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Thu Jan 24, 2013, 08:34 AM

imagining a future where machines have all the jobs

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_GREAT_RESET_MARTIN_FORD?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2013-01-24-06-43-49

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Martin Ford saw it everywhere, even in his own business.

Smarter machines and better software were helping companies do more work with fewer people. His Silicon Valley software firm used to put its programs on disks and ship them to customers. The disks were made, packaged and delivered by human beings. Now Ford's customers can just download the software to their computers - no disks, no packaging, no delivery workers.

"It is getting easier and easier to avoid hiring people by taking advantage of technology," Ford says.

An ordinary entrepreneur might simply have welcomed the cost savings. But something nagged at Ford: He wondered how a consumer economy - and 70 percent of the U.S. economy consists of consumer spending - could function if machines kept dislodging the workers who did the vast majority of the spending.

39 replies, 1695 views

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Arrow 39 replies Author Time Post
Reply imagining a future where machines have all the jobs (Original post)
xchrom Jan 2013 OP
Nye Bevan Jan 2013 #1
HughBeaumont Jan 2013 #4
Recursion Jan 2013 #12
Nye Bevan Jan 2013 #24
HughBeaumont Jan 2013 #34
Chathamization Jan 2013 #36
Recursion Jan 2013 #2
Fumesucker Jan 2013 #5
Recursion Jan 2013 #11
Fumesucker Jan 2013 #17
tama Jan 2013 #26
Fumesucker Jan 2013 #29
Recursion Jan 2013 #33
tama Jan 2013 #37
thecrow Jan 2013 #30
Fumesucker Jan 2013 #35
madville Jan 2013 #6
Recursion Jan 2013 #8
madville Jan 2013 #14
tama Jan 2013 #28
Mr Dixon Jan 2013 #3
KG Jan 2013 #7
xchrom Jan 2013 #10
MindPilot Jan 2013 #9
TheKentuckian Jan 2013 #25
duffyduff Jan 2013 #32
Capt. Obvious Jan 2013 #13
madrchsod Jan 2013 #15
sadbear Jan 2013 #27
madville Jan 2013 #16
lunatica Jan 2013 #18
Recursion Jan 2013 #20
lunatica Jan 2013 #22
jambo101 Jan 2013 #19
Recursion Jan 2013 #21
The2ndWheel Jan 2013 #23
duffyduff Jan 2013 #31
MindPilot Jan 2013 #38
Dash87 Jan 2013 #39

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 08:38 AM

1. This is not a new concern.

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Response to Nye Bevan (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 08:47 AM

4. Well, it kind of is when there are no apparent "next big things" on the horizon to employ people.

You know, that phenomenon that kind of needs to exist in order for a consumer economy to continue and not crash to a screeching and catastrophic halt?

Unless you have some magic solution that allows businesses to function and profit without the need for that pesky "additional business", that is.

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Response to HughBeaumont (Reply #4)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 09:01 AM

12. Easy: higher taxation and spending on socially-important jobs that the market doesn't provide

The sidewalks of my neighborhood in DC are absolutely filthy. Tax the increased profits from automation to pay the laid-off textile workers to clean them up. Several problems solved at once. (Obviously picking up litter is not the only job; that's just something very obvious -- the only missing piece here is to capture a lot of the financial gains from automation and send them somewhere socially useful).

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Response to HughBeaumont (Reply #4)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 09:53 AM

24. Yep. Pretty much everything that can be invented, has been invented. (nt)

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Response to Nye Bevan (Reply #24)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 10:40 AM

34. Oh Christ on a fucking stick, that's not what I'm saying at all.

I'm saying that, for all of America's supposed knowledge and expertise, nobody in corporate America is actively formulating any sort of long-term plan to not make the nature of economics self-consuming. With politicians and business leaders still foolishly fighting the Cold War, I'm not hearing any sort of sustainable PLAN of wealth redistribution or fairness. Where's the next "killer app"?? Where's the next "internet"? Who's the next "Amazon"?? All they're talking about is how to replace people with automation and cheaper overseas labor . . . a plan that's not going to go a hell of a long way in getting people to . . . you know . . . BUY your products or services.

Infrastructure - there's something the rest of the world is arguably kicking our asses in. Why are we not doing something about THAT? That would create many sustainable jobs, not just in the blue collar, but white collar sectors as well.

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Response to HughBeaumont (Reply #4)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 11:00 AM

36. If there's no scarcity of labor

then you're living in a paradise where people don't have unmet desires other than stuff that they're limited to by resource/environmental issues. If people have unmet needs, then there's some demand for labor.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 08:39 AM

2. This is based on the fallacy that there's a finite amount of work to be done

The problem isn't machines, the problem is getting rich people to pay for the new jobs that automation opens up for people to be able to do.

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Response to Recursion (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 08:51 AM

5. There's a finite amount of drudge work to be done

And that's what the machines are taking away.

I'm not sure that a world where everyone has to be a creative thinker in order to have a job is a viable vision of the future.

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 08:59 AM

11. There are a lot of children that need to be taught and elders that need to be cared for

And for drudge work, litter that needs to be picked up. Not to mention novels that need to be written. The trick is to improve our quality of life at constant labor costs, not maintain it at shrinking labor costs.

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Response to Recursion (Reply #11)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 09:13 AM

17. There will be machines, robots, doing a lot of this stuff sooner than we expect

And besides, software could have written the Twilight novels, no human intervention necessary.

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 10:14 AM

26. Machines don't do work

 

the ability to do work is called "energy" or to be more exact "exergy". And what does most of "machine" work is solar exergy stored in fossil fuels.

On the other hand, if you don't depend from any machines and just do little gardening and collecting to satisfy your material needs, you don't have a job nor need one. What you have is just a way of life.

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Response to tama (Reply #26)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 10:24 AM

29. The reason I come online for discussion is because no one in my community is interested in ideas

Great minds discuss ideas

Average minds discuss events

Small minds discuss people


Lots of people discussion around me, somewhat less of events and when it comes to ideas I have exactly one person who is interested but since I know a lot more than they do any discussion tends to turn into a lecture.



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Response to tama (Reply #26)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 10:37 AM

33. Err... a machine is an object that transforms energy into work

That's the actual definition of the word.

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Response to Recursion (Reply #33)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 11:17 AM

37. OK

 

But the point remains. Without gas your "auto"mobile is not mobile, but just rusting pile of junk.

And I believe this issue is worth serious discussion and more holistic comprehension of how machines work, and how it relates e.g. to fracking and keystone pipeline. And MIC and US foreign policy and climate change etc.

For machines to work, there needs to be primary production - of food and other energy sources. On the other hand, primary production is not dependent from machine work but can be done also without machines. All other "jobs" are dependent from primary production. Most if all of "jobs" relate one way or other to directing human work into service of machine work. We believe that machines are working for us, but in reality our "jobs" are all about working for machines. We call that "technocracy".

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 10:29 AM

30. Well, it sure took my job away... and it was a creative job

I speak of CAD CAM, the marvelous little invention that is displacing many creative workers.
If not for its invention, I might still have a job. I'm in my 60's, still able to do my job, but unemployed because I have no CAD experience, and even if I did, who would hire me? They send it all to China and India now. Oh, I could "go to school" and in four more years I might be able to get a job, but then I'd be near 70, even more seriously behind the learning curve, and people don't want to hire anyone if they're over 50.
Lost my job 5 years ago in the recession, unable to move and am spiritually paralyzed because of this technology. Thankfully, I did have a good run of over 40 years as a modelmaker. Now? Zilch.

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Response to thecrow (Reply #30)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 10:45 AM

35. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that creative type jobs would also be under siege from machines

I built my first cnc machine from scratch nearly fifteen years ago and I still can't get hired fixing them for other people, it's that age thing.

Learned CAD and CAM as I went, first on freeware, then later on shareware and payware, now I have two cnc machines and three computers for doing CAD CAM and I'm looking for the right product while doing custom pieces for gifts and selling through some local businesses I know.

This is an interesting program that makes the transition from 2D pencil drawings to machine ready Gcode about as easy as any I've seen.

http://www.grzsoftware.com/art/





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Response to Recursion (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 08:51 AM

6. There has to be demand for the labor

What jobs does automation open up?

Technology has eliminated many jobs and you only need so many technicians to work on the machines. Hell eventually they'll just have machines that build, program, and repair the other machines.


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Response to madville (Reply #6)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 08:57 AM

8. So when farming became automated, more people could work in factories

Technology has eliminated many jobs and you only need so many technicians to work on the machines

Machines don't teach kids, or care for elders, or paint murals, or pick up litter on the side of the road, or plant flowers, or all the other stuff that we can now pay people to do to improve our quality of life at the labor costs of 30 years ago.

Hell eventually they'll just have machines that build, program, and repair the other machines.

Already there. When I make robots I use verilog, not a soldering iron.

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Response to Recursion (Reply #8)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 09:06 AM

14. And then those factories went to China

I remember my grandparents farm, at one time they had 20 people living and working in the property.

By the time they retired and sold it there were three people working there doing more production with better technology/equipment.

At the local level it's devastating. We have way more people than labor demand and it will continue to get worse.

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Response to madville (Reply #14)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 10:21 AM

28. It's devastating also on global level

 

when you understand that it is not the technology/equipment doing the work, but mostly fossil energy and the whole vast infrastructure producing it and dependent from it. And causing pollution and destruction of carrying capacity.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 08:41 AM

3. Like this?

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 08:54 AM

7. the nature of 'work' is changing. nobody that matters cares.

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Response to KG (Reply #7)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 08:58 AM

10. +1

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 08:58 AM

9. I've heard this one all my life

Until someone builds a machine to fix the machine that fixes the machine that fixes the machine that fixes the machine that builds the machine, there will always be some IT guy/technician/mechanic/electrician/plumber/welder/etc working 'til midnight.

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Response to MindPilot (Reply #9)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 10:02 AM

25. Maybe for now but you still gloss over the drastic reduction in actual labor demand.

The IT guy, the plumber, electrician, or welder don't replace the lost labor and are all seldom needed at once.

We are increasing efficiency, productivity, and profit margin not job opportunities nor do the ones that continue to find positions share in the fruits of the productivity.
The IT jobs are seeing their pay go down, are put on salary so they don't get paid until midnight even if they work that long, and are being outsourced or insourced at a pretty rapid rate.

The jobs that can't be outsourced or automated get ten tons of hype from the media and politicians and are flooded with folks seeking that next big thing to fill the always exaggerated lack of people to hire for them and the wage market crashes while millions are stuck with education loans to train for such jobs.

Right now we have millions probably trying to grab the brass ring for the "huge dearth of qualified engineers" (which is dubious anyway, considering the number unemployed) and the next thing we'll know the labor market will be beyond glutted and they'll move on to hollering about some other field that has some openings that pay well and flood them into insanely selective employers that can cut pay and benefits with so many qualified applicants beating down the door. The remainder is now more well educated and flood related niches so you have folks with engineering degrees and every possible computer certification fielding tech support calls, and the shit keeps rolling down hill reducing wages as it does.

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Response to MindPilot (Reply #9)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 10:34 AM

32. I have, too. That's why I always call b.s. on it.

It's pretty obvious the motivation of these claims. We can't do anything for workers because of robots and all of that bullshit.

The problem is with Washington and its anti-worker policies.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 09:01 AM

13. Where's Zalatax?

That poster would eat this thread up.

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Response to madrchsod (Reply #15)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 10:16 AM

27. First thing I thought of.

That book is 60 years old, too.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 09:11 AM

16. The world needs ditch diggers too

Oh wait never mind, we have a machine for that now too. Here's $180 in unemployment benefits and an EBT card, we don't need you anymore.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 09:16 AM

18. Then imagine a world where nobody buys anything the robots make

Unless, of course I own the robot doing my job so I get paid for renting it to the company. Problem solved.

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Response to lunatica (Reply #18)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 09:20 AM

20. Why wouldn't stuff made by robots be free?

I mean, you'd have to pay for raw materials I guess, but there's no labor costs involved.

I'm agreeing something is unsustainable here, I just think it's the notion that there has to be profit at every step of making and distributing stuff. As labor costs continue to fall and availability of fabrication slips out of elite control, a lot of assumptions we make about the economy will crumble, I think.

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Response to Recursion (Reply #20)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 09:26 AM

22. It could happen if even CEOs, managers and bosses were replaced by robots too

and the raw materials would be dug up or grown by robots who would also transport them. Why would anyone have to pay for anything then? Who would you pay anyway? The robots? Nope.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 09:19 AM

19. Automating jobs?

Ultimately too many of your potential customers are out of a job and can no longer afford to buy your product..

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Response to jambo101 (Reply #19)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 09:21 AM

21. But you're now making it so cheaply you don't have to "sell" it

You can break even giving it away, or nearly so. The massive availability of cheaply-produced "stuff" doesn't have to be a bad thing, if we can redirect some of the savings to something more useful than profits.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 09:51 AM

23. I'm sure it'll have positives and negatives, like everything else

It could free people from certain types of work. Which can be a good thing, or a bad thing. I'm sure some people like certain types of work.

If all the products are free and everyone gets everything, it could also turn us all into those spoiled rich kids we all hate who never had to work a day in their life that woke up on 3rd base and thought they hit a triple. Which could be a good thing, or a bad thing.

I'm sure the list is much longer than that of how it could mold us as we go. Some people could find life so meaningless that they would kill themselves, in one way or another. Others would find life to be richer and more full. Some would take advantage of the opportunity, others would throw it away. Some would find a way to cheat somehow, because that's what happens no matter what we do. Others would play by the rules. Some who play by the rules would get screwed, others who followed the rules would get everything they want. All just like today, just different.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 24, 2013, 10:31 AM

31. Never happen to any great degree

It's almost like clockwork that these neoliberals try to use automation as the excuse for undermining the labor force through outsourcing and insourcing of cheap labor. It's a diversion to con people into believing the reason they aren't employed is because of robots and all of that bullshit when it is trade policies that have undermined workers.

There will always be massive numbers of jobs for people to do.

What IS the problem is with Washington policies that have undermined the working people for at least the past thirty to thirty-five years.

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Response to duffyduff (Reply #31)

Fri Jan 25, 2013, 09:21 AM

38. When I first entered the workforce, automation was a big threat.

Well, more of a wildly hyped for the most part completely fabricated threat that was going to take all of our jobs and leave all of us workin' folk with the huuuuuge problem of what to do with all of our leisure time.

I'm still waiting, but right now I'm starting another 10-12 hour day...fixing machines.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Jan 25, 2013, 12:26 PM

39. Some possible benefits of technology:

#1 - Jobs are getting increasingly easier, but can be done by the same people. What used to be hours of physical labor can now consist of pressing a button. This is true for everywhere - type-writers replaced pens, and computers replaced typewriters. ??? will replace computers, and computers will be viewed as a needlessly difficult thing of the past.

#2 - machines improve all of our lives by increasing our individual outputs. What of you could do a weeks worth of work in 1 hour? Mass production improvements can also lower prices, improve product safety and quality, and give us a higher quantity in a shorter amount of time.

#3 - Machines can do some stuff better. Would you rather get an operation from a surgeon who is prone to error, or a high-tech computer that does it extremely well? Where jobs are lost from machines, society as a whole benefits.

We will be able to make things never possible by humans. This is already true, where things like computer chips are too complex to be manufactured by hand.

Image little nanobots that produce sustainable energy, and stuff like that.

#4 - More powerful computers lead to more efficient research, further improving society. It might even save out planet. 50 years from now, our current life-style will be viewed as old-fashioned, and we will have insanely powerful technology almost unimaginable by today's standards. A home PC then will probably be 100X as fast as NASA's best super computer now, for instance.

Imagine having your very own Watson, but so does everyone else, at a very reasonable price.

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