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The Luddites Are Almost Always Wrong: Why Tech Doesn't Kill Jobs

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the how-is-your-ice-delivery-man-doing dept.

Businesses 674

Mystakaphoros writes "Mike Masnick of Techdirt argues that we can all put down our wooden shoes and take a chill pill: technology 'rarely destroys jobs.' For example, telephone operators have largely gone by the wayside, but a (brave) new world of telemarketing and call center support jobs have opened up because of advances in technology, not to mention the Internet. Masnick points out writing from Professor James Bessen that makes the same point: 'In other cases, technology creates offsetting job growth in different occupations or industry segments. For example, word processors and voice mail systems reduced the numbers of typists and switchboard operators, but these technologies also increased the number of more highly skilled secretaries and receptionists, offsetting the job losses. Similarly, Amazon may have eliminated jobs at Borders and other national book chains that relied on bestsellers, but the number of independent booksellers has been growing and with it, more jobs for sales clerks who can provide selections and advice that Amazon cannot easily match.' That said, I think it's worth asking: if machines are going to replace all our fast food workers, are we going to start paying our gourmet chefs minimum wage just because we can?"

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674 comments

Sure, to lower paying jobs (5, Interesting)

dontbgay (682790) | about 6 months ago | (#45034543)

The article is absolutely correct. But it also fails to take into account that the new jobs are lower paying while inflation decreases the value of the new wages.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (5, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 6 months ago | (#45034575)

Hey now, let's not let facts get in the way. This article uses the same flawed logic as Rick Perry when he says under his Governorship he's created thousands of jobs without telling you roughly 90% are minimum wage jobs.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034651)

And what happens when McDonald's introduces an automatic fry-cooker, or a machine that makes hamburgers? Just because we currently have a lot of low skill service jobs now doesn't mean that they won't be replaced by technology in the future. With the advances in robotics we can all see where this is going.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (5, Interesting)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | about 6 months ago | (#45034707)

And what happens when McDonald's introduces an automatic fry-cooker, or a machine that makes hamburgers? Just because we currently have a lot of low skill service jobs now doesn't mean that they won't be replaced by technology in the future. With the advances in robotics we can all see where this is going.

Let's assume we can separate all cooks into Grade-A, Grade-B, Grade-C, and Grade-D cooks. Grade D cooks haven't spent much time practicing cooking, and are just barely good enough at it to get a job at McDonald's, while higher grades have worked longer and harder to acquire skills. A machine comes along and replaces all the Grade D cooks. They're pissed that they don't have a job, but they haven't really sunk much time into it, so they go find a different job. But now a machine comes along and replaces the Grade C cooks. A few may just be naturally talented, but by and large they've spent a lot more time (that they can't get back) training to be better cooks.

So they go to look for a new job as a pencil pusher, and sure enough, there are Grade A-D pencil-pushing jobs. Well, there were, except the grade-D pencil-pushing job has also been mechanized. Only people who start off with enough experience to get a Grade C job can get it.

So now we have someone who has trained, but their training is no longer useful. And to compound the problem, we put the onus (and the financial burden) on this person to get themselves retrained, assuming they even have the natural abilities to be a pencil-pusher.

Thankfully, technology has created a new job: computer developer. But this job only starts at Grade B, and then you can go to A and A+. To get to Grade B you need training, education, and experience, and all of that you are expected to acquire on your own time at your own expense. Also, since all those Grade-C and B pencil pushers are out hunting for work, there's increased competition, which means that employers can get you for less. So more training, but lower wages.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (4, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 6 months ago | (#45034769)

Who are we kidding? Developers don't start at grade B, they clearly start at grade F.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (5, Funny)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | about 6 months ago | (#45034821)

Who are we kidding? Developers don't start at grade B, they clearly start at grade F.

And if you're like me, you basically remain at Grade F and then go become an English major.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034865)

Yup. Which is why we as a society need to come up with a way of offering training and education to those displaced workers, at no cost to the displaced workers. One such idea might be that the displacing industry must pay extra taxes which would go into a fund for just such training and education, but then you've got the problem of figuring out what industry is displacing what, which might not be very obvious. So instead, perhaps just a general tax on everyone which would go into such a "displaced worker" fund.

Wait, don't we already have that with the "Social Security" tax, and receiving unemployment income? Though I will admit that, from those I've talked with, it does not sound like unemployment income is enough to go back to school on.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (2, Insightful)

meowgoesthecat (2872191) | about 6 months ago | (#45034971)

The success of this machine likely leads to a greater demand in [Fast Food Automation?]. This creates more Grade-A jobs for engineers (high paying). It also increased demand for Fast Food Operator-consultants that can help put there job into a process for automation (Grade-D?). It created jobs (probably Grade-C) for technicians, installers, and repairmen for all the new equipment that's selling like McDonald's hotcakes.

The new equipment increased resource efficiency for McDonald's franchise owners. With more revenue they didn't have before, they may take there family on an extra vacation each year, buy a new car for their child instead of making them find an ol' beater, or open a new McDonalds branch. All of these happenings increases the demand for something, which results in a higher demand for a variety of jobs (not just Grade-D) jobs.

More training for those pencil pushers in your example increases the demand for pencil pushers capable of providing the training.

Is everything in perfect equilibrium? Probably not. But its also only likely to damn those who just sit around and sulk.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (4, Funny)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about 6 months ago | (#45034883)

You'll be able to leave your job at McDonald's and get a job cleaning the offices at the robot manufacturing plant!

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (5, Interesting)

rufty_tufty (888596) | about 6 months ago | (#45034779)

Any job is/becomes a minimum wage job if it meets any of the following criterion:
1) It takes relatively little training, i.e. replacements can be brought in rapidly.
2) It is a skill that is common, either because of a good education system or desirability of the task(mostly just a re-phrasing of 1)
3) The people once employed do not have much incentive to move on: i.e. they won't leave if conditions deteriorate

The capitalist in me says this is fine* as long as the minimum wage provides a basic level of acceptable living**. If you wish to have more than the minimum it is then up to you to do a job that is either undesirable or one that is both highly & unusually skilled. Alternatively if the problem with that sector is that the business owner is skimming off the profits then it is up to you to challenge that and become a business owner yourself***; take the risk and make the investment or stop complaining.
Look at some of the most successful tech companies and I don't think it is any co-incidence that they put a lot of effort into making sure 3 is not a factor by trying to have good working conditions. They need to do this because !1 is such an issue for them.

* If the employer can't afford to pay the minimum wage then capitalism should kick in and mean that they don't employ someone for that role because it is not worth it for society to do so.
** I do not believe this is the case and this needs to change. Acceptable minimum to me includes healthcare, pension and ability to support a basic family.
*** There are some sectors where again this is not an issue, one man can't decide to become the next Apple, but there are always ways into a sector if you have idea and skills and luck and are prepared to take the risk.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about 6 months ago | (#45034869)

It is true that doubling jobs and halving wages doesn't mean more wealth, of course. Conversely I can assure you that technology created a lot of jobs occupied by people making much more than they are worth, who would be janitors in an earlier time.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 6 months ago | (#45034603)

yep in the nearest town to Amazons main center in the UK in bedfordshire both the independent book sellers have closed. Amazon is such a low wage employer they have difficulty attracting local workers - the drug testing and bg checks seem a little over the top for a retailer who do they think they are Hanslope park or Chicksands :-)

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (4, Interesting)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about 6 months ago | (#45034611)

"...telephone operators have largely gone by the wayside, but a (brave) new world of telemarketing and call center support jobs have opened up because of advances in technology, not to mention the Internet."

Not exactly a selling point! In years past, the telephone operator wasl almost a family member in small town America. They were helpful - even in the big city. Telemarketers and call center support staff are almost universally loathed.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034629)

Telemarketers are the scum of the earth. If you meet one kick them in the head.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (1)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | about 6 months ago | (#45034847)

Telemarketers are the scum of the earth. If you meet one kick them in the head.

Enh, usually they're already regretting every life-decision they've ever made that landed them in that job in the first place.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034637)

Yes, but how much do the cost of good and services go down as a result of the company no longer needing to pay certain employees? You can bet that if McDonalds found a way to automate the majority of their workers, the cost of their food would go down in order to get an edge over Burger King.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034849)

Yes, but how much do the cost of good and services go down as a result of the company no longer needing to pay certain employees?

They don't go down at all. The company simply increases their profit margins.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034875)

Yes, but how much do the cost of good and services go down as a result of the company no longer needing to pay certain employees? You can bet that if McDonalds found a way to automate the majority of their workers, the cost of their food would go down in order to get an edge over Burger King.

LOL. You are hillarious. McDonalds is the number 1 fast food restaurant. I don't think they need to get an edge over anyone, much less Burger King (who is ranked #5, and has less than 1/4 the sales of McDonalds). They've already demonstrated the market is willing to pay current pricing, so they have no reason to lower prices. Any savings will go into the pockets of shareholders.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (3, Interesting)

mhajicek (1582795) | about 6 months ago | (#45034909)

I took my family to a Chili's last week, and they now have a touch screen pad on the table. It performs some of the tasks of the server, allowing them to employ fewer servers.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034641)

If you missed it, almost all jobs are paying lower. This has less to do with quality of the new jobs and more to do with a growing income gap.

Re: Sure, to lower paying jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034649)

Hey! You and your facts can just get out of here!

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034673)

This is Slashdot. If you can't make a knee jerk reaction posting after reading the first two sentences of a summary then keep your mouth shut. This isn't about looking at the problem rationally. It's about pointing out the obvious and acting like you're the only one who noticed it while acting smug about it.
 
While we're at it... If there is a problem it's all because of the [Christians/Apple/IP laws/Americans/free market/Microsoft/the 1%/SCO]

Re:Sure, to *differently skilled* jobs (5, Insightful)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about 6 months ago | (#45034697)

It also fails to take into account that the skills required for the jobs that disappear are entirely different than the skills required for the new jobs that replace them. This means you lose everything you've worked for, career-wise. I might have 30 years in as a buggy whip craftsman, but that doesn't mean I have the skill set required to assemble an automobile. It also means that the salary I've been building up disappears. Even if the jobs are equivalent pay ranges, a senior buggy whip architect probably makes a lot more than a junior steering column technician.

If I started at $40,000/yr 30 years ago and make $75,000/yr today and suddenly lose that because my entire industry has been obsoleted -- including my retirement possibly -- and can now only take a new job at $50,000/yr... I'm still screwed.

I'm not arguing we should stop inventing, but its hugely callous to ignore the difficulties inflicted on people when this kind of thing happens.

Re:Sure, to *differently skilled* jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034885)

And I don't think the argument is that there is no disruption. What is being claimed is that there is no overall loss to the economy. A common flawed argument is: "If we let industry die, we're going to lose jobs and dollars from our economy." This argument is flawed for at least two reasons: 1) the money spent on doesn't disappear, it shifts to other sectors of the economy, and the thing that replaces or disrupts creates new and different jobs and opportunities.

Re:Sure, to *differently skilled* jobs (5, Insightful)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | about 6 months ago | (#45034901)

It also fails to take into account that the skills required for the jobs that disappear are entirely different than the skills required for the new jobs that replace them. This means you lose everything you've worked for, career-wise. I might have 30 years in as a buggy whip craftsman, but that doesn't mean I have the skill set required to assemble an automobile. It also means that the salary I've been building up disappears. Even if the jobs are equivalent pay ranges, a senior buggy whip architect probably makes a lot more than a junior steering column technician.

If I started at $40,000/yr 30 years ago and make $75,000/yr today and suddenly lose that because my entire industry has been obsoleted -- including my retirement possibly -- and can now only take a new job at $50,000/yr... I'm still screwed.

I'm not arguing we should stop inventing, but its hugely callous to ignore the difficulties inflicted on people when this kind of thing happens.

"Callous" is really the only possible word I think we can use here. Look, I respect people's understanding of the benefits of capitalism. There are some brilliant capitalists around here. But when the problem is "solved" by market forces, there's another problem left over-- lots and lots of now-unqualified, unemployed people. Just using their children's hunger as a whip to scramble for a new job may again be a market force in action, but it's certainly not kind.

And then you run into the problem of... if we're all broke on our asses, who is going to buy your products?

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034705)

Business don't pay $1,000,000 for a system to lose money or break even. They expect ROI or people get fired. Whether the economy can replace those jobs isn't directly associated. Maybe a new sub-industry will pop up, maybe it won't. It certainly isn't a 1 to 1 ratio.

I spend all day looking for ways to replace people with technology, and I'm very effective at it. I get paid about $0.10 on the dollar. For every $1 I earn, I've automated $10 worth of work. Also, my system can run by itself, so after I leave, it will still be automating those jobs. The only saving grace is it's people we won't have to hire as opposed to people we would fire.

If I were a less moral person, I would support this position, since I'm one of the people removing jobs, but a duck is a duck. I have to live with that, and if I didn't do it, someone else will.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 6 months ago | (#45034837)

You're essentially increasing the productivity of mankind per capita. There's nothing wrong with *that* - the one thing wrong is that once we have that productivity, we randomly deny the output to others even though nothing prevents us. Well, I guess that societies can get outdated as much as business models and technologies do.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (1)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | about 6 months ago | (#45034915)

You're essentially increasing the productivity of mankind per capita. There's nothing wrong with *that* - the one thing wrong is that once we have that productivity, we randomly deny the output to others even though nothing prevents us. Well, I guess that societies can get outdated as much as business models and technologies do.

Of the 10 of you, we've replaced 9 of your jobs with a machine. Steve can keep his job, unless someone amongst you is willing to do it for less. Oh, and we're not gonna feed anyone who's not hauling his weight.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (5, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | about 6 months ago | (#45034725)

The article is absolutely correct. But it also fails to take into account that the new jobs are lower paying while inflation decreases the value of the new wages.

This.
 
I can't remember the source, but recently I saw a graph that showed a timeline of $US minimum wage vs inflation. Up until the the 80's or 90's the minimum wage was keeping track with inflation, but after that it flattened off. So inflation kept on going up, but the minimum wage stayed the same.

If the US minimum wage had kept track with inflation, then it would be around $13/hr or $14/hr right now. Interestingly the Australian minimum wage *is* around $14/hr

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (3, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 6 months ago | (#45034819)

But cost of living and inflation don't always go up at the same rate either. Why should be tie minimum wage to inflation rather than cost of living?

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (3, Informative)

mhajicek (1582795) | about 6 months ago | (#45034951)

Inflation should be measured by the cost of living. The only reason it isn't is to try to make people feel better.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (1)

bradm (27075) | about 6 months ago | (#45034739)

That's just the tip of the iceberg:

350k telephone operators (who provided a service appreciated by the people they spoke to) in 1940 with a US pop of ~ 132m.
408k combined telemarketers and call centers (who provide a service widely reviled and high stress) in 201x with a US pop of ~ 308m.

Not more jobs, fewer. 50% fewer population adjusted.

Indy bookstores up from 1,401 in 2009 to 1,632 today. The final Border's closing wave? 399 stores. That's fewer jobs in bookstores, not more. Might be better jobs in this case.

Technology absolutely kills jobs, and kills careers. It also creates new jobs and new careers, but not necessarily for the people that lost their jobs. The fallacy comes from pretending that all jobs are equal and can be subsumed into a single total job count.

Doesn't mean I want to live like a Luddite, however. But TFAs above are rather thin on reasoning.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034795)

Any article that uses the word Luddite, is hipster and makes my eyes and brain bleed and gloss over. SD people don't live in reality.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (1)

Flammon (4726) | about 6 months ago | (#45034801)

On the contrary, technology such as Bitcoin would solve the inflation problem. Governments intentionally create inflation to stimulate the economy but as we'll soon find out, it doesn't work.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (1, Interesting)

jon3k (691256) | about 6 months ago | (#45034813)

Please provide source that ALL new jobs created from technology create lower skilled mew jobs.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (2)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 6 months ago | (#45034933)

What a moronic strawman. Just because you might be able to point to some x percent that might have been higher paying does not diminish his point which is that many if not a majority or more of them are lower paying.

For example, while not technically related to technology replaced jobs, here [washingtonpost.com] is a great example of mid-wage jobs from before the 2008 recession have been overwhelmingly replaced with low-wage jobs. Only 1/3 of all the mid-wage jobs were replaced by something of equal value whereas the low-wage jobs increased 300%.

Xen vs Zen (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about 6 months ago | (#45034845)

If you pick choice points on the curve and then analyze a limited subset of the entire world market than you can certainly argue that, just as you can argue to the contrary.

Watch:

It used to be that there were buggy whip manufacturers and there was no minimum wage. Now people manufacture cars and get paid union wages. See, I just proved that people make boatloads more money because of technology!

Now lets go with a hypothetical. Soon there will be robots to build Big Macs so there will be no low pay staff to do that, but the robots have to be designed, programmed, manufactured and maintained! This is going to create much higher paying jobs! See, once again technology means boatloads more money!

The reality is that as technology progresses some people will lose low paying jobs and some high paying jobs. Others will gain low paying jobs and still others high paying jobs. Things are changing. Wealth is being redistributed. An emphasis on brains over brawn is causing more money to go to the intelligent folks and less to the shear brutes (unless of course you are a pro football player, or Tom Cruise, etc.).

Things are changing. This will benefit some and be a detriment to others. Trying to say if it is a good thing or a bad thing assumes that you can determine if it is a good thing or a bad thing, which is a mere delusion if only for the fact that it is based on the idea that good and bad have clear definitions.

The Zen master says: It is what it is., while the Xen master says: Fuck You, Pay Me!"

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034861)

Sometimes, sometimes not. Many of us in this forum have jobs that were driven by technologies that have only come into their own in the last twenty or so years. Quite a few of those jobs pay very well.

What is of more concern is that the proliferation of technical jobs is gradually excluding people of less than average intelligence - a nontrivial fraction of the population.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 6 months ago | (#45034879)

Also, tech may create new jobs, but they may not be jobs you're qualified to do. Imagine the job market in which all manual labour is carried out by robots. You could also automate a lot of service jobs. I swear the only reason they keep people staffed at a bank is to appease the older generation. There are many banks now that don't even have physical customer facing locations. How long until all (or the majority) of banks operate that way? The only jobs left will be jobs that actually required a lot of intelligence, creativity, and original thought. There's a lot of people, who for one reason or another, simply don't have those skills, and probably can't even learn the skills necessary to maintain a job.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034903)

The article is absolutely inaccurate. Tech DOES kill jobs, the proposed argument is that people will be hired somewhere else. But there is no correlation between the two. And if you think of "not that rich" countries like India or Brazil this is even more evident. The biggest mistake of the author, in my opinion, is supposing that people will learn or at least be willing to learn these new ways doing things.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034905)

And the number of jobs that require less thinking is decreasing relative to the number of people that can't think well.

Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | about 6 months ago | (#45034935)

Exactly. Replacing 50 welders with a few $3M robots and then hiring millwrights and engineers to program/maintain them sounds like a great thing. We got rid of the crappy jobs and replaced them with higher paying ones that are less menial. Except not everyone is capable of doing the millwrights/engineers job. Even with free education there just are too many dumb people out there that just won't be able to do it. All these hordes end up fighting over the Walmart greeter jobs because that is all that is left for them.

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034563)

That said, I think it's worth asking: if machines are going to replace all our fast food workers, are we going to start paying our gourmet chefs minimum wage just because we can?

No. People are paid what they are worth to the company and what their labor can be traded for on the marketplace. A gourmet chef isn't going to be paid minimum wage because the value of the labor is too high and there are no gourmet chefs that will accept minimum wage.

Re:No. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034581)

No. People are paid what they are worth to the company and what their labor can be traded for on the marketplace. A gourmet chef isn't going to be paid minimum wage because the value of the labor is too high and there are no gourmet chefs that will accept minimum wage YET

Fixed that for you

hahahahahaahaha (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034565)

Obviously, this guy doesn't know anything about the restaurant industry, at least in the USA. Most "chefs" are already making minimum wage or very close to it. In the USA, only the servers and managers make money in a restaurant due to the messed up tip system [jayporter.com]. However, when it comes to "gourmet chefs" they make even less. At the highest levels, a.k.a. 3 star restaurants, most of the kitchen staff are unpaid interns. They all dream of opening up their own place some day.

Luddites aren't obsolete yet (5, Insightful)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 6 months ago | (#45034595)

Though technology may not "destroy" jobs, it certainly shifts them. For example, car factories are increasingly populated with robots. Although that creates economic prosperity that may show up somewhere else, it certainly displaces the unskilled, who previously could at least hold factory jobs.

In my area, we now have garbage trucks that pick up (standardized) trash cans. Presumably, this leads to fewer "garbage men" - who used to be the archetypal unskilled laborers. But the few garbage men that remain now must be skilled as truck drivers.

So, assuming that a certain portion of the population will always be unskilled, and assuming the portion of unskilled jobs is shrinking, the unemployable underclass will continue to grow.

Re:Luddites aren't obsolete yet (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 6 months ago | (#45034741)

So, assuming that a certain portion of the population will always be unskilled, and assuming the portion of unskilled jobs is shrinking, the unemployable underclass will continue to grow.

And yet, somehow, that doesn't seem to be happening. Sure unemployment figures are high all over the world at the moment, but a few years ago these figures were very different. Current unemployment is mostly caused by economics rather than technology.

I think that in more advanced economies, where more and more simple jobs are being replaced by machines (it's indeed mostly the unskilled positions that are replaced by technology), education keeps improving as well, meaning there are less and less unskilled workers in the population.

Nowadays pretty much everybody goes through primary and secondary school, and most will continue in some vocational training. Even people who stop studying after secondary school are hardly unskilled, at least not comparable with some 100 years or so ago when many people only did primary, or 200 years ago when schooling was for the elite only. And even in that time many people did learn a job, though it was mostly learned in the workplace, the apprentice/master system.

Re:Luddites aren't obsolete yet (4, Interesting)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 6 months ago | (#45034803)

In my area, we now have garbage trucks that pick up (standardized) trash cans. Presumably, this leads to fewer "garbage men" - who used to be the archetypal unskilled laborers. But the few garbage men that remain now must be skilled as truck drivers.

I actually know a guy who worked as a garbageman who got replaced by automation. It paid good money, because he had qualifications that most people didn't. He had the strength and agility to lift 70 lb barrels into the truck, hang on for dear life at speed, tolerate a "variety" of weather conditions and a living situation that allowed him to go to work at 4 or 5 AM. Unfortunately, when the demand for those skills and qualifications evaporated overnight, there weren't that many package handling jobs to absorb the influx, and his earning ability dropped just as quickly. Kinda sucks to be forced into a 6-12 month unpaid vacation while trying to find money to get trained for something else at wages that will never match what he made before. No way around it, of course, those jobs are just gone and he understands that. He's got another job, so I guess you could say his job wasn't "killed," it just became something else that didn't pay as well even after becoming proficient.

Re:Luddites aren't obsolete yet (2)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | about 6 months ago | (#45034943)

In my area, we now have garbage trucks that pick up (standardized) trash cans. Presumably, this leads to fewer "garbage men" - who used to be the archetypal unskilled laborers. But the few garbage men that remain now must be skilled as truck drivers.

I actually know a guy who worked as a garbageman who got replaced by automation. It paid good money, because he had qualifications that most people didn't. He had the strength and agility to lift 70 lb barrels into the truck, hang on for dear life at speed, tolerate a "variety" of weather conditions and a living situation that allowed him to go to work at 4 or 5 AM. Unfortunately, when the demand for those skills and qualifications evaporated overnight, there weren't that many package handling jobs to absorb the influx, and his earning ability dropped just as quickly. Kinda sucks to be forced into a 6-12 month unpaid vacation while trying to find money to get trained for something else at wages that will never match what he made before. No way around it, of course, those jobs are just gone and he understands that. He's got another job, so I guess you could say his job wasn't "killed," it just became something else that didn't pay as well even after becoming proficient.

And now we have a potentially very angry man who has the strength and agility to lift 70 lb barrels into the truck and hang on for dear life at speed. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Lower Wages for Gourmet Chefs? (4, Interesting)

Nova Express (100383) | about 6 months ago | (#45034597)

That depends on one question: Can we replace them with illegal aliens?

Because the political establishment, along with business interests, have decided that a permanent underclass of illegal alien workers is just fine with them. This in turn has depressed the wages on labor-intensive jobs while making welfare a more attractive option than work [forbes.com] for many.

The unwillingness to enforce border controls has probably cost more Americans jobs in the last 20 years than any technological advance.

Re:Lower Wages for Gourmet Chefs? (0, Flamebait)

nojayuk (567177) | about 6 months ago | (#45034655)

Capitalism depends on the free movement of three things, capital, goods and labour. Socialists and liberals don't want capitalism and they seek to regulate and limit free movement of one or all of the basic factors underlying capitalism. Border controls are a limit to free movement of labour, obviously.

Re:Lower Wages for Gourmet Chefs? (4, Informative)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 6 months ago | (#45034695)

What the hell are you talking about? It's called The Internationale for a reason.

The main difference between a socialist and a capitalist is that socialists think you shouldn't be rewarded for investment, only for work, IOW no reward for laziness.

Re:Lower Wages for Gourmet Chefs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034743)

"More attractive" is the wrong term. "Economically feasible" is more appropriate

Re:Lower Wages for Gourmet Chefs? (5, Interesting)

T.E.D. (34228) | about 6 months ago | (#45034755)

making welfare a more attractive option than work [forbes.com] for many.

That just shows you how ludicrously, immorally low we have our minimum wage set to right now. However, I will admit that it is also pretty darn messed up that we have set up a system where only those here illegally (an thus unable to collect welfare) would take an actual minimum wage job, and then we yell and scream at the inevitable flood of illegal aliens who come here for all those jobs we reserved just for them. Like they are somehow more immoral for wanting a better life for their families, than are the rich folks who set up this system for them to have that role.

Re:Lower Wages for Gourmet Chefs? (0)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 6 months ago | (#45034789)

An illegal alien who is a gourmet chef will be able to demand more than the minimum wage. If they would want to go to the US in the first place, as for a gourmet chef there'll definitely be well paying jobs where-ever they are from.

The last sentence of TFS is of course even more stupid than your reaction to it, clearly indicating both the submitter and you have no idea what you're talking about.

Gourmet chef pay and independent booksellers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034605)

Whether gourmet chef labor will be as devalued as say, that of Java programmers, is an interesting question. But I don't think it will be driven by the elimination of fast-food workers. All the elimination of fast food employment will do is provide fewer job opportunities for those with PhDs in physics and Masters' in biochemistry, making those degrees worth even less (at least here in the US) than they were when the rug was pulled out from under all basic research other than what Defense and Big Pharma commission. As for independent bookstores, I vividly recall the times when they were all but exterminated by competition by the titan of the moment, Barnes & Noble -- who somehow or other now winds up as one of the David's to Amazon's Goliath in our own day. I haven't really seen a growing number of independent booksellers, but then I live in the Southeast US where there never were many to begin with and finding a decent restaurant among all the chain stores can be quite a challenge.

What a load of bull (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034613)

IIRC, there was an article posted here in the last few months regarding the existence of mathematical proof that technology does, indeed, destroy jobs. I can't find it right now, but being mathematical proob and not something a blogger pulls out of his ass, the implications were huge.

Also, this:

http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/515926/how-technology-is-destroying-jobs/

Hey, maybe I should be an editor too!

I dont think so Tim... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034615)

As a former bookstore owner, I can tell you that is crap.

We already do! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034617)

Working in fine dining for the last 5 years I can tell you what we pay the line cooks at restaurants that average $80+ per person is usually not much more than minimum wage.

What? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034619)

For example, word processors and voice mail systems reduced the numbers of typists and switchboard operators, but these technologies also increased the number of more highly skilled secretaries and receptionists, offsetting the job losses.

I haven't had a secretary since smart phones came on the market. The Administrative assistant was canned and we were handed these things.

Similarly, Amazon may have eliminated jobs at Borders and other national book chains that relied on bestsellers, but the number of independent booksellers has been growing and with it, more jobs for sales clerks who can provide selections and advice that Amazon cannot easily match.'

Borders went out of business, Barnes and Noble is hanging on a thread and the ONLY independent bookstore around me is a Christian bookstore. And they a lot MORE than books.

Look it, the data is showing that between automation and globalization, it is doing some real harm to our employment here in the US. And what this article misses is that job replacement isn't always one-to-one. Meaning for one worker who loses a job because of automation, there isn't always another job him to slip into: it usually hundreds get canned and a fraction of those move into the new area.

I am by NO means against automation - to head off the ad-hominems - but what I'm trying to point out is that there are some drastic changes happening NOW in our economy and things are going to get ugly.

Oh, to the weavers. Back in the 19th Century, automation increased worker productivity - it didn't replace them because you needed a human to be the brain of the machine.

Today, humans aren't necessary because the machines are "smart" enough to be autonomous.

When those new looms were put in place, you needed operators, and a few (children) to go inside a running machine to lubricate it - they lost life and limb and we got those "job killing" government regulations as a result.

So maybe a weaver lost their job as a weaver, but an entire crew was hired for the new machine.

Today, it's the opposite. Entire lines are replaced by robots and maintained and programmed by a hand full of people.

And that as a society is where we 're going to have to make some hard adjustments.

Anyway, BOOKS are going to be written on this and there's no way to do justice on the topic in a techdirt article let alone a Slashdot post.

Yes it does (4, Insightful)

T.E.D. (34228) | about 6 months ago | (#45034627)

Tech most certianly does kill jobs. It may make even more in the long term, but they are very different jobs. For the 50 year old newly laid off factory worker with kids he has to put through college now, the fact that there are suddenly lots of new jobs in robot design isn't a lot of comfort.

Tech should make jobs obsolete (5, Interesting)

Arduenn (2908841) | about 6 months ago | (#45034723)

Why can't tech make having to go to work obsolete?

Why can't we make all the tech stuff, like robots, do all the dumb work for all of us so we can spend the rest of our lives playing, or do the kind of work we really enjoy? Isn't this the frigging thing we should strive to achieve in society? Not create more jobs, but less?

Re:Yes it does (1)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | about 6 months ago | (#45034785)

Tech most certianly does kill jobs. It may make even more in the long term, but they are very different jobs. For the 50 year old newly laid off factory worker with kids he has to put through college now, the fact that there are suddenly lots of new jobs in robot design isn't a lot of comfort.

Exactly. And even if he were a sharp-enough wit to retrain in another field, the cost of the kids alone going to college is going to use up all the funds that he would need to go back and get his skills up to date. When the only answer to obsolescence and unemployment is training, the only result is a new job + a load of debt you accumulated to get it.

Finally someone here who gets it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034823)

Tech most certianly does kill jobs. It may make even more in the long term, but they are very different jobs. For the 50 year old newly laid off factory worker with kids he has to put through college now, the fact that there are suddenly lots of new jobs in robot design isn't a lot of comfort.

You got that right!

And that is assuming after College (with subsequent student debt that will follow him into retirement), someone actually hires him.

The job market is so tight, entry level is someone with 2 years of experience.

This bromide of "get retrained and move to another field" is much easier said than done.

First, exactly what field to get retrained in? It seems as though every job/career path is saturated with unemployed people.

And assuming you DO get retrained, getting employed becomes a whole new battle when, for starters, employers demand a few years of experience and for another thing, when you're middle aged and just starting over again, it's REAL hard. Let's face it, for ANY position, let alone entry level, the employer usually goes for the younger person. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I see all the stuff about employers "liking"older workers, but in reality, it's much different. Sure there are older folks being hired but the majority are younger folks so it's even harder for the older folks.

And one last ting - there's an ugly little secret among some economists: we are not recovering; we are recovered.

Telemarketer (4, Interesting)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 6 months ago | (#45034631)

For example, telephone operators have largely gone by the wayside, but a (brave) new world of telemarketing and call center support jobs have opened up because of advances in technology

If I had my druthers -- and we don't, because time and tech marches on -- I'd rather be an AT&T operator in 1973 than a telemarketer in 2013.

That said, I think it's worth asking: if machines are going to replace all our fast food workers, are we going to start paying our gourmet chefs minimum wage just because we can?

Yes. If the "market" can set wages below minimum for gourmet chefs due to an infusion of newly retrained fast food employees so they bottom out at that limit, then it will. That's just what happens. Whether or not that entire scenario occurs -- laid off McDonald's cashiers going to culinary programs and flooding the upscale restaurant and hospitality business letting wages be depressed rather than trying to find other more immediately available jobs -- that's really the question to be asking. (I would answer "no" to that question.)

Re:Telemarketer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034729)

Also, the reason we 'need' so many telemarketers is because we can't use autodialers for telemarketing. Government regulations stop robots from taking that field.

Re:Telemarketer (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 6 months ago | (#45034973)

Also, the reason we 'need' so many telemarketers is because we can't use autodialers for telemarketing. Government regulations stop robots from taking that field.

Regulations or not, I still get autodialed regularly. And human-dialed, if that's the phrase for it.

Re:Telemarketer (1)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | about 6 months ago | (#45034981)

Also, the reason we 'need' so many telemarketers is because we can't use autodialers for telemarketing. Government regulations stop robots from taking that field.

...which is obviously an unfair intrusion by government into a problem (i.e. spending all that money on employees) that could be solved by the market.

Re:Telemarketer (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 6 months ago | (#45034835)

I think the whole premise of comparing a gourmet chef with a burger flipper at McDonald's quite disturbing. The only thing that relates them is that both work with food. So do farmers, who are mostly much more skilled than a burger flipper.

more data would be helpful (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 6 months ago | (#45034647)

The basic parameters of the argument are clear, sure, and have been clear for a few hundred years: automation may replace large numbers of jobs with machines controlled by a smaller number of people, but may also create new jobs, either directly working on the technology involved, or indirectly in other areas. The more difficult questions are in the details. Do the numbers always match up, and what factors influence whether they match up? Does automation lead to more general shifts in the economy, e.g. either concentration of wealth or decentralization of wealth? If it could do either, what factors influence that?

My own view is to be rather skeptical that there is a universal answer. These kinds of articles give off a whiff of a kind of Panglossian view that the technology/economy ecosystem is in a Gaia-like eternal balance, and I don't see a strong reason to believe that's true. Instead I think we need to look at specifics to determine what effects a given technological advance, within a particular existing economic situation, will have.

This article assumes... (2)

Alejux (2800513) | about 6 months ago | (#45034657)

That people will always be able to do things machine cannot. Sure, maybe machines will not be able to play rock-n-roll or write poetry, but it's not like these things actually pay very well. But what happens computers are as good as people in most of all the things that qualify as jobs nowadays? Are we to expect that suddenly 100 new paying professions will suddenly arise that we have no idea about today, that by some magic only humans (aka meat-sacs) will be able to perform? I doubt it.

Re:This article assumes... (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 6 months ago | (#45034735)

But what happens computers are as good as people in most of all the things that qualify as jobs nowadays?

Science fiction writing covers the two limit cases pretty well. Let's say machines can now account for all basic human needs, producing food, clothing, shelter, etc. sufficient for the whole human population. Then at the dystopian and utopian extremes, we have:

Possibility 1: These machines are owned by a small ruling class, who uses their control over this vast pool of robot labor to rule the world, and over the impoverished underclass who own no robots.

Possibility 2: These machines provide for everyone's needs, freeing up humans for a glorious age of space exploration, science, what-have-you.

Re:This article assumes... (1)

Alejux (2800513) | about 6 months ago | (#45034831)

I'm more inclined to believe in the second possibility. Social pressure would not permit the former IMO. But regardless, my post was just to criticize this idea that because Luddites were wrong once, during the industrial revolution, that their idea of jobs being lost to automation would be forever false. It is bound to happen sometime this century. We will eventually need to find an alternative to our current economic and monetary system based on a jobless (yet productive) society.

Some tech more than others... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034659)

Once fast food places are 100% automated and cars are self-driving, lots of jobs will go away permanently. Yes, there will be repair techs and such, but they will make up only 2-3% of the previous workforce.

Shooting yourself in the foot (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034661)

"For example, word processors and voice mail systems reduced the numbers of typists and switchboard operators, but these technologies also increased the number of more highly skilled secretaries and receptionists"

Got to love it when someone gives an example that clearly contradicts his or her own "conclusion".

First, does anyone really think a secretarial job nowadays requires "more skill" than it did 30 years ago? Let's see... cutting & pasting + Googling something versus being able to type 200 words a minute and knowing which of 500 different contacts to call to solve a problem...

Second, are they really suggesting that the number of secretary jobs increased from 30 years ago?

Of course tech "kills" jobs. Mostly it kills jobs that people didn't really want to do. And that's a good thing.

And yes, ultimately (ideally) technology would kill all "jobs", allowing each individual to focus on whatever he or she had a vocation for. Of course, narrow-minded profit-obsessed capitalists would consider that a nightmare, but art and science would advance like never before. People don't have time to wonder about why apples fall from trees if they have to spend 16 hours a day doing some job they hate just to be able to survive, while their employer keeps 80% of the money they generate, and spends the other 20% on finding (both technological and legislative) ways to squeeze more out of a smaller workforce.

it starts one way but ends another (1)

giorgist (1208992) | about 6 months ago | (#45034663)

Very simply our standard of living = (production - consumption)/(numbers of citizens) Robots increase production, which is good.

Re:it starts one way but ends another (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 6 months ago | (#45034753)

That's one way of defining the average (mean) standard of living, yes. But that does not necessarily mean that the median standard of living also increases in the same scenario, without stronger assumptions on the distribution.

Re:it starts one way but ends another (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034781)

That only holds if the benefits of the transition to production with robots are distributed. If only the few people who own the means of production see the benefits, then overall standard of living can easily drop at the same time that robots are increasing production.

Re:it starts one way but ends another (2)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | about 6 months ago | (#45034815)

Very simply our standard of living = (production - consumption)/(numbers of citizens) Robots increase production, which is good.

It is good. But the fruits of that production aren't distributed to the entire population, but rather to the owners of those robots to distribute as they see fit.

Man, I could see the above sentence turning redder and redder even as I was typing it. Just gonna call myself out on that one. :)

Re:it starts one way but ends another (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 6 months ago | (#45034827)

Very simply our standard of living = (production - consumption)/(numbers of citizens) Robots increase production, which is good.

Mean standard of living going up may be cold comfort to those whose personal living standard went down.

Re:it starts one way but ends another (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034919)

Ok then, lets work out the formula even further. 'production' comes from a human producing it. The human however costs more to a capitalist than an investment in a machine (after a certain amount of years). Maintaining the machine takes a fraction of the original human work force. As a result, the capitalist ends up richer, with the side effect of some citizens without a job.
Now, with the new money, the capitalist may do several things -
- consume from another capitalist who produces some luxury (or basic) items and assuming all capitalist invest in automation, he ends up NOT giving any more of the new riches to any human workers
- lock the new riches without investment - buy property, etc. All property maintained by robots and a few workers.
- pay taxes

One can see the a possible scenario where more 'production' does not get to the human workers, while at the same time you get unemployment rising.
To have the unemployed not die from hunger, you need a basic social system, powered by taxes. With growing number of unemployed, you get a pretty large demand for taxes FROM everybody. Taking $20 from a worker does more to him than taking $20 from a wealthy capitalist, and you end up taxing disproportionally the rich, which they don't like.

Now guess who has more power and means to move his capital to a place with lower taxes!?

Do I make a mistake somewhere?

Thank you! (1)

Jens Egon (947467) | about 6 months ago | (#45034667)

Thank you science and technology for giving me the chance to pursue a career in telemarketing.

One day I will tell my wide-eyed grand children about about my dashing adventures as an itinerant telemarketer.

Bookstore Example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034675)

That "fact" about independent bookstores seems fairly easily manipulated and wrong just from a cursory look. For example, it's based on the fact that there are 200 additional booksellers in the National Association of booksellers. However, Borders had 700 locations between Borders and Waldenbooks (who they'd acquired).

So to catch up with the number of book stores before Borders closed, there would need to be more than triple the growth in that industry. Personally, I've never seen a new indy bookstore open as in this economic climate, the public library is an invaluable resource that's already competing with the bookstore.

And since we're talking about jobs: If there's a Barnes and Noble that closes near me and it employs 50 people and 3 new independent bookstores spring up nearby, each needs to employ 17 people to meet the same number of employees. Most independent bookstores seem to have far less than 17 employees.

This is half the story (1)

OneSizeFitsNoone (3378187) | about 6 months ago | (#45034677)

Luddites also worry about the environmental consequences of high-tech pollution and yet other subtle problems technology introduced, like the danger of mass control, massive surveilance, a world economy slanted to favor a few and impoverish an increasing slice of the population.

Stratification of power is the bigger problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034693)

While it's true that automation opens new opportunities while it shutters old ones, that's not the real problem with automation at the moment. The issue is that, as the owner of the automated technology, those at the top are reaping all the benefits of the increased efficiency. While it's technically right for them to do so as they are also bearing all the risks of the new implementation, it also has the side effect of concentrating the money upwards - the amount of money being made by the company increases due to efficiency, but the employees make the same because their labour hasn't changed. And that's assuming their jobs aren't wiped out and replaced with minimum wage positions. Net effect? The money goes straight to the top, further enriching those who are already wealthy.

We're already seeing a point in time at which the tremendous disparities in income are enabling the wealthy to wield an increasingly louder voice over the middle class (see: Citizens United, the Koch Brothers, the Tea Party). At the same time, the stratification of power at the top makes reform in favour of the middle class difficult at best. Historically, concentrating power at the top of society has usually ended very badly for everyone. With that in mind, how do we implement a system that reins in this power stratification, and more importantly, how do you get those at the top to accept such a system?

UK Coal Miner Strike (1)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about 6 months ago | (#45034699)

Sometimes, the technology just changes, and the jobs have to go with it. In the 80's, the UK had a huge coal miner strike. The strikers didn't want the economy to change, because they wanted to stay in their jobs. The strike failed, and some of the people and places involved never recovered. Switch to today, and who is looking to grow the use of coal? Their decedents may be working in the North Sea oil fields, or on wind and wave power. If they are in these fields, they are being paid much better than the coal miners who proceeded them.

Maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034703)

But imagine if we developed AI as intelligent or more intelligent than humans; almost everyone would lose their jobs and they couldn't be replaced by pointless ones (actors, artists, entertainers) because not everyone could become such a thing or wants to, and having that many people trying to be those things would be unsustainable.

people care about their own job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034713)

No one cares that by automating their job other completely different job opportunities open up.
They don't want to retrain, and even if they did, it would be cheaper to hire completely new people with no experience in some other system.
It's the same reason things like the RIAA don't want to go away.
Sure, distributing is now much easier and cheaper. But they already exist, and make money.
Why would you expect them to say "oh well, other people can get jobs now" and walk away?

If automating someone's job meant they kept being paid for doing nothing, everyone would think it's great.
But that's now how things work.

True, but he still doesn't quite get it (1)

LiquidLink57 (1864484) | about 6 months ago | (#45034745)

Something you'll never hear a politician say is that one of the goals of a real economy is to eliminate jobs. But over the long term that's exactly what makes our lives better. As technology replaces labor and makes products cheaper, we as a society spend less of a portion of our income on that, and can spend more on something else, possibly something entirely new, that we desire, thus improving our standard of living.
Very few people want to a job if they don't have to have one - they want the "stuff" and leisure time that the money they earn in that job can get them.

Think about it in terms of the broken window fallacy. Say there's a window guy, who has to repair our windows every time they break. So whenever that happens, people have to spend a portion of their income to have that fixed. So small disasters (and big, if you listen to the news) look like a boon to the economy because it gets people to get rid of their money in ways they wouldn't have otherwise - without broken windows, that guy would be out of a job!

But imagine if windows never broke. The repairman would be doing something else that's valued by society, perhaps making suits. With the money that everyone saves by never having to replace windows (and technically those jos lost), we could more easily afford to get those new suits. And society is wealthier and our standard of living improves, because we have suits that it wouldn't have had if the job-killing window tech hadn't come along.

I'm not saying it's great for the repair guy in the short term. He does have to find a new line of work, just like the telephone operators did. 90% of people used to have to be farmers and the vast majority of those jobs no longer exist. But now food is so much smaller of a portion of our incomes that we can have other great things in our lives. Computers, A/C, video games, music, and more leisure, that we all desire.

This article is nonsense (5, Insightful)

sinij (911942) | about 6 months ago | (#45034751)

This article is flawed because it relies on historical patterns when we are entering entirely different age. Industrial Age is over and we are transitioning into Information Age. Comparing pre-industrial agricultural society to early industrial age is much better comparison, but then it doesn't support the premise. Few of us that are familiar with the history will tell you that this transition resulted in a lot of societal ills and displaced farmers and merchants did not all find jobs in the factories. Few that did find jobs were ruthlessly exploited and did not at all benefit from this transition.

Comparing telephone operator jobs to telemarketing jobs won't tell you what will happen when automation combined with a growing population will make any kind of job scarce. It is very possible that within generation only top 10% of intellectual ability will be needed, rest will be automated away. Even today we know that productivity already entered exponential growth period. We also know that benefits of this productivity are not reflected in growing wages - nearly all of the extra wealth created by this productivity increase is channeled into corporate dividends and not wages..Pattern is very clear - less workers doing more for about the same pay. This cannot support growing unemployed class by creating service job opportunities, unless you are talking McJobs.

Attempting to portray critics as Luddites is 'poisoning the well' further compounded by willful denial of empirical evidence of the societal trends to the contrary. Yes, author is correct - technology is morally neutral, it is nether good nor bad. What we do with it - and presently as a society we chose to enrich 1% of our population, is what we should focus on.

Luddites are misunderstood (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034765)

The Luddites were not anti-tech. They wanted the owners of the new weaving frames to share profits with the incumbent workers. Some did, and their technology wasn't sabotaged. Some regard them as the first socialists. IMHO, there is no communism without the first industrial revolution. Marx is a consequence of technology.

If you think about it, sharing the profit from new tech with the incumbents is a good way to reduce the negative social impact of the transitions brought on by new technology. Nobody is arguing that technology doesn't create new jobs. The arguments come from the negative social impacts caused by the transitions. The existence of new jobs is small comfort to those forced into early retirement and/or incapable of training for the new jobs.

The other dimension to this is that society needs to decide if the new jobs are socially beneficial or socially destructive. The switchboard lady was nice. The telemarketer is a douche. People who seek to address these issues are not "luddites". When I see a headline like this, I think the author is either benefiting from his elevated status, or sucking up to those who have such status.

Re:Luddites are misunderstood (2)

Trepidity (597) | about 6 months ago | (#45034811)

IMHO, there is no communism without the first industrial revolution. Marx is a consequence of technology.

Interestingly, Marx himself believed something along those lines, that communism would be the product of certain tensions produced by the (then-)modern industrial economy. That's one reason that orthodox Marxists (like Kautsky) were very skeptical of the Russian Revolution. If you believe that communism is the result of tensions within an industrial economy, led by the urban proletariat produced in factories, then a communist revolution without first having industrialization doesn't make sense: the Leninist ideas of a vanguard party that would seize power, crash-industrialize an agrarian economy, etc., and then usher in communism, ends up seeming very ahistorical and strange.

Absolutely False (5, Interesting)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 6 months ago | (#45034775)

How many people in Detroit were out of work once robots started spot welding all the car frames and moving parts into position for assembly? How about Robots in manufacturing in general? Lots of people used to do those jobs. Check out How It's Made sometime. You'll see huge assembly lines full of robots where people used to stand. Hardly anyone walking around.

I've personally seen the labor force in Manufacturing facilities decline due to automated machining processes; 1 or 2 guys running 6 CNC machines where it used to take 6 people to do it manually. Polishing metal to a lustrous finish used to be a skill reserved for the 1 or 2 old German guys in the place. Now, you have CNC polishers do it in 5 different axes nonetheless.

Next, lets talk about how global connectivity has put people out of work. CNC again. You only need one programmer to transfer the machining code to some place in china where a dude running the CNC machine uploads it, puts a chunk of steel on the table , and hits the Go button. For $1.75/hour wages.

TFA is complete BS.

Technological progress enables the shadow economy (4, Interesting)

Neo-Rio-101 (700494) | about 6 months ago | (#45034797)

Technical progress has enormously boosted productivity worldwide and is still increasing it at a rate of about 2% per year. Theoretically, we needed to work four days less every year for producing the same goods and earning the same income. However it does not happen this way. Producers use productivity boosts for reducing costs - mostly wages and salaries. This is supposed to improve their profits, but it also has an adverse affect. Layoffs, unemployment, subsequent demand shortfall and economic crises eat a large part of the benefits from increased productivity. The remaining excess profits are invested - however not in production of goods, but in financial assets. Hedge funds, investment banks, and trading firms circulate an immense money volume (up to seven trillion US$ per day) through the financial markets, this way creating a shadow economy that largely surpasses the market of real products and services. It consumes most rewards of technical progress, and gives back occasional market crashes and financial crises.

But it also offers the opportunity to redistribute some of the excess profit back from the rich to the poor. Providing many people with a small but regular trading income will take liquidity out of the financial markets and inject it back into the production cycle. This will boost demand worldwide and soften the world's economical problems.

It's the regular trading income thing that has a lot of people stumped though.

America has lots of jobs... (2)

transporter_ii (986545) | about 6 months ago | (#45034817)

The question is, are they good jobs? We have done everything possible to destroy the middle class. You can argue 1% vs. 99% until we are blue in the face, but the fact is, what built America was a strong middle class. The logical conclusion is, if you want to unbuild America, you destroy the middle class. Mission accomplished, America.

I'm a libertarian-leaning independent, so I hate both parties. But, I find the Republicans piss me off the most, because they kept waving American flags as they shipped our good-paying jobs overseas.

Replacing (General practice) doctors (1)

Andrio (2580551) | about 6 months ago | (#45034855)

I think at some point in the future many doctors may end up getting replaced by machines.

Imagine booths throughout a city that you walk into, punch in your symptoms, maybe it takes some readings of your vitals, and then the information is sent to some huge database that will look up the most probable ailment. If it has a high degree of certainty, then it can even prescribe a suitable drug. If it's not certain, it will instruct you to see a real doctor.

Give them spoons... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45034859)

If You Want Jobs Then Give These Workers Spoons Instead of Shovels (http://quoteinvestigator.com/2011/10/10/spoons-shovels/)

What the Luddites were really rebelling against. (5, Informative)

wwwrench (464274) | about 6 months ago | (#45034881)

I really hate the way the term Luddite is used -- people should read a bit of history (here [smithsonianmag.com] for a start). The real Luddites were not anti-technology. They were highly skilled workers rebelling against the creation of textile sweatshops. It's a pity their rebellion was put down so violently -- we have a need for more Luddites in today's economy where our iPhones are produced by people who are effectively living in slavery.

Utter fail (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 6 months ago | (#45034937)

That comparison between Telephone operators and Telemarketers is about the silliest thing I heard all day. No Comparison with the two, aside from using a telephone.

Plus a lot of people actually wanted to talk to the operator, and didn't take the abuse that Telemarketers take.

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