure it's a big deal. In theory, anything I could do a box could do as well, except be a person, and it may be that one day not to far off it could at least put on a reasonable person impersonation as well. If it were to happen on a cosmic scale, getting everything done without anyone working would probably result in everyone being unbelievably rich. Sounds good I suppose. But if it only gets part way and then slows way down, we'll simply become Eloi and Morlocks, except that the Morlocks won't be doing or having anything the Eloi care about, and the Eloi may decide to let the Morlocks all starve. Either way, our opinions as individuals or all of us together, and what any government decides, won't matter. Just the results will matter.

Re:Important but we can't change it (1)

boneglorious (718907) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674187)

I guess I'm not sure what you mean by "gets all the way there". It sounds like you mean, not only is all work doable by machines, but machines or their output are accessible to all in such a fashion that they can get all of their basic needs met. I'm not even sure what that would mean. Will most people have manufacturing machines to produce goods for barter? Will most people have machines that produce most of what they use? Will people own machines which will earn salaries for the owners? Will everything be free?

Re:Important but we can't change it (1)

boneglorious (718907) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674223)

(Sorry, I just realized that how I quoted "gets all the way there" looks like I'm trying to claim you said that exact phrase. I was contrasting with your phrase "only gets part way".)

Vonnegut warned us! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42673867)

I'm certain many of you read Player's Piano and are just as keen to see how accurate Kurt's dystopian universe plays into our future's realities.

We need better / quicker schooling / training (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673871)

We need better / quicker schooling / training to keep up with new tech.

The old college system does a poor high cost job overall in teaching people.

Re:We need better / quicker schooling / training (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42673949)

No. College != vocational school. If you have a proper education that teaches you how to think then you can devour the technical manual for some new machine in one night, be slow but proficient the next day, and master it in a month or two.

If you cannot become the type of person that devours the tech manual in one night, then training is just throwing money down a hole. The types of jobs where training consisted of a manager giving you a few simple instructions and leaning over your shoulder for a few days to make sure you have it right? Those jobs are GONE.

The germany Dual education system is needed in the (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674281)

The germany Dual education system is needed in the usa.

Re:We need better / quicker schooling / training (5, Interesting)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674013)

It's not just schooling. The fact of the matter is that some people aren't too bright. Without repetitive, simple jobs, these people will literally have no place in the economy. There's no comfortable answer here. Do we prevent the births of stupid people? Gene engineer all potential parents so that their children are smarter? How smart? Where are the boundaries? And who pays? Or do we just hand them all a check each month and encourage them to stay out of the way, and reproduce as little as possible?

20th century morality isn't going to stand up long to this 21st century problem. Somewhere, something's got to give. Good luck if you think "the marketplace" is a good way to solve this. I think that was tried in France, and in Russia.

Re:We need better / quicker schooling / training (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674091)

Why not just hand everyone a check, assuming everything is now nearly free since machines make it?

Re:We need better / quicker schooling / training (2)

Thud457 (234763) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674319)

Why not just hand everyone a check

That's how things work [wikipedia.org] in Sarah Palin Land.

That's a special case though, since they have natural resources that the state gets income from.

Re:We need better / quicker schooling / training (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674185)

Don't worry, those people will have a place as cannon fodder in the upcoming resource wars that's going to hit this planet in the next 10 - 15 years.

what about people who alternative-credentials are (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674203)

what about people who alternative-credentials are a better fit then the old College system. College is to much of a one size fit's all and its turning out people with big skills gaps. I not talking about Repetitive, simple jobs

Plumbers don't set in the class room for 4+ years before starting to work. No They do a trades / tech school with apprenticeship.

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/07/18/manufacturing-industry-taps-colleges-help-alternative-credential [insidehighered.com]

And CS is not IT and it's to much theory geared to programming and not the other BIG parts of tech / IT.

Re:what about people who alternative-credentials a (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674243)

Plumbers do very little creative work.

Cs is not IT, and most CS grads don't have a good grasp of basic networking even. By that I mean what a subnet mask is and how it works(just one such example), not how to config a router. If you know the former the latter is just learning on piece of software. If you don't know the former you will never really understand the latter.

Asimov's robots or Skynet (1)

BeerCat (685972) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673885)

"What if delegating everything to machines is a radical and fundamental new change in the course of human history?"

Could go either way - Asimov came up with his laws of robotics as a way to counter all the "evil robot" fiction of the 1940s and 50s (so that the implications of having self aware non-humans could be explored in stories, rather than just the "run for the hills" type)

On the other hand, the Skynet robots, came to a conclusion that they were not only in charge, but the humans made their work less efficient.

The outcome will depend a lot on whether the programmers think through all the "edge cases" before implementing - the difference between "Do task in the most efficient way" and "Do task in the way most beneficial to those it is being done for"

André Gorz (5, Interesting)

EdgePenguin (2646733) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673905)

I'm currently reading Critique of Economic Reason by André Gorz. Despite being almost 30 years old, it describes this situation well. Rises in productivity due to automation are incompatible with a culture that values 'work' on a moral basis, and associates it with a persons identity.

Agreed (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674011)

A lot of intelligent, educated people can still get too caught up in ideologies to see the big picture.

In order to be viable in the market, a labor-saving device must, by logical necessity eliminate more work than it creates. This is the only way to get the total cost of ownership down below the cost of hiring people to do the work. When successfully applied widely enough, this processes has serious economic implications.

There is a finite (and, ultimately, small) demand for brain-work (you only need one genius to invent a trinket in order for everybody to be able to have one), so the majority of displaced workers cannot simply promote themselves to more interesting work. When production is very high but the labor cost is very low, you wind up with large masses of people who can't find *any* work (or at least nothing that provides a livable wage). That results in severe crime and upheaval.

As tech puts us all out of work, we either start adopting more socialist policies, we put most of our population in jail (where we pay for their needs anyway), or we experience a violent mess.

Re:Agreed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674277)

If what you say is true, then why bother with _any_ automation? Why have trucks haul things around when we could carry them on our backs? Why bother with computers when we could use an abacus?

Want maximum employment? Get rid of all automation! We'll all be poor as dirt and starving to death, but we'll all be employed!

Automation is the means _by which_ we raise our standard of living. What alternate model are you proposing?

Re:Agreed (1)

JanneM (7445) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674287)

"In order to be viable in the market, a labor-saving device must, by logical necessity eliminate more work than it creates."

Of course, labour-saving is not the only reason a device may be brought forward. Many examples are about being able to do things previously not possible, regarding accuracy, repeatability and so on.

Re:André Gorz (3, Informative)

Torvac (691504) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674133)

his later books show ways to get around some of the problems he predicted. totally worth reading.

Re:André Gorz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674165)

The 'middle class' and 'lower class' are going to be decimated by automation. It is only a matter of time and money.

Take for example McDonalds. At this point the employees do not even have to fill the drink cups anymore and just hand them to the customers (currently on trial in many places). They automate making the burger and fries and all you need is someone to move the food around. At which that point some bright spark will figure out how to just automatically move it to the customer. Eventually the old saying 'there is always mcdonalds' will not hold true. Fast food places are not picky about who they hire (many times they are glad you showed up for work). What happens when they do become picky?

We are going to see more stories of how unions are strangling businesses. Not because of anything bad the union is doing. But simply the business can not compete with someone who does not have to deal with one. Like hostess recently. The business did the math and said 'as is we can no longer operate this way and stay in the black'. The union rightfully said 'we want what you said you would give us'. When that deadlock happens they close.

It is going to get radically worse quickly once automation kicks into full gear. Think upper 90s unemployment levels. The idea of 'wealth' will radically change as well. As money will be meaningless if no one really has it. Its like the old saying 'if I give everyone a billion dollars how much does a loaf of bread cost'?

Its going to be a bumpy road. Hold onto your hat!

Duh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42673921)

Um... Duh. The whole point of technology is to make things easier... Hence less labor is required. An abundance of unskilled jobs doesn't necessarily indicate a flourishing society.

Re:Duh? (1)

TXG1112 (456055) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674007)

Technology is providing the ability to exploit unequal labor markets and avoid the regulations that force capitalism to provide broad based benefits. A middle class doesn't happen by accident. It requires government policy to enforce and making work location independent through tech has done much to destroy the middle class.

oblig (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42673925)

Got enough karma so might as well post this AC: http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm [marshallbrain.com]

Captcha: exempt

Last question in summary is very insightful (4, Interesting)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673935)

What if delegating everything to machines is a radical and fundamental new change in the course of human history?"

The final question in TFS is an example of a question that's bounced along the periphery of technology and now deserves centre stage. Nicely put!

Now, what are we going to do for a living after everything's been automated?

Re:Last question in summary is very insightful (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674047)

Things that cannot be or are not desired to be automated.

We see this already. People are buying handmade crap, just because it is handmade. No matter how good frozen food gets, I would rather go to restaurant. No matter how good that robot waiter is I rather have a nice cute female human bringing me my food and booze.

Automation will drive prices down for common things. This means people will desire uncommon things and pay extra for them.

Re:Last question in summary is very insightful (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674113)

No matter how good that robot waiter is I rather have a nice cute female human bringing me my food and booze.

I want the robot waiter to bring me a nice cute female human!

Re:Last question in summary is very insightful (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674235)

You're changing the subject but not the topic.

So you'll make a new hierarchy of style and tactile dexterity. Trust me, no one wants to buy my homemade knitted scarf, along with 99% of the human population. My grandma did in fact knit kick ass handmade sweaters that looked pretty awesome, but an entire family clan cannot live off one granny.

So you'll make a new hierarchy of hotness. Again, you don't want to see a fat middle-aged-ish dude like me in a hooters waitress uniform. Well maybe some of you weirdos would, and I'm sure there's the blackmail photo opportunity. Again you've made another system were 99% of the population will be utterly unemployed.

Frankly I think the only hope for humanity is probably some kind of post-religious Amish culture. Fine I'll live in a little farming village with nothing post 2000. Actually if I could live anywhere in any culture I'd like a cross between ancient greece and modern usa with all the good parts of each. Steampunk might be fun for a vacation. We already have Renn Faires for that era, thats mildly entertaining to visit.

Re:Last question in summary is very insightful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674315)

Pay for them with what? Money earned from that job you no longer have due to it being automated. So only the affluent/rich have money left for the "uncommon" things. How big is that labor market again for making "uncommon" things if everyone else is broke???

Re:Last question in summary is very insightful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674055)

What I'm dong right now, masturbating.

Re: Now what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674173)

Art and sex. And, alas, politics.

Our oldest careers are, currently for the most part, not things machines can do well. Hopefully, they won't be able to surpass us in these fields for a long time yet. Until we have time to merge with our machines, at least.

The post-scarcity economy problem also involves the (relatively sudden) un-scarcity of labor, don't forget. Essentially, the problem is this: the transition. That transition is only really held up by a culture which sees labor as a literal measure of someone's value as a human being. The problem, then, really isn't a new economic system, it's the fucked-up values system of the old culture that we still haven't done any work on improving.

"We have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and god-like technology." (that's a string you can / should Google)

Re:Last question in summary is very insightful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674207)

Now, what are we going to do for a living after everything's been automated?

This question should take into consideration something: Not everything will be automated, right now true innovation/invention is still something that is done by Humans, but many tasks can be out-sourced to machines.

Re:Last question in summary is very insightful (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674295)

Now, what are we going to do for a living after everything's been automated?

Not everything will be automated. There are many types of jobs, anything creative for instance, that automation has had absolutely no impact on at all so far and it's difficult to see how it might change. I don't see many robot artists, do you?

What can happen is that low prices push up demand for things that would once have been a luxury. I commissioned an artist to draw a cartoon of my brother for his birthday. It's remarkably cheap for something hand made by a professional, just a few hundred dollars. Go back 50 years and the whole idea would have been preposterous but technology means I was able to find the right guy, contact him, pay him and receive the finished product (as a vector file no less) only days later. Win!

Now what can and should happen, maybe, is that over time people do less and less work for the same quality of living. Our current economic system has real problems with this state of affairs. Partly because some things like the 9-5 work week are culturally ingrained in us from birth, and partly because many people don't have the right skills to get ANY work, let alone "less than what they may have done 10 years ago". I blame the university system, there is little or no attempt to connect the things people are taught as young adults with the skills actually being demanded by the market, but everyone is told they need a degree. So you end up with lots of people who study worthless topics.

The article states that computer programmers are one of the industries where high paying jobs are being added fast - OK then, so why the fuck were there only 60 people on my computer science class 7 years ago, of which exactly zero were women? Oh right, because the vast majority of people at that university were studying subjects with little or no market demand outside of teaching. And then people wonder why unemployment amongst the young is so high. Maybe the majority of all students at that university should have been studying a strong vocational software engineering course?

There will always be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42673937)

...things that machines can not do and people will be needed for those tasks. The only people that will be out of jobs are the people with meaningless, repetitive task performing jobs. This happens in every generation as technology grows. People have to adapt to technology and learn to do jobs the latest and greatest machines can't do (or get an education). For example my Girlfriend's Grandmother used to work at the Crest toothpaste factory. Her job was to put the caps on the tubes of toothpaste. Fifteen years down the line they bought the latest and greatest machine that put the caps on the tubes automatically. Her grandmother had to learn to do something else at the plant or loose her job.

It's common sense people adapt or perish!

well we need more hands on training / apprenticesh (1, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674025)

well we need more hands on training / apprenticeships.

The college system is kind of out of date and comes with the full load of fluff and filler classes. Tech schools are roped into the college system as well.

There is lot's stuff that is poor fit into a 2 year or 4 year plan and other stuff that needs a lot more hands on training that is a poor fit for a collgle class room. When more of a community College setting is better. Yes community College offer classes non degree.

Also the cost of college is getting to high and by cutting down what is now 4-5 years down to say 1-3 years can save alot and make it quicker to learn skills.

Re:well we need more hands on training / apprentic (5, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674127)

The point of college/university is to teach you how to think not fucking tradeschool. The classes you refer as filler and fluff are the damn point!

bs (1)

Torvac (691504) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673939)

biggest factspinning and made up bullshit ive read in weeks.

It time to make full time 30-32 hours a week with (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673945)

It time to make full time 30-32 hours a week with overtime starting at 32 and more rules makeing it harder to pay people salary to get out of OT. or even push people under the min wage while working on salary with so menu hours.

More peopel working part time is better then a few people pulling 60-80+ hour weeks.

Maybe even over time 20 can be come the new full time.

Re:It time to make full time 30-32 hours a week wi (1)

EdgePenguin (2646733) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673985)

France has a 35 hour workweek already. Its seen, by conservative UK politicians, as a sign of a failed socialist state on the verge of economic implosion - but then again, they've been saying that for decades and it hasn't happened yet.

Re:It time to make full time 30-32 hours a week wi (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674163)

France has a 10%+ and growing unemployment rate. The idea behind a shorter working week is not "the entire country works less", the idea is that the work which does exist is distributed more evenly over the population. So people work less, but more people work, and because everything is so damn efficient and cheap the quality of life can still be pretty good.

That isn't likely to happen in a place like France because laws make hiring and especially firing people very difficult. So if you have some work that really needs 1.2 man weeks per week, the incentives are all wrong - instead of hiring two people to work part time and ensuring neither is overloaded, it makes far more sense to push the existing employee harder (and pay overtime if need be) because that way you hugely reduce your management risk. If you hire a second employee with the intention of having both work part time and it turns out the second employee can't handle the work, or is lazy or doesn't get on with the team or the amount of work to do unexpectedly drops it's hard to let go of them again. So it's best to not grow unless you really have to. And if you can use a machine, even better, even if that machine is perhaps not quite as good or flexible as a human might have been. You can switch the machine off when the order book is thin. No such equivalent for a person.

I love the idea of a 4-day working week, but when I think through the implications, I can't escape the feeling that labor markets would have to be radically deregulated for it to work. Employing lots more people to work less just increases the risk of personell problems so dramatically.

Re:It time to make full time 30-32 hours a week wi (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674307)

In my extensive observation, most humans only work 30 hours a week anyway at anything beyond a plantation level job. You can make them sit in an office for 80 hours for appearances, but that just means 30 hours of work, and 50 hours of make-work, pretend, talking about sports tv real estate politics... Simply making people only sit at a desk when they actually work, will probably not improve hiring like you think. Now, 10 to 16 hours per week might actually work...

Re:It time to make full time 30-32 hours a week wi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674255)

Yes, similar bs worked very well for France.

Article contains some factual errors (3, Insightful)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673957)

The article says: In the U.S., the economic recovery that started in June 2009 has been called the third straight "jobless recovery." But that's a misnomer. The jobs came back after the first two. Most recessions since World War II were followed by a surge in new jobs as consumers started spending again and companies hired to meet the new demand. In the months after recessions ended in 1991 and 2001, there was no familiar snap-back, but all the jobs had returned in less than three years.

That is not the case. The ratio of working age men who actually work has steadily fallen since the 50s (in the USA). After each recession it plunged and then recovered .... but not to the original levels. Data [blogspot.ch] .

Anyway, whilst I'm sympathetic to the general topic and find the idea fascinating, the article has a lot of other questionable statements in it. Like this one: Even the most commonplace technologies — take, say, email — are making it tough for workers to get jobs. That's obviously wrong. Email and the net allow people to find employers around the world whereas before they might have been limited to their local area. Heck, I hired a commission artist just two days ago, I initiated contact via email.

Re:Article contains some factual errors (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674217)

Perhaps he means by the impact Email has on the postal service. We don't need mail delivery two times a day when email is all day everyday. That means less postmen are employed.

Re:Article contains some factual errors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674261)

I hired a commission artist just two days ago, I initiated contact via email

That's terrific. Tell it to the USPS. Tell it to me; because when I dropped out of school for a while I worked as a courier. I'm sure *some* of those documents still get delivered by hand; but I bet a lot of the companies now e-mail documents that were impractical to send digitally back in those days. Huge rolled-up plans to job sites though... I bet they still courier those.

In other words, I see your "anecdote as data" and raise, LOL.

Umm, Ya (3, Interesting)

Anon-Admin (443764) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673959)

But what if this time it's different? What if delegating everything to machines is a radical and fundamental new change in the course of human history?"

You could learn to repair the machines, or learn to make the machines.

However, we have seen it before and we will see it again.

5000bc
But what if this time it's different? What if delegating everything to the wheel is a radical and fundamental new change in the course of human history? What will happen to the men who carry the litter?

1840's
But what if this time it's different? What if delegating everything to the machine is a radical and fundamental new change in the course of human history? What will happen to all the children that spin cotton?

1980's
But what if this time it's different? What if delegating everything to the machine is a radical and fundamental new change in the course of human history? What will happen to all the people who calculate trajectories when they are replaced by a single machine?

The only constant in this world is that everything changes. I believe the old adage is "Lead, Follow, or get out of the way!"

The answer is found in Human Action (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42673969)

"The response to the article includes the dutifully repeated bad-government-is-at-fault and don't-worry-it's-like-the-Industrial-Revolution memes."

Let's see what economics teaches us. See Human Action (http://mises.org/Books/humanaction.pdf) p. 770:

"The market wage rate tends toward a height at which all those eager to
earn wages get jobs and all those eager to employ workers can hire as many
as they want. It tends toward the establishment of what is nowadays called
full employment. Where there is neither government nor union interference
with the labor market, there is only voluntary or catallactic unemployment." - Ludwig von Mises

Re:The answer is found in Human Action (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674147)

Let's see what's wrong with economics (http://www.infoshop.org/page/AnarchistFAQSectionC)

In many ways economics plays the role within capitalism that religion played in the Middle Ages, namely to provide justification for the dominant social system and hierarchies. "The priest keeps you docile and subjected," argued Malatesta, "telling you everything is God's will; the economist say it's the law of nature." They "end up saying that no one is responsible for poverty, so there's no point rebelling against it." [Fra Contadini, p. 21] Even worse, they usually argue that collective action by working class people is counterproductive and, like the priest, urge us to tolerate current oppression and exploitation with promises of a better future (in heaven for the priest, for the economist it is an unspecified "long run"). It would be no generalisation to state that if you want to find someone to rationalise and justify an obvious injustice or form of oppression then you should turn to an economist (preferably a "free market" one).

Re:The answer is found in Human Action (1)

coastwalker (307620) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674149)

The fine words of a cult leader are as helpful as piss in the wind. Ask Lenin.

How is it supposed to work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42673975)


Capitalism does not seem equipped to deal with labor saving tech other than to ruthlessly take advantage of it at the expense of human workers.
If we could automate everything, how would anyone earn a living?

I fail to understand what the top 1% think they will be able to do once they've accumulated all the wealth other than violently lose it again.

So the luddites were right after all. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year and a half ago | (#42673977)

Time to sledgehammer every PC in sight at your work.

In the old days (1)

fredrated (639554) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674005)

we were told that this would free us from drudge work and give us lots of leasure time. Unfortunately, all of the benefit goes to the already-wealthy, and the only leasure time we get is the time to be unemployed.

I hope they are building things that robots will buy!

Where do people find jobs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674043)

I understand that technology progresses, but at what expense? In the UK, I see the high street disappearing day by day, but what of the people who are now made unemployed? There are only so many coffee, grocery and clothing chains out there. What are they supposed to do? Same with outsourcing/downsizing - is everyone supposed to go and apply at Google?

It's true that technology is making the world a smaller and more connected place, but the elephant in the room seems to be, what happens when technology is so efficient that you no longer need a workforce?

Compared to the Industrial Revolution.. (1)

Shrike Valeo (2198124) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674045)

From what little i've read, wages went up a lot towards the end. Today, you have below-inflation wage increases, many wages frozen and many taking pay cuts. The only increases are (in some ways debatably) unjustified and decided by the one/s receiving it.

Due to population increases not counteracting the increases in efficiency, there were food shortages. The Office for National Statistics showed between 2004-2007 the population increased by about 1mil. Whereas that's higher than the 19th century, as a % of the total it's far less. Plus, if you haven't noticed...we as a 'developed' nation throw away a LOT of food, so I doubt we'll have mass malnutrition (no more than we already do because people practically live in takeaways..)

In general, I think there are similar knock on effects of jobs vanishing, maybe coupled with the recession and a mass feeling of social dissociation things can and have been grim (e.g. riots), but I wreckon whatever's to come won't compare, and it will only be good if we move away from choking capitalist agendas forcing people to use their lives working when, lets face it, we would GLADLY let a robot do our job if it meant we didn't have to work..

the replicator economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674051)

Here's an interesting thought experiment: suppose we had Star Trek-like replicators, capable of instantly satisfying basically any material want. Without demand, how could the economy work? People would still want scarce resources like energy or land for homes; without the ability to earn money, how could those resources be equitably allocated?

Also: it isn't that this time is different; we've been moving slowly in this direction for more than a century. It's just coming closer and closer to a head.

Specificity? (1)

iONiUM (530420) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674057)

I honestly can't find exactly what jobs are being killed. What jobs exactly are even considered middle class seems to be highly contentious and subjective.

Can anyone point out to me an exact list of which jobs are reducing by technology? I, personally, don't consider a manufacturing job to be middle class, for example. And, it would seem, neither does wikipedia [wikipedia.org] : "The following is a list of occupations one might expect to find among this class: Accountants, Professors (Post-secondary educators), Physicians, Engineers, Lawyers, Architects, Journalists, Mid-level corporate managers, Writers, Economists, Political Scientists, Urban planners, Financial managers, High school teachers, Registered Nurses (RNs), Pharmacists and analysts, etc...[8][34]".

Oh noez! (1)

ACluk90 (2618091) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674085)

Oh noez! We have created systems to increase out efficiency and we have achieved it. Now we might have to work less! What a shame!

Slashdot crowd not very bright (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674087)

I think some of the commentors here need to go back to econ 101 (or just use their heads for five minutes).

Automation and increased unemployment are _inversely correlated_. If automation destroyed jobs, than how do you account for the trillions of jobs that have been created over the previous thousands of years given the creation of the wheel, the plow, the assembly line, the computer, etc.?

There are _tons_ of jobs being created by today's automation, just as there always has been with increased efficiencies. The problem is that those jobs aren't being created in the US! The taxes are too high, the regulation is too onerous, and the labor is too expensive. If we lack job creation in the US, we only have ourselves and our boneheaded policies to blame!

Cyclical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674109)

Technology has always been about progress with the downside that it reduces the humans required. This goes back to the wheel and the lever and continues to this very day. The only difference is the speed at which this happens. Society responds to this. Invention moves things forward. The decline of the US manufacturing base was well along before computers came into mass. While computers reduces the number of humans to manufacture goods they created an entirely new and large industry complete with labor force. We are now in a trend where these jobs, themselves, are under siege as technology automates them. In time something else will come along and there will be a market again. This has happened throughout human history. What society needs though is more people focused on figuring out that next thing and less time complaining because somebody is moving the proverbial cheese. Rest assured, somehow, somewhere, the chesse will be move. It doesn't really matter who is responsible. It it wasn't one party it would be another. Grow up.

The "Postindustrial Revolution" (3, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674111)

The response to the article includes the dutifully repeated bad-government-is-at-fault and don't-worry-it's-like-the-Industrial-Revolution memes. But what if this time it's different? What if delegating everything to machines is a radical and fundamental new change in the course of human history?

All of these things are true:

  • "Bad government", or, more precisely, suboptimal government preparedness for and response to the changes in the nature of the economy are in no small part responsible for the fact that people have become unable to support themselves as a result of the changes.
  • It's a lot like the Industrial Revolution (but this isn't a reason not to worry; the Indutrial Revolution was a massive disruption that the world and systems of government and economy took quite a long time--with a lot of human misery--to adapt to.)
  • Delegating everything to machines is a radical and fundamental new change in the course of human history (in scale, potentially larger than the Industrial Revolution), and one that fundamentally knocks the pillars out fron underneath the whole wage-labor-centered economy that was the end result of the adaptations to the Industrial Revolution. As more is automated, capital (broadly, including land and resources) is all that matters, which makes it most essential--at least, if you want to minimize the suffering and disruptions of the inevitable transitions--to create a distribution of capital that lets the portion of the population currently dependent on labor income become small-scale capitalists, and to extend security guarantees that are currently associated with wage labor with income from capital as well (e.g., in the U.S., labor-qualified programs like Social Security and Medicare.)

premature (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674117)

What if delegating everything to machines is a radical and fundamental new change in the course of human history?

Then we'll deal with it when the time comes. My suggestion is to handle it by letting the machines work while the rest of us have parties and write open source software (for those of us who think parties are boring).

Re:premature (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674145)

Those who own the machines will party. The rest will most likely starve and be ignored. Then tossed in jail when they steal to eat.

Language choice says a lot (1)

swan5566 (1771176) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674205)

Using a negative term like "killing" rather than "becoming more efficient" or a like term to describe technological progression. We don't know what the future holds for us (oh wait, we've never known that), and it seems to make the terms "bad" and "bad for me" synonymous. The fact that the notion of having to be an adaptable workforce is borderline catastrophic says to me that we've had it pretty well for quite a while.

Add the cost to the robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42674231)

There has already been talk of adding this human cost to the robots etc. If the robot replaces 5 humans, charge that annual cost to the business to pay for the humans to live. If the humans cost 50,000 per year....then there would be a 250,000 per year tax added to the robots cost to allow humans that lost their jobs to continue to live.

Well, which segment is most affected? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#42674245)

Automation of manufacturing has pretty much already happened. Instead of 40% of the workforce making stuff it's now at 8%.

Farming went through this earlier. Farming jobs are now somewhere around 5% of the total employment base.

As these sectors are already such a small part of the workforce changes aren't going to affect the overall economy that much.

So the question is what segments come next? It's going to be hard to outsource middle managers, as personal interaction is so big a part of their jobs. Engineers are too difficult - part of their jobs may even be beyond what a Turing machine can manage. Health care is obviously very personal.

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