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Wed Mar 6, 2013, 12:22 PM

Technological Unemployment

To really simplify economics down to the base parts:

land (or natural resources) + labor + capital (means of production) = wealth

The big fights are always over who owns the land and means of production and how much labor gets out of it. A king without peasants to farm his lands is broke. A factory owner without workers is bleeding green. Despise the masses all they want, they're still necessary.

What happens when labor is removed from the equation? Land + capital = wealth. There's work for house servants and butlers, escorts and entertainers but do you need farmers, miners, factory workers? Not many, certainly not enough to occupy the surplus population.

This article hits today.


Half of Americas largest companies are bringing manufacturing back from China and China is quickly moving to Robotic manufacturing

The advent of truly sophisticated and relatively cheap industrial robotics and automation technology is beginning to change the global economic landscape.

A little over two years ago Terry Gou the CEO of Foxconn announced that over the next three years his company was going to begin phasing in up to 3 million industrial robots with an eye towards increasing efficiency and reducing labor costs. This announcement, from the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer, sent waves through the media and business community. Foxconn employs over 1.5 million people in China, in hundreds of plants and facilities, scattered around the country.

What is astounding about this information is the impact it already has had. According to Liu Kun, a spokesman for Foxconn, "We have canceled hiring entry level workers, a decision that is partly associated with our efforts in production automation." Moreover according to the International Federation of Robotics the growth of industrial robotics in China has been exceeding 40% to 50% a year, an unprecedented level of growth. The question that springs to mind is: What would happen if Foxconn actually had 3 million robots?

The end of work doesn't mean a utopian leisure paradise. It means we are sidelined, redundant, left to die. And there's no incentive in changing any of this.

I think this will be one of the great crises of our time, coupled with peak everything and climate change.

What say the collective wisdom of DU?

8 replies, 1170 views

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Reply Technological Unemployment (Original post)
jollyreaper2112 Mar 2013 OP
RickFromMN Mar 2013 #1
jollyreaper2112 Mar 2013 #3
Taverner Mar 2013 #2
Drew Richards Mar 2013 #4
bemildred Mar 2013 #5
Egalitarian Thug Mar 2013 #6
jollyreaper2112 Mar 2013 #7
Egalitarian Thug Mar 2013 #8

Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Mar 6, 2013, 02:13 PM

1. People who labor believe labor is an asset and deserves a + sign.

I agree with those who say labor is an asset.

I worked at a company where the Human Resources director, of all people, believed labor was a liability.

It's sad when labor is thought of as a liability.

Edited to add, I believe that Human Resources director actually would have used a minus sign.
I believe his way of thinking was,
land (or natural resources) - labor + capital (means of production) = wealth

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Response to RickFromMN (Reply #1)

Wed Mar 6, 2013, 02:47 PM

3. See Costco thread

They pay more because they think happy employees are profitable employees.

Einstein wrote an article about this issue.


Judicious snipping:

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.

What's funny is how the problem can be kicked down the road for a while. Marx wrote in the 19th century, the 30's represented the very kind of crisis he was talking about, FDR saved capitalism for two solid generations but it was also kept in check with the scare of the Reds, now capitalism eats itself. Will we see it end or simply be reformed for a while?

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Mar 6, 2013, 02:15 PM

2. This is where the term "rage against the machine" comes from


Long before Morello and co...

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Mar 6, 2013, 03:04 PM

4. I welcome our glittering Mechanical OverLords

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Mar 6, 2013, 03:26 PM

5. It means things will get nasty without real political reform.

Like they already are, but more.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Original post)

Wed Mar 6, 2013, 03:29 PM

6. Unless we re-define our society/community you are exactly right. Making symbolic debt the central


component of economic activity and measure will inevitably doom any civilization. The value of any society is found within its natural resources and people. This is why we are seeing a correlation form between a nation's relative success and its socialistic principles. Countries like Germany, France, the Scandinavian countries, Iceland, etc., are all doing better than their less socialistic peers.

The whole purpose of a nation is to unify and protect its citizens, this concept seems to have fallen out of the American consciousness and we are seeing the results of that.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #6)

Wed Mar 6, 2013, 04:32 PM

7. We are seeing the death of institutions

Losing our faith. The churches are full of frauds and rapist clergy, we don't believe in our leaders in the private and public sectors, we are divided against ourselves at the local level. And so many people are heavily invested in the myth that they violently refuse to hear it criticized.

People tend to discount the doom that hasn't come to pass, think the threat was never real. Someone watches a documentary in the 70's about the 1906 San Francisco quake and heads for the hills, people will look at him all these years later and laugh at him. But he's not wrong that the quake is coming, just the timing. The probability of another quake is 1, we just can't tell you if it'll be in the next five minutes or five decades.

I'm thinking back to interviews with hippies who'd been in the commune movement and eventually returned to living on the grid. The social critiques weren't wrong, they just didn't have a strong enough solution set to address the problems at hand. That's not the same thing as proving those critiques wrong.

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Response to jollyreaper2112 (Reply #7)

Wed Mar 6, 2013, 08:17 PM

8. We are (probably) the only animal capable of self-evolution, and we have reached


the age of majority. If we refuse to grow up, and choose instead to remain children, we will almost certainly go through another dark age. Throughout our known history we have faced this same conundrum, but this time we have come too far and have developed the capability to end it all, through many different means, all over the world.

About 20 years ago, Robert Ornstein wrote a book titled The Evolution of Consciousness, here's a bit that I think fits into this conversation nicely;

"...just as humanity has progressed from biological evolution through neural and cultural evolution, we now need to begin a process of conscious evolution. - We need a new kind of ethic, many say; a new kind of religion, others say. This new viewpoint will have to become the province of each person, not just something one learns on Sunday. We are no longer living in tribes with a small horizon; our minds need to encompass a view that has been limited to an elite group; a truly modern reconciliation of the scientific and the spiritual. I believe it can be done, since both spheres, understood best, are about the same animal - us.

We don't want a world of 15 billion people in the next century if 75% of them are going to starve. We don't want a world where gangsters have nuclear weapons. We don't want a world where people don't know how their minds work, or know about major new facts of life, their identity, their society, the fate of the earth."

So far I've seen little to indicate that any significant part of the population has begun to examine this idea or where our refusal to change our course will lead us. I used to have hope, I think because I came to consciousness during the late 60s and through the 70s, but there has been such a violent, and completely inappropriate reaction to the changes that were happening, that hope has been replaced by a desperate wish. Leaving our fate in the hands of stupid people with no vision beyond their own short-term gratification is not a viable option any longer.

The old ways and institutions were never right, but they were sufficient to prolong our survival at the time. The Enlightenment was a revolution in humanity's progress and the formation of this nation was the pinnacle of that evolution, the first spark of the possible, but we've abandoned it. At least we have here.

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