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If I Had a Hammer

Unknown Lamer posted about 8 months ago | from the bender-replaces-the-team dept.

AI 732

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Tom Friedman begins his latest op-ed in the NYT with an anecdote about Dutch chess grandmaster Jan Hein Donner who, when asked how he'd prepare for a chess match against a computer, replied: 'I would bring a hammer.' Donner isn't alone in fantasizing that he'd like to smash some recent advances in software and automation like self-driving cars, robotic factories, and artificially intelligent reservationists says Friedman because they are 'not only replacing blue-collar jobs at a faster rate, but now also white-collar skills, even grandmasters!' In the First Machine Age (The Industrial Revolution) each successive invention delivered more and more power but they all required humans to make decisions about them. ... Labor and machines were complementary. Friedman says that we are now entering the 'Second Machine Age' where we are beginning to automate cognitive tasks because in many cases today artificially intelligent machines can make better decisions than humans. 'We're having the automation and the job destruction,' says MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson. 'We're not having the creation at the same pace. There's no guarantee that we'll be able to find these new jobs. It may be that machines are better than that.' Put all the recent advances together says Friedman, and you can see that our generation will have more power to improve (or destroy) the world than any before, relying on fewer people and more technology. 'But it also means that we need to rethink deeply our social contracts, because labor is so important to a person's identity and dignity and to societal stability.' 'We've got a lot of rethinking to do,' concludes Friedman, 'because we're not only in a recession-induced employment slump. We're in technological hurricane reshaping the workplace.'"

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El condor pasa (0, Offtopic)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 8 months ago | (#45948559)

Enough said!

Obligatory (1)

Cryacin (657549) | about 8 months ago | (#45948917)

This short story explores this concept as artfully as an Asimov story.

http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm [marshallbrain.com]

Re:Obligatory (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45949017)

"Shall we play a game?"

Captcha: gifted

Isn't this the ultimate goal? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948565)

Why shouldn't machines eventually take the jobs humans currently do, but could be done better by a computer? Wouldn't that leave everyone with the option to use their minds rather than muscles for those things humans are best at, such as true creativity? I personally think robots at McDonald's would be far superior and everyone's life will be so much richer there won't be the need for the concept of minimum-wage and grunt-work jobs. Except for those who really prefer the grunt part.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45948599)

Why shouldn't machines eventually take the jobs humans currently do, but could be done better by a computer?

They already do 90% of the jobs that were done by humans 150 years ago.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (4, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 8 months ago | (#45948691)

They already do 90% of the jobs that were done by humans 150 years ago.

There is no limit on the work that could be done. Even if machines did 100% of the work done by humans 150 years ago, we'd still have plenty to do.

Why don't we have 95% of the population exploring one branch of science or another? Why can't more books be written? More movies be done? More people help those who need help?

Would it be so bad to live in a world where there is 0% NEED to work and everyone just decides whether they want to be a medic, or an astrophysicist, or a script writer, or...

Only amazingly lazy people believe everyone would stop "working" if it was voluntary. Even if the only payment was respect by the society, joy, or simply to fight boredom, most people would do something.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (1)

ketomax (2859503) | about 8 months ago | (#45948721)

More movies be done?

So, you are okay with crazy moviestar fans of other moviestars?

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948753)

we'd still have plenty to do.

True, but as AI gets better and better, it is a possibility that machines will be able to do nearly everything, and there just won't be enough jobs. Not everyone can be artists, actors, or musicians.

Would it be so bad to live in a world where there is 0% NEED to work and everyone just decides whether they want to be a medic, or an astrophysicist, or a script writer, or...

Most of those would be unnecessary.

People would still do things for fun, but our society would need to change tremendously.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948811)

Then people can just relax and have fun.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (3, Interesting)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 8 months ago | (#45948897)

True, but as AI gets better and better, it is a possibility that machines will be able to do nearly everything, and there just won't be enough jobs. Not everyone can be artists, actors, or musicians.

Artists, actors, musicians, psychologists, physicists, biologists, writers, ...

Not only art gives unlimited jobs, also science, management, services (there will still be cooks, stylists, hairdressers, ...).

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (2)

YumoolaJohn (3478173) | about 8 months ago | (#45948997)

A grand majority of people wouldn't be cut out for the jobs you mentioned, and there wouldn't be nearly enough jobs to begin with.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (3, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 8 months ago | (#45949019)

And you think it would be a huge problem for society if half the population didn't work, taking into account that maintaining them would be essentially free? (as no salaries have to be paid to produce food, shelter, etc...

The arguments are similar to saying that the modern world is impossible because the feudal lords wouldn't allow it to exist and the farmer populace wouldn't know how to do anything other than farming.

Sky scrapers are impossible because they wouldn't fit in the cave.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (1)

Znork (31774) | about 8 months ago | (#45949061)

No consumer has more than 24 hours per day and most arts are infinitely duplicatable. The failure lies in demand as the entire worlds demand is easily filled by a miniscule number of producers who also get to compete with everything already produced.

Services are slightly more resilient, but frankly, replacing cooks, stylists and hairdressers is more a question of when it's profitable to do so than any inherent difficulty.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (3, Informative)

Adam Jorgensen (1302989) | about 8 months ago | (#45948915)

Why don't we have 95% of the population exploring one branch of science or another? Why can't more books be written? More movies be done? More people help those who need help?

Would it be so bad to live in a world where there is 0% NEED to work and everyone just decides whether they want to be a medic, or an astrophysicist, or a script writer, or...

Only amazingly lazy people believe everyone would stop "working" if it was voluntary. Even if the only payment was respect by the society, joy, or simply to fight boredom, most people would do something.

You're ignoring the fact that 99% of the populace are too stupid to do anything other than make-work.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (4, Insightful)

JonnyCalcutta (524825) | about 8 months ago | (#45949015)

I think you'll find that 99% of the populace see work as the only way they have to get the stuff they need to live (and the stuff they want to make life enjoyable).

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45949049)

They already do 90% of the jobs that were done by humans 150 years ago.

There is no limit on the work that could be done. Even if machines did 100% of the work done by humans 150 years ago, we'd still have plenty to do.

Why don't we have 95% of the population exploring one branch of science or another? Why can't more books be written? More movies be done? More people help those who need help?

Would it be so bad to live in a world where there is 0% NEED to work and everyone just decides whether they want to be a medic, or an astrophysicist, or a script writer, or...

Only amazingly lazy people believe everyone would stop "working" if it was voluntary. Even if the only payment was respect by the society, joy, or simply to fight boredom, most people would do something.

Yes, most people would do something. The problem with that theory is the 1% is telling the 99% what they NEED them to do in order for the 1% to stay obscenely rich.

No matter what, greed wins. Until you destroy THAT particular "job", all others will fall to it.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (5, Insightful)

bob_super (3391281) | about 8 months ago | (#45948711)

The problem with the goal of not having to work because the machines do all the menial stuff, is that pesky concept of Money.

Everyone still needs to find a way to convince someone else that the latter will better off if they give the former some of the money they control.
If too many tasks are automated, a huge number of people will lack the skills required for that age-old civilization arrangement.
Which leaves the others either the choice to subsidize them for nothing, eliminate the concept of money, or eliminate those unable to earn it. Not highly appealing.

While this has always been true, the path of innovation is such that it's no longer the lazy, the sick, or the idiots (in the medical sense) who find themselves unable to rejoin the workforce. Most people cannot fathom how to "recycle" the millions who are about to lose their jobs to ever-smarter machines, because the threshold for valuable work keeps rising, while the basic jobs keep shrinking.

In the end, which is far from tomorrow, you end up with either a police state or a revolution, while those who either control the machines or have not been replaced yet try to hang on to what they have.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (2)

stjobe (78285) | about 8 months ago | (#45948823)

Which leaves the others either the choice to subsidize them for nothing, eliminate the concept of money, or eliminate those unable to earn it.

I'd like to find out what's behind door number two.

Re: Isn't this the ultimate goal? (5, Insightful)

DiniZuli (621956) | about 8 months ago | (#45948875)

I agree, and I think one of the major problems in this is, when a robot replaces the workforce at some company the money (salary) that once went to many now goes to a lot fewer. The money shifts towards the people in 'higher' positions. So in the long run we need to reshape the economy, because continuing with the current model won't end well.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (2)

Chatterton (228704) | about 8 months ago | (#45948929)

But money will not be the same. You can imagine a society where everyone receive enough money every month to be able to live and enjoy it. You can have more money from the 'state'/'governing body' by doing necessary thing that the machines can't (yet) do (Farmer, Teacher, Doctor, Police...). You can have more from your fellow humans by providing some kind of service (Cook, Artist, Performer...). You can also create new things/products that machines can produce and receiving some money for each asked by someone and produced by the machines.

The 'state'/'governing body' will control the machines.
The lazy would be lazy and live a decent life. The productive would be productive and live a better if not the best life.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (1, Interesting)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 8 months ago | (#45948951)

Actually the money issue could very well turn into a non-issue. Namely, look at how much cheaper food has become these days...it's cheaper than it has ever been in fact. Technology and automation is largely to credit for that. We're basically to the point that food is pretty much just a "gimme," i.e. it's so easy to obtain that generally price isn't an issue, whereas in the past we've had plenty of times where you were lucky if you got enough food at all.

What ends up becoming the issue is purchasing power; namely how much things cost vs how much you earn. The only thing I could see causing problems later on is minimum wage, which even some of the more liberal economists will tell you causes more problems than it solves, and that will probably get worse over time if we keep raising it. If you do away with minimum wage, things could be even cheaper, and people could actually compete with machines.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (1)

JonnyCalcutta (524825) | about 8 months ago | (#45949065)

If you do away with minimum wage, things could be even cheaper, and people could actually compete with machines.

I find it quite sad that you would see this as a goal where food is effectively free (or a "gimme" as you said).

Personally I'd rather do away with money if money wasn't a 'requirement' for buying food.

Re: Isn't this the ultimate goal? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45949095)

I have no idea where you live that you believe food to be cheaper than it's ever been, and I challenge you to cite your source because it simply isn't so in the US. Furthermore, ever since the 80s, when it was reported in the WSJ that US citizens spent the lowest percentage of their gross income on food, that share has been increasing. That fact notwithstanding, there is also greater incidence of child poverty, infant mortality and 'food insecurity' (aka hunger) in the US, according to the US congressional research staff, than at any time since The Great Depression.

Automation and efficiency don't improve, they exacerbate these problems in an economy governed by those who blindly follow an ideology of market fundamentalism. So says Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, which I am certain you have never read.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948973)

Ah, but you see, the Money is a stick with two ends. It doesn't have intrinsic value of its own, it is essentially just a method of exchange of really important stuff, stuff we actually use. Basically, the more money you get, presumably the more worthy what you do is to others who do stuff worthy to others. If there is nothing to be gotten in exchange (i.e. others don't have any money, or they don't have anything to give off for money), money itself doesn't work. Sitting on a pile of hard-to-obtain hardware which turns energy into something none can compensate with their own produce for, won't make any robotic factory owner rich. Putting paupers to extinction also won't solve the problem. The world effectively shrinks and all externalities are coming back home to roost.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (5, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about 8 months ago | (#45948723)

It *IS* the goal. The problem is that we are apparently not mature enough as a society to not turn a potential utopian dream into a dystopian nightmare where the world is divided into a few haves and a huge number of have nots.

If we were mature enough, we wouldn't have former middle class people joining the ranks of the long term unemployed while wall street makes record profits and retailers screech about how they must be open on one of the few national holidays we still observe.

Those that think the first time around was easy and trouble free forget that it took the very real threat of global communist revolution to get the capitalists at the top to make the necessary concessions.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 8 months ago | (#45948909)

And a frightening threat that was, too. They murdered 100 million human beings in their pursuit of utopia. It's a good thing that idea was discredited forever, what with 18 times the pile of dead humans as Hitler created of dead Jews...oh wait...

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948961)

Sorry, but the idea wasn't the cause. There are other ways of going about a move from capitalism that don't involve quasi-state-capitalist single party control, which most people conflate with communism.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 8 months ago | (#45948981)

Like I said, we'll just disregard the pile of 100 million dead bodies. We couldn't possibly learn any lessons from that. To the barricades, comrades!

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45949077)

My sarcasm detector isn't working properly, but your implication that the set of all societal modes sans capitalism becomes a power seeking bloodbath is a bit under-thought. Dogma will be Dogma, whether it's through the eyes of a Markets Solve All (tm) capitalist, or a Marxist.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948993)

Bah, quit whinging, that's just a symptom of a classic capitalist bottleneck. Which is that few people need to be "in charge" of a company while many need to be doing the work. With fewer people needed for such a position and many needed for the lower positions there's less competition for upper management and much more for lower. Combined with globalization, IE feeding people in China through jobs rather than charity, it means all those profits need to go somewhere, and of course end up in the hands of those who decide where the profits go, I.E. the highly qualified but low competition upper management.

If you don't believe me then how longs the list for the next CEO of Microsoft? 2? 3? Meanwhile companies won't hire mid level positions without at least three applicants, and usually get a lot more.

Which is the odd goal of capitalism, not to make everyone rich but to make everything cheap. It's succeeded marvelously, first world countries have more food than they know what to do with, there's a flatscreen tv on every wall and a smartphone in every pocket, to say nothing of trivial things like electricity and lightbulbs. So no, capitalism and society aren't the problem. In fact there is no problem, overall at the moment. Even bloody Africa has a solidly rising GDP. And yes the goal is a work free utopia, we'll get there. The main problem I can foresee is the politicians if anything. What happens when that nominally command those with all the guns are told they're no longer needed and could you please give all the guns back because we've got a computer system that does you job better?

I hate to point out the obvious but... (2)

Viol8 (599362) | about 8 months ago | (#45948847)

... the majority of humanity is not creative or particularly smart. And if there are few jobs for them to do because machines do all the grunt work what exactly do you expect them to do? I can tell you what they WILL do if the majority of the population is unemployed - riot.

artificial scarcity (2)

globaljustin (574257) | about 8 months ago | (#45948869)

Why shouldn't machines eventually take the jobs humans currently do...

I agree with your tirade, AC...there's no rational reason not to advance as humans and take advantage of the automation we can achieve today.

There IS a reason...it's not rational but it is always in play when it comes to any capital resource or essential service: artificial scarcity.

A human engineered economic shortage in some way, a shortage that would not exist in a natural free-market scenario.

Re:Isn't this the ultimate goal? (5, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 8 months ago | (#45948881)

Because we have no economic framework that could accommodate such a situation. It doesn't matter if machines can do all the work is there is no means to ensure access to their produce. Economics as we practice now is entirely centered around the labor market: People work for wages, use the wages to buy things, and producing those things pays wages back to the workers. Money circulates, everyone gets fed and clothed.

Take away the jobs, and what are you left with? A few factory owners swimming in food and products they cannot sell because no-one has any money to buy it, and a load of ex-workers who have no money to buy even the essentials of life.

or maybe (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45948587)

'We've got a lot of rethinking to do,' concludes Friedman, 'because we're not only in a recession-induced employment slump. We're in technological hurricane reshaping the workplace

Or maybe we're just in a recession-induced employment slump.

Seriously, extreme claims require evidence. If you're running around saying, "This time is different!" after we all found jobs that weren't farming or factory work, tell us why you think it's different. Because there are plenty of counter-examples from history saying you are wrong.

Re:or maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948777)

I do not believe we've yet hit a point where machines can do most of the work that's being done by humans today, but that time will come. Jobs are not infinite in number, and the only thing that kept the machines of the past from taking over any 'new' jobs was the fact that the machines simply weren't intelligent. If we ever make such machines, say goodbye to 99.9999% of jobs, and the rest would likely only be done for fun (actors, artists, etc.).

Re:or maybe (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45948947)

Jobs are not infinite in number,

Actually, they are. If you want to limit it to 'necessary jobs' only, those are finite, but already most of us don't do necessary jobs. We've expanded beyond that.

Re:or maybe (5, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | about 8 months ago | (#45948803)

12 people built and ran instagram before it was bought out by facebook. They created $1.2 billion dollars of value. That's $100 million each. To generate $100 million in value in the manufacturing sector requires considerably more resources, long term investments and planning. And employees. And management.
 
The mail order company I worked for, their online division kept growing and growing the share of sales but they didn't lay off anyone in the mail order division due to loyalty to the employees. But they also didn't hire anyone new. Newcomers to their market don't even have a printed catalog anymore, and mail orders are processed by the IT staff on an ad hoc basis. Newcomer companies just have 2-3 employees where legacy companies have 20 or more along with 10 years of paper records to store and organize.
 
Yesterday I wrote a script that automates 80% of my coworker's job which was manual data entry for our system, which will allow our department to shed 1-2 jobs over the next 2-3 years.
 
Heck the financial industry used to be 100% manually processed and employed many many thousands of people across the country, now most trades are processed through four or five "large" firms who employ a couple hundred employees each in just a few cities.
 
Brick and mortar retail is seeing a decline matched almost dollar for dollar with gains in online retail, especially on holiday sales events.
 
If you don't see the data, it's because you're actively avoiding looking for it.

Re:or maybe (1)

LQ (188043) | about 8 months ago | (#45948913)

Maybe reductio ad absurdum, but once robots have taken all the jobs, who's going to have money to buy their products? Or will there just be a super-rich stratum of robot owners and the impoverished rest?

Re:or maybe (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45948923)

If you don't see the data, it's because you're actively avoiding looking for it.

Yeah, and tractors are making most farm hands obsolete, right? Seriously, if all you can do is point out jobs that are disappearing, then you definitely don't understand the situation.

Yet there were new jobs. As someone else pointed out, the amount of potential work is limitless. Although few of us work in any of the jobs that existed 200 years ago, we still have jobs.

Re:or maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45949059)

I'd debate if that was 1.2bn in value. that's just what facebook paid for it.

Now if you're going to nitpick, look up the word facetious.

Rent and Usury. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948591)

In sci-fi novels written around the "Gee Whiz" period of cultural history, where science was going to 'save' us, the idea generally accepted was that as robots and computers take over mundane tasks, the resulting free time would benefit humanity.

At least in the utopian novels, anyway.

Of course, in our reality, we use offshore slaves instead of robots for the most part. But the result in the Capital remains the same; the jobs turn to poo.

But the rent on your apartment still needs paying. As does the mortgage on your neighbor's house. And they aren't any cheaper today than before automation and mass enslavement.

As work and compensation decrease, these artificially inflated bullshit expenses become even more starkly set against the backdrop of society.

-And it should be recognized that most apartment rents are actually just interest payments in disguise.

Banks are evil. That's what we need to take a hammer to.

Just take all your remaning money... (1)

Dj Stingray (178766) | about 8 months ago | (#45948593)

...and invest in robotics/automation. You won't need a job.

Job limit. (2, Interesting)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 8 months ago | (#45948601)

Some people need to dedicate a second to imagine a world where one person's work can support a hundred thousand. Centuries ago, the end of the era where 90% of the population had to work in the fields to feed everyone didn't create 80% of unemployment.

There is no limit to the total amount of possible "work" to be done. Just as we went from production to services, we'll go maybe to science, or to entertainment, or to space exploration. Most of the proletariat will also probably reduce their daily working hours, increasing the demand for entertainment and other services.

Re:Job limit. (5, Insightful)

Boronx (228853) | about 8 months ago | (#45948703)

Only if the wealth is shared.

Re:Job limit. (3, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 8 months ago | (#45948781)

Only if the wealth is shared.

http://jim.roepcke.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/we-grew-apart.jpg [roepcke.com]
http://tcf.org/assets/images/blog_images/20120814-graph-of-the-day-does-productivity-growth-still-benefit-the-american-worker.png [tcf.org]

The wealth doesn't need to be shared.
Instead, the workers need be payed what they are worth.

Re:Job limit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948977)

This implies a fair and accurate assessment of worth can be imparted on someone. I contend that it can't in capitalism...it's arbitrary. The numbers rise and fall based on perceived input to society. Perhaps we need to accept that only 5% of the human race is required to advance civilization. It doesn't make the 95% left any less useful or any less meaningful, despite Victorian era "work-ethic".

Re:Job limit. (3, Insightful)

MtHuurne (602934) | about 8 months ago | (#45949057)

Sharing the wealth doesn't mean handing out money to whoever holds out their hands, it means having all people who were involved in creating the wealth benefit from it. If a company only sees its workers as "human resources", then "what they are worth" is the lowest possible price it can hire those resources for. If it sees itself and the workers as participants in a social structure, it can give them a fair share of the income the company generated.

Re:Job limit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948707)

"Remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots."

Re:Job limit. (2)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | about 8 months ago | (#45948717)

Or maybe we'll go back to farming and repairing.
Fossil fuels are the ones doing most of the work, and they won't be here forever.

Re:Job limit. (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 8 months ago | (#45948735)

Coal also wasn't forever, not wood cut from the outskirts of the village, nor the fire that had started with a lightning and had to be cared for through the night.

And when fossil fuels die we'll have fusion, or antimatter engines, or whatever else.

Re:Job limit. (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45948731)

There is no limit to the total amount of possible "work" to be done.

This is the crucial point. Remember right now we have people whose entire career is devoted, not to pushing a pointy ball across a line, but cheering for people who push a pointy ball across the line. And they work hard at it. [seahawks.com]

We have people who spend their entire lives painting other people's fingernails.
We have people who make a good living by painting art, not great, but good enough that people are willing to buy it at fairs.
We have people who live by playing live music
There are people who live by teaching chess lessons. And people who make a living playing Starcraft.

Since the computer was invented, and started taking over human jobs, the number of jobs in the US has more than tripled [stlouisfed.org] , absorbing a huge number of immigrants and women coming into the workforce. Where did all the jobs come from? If you can't answer that, then you'll have trouble predicting the job market over the next 20 years.

Re:Job limit. (1)

ruir (2709173) | about 8 months ago | (#45948797)

Easy answering about immigrants, cheaper labor force. About people cheering for other people, I thought you were taking about cushion jobs like HR or the Quality department.

Re:Job limit. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45948935)

Easy answering about immigrants, cheaper labor force

That's not the answer: a cheaper labor force will replace existing jobs, but it won't create new ones.

Re:Job limit. (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 8 months ago | (#45948851)

As another example, how is it not demanded by society that any paralyzed person has one person close by, ready to do any task?

I don't see anything wrong with the job of simply spending four hours a day watching movies chatting online and playing videogames while staying with a paralyzed person and doing for that person anything they need.

There would have to be almost zero need for productivity in the world for such a job to exist, but it's clearly the current needs that stop all kinds of such "jobs" to exist, not the unwillingness to do them or the belief that they are not valuable jobs for society.

Robots will remove those needs. Maybe they'll then replace also those other new jobs, but I don't see any reason to believe in that "job limit".

Re:Job limit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948745)

Some people need to dedicate a second to imagine a world where one person's work can support a hundred thousand.

Or alternately, a world where one person in ever hundred thousand has a stable income.

That won't work in our capitalist system, only the one guy working (and the factory owner) have an income. The others are left to fight for scraps. What is our answer to that?
It would seem Marx was spot on identifying the problem (first the worker is alienated from the fruits of his labour, then of the labour itself). Unfortunately his solution didn't work out.

Re:Job limit. (1)

sjames (1099) | about 8 months ago | (#45948755)

It seems funding for science is being cut. Most of the service jobs pay less and suck more than the production jobs. There's a lot of 'at liberty' entertainers working for minimum wage already.

Re:Job limit. (1)

Xest (935314) | about 8 months ago | (#45948757)

Yes, the only real barrier, and what in essence is being complained about, is that people now have to reskill if their job does become automatable and automated.

This is the real problem, all too many people still have a jobs for life attitude, a belief that the world owes them a job doing what they want to do rather than asking the question of themselves "What can and am I willing to do that everyone else wants so that they'll pay me?".

It's not a new thing, the whole drama with Thatcher and the miners in the 70s/80s was about miners wanting to continue getting paid a certain amount that meant British coal was drastically more expensive than coal from elsewhere where people were willing to do it for less because unions weren't artificially inflating the prices.

Jobs for life worked in a most industries pre-globalisation and where the pace of technological change was slow enough that a lifetime could pass without an industry undergoing massive changes, but now? There's barely an industry that technology doesn't touch and make drastic changes to in a single person's working life and so as distasteful as it may be to some, it's a simple reality that if you're not going to be flexible with what you know and can do, you're going to become obsolete.

Sadly we then have to sit and listen to those people whinging about how unfair the world is and how we owe them jobs and benefits even though the rest of us have made the effort to stay relevant in a changing world and they just couldn't be bothered or felt they had a right to defy the reality of it all.

Re:Job limit. (4, Insightful)

roca (43122) | about 8 months ago | (#45949005)

The pace of innovation and automation is only going to speed up, but people's ability to retrain isn't going to speed up much. At some point, maybe not far away, we'll be eliminating classes of jobs faster than people can train for new ones. What happens if, by the time you've learned to do a new job well, it's likely to be obsolete? And then at some point we'll reach the situation where most people simply aren't capable of doing any useful job as well as a machine no matter how much they train.

It's ironic that both extreme left-wing and extreme right-wing people believe the fallacy that people are endlessly reprogrammable labour units. Extreme right-wingers believe it because they want to believe people who aren't successful are lazy. Extreme left-wingers believe in a mythical world where every person is a special soul who can achieve anything if they're just given the right assistance.

Re:Job limit. (2)

prefec2 (875483) | about 8 months ago | (#45948805)

In theory the number of work hours could and should drop. In reality they did not. Most jobs are not available as part time jobs, and the laborers get low salaries, so they cannot go for less money per month. Experiments in Europe with 35 and 38 work hours failed and were rolled back to nearly 40 yours or even more. The average work hours is by the way very stable throughout human history. Therefore, I doubt that there will be a reduction at least not capitalism evolves to allow such careers and the people change accordingly so that they can exists that way.

Your second argument is that people will migrate to new jobs when machine take over production and other simple cognitive tasks. I doubt that too. First, in history capitalism and in its wake industrialization happened because of a labor shortage. Causing higher prices. Machines could be operated by anyone with some training at that time. However, since the beginning of the computer age, the operation of machinery became more complex. This required increased productivity per person, but also limited the potential of workers able to do that task. It is unlikely that the cognitive abilities of humans will advance in general in such a way that we all can go into science, education or exploration.

There are only a few things machines cannot perform:
a) Being there for someone as a human (even though the Japanese experiment with that): Jobs like, nurses, doctors, teachers, etc. fall in that category
b) Working with abstract symbols, like researchers, teachers, doctors, complex business situations, diplomacy etc.
c) Arts

So in essence it is compassion and intuition which machines do not have in conjunction with a self which is required for progress. That means people who are not exceptional in these areas will not be able to get jobs.

Re:Job limit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948959)

A high percentage of the new jobs will not involve creating value, but rather redistributing existing value from one person to another.
Marketing, management, law etc.
We would be better off without many of these jobs.

One word: Tittytainment (5, Interesting)

little1973 (467075) | about 8 months ago | (#45948629)

Re:One word: Tittytainment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948789)

Oh, that kind of trap. I thought you meant something else... [shegods.com]

Not replacing grandmasters in an economic sense (4, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 8 months ago | (#45948643)

Computers and automated systems are not replacing any cognitive tasks soon, at least not economically. Sure, if you throw in a team of engineers, several years of research and a couple million euro/dollars, then you can build a computer that can defeat a chess grandmaster. But until engineering companies are actually laying off their engineers and designers and replacing them with computers, I am not worried.

Computers are likely to replace the more simple jobs (as they always have). Driving a lorry or car is not exactly a highly skilled job, and I would be delighted if that is automated.

Re:Not replacing grandmasters in an economic sense (1)

JockTroll (996521) | about 8 months ago | (#45948657)

Unfortunately, you cannot automate feeding the people out of a job. If those people cannot work, they cannot eat. If they cannot eat, they will not lie by the sidewalk and starve to death: they'll find the engineers and inventors and put a screwdriver through their eyesockets. Machine-loving sociopaths like you are eager to dismiss the social fallout that is generated by job loss due to automation, until your house and possessions are burned in a riot.

Re:Not replacing grandmasters in an economic sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948801)

That's not true.

We've recently fired one of our software developers and 8 'data analysts' (nice name for slave labour, they annotated data) with a mix of unsupervised learning, statistical modeling, and training algorithms combined with an automated regression and fitness testing suite that quite literally obsoletes 1 high payed staff member and 8 others who were payed well above average wages for our country.

Admittedly, we used some of that money to hire more R&D staff though - but I don't think the majority of the software development industry can end up being researchers now...

i agree except for one thing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948663)

"labor is so important to a person's identity and dignity"

We need to get away from this way of thinking. I don't know about you, but my job does not define me. It is *only* what I do to earn money, so I can fund and pursue my hobbies and interests.

Re:i agree except for one thing (3)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 8 months ago | (#45948939)

I love how you assume that you're everyone. Tons and tons of people define themselves by their jobs. Go ask any actor or journalist if they'd like to take a prole job for twice the pay. No freaking way. Proles don't get invited to parties.

Re:i agree except for one thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45949091)

"You are not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fucking khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world."

If you don't want to be defined by your job, that's fine. But get used to being treated like crap. Because everyone else defines you as your job.

Ob (5, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 8 months ago | (#45948667)

'We've got a lot of rethinking to do,' concludes Friedman

Sounds like hard work. Can't we get a computer to do it?

Obligatory not xkcd (4, Interesting)

Coward Anonymous (110649) | about 8 months ago | (#45948673)

There are two basic approaches to handle this:

http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm [marshallbrain.com]

Re:Obligatory not xkcd (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45949003)

Both approaches are unacceptable. One results in mandatory imprisonment and sterilization drugs. The other results in mandatory behavior-altering spinal implants.

Third option, please.

Re:Obligatory not xkcd (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45949013)

I concur wholeheartedly. Whenever I try to explain this concept, I get a stark reply that "the removal of money in its current form will make people lazy, no motivation" despite evidence to the contrary (it only applies to mundane tasks, anything remotely creative needs no money to breed interest). It's hard for people to decouple worth from money, and its bond creates a lot of problems.

Think about it this way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948675)

The issue is not that machines are taking the jobs away, they are taking it back. Humans had taken jobs away from machines because they were more economical. Now machines have become economical so are taking their rightful place.

If we look at most of the work people do, these are purely mechanical, require no creative/intelligent input and suck the souls/minds dry. These jobs help fuel an inflationary economy which does nothing for the people doing the jobs. Most such displaced workers could not dream of "enjoying life" or the "fruits of their labor" till they have made/saved enough of their earnings - mostly after having spent 75% of their lives in such thankless work. Most the jobs computers and technology are taking away are actually the blue collar equivalent in a service/information industry. These are not white collar jobs.

The human population is too large to be sustainable for an environment where most of the mechanical/manual/non-creative labor can be done by machines. We have too many people who would not be useful in other ways because they were trained and maintained to fill the roles taken by the machines.

There will be conflict, there will be war, it will not be pleasant for a long time.

it's the monetary system stupid.. (5, Interesting)

joss (1346) | about 8 months ago | (#45948677)

Computers replacing human's is fantastic, it frees us up to do what we want to do.

Well, it would if it wasn't for the fact that the monetary system is designed in such a way that unless we all work like dogs the economy goes to shit and we end up with a vast uneducated, depressed and criminal underclass.

There is a way out of this, but it involves stepping off the money-is-debt forced march that humanity is on at the moment [http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Grip-Death-Destructive-Economics/dp/1897766408], otherwise the 1% we will end up having to exterminate the 99% [http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm]

Re:it's the monetary system stupid.. (0)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 8 months ago | (#45948853)

Let me guess: the way out is an outdated system from the 19th century that was discredited again and again in the 20th, and yet is inexplicably popular among university professors of the 21st.

Re:it's the monetary system stupid.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948893)

Capitalism?

Re:it's the monetary system stupid.. (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | about 8 months ago | (#45949081)

My first thought too (posting to undo bad moderation on parent).

Re:it's the monetary system stupid.. (5, Informative)

vux984 (928602) | about 8 months ago | (#45949001)

Let me guess: the way out is an outdated system from the 19th century that was discredited again and again in the 20th, and yet is inexplicably popular among university professors of the 21st.

sure lets go off the deepend here lets imagine a sort of

"neo-communism"

  where there's enough automated production to support people doing whatever they want; so it becomes entirely viable that some will pursue art, others will pursue getting high, and others will pursue science, research, and increasing the efficiency of the already automated means of production... not because they need to survive, but because they want to.

Everyone gets a home. Everyone gets food. Everyone gets medicare. Doesn't matter what the fuck they do. Theres enough automated production to meet that demand.

Then you can go earn whatever you want beyond that however you like tax free, if you like... or you can live in a basic home, on a basic food stipend, with your free medicare and get high for the rest of your life... or read bad star trek fan-fic while dressed like a romulan stripper... whatever floats your boat.

Its not "tax and redistribute" because the base means of production for that base layer was realized entirely by automation. They took that production from the "robots". Not from you.

All that has to happen is that there be enough of a national infrastructure to ensure that theres enough publically owned robotic production to meet the basic needs of the population, and the political will to ensure it isn't dismantled.

Utopian fantasy? Hard to say. But if, as you argue, technology brings ever more production per human then at some point its almost inevitable that it would be very achievable. Our basic needs are relatively inflexible in the face of a means of production that is growing without bound. Do the math.

It's politics, not technology (3, Insightful)

hweimer (709734) | about 8 months ago | (#45948713)

I don't buy that the demise of the median worker has anything to do with technological progress. If the average income increases steadily and the median declines, it simply means that a society has problems to fairly allocate its resources. Since people making less than the median typically also make up 50% of the electorate, it looks like these people are voting against their own interests (or do not vote at all). One also has to keep in mind that the events that hurt the median worker the most (deregulation of banks, Bush-style tax cuts, and the whole war on terror) were all political descisions that were completely unrelated to technology.

Self-scanners at Supermarkets (1)

Brendan_Jones (3452957) | about 8 months ago | (#45948725)

Companies need a system to decide who gets retrenched first due to automation improvements: Those who use self-scanners at supermarkets get laid off first. It's only fair! :-)

But how will these newly unemployed cope? :-(

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2135284/How-cheating-checkouts-turning-nation-self-service-shoplifters.html [dailymail.co.uk]
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/business/coles-to-combat-selfserve-thieves/story-fni0dcne-1226746394342 [heraldsun.com.au]

Problem solved! :-)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/26/big-y-self-checkout-machines_n_980886.html [huffingtonpost.com]
http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2012/06/are-self-service-checkouts-on-the-way-out/ [lifehacker.com.au]

Big red finger savings at Coles (2)

Brendan_Jones (3452957) | about 8 months ago | (#45948767)

Anyone (1)

The Cat (19816) | about 8 months ago | (#45948747)

who has programmed a computer understands that computers are only good at linear decision making based on rigid, mathematical criteria. If X then Y, if not X then Z.

Puzzles like chess are therefore easily mastered by a computer, once it is instructed how to win by a programmer.

Where computers fail, however, is intuition: a skill which is universally superior in human beings. Instead of traversing the entire probability matrix, human beings can accurately discard huge numbers of possible outcomes nearly instantly and arrive at the best possible option.

A good example of this the Battle of Midway. Had Admiral Nimitz been a computer, he would have lost both Midway and the Aleutians without a fight, and opened the U.S. west coast to invasion.

Instead he intuitively gambled that the Imperial Japanese Navy would be unprepared for a counter-attack and managed to cripple four capital ships while driving the Japanese offensive back over 3000 miles.

That's why computers cannot replace human beings. They are tools. Nothing more.

Way to twist words (0, Troll)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 8 months ago | (#45948751)

Donner isn't alone in fantasizing that he'd like to smash some recent advances in software and automation like self-driving cars, robotic factories, and artificially intelligent reservationists

Except most likely Donner isn't fantasizing about any of that.
I doubt very much he's opposed to any of those.
He just doesn't like computer ruining his illusions of chess as a game of unfathomable human talent.

Computers are replacing labour the same way steam engines made all of us lose our jobs and make life miserable; i.e. not at all.

Two scenarios (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948833)

A) The same thing happens that has happened every time machines have made jobs obsolete: We develop new jobs, and more of them than before.
B) We really get rid of the majority of jobs and being unemployed loses its stigma because it applies to almost everyone - except for a few freaks who insist they are so damn important that they need to be paid to da something.

If I had a hammer (1)

the_arrow (171557) | about 8 months ago | (#45948839)

I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening,
All over this land.

Its true but.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948867)

It can be a good thing,

I no longer Hunt to feed my family
I no longer work in a field planting corn
I no longer work in a chip factory extracting burnt potato chips
I run a small armoury making custom gothic armour 14th - 16th C, I make a good living doing something I enjoy.

Warning! - Socialism ahead. (5, Insightful)

taylorius (221419) | about 8 months ago | (#45948885)

Historically, technological revolutions have eliminated large categories of jobs. Many manual jobs are now performed by machines, even skilled manual jobs. An economist might say that these former manual workers are now free to retrain, and do other things - (or just grow old and die, and be replaced by youngsters who have never known the old way, and have learnt the right skills to get along in this new world whilst growing up).

The question is, what happens when literally everything of economic value that a person is capable of doing, can be accomplish more efficiently by a machine? More and more resources come under the complete control of fewer and fewer people, and for the rest of the population, what is left?

I believe that once machines obviate the need for large human organisations, with their attendant inefficiencies, a form of democratic socialism will become the preferred way to run society. Resources owned collectively, with broad decisions made democratically, but organisational details left to machines to optimise and execute. People would be provided for, because it is easy to produce enough to do it.

Re:Warning! - Socialism ahead. (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 8 months ago | (#45948953)

Yeah, they tried that. It didn't work. In fact, it was worse. Much, much worse.

"The only universal medicine (Marxists) have for social evils - State ownership of the means of production - is not only perfectly compatible with all the disasters of the capitalist world: with exploitation, imperialism, pollution, misery, economic waste, national hatred and national oppression, but it adds to them a series of disasters of its own: inefficiency, lack of economic incentives and above all the unrestricted rule of the omnipresent bureaucracy, a concentration of power never before known in human history".
-- Leszek Kolakowski

Re:Warning! - Socialism ahead. (1)

YumoolaJohn (3478173) | about 8 months ago | (#45948987)

Yeah, they tried that.

The scenario he described happened, and then they tried that? As far as I know, something that extreme has never happened yet.

Re:Warning! - Socialism ahead. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45949047)

What he ignores is the gains of technological progress. The Only Other Option (tm) doesn't have to be a monolithic state, and to conflate socialism with that is a bit obtuse.

It's a Good Thing (1)

Dialecticus (1433989) | about 8 months ago | (#45948901)

If machines took all the jobs, and there were none left for humans, this would just mean that all the work was being done by machines. If machines are doing all of the work, then there is nothing being left undone, no task that is not already being completed, for if anyone needed anything else done that the machines were not already doing for them, they would attempt to hire someone to do it, which would create a job opening, which would then contradict the original premise that computers had taken all of the jobs.

Services (3, Interesting)

Confused (34234) | about 8 months ago | (#45948907)

Ok, jobs in manufacturing have been greatly reduced over the past century and the individual productivity sky-rocketed. The consequence was consumer goods became dirt cheap and few people work at producing them - at least in the western world.

Now things start the same with knowledge jobs and some services. With a diagnostic tricorder, automatic blood analyser and self-service MRI, the doctors and many specialists at the labs will have a good part of their work disappear or be replaced by a friendly unskilled worker telling you where to place your hand and hand you the print-out. Another set of jobs on the way out are train-drivers, truckers, taxi-drivers and pilots, they have a big chance of being replaced by computers in the near future.

What will be the consequence? Will the world end? Will the mschines rise and Skynet take over?

One of the first consequences will be, that the value of the service rendered will be greatly devaluated. In the end, we humans pay manly for three things: The value of the raw materials, the necessary investments for the production site and the time spent by a human to create the product. If the latter two drop significantly, the second because the productivity of the machines go up and the third because of automation, then simple we won't be willing to pay as much for the product and spend out money elsewhere. This elsewhere is where the jobs for humans will be.

For one, personal comfort services are very often hard to automate. Hairdressers and make-up stylists will be be hard to replace by computers. As another consequence, the organisations will fill with pointless jobs which keep each other busy. We see that today with all the consultants, controllers, marketing departments, safety and security people, quality assurance, project managers, application owners and so on. Those are nearly totally unproductive or, the few that are good at their job, cost only a little less than what their work saves. This is the negative aspect, but the same also exists in positive. Skilled people are able to spend more time doing things not possible before. Today, many illnesses have been identified that before didn't have a name because people died of other things first. And for many of those illnesses, cures have been developed.

In the end, humans will go on pushing the envelope, being that with discovering new cures to make life longer and better or be that by spending more effort on hairdos and the next fashion in legging-design. Automated tasks will just become a commodity, no matter how complicated it is. If you don't believe me, just look at that mobile phone of yours and look around how many designer cases are floating around. People are willing to spend 25% of the value of the phone on a piece of printed plastic with some designer-scribbles on it.

Nothing to see here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45948927)

Luddites fear technology advances, news at 11

Thank goodness for this article (1)

Pop69 (700500) | about 8 months ago | (#45948991)

I was getting withdrawal symptoms having not seen a Hugh Pickens DOT Com article for a few hours.

I was really starting to fear for his wellbeing !

so painful as it is... (1)

Infestedkudzu (2557914) | about 8 months ago | (#45949011)

So If we lower the human population of earth the problem isn't nearly as bad. It may be painful but essentially that's a solution.

Re:so painful as it is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45949067)

I agree, completely.

the world's oldest profession (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45949025)

So the worlds oldest profession will also be the last one as well!!

Why did I waste my years studying...

6 mo months (1)

nightcats (1114677) | about 8 months ago | (#45949041)

I apply the Friedman Postulate: If we can just stay the course six more months ad infinitum then the problem will go away.

Every time someone mentions Friedman, an angel die (1)

dieswaytoofast (716433) | about 8 months ago | (#45949045)

The Moustache of Understanding...

USA answer - more Security Forces (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45949089)

They are everywhere. No other country I've visited has so many police and security forces. I was terrified. Security in schools, security in grocery stores, security on parking lots, gates and guards on entrance to neighborhood. Cameras everywhere, cars flashing blue lights every couple minutes.
This is North Korea or USA. These countries have so much in common.

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