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Mon Mar 26, 2012, 06:50 AM

Marshall Brain: We are about to see a seismic shift in the American workforce

  • I got money in the morning from the ATM.
  • I bought gas from an automated pump.
  • I bought groceries at BJ's (a warehouse club) using an extremely well-designed self-service check out line.
  • I bought some stuff for the house at Home Depot using their not-as-well-designed-as-BJ's self-service check out line.
  • I bought my food at McDonald's at the kiosk, as described above.

All of these systems are very easy-to-use from a customer standpoint, they are fast, and they lower the cost of doing business and should therefore lead to lower prices. All of that is good, so these automated systems will proliferate rapidly.

The problem is that these systems will also eliminate jobs in massive numbers. In fact, we are about to see a seismic shift in the American workforce. As a nation, we have no way to understand or handle the level of unemployment that we will see in our economy over the next several decades.

These kiosks and self-service systems are the beginning of the robotic revolution. When most people think about robots, they think about independent, autonomous, talking robots like the ones we see in science fiction films. C-3PO and R2-D2 are powerful robotic images that have been around for decades. Robots like these will come into our lives much more quickly than we imagine -- self-service checkout systems are the first primitive signs of the trend. Here is one view from the future to show you where we are headed:
more at link

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Reply Marshall Brain: We are about to see a seismic shift in the American workforce (Original post)
txlibdem Mar 2012 OP
KG Mar 2012 #1
CanonRay Mar 2012 #2
harmonicon Mar 2012 #16
CanonRay Mar 2012 #66
harmonicon Mar 2012 #67
Swede Atlanta Mar 2012 #20
Codeine Mar 2012 #21
RadiationTherapy Mar 2012 #22
tech3149 Mar 2012 #25
Sarah Ibarruri Mar 2012 #40
progressoid Mar 2012 #42
Sarah Ibarruri Mar 2012 #43
Vincardog Mar 2012 #50
guitar man Mar 2012 #3
southernyankeebelle Mar 2012 #4
onethatcares Mar 2012 #5
tex-wyo-dem Mar 2012 #9
zazen Mar 2012 #11
MattBaggins Mar 2012 #6
unblock Mar 2012 #7
sinkingfeeling Mar 2012 #8
Bluenorthwest Mar 2012 #17
sinkingfeeling Mar 2012 #48
Blue_Tires Mar 2012 #18
dixiegrrrrl Mar 2012 #30
tabbycat31 Mar 2012 #37
KamaAina Mar 2012 #74
Sarah Ibarruri Mar 2012 #10
tmy236 Mar 2012 #12
txlibdem Mar 2012 #79
Selatius Mar 2012 #80
Sarah Ibarruri Mar 2012 #13
dixiegrrrrl Mar 2012 #31
Sarah Ibarruri Mar 2012 #32
SoCalDem Mar 2012 #35
Sarah Ibarruri Mar 2012 #39
SoCalDem Mar 2012 #47
Sarah Ibarruri Mar 2012 #49
Brickbat Mar 2012 #14
Tippy Mar 2012 #15
Ikonoklast Mar 2012 #24
HughBeaumont Mar 2012 #28
lumberjack_jeff Mar 2012 #19
eridani Mar 2012 #64
randome Mar 2012 #23
dash_bannon Mar 2012 #26
randome Mar 2012 #29
dotymed Mar 2012 #34
Hugabear Mar 2012 #41
StarsInHerHair Mar 2012 #62
The2ndWheel Mar 2012 #46
txlibdem Mar 2012 #77
newspeak Mar 2012 #27
Johonny Mar 2012 #53
dotymed Mar 2012 #33
LongTomH Mar 2012 #36
Spike89 Mar 2012 #72
txlibdem Mar 2012 #78
XemaSab Mar 2012 #38
Zalatix Mar 2012 #44
hedgehog Mar 2012 #45
Zalatix Mar 2012 #63
chrisa Mar 2012 #51
Zalatix Mar 2012 #52
chrisa Mar 2012 #58
Zalatix Mar 2012 #60
chrisa Mar 2012 #69
Zalatix Mar 2012 #70
chrisa Mar 2012 #73
Zalatix Mar 2012 #75
Johonny Mar 2012 #54
chrisa Mar 2012 #59
harmonicon Mar 2012 #68
Selatius Mar 2012 #81
Lex Mar 2012 #55
Edweird Mar 2012 #56
Gabi Hayes Mar 2012 #57
Rosco T. Mar 2012 #61
Prometheus Bound Mar 2012 #65
Octafish Mar 2012 #71
aquart Mar 2012 #76

Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 06:59 AM

1. REC.

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 07:44 AM

2. Don't use robotic checkouts. Period.

It jumps profits for greedy corporations and cuts peoples jobs. Just say no, and stand in line.

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Response to CanonRay (Reply #2)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:24 AM

16. And fabric made with automated looms is right out!! nt.

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Response to harmonicon (Reply #16)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 06:45 AM

66. There's not much I can personally do about a lot of crrap that's going on

but I can do this.

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Response to CanonRay (Reply #66)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 09:52 AM

67. Refuse to buy fabric made on automated looms?

I know!! Just don't do it! If you're one of those folks who can afford those fancy pre-made clothes, I hope you trace the source of the fabric back to the hand loom where it was made - same goes for where and how the thread or yarn was spun.

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Response to CanonRay (Reply #2)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:34 AM

20. I avoid them as well mostly because.....

 

I don't get a discount for doing what the vendor would have paid an employee to do it. If you gave me a 10% discount I might do this myself.

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Response to CanonRay (Reply #2)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:39 AM

21. As a grocery worker I avoid them like the plague.

Won't stop them, but at least I'm not part of the problem.

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Response to CanonRay (Reply #2)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:39 AM

22. I also no longer bag my own groceries.

They either hire someone or give me a discount.

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Response to CanonRay (Reply #2)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:41 AM

25. The first time I went to the grocery store that had self check

was the last time I ever went to that store.

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Response to CanonRay (Reply #2)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 12:39 PM

40. Exactly. I was at Home Depot one day and the self checkouts were empty. Some salesperson asked me

to get on the self checkout line and I said no, thanks. He then said he'd teach me, and I told him I knew how and that he could let the manager know I was refusing on principle.

Winn Dixie near me has done away with the self checkouts. Good for them!

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Response to Sarah Ibarruri (Reply #40)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 12:56 PM

42. That happened to me too.

Pissed me off. Someone is standing there encouraging me to do their job for them. No thanks.

Apparently WalMart has them too. I dunno since I avoid that place as much as possible.


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Response to progressoid (Reply #42)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 12:57 PM

43. Sad. They're employed to help get rid of their jobs. nt

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Response to progressoid (Reply #42)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 05:18 PM

50. I politely decline and tell then why. I don't check myself out to save their jobs.

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 07:54 AM

3. I've been working in television for the last 12 years

Ive watched as our station staff has been decimated by automation and centralization .

We used to have 15-17 people, now we are down to 5-6

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 07:55 AM

4. We people have the power. I wouldn't use these kinds of systems. I will not shop in this

 

store.

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 08:01 AM

5. well that cheered me up on this otherwise humdrum day

throw in some madmax post collapse and we as a nation are done.

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Response to onethatcares (Reply #5)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 08:50 AM

9. No worries...

Over the next several decades the effects from severe climate change will become so serious that we won't have the time or energy to worry about the robots taking our jobs.

See, cheered ya up, didn't I

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Response to tex-wyo-dem (Reply #9)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 08:57 AM

11. "Moore's Law" depends on cheap abundant fossil fuels

and it's the basis of this guy's argument.

I wish I could be worried. Hard limits on energy resources will get us perhaps even before the worst of climate change hits (and may oddly mitigate the worst of the latter.)

When people say look what happened from 1900 to 1950! as if it's a natural law, like this fella, I'm always stunned that they never make the connection to the simultaneous, historically anomalous presence of easily extractable highly concentrated energy.

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 08:20 AM

6. Butlerian Jihad

where do I sign up

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 08:24 AM

7. this is news?

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 08:48 AM

8. Basically why I don't use any except the self-serve gas station. That's because

I haven't seen a full service station in years.

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Response to sinkingfeeling (Reply #8)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:25 AM

17. Here in Oregon, there is no such thing as self-serve gas. They pump. Always.

 

Same in NJ. Any State that wanted to could pass similar laws. I'm from CA originally and I am pleased to not pump my gas in my new home.

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Response to Bluenorthwest (Reply #17)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 01:44 PM

48. I don't think I can drive the 1000 to 2000 miles to either NJ or Oregon to buy gas!

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Response to sinkingfeeling (Reply #8)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:25 AM

18. NJ has them all over...

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Response to sinkingfeeling (Reply #8)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 10:13 AM

30. We have one in my town, I use it exclusively.

The owner is 80 and still working there, he hires 4 other guys, and he is a neighbor of mine.
Sadly, when he goes, I don't think the station will continue.
Yeah, the gas is a bit higher, but I get full service, and fast help with any minor problems with my car.
Plus the best thing: helping support a community business, in this county of almost 20% unemployment.

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Response to sinkingfeeling (Reply #8)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 12:19 PM

37. NJ has mandatory full service gas

And I quite like it. I like to pay cash for gas (many stations give a cash discount) and it's so much easier to hand a guy a 20 and say "$20 of plus" than to go inside, prepay the cashier, and say "$20 for the silver car at pump #4"

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Response to tabbycat31 (Reply #37)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 12:02 PM

74. As well as some of the lowest gas prices in the land

 

because so many refineries are there.

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 08:53 AM

10. It's monstrous. nt

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 08:59 AM

12. this is the realm of science fiction

It's not just these low level service jobs. Most of the white collar middle class will have robots coming for them (us) as well. It will be the capitalists who own the means of production (the robots), and then the masses who have no place in the economy. But then how can you have an economy when there is no one to purchase the products and services that the robots provide? This must also be a seismic shift in how we think about economics and wealth allocation at the most fundamental level. Either that or it will all just collapse in fire and blood because the very wealthy will refuse to change. That's where my money goes.

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Response to tmy236 (Reply #12)

Wed Mar 28, 2012, 04:00 AM

79. Who says we need to maintain this inefficient economy?

A resource based economy would be far more efficient while providing a higher standard of living for all people.

PS, if the rich refuse to change then we exclude them from the economy and invite them to move elsewhere. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

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Response to txlibdem (Reply #79)

Wed Mar 28, 2012, 04:09 AM

80. The other big problem is we're depleting our resources, and so is the rest of the world. nt

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:04 AM

13. Here's what I do -

I find the way to get around phone systems - to speak to human beings.

I ask the person that answers where they're located. If they're located abroad, or hide where they're located because they're abroad, I contact the company and ask why they're not hiring Americans.

I refuse to use self-checkouts.

I refuse to use drive-throughs.

I refuse to go to ATMs

I refuse to buy new products except products manufactured in the U.S., such as Vera Bradley bags, for example. If I have to buy something, I buy it used. When I buy used, I'm still using money, but it stays in the U.S. More importantly, it doesn't support corporations that manufacture outside of the U.S.

It's important to contact corporations and ask them why they're hiring firms abroad instead of Americans. They're scumbags who think only of how to line their own pockets with as much money as possible, and think the country they're selling to can go to hell.

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Response to Sarah Ibarruri (Reply #13)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 10:24 AM

31. Good on you!

We have automated checkouts in our Winn Dixie store.
I won't use them.
I hate that robotic nagging voice with a passion.

Probably can't stop the automation trend, but I do not have to participate in it locally.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #31)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 10:36 AM

32. Good! You know, it'd be good if everyone who didn't participate in it, spoke to the store mgr and

told him/her. I never did that, but I think I just might next time I'm at Lowe's. They have self-checkout.

I'm glad to hear when others refuse to participate in the automation trend too.

And yes, I abhor that automatic voice too! Anything that tries to do away with employment is usually bad for the customer as well.

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Response to Sarah Ibarruri (Reply #13)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 11:26 AM

35. I looked and looked and finally found the perfect chaises..Sam Moore furniture

Last edited Mon Mar 26, 2012, 01:10 PM - Edit history (1)

Made in the USA

I had to wait a while but they are drop dead gorgeous..ordered two of em to make a giganto "sofa".

They were not cheap, BUT they were made here



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Response to SoCalDem (Reply #35)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 12:36 PM

39. Awesome!! Vera Bradley manufactures only in the U.S. - and for those who can't afford them...

They put discontinued styles on SALE, and I got all of mine at 50% off. Oh, and they never fall apart, AND they are washable!

I refuse to buy things manufactured abroad unless it's an emergency or absolute, dire need. "Want" no longer makes me sink that low.

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Response to Sarah Ibarruri (Reply #39)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 01:14 PM

47. Last year I ordered a table & 6 chairs from a place in Texas

they were advertised as made in US, but when they came the box had a big ole "made in Viet Nam" on the side.. The sad thing too is that the guy unloading it said.. "Creepy..my big bother died in Viet Nam in 1968, so they could make our furniture"

I'm sorry to say that I did keep the set, but I called & complained and have not ordered from them since. Their website no longer tells the origin

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Response to SoCalDem (Reply #47)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 01:44 PM

49. I think we're going to have to start actually asking where they manufacture things, you know?

And talking about all this made me think of writing Vera Bradley and congratulating them on manufacturing in the U.S. Think I'll do it right now.

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:05 AM

14. Still waiting for the lower prices, too.

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #14)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:22 AM

15. Me too!

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #14)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:41 AM

24. Don't hold your breath, those massive increaes in productitivity go to buy the CEO another

solid gold toilet to sit on in his third mansion in the south of France.

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #14)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:46 AM

28. +1000.

All this "free trade!" was supposed to lead to lower prices on things.

Yeah, when's THAT going to happen? It's led to a deluge of junk tchochkes that don't really vary much from the systems they evolved from.

The other problem free-trade-loving conservatives seem to forget is that Americans are getting economically stifled and left behind because of the price of necessities. Food, gas, education, housing, health care, transportation, repairs, etc . . . ALL skyrocketing in price while wages have stagnated in real dollars since 1979.

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:27 AM

19. It's time for a 32 hour work week. n/t

 

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Response to lumberjack_jeff (Reply #19)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 01:49 AM

64. Hell, way less than that

If post WW II productivity bonuses had been distributed to workers instead of profits, the current work week would be a little more than six hours.

Lavorare meno! Lavorare tutti!

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:39 AM

23. Yeah, but he ate at McDonald's.

 

There's his problem right there.

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:43 AM

26. A socialist view on robots...

While this seems crappy on the surface it gives us a chance to think about a new economy.

As long as human labor is cheaper than robot labor, we'll continue to use humans. Robot labor produces no real value, as real value comes from human labor. By this I mean, robots don't buy goods and services. They're machines.

Using machines to replace humans will not only cause massive unemployment, it'll cause many businesses to collapse. This will happen because nobody will have money to buy anything.

Taking the robot argument to its final conclusion that eventually machines will do all of our work creates the same problem of creating tax cuts for the rich so they get richer with less effort.

What's the problem?

In capitalism, a capitalist uses his money/capital to buy resources, machines and labor. If there was a demand for making shovels, the capitalist would need to buy wood, metal, a place to make and manufacture shovels, and money to hire workers. Once you combine raw materials with the tools to make shovels and labor, you produce a final product; a shovel.

So we see that:
capital plus labor = cost to produce a good/service

Capitalists seek to make profits on goods and services made and this becomes the sale price. (cost+)

Capitalists have to compete with other capitalists to survive in a marketplace. They compete for customers. As such, they seek ways to enhance production by lowering the cost of production to keep profits (cost+) coming in.

One result is technological innovation. When machines can do the work of several workers, workers get replaced. This saves the capitalist money and increases his profit. (cost+ goes up.) The best competitor to produce goods/services will eventually be able to drive his competitor out of the market by producing quality goods/services at a low price.

We're seeing that now with Chinese and Indian labor. The Chinese and Indians can do the same quality work as Americans, but at a fraction of the cost. Not surprisingly, the capitalists are investing their tax cuts and tax breaks into savings bonds or building factories in China and India.

It makes sense from a business point of view.

A senior database programmer in the US could ask for a $120,000 salary. An Indian with the same qualifications and skills could ask for a $20,000 salary. It's a no brainer. You'd hire the Indian.

The same concept holds true for robots. If/when we get to the point that robot/machine labor is cheaper than human labor, eventually the Chinese and Indians would be put out of work as well.

Marx knew this, as did John Maynard Keynes. In the long run, capitalism is dead.

When machine labor becomes so common and so cheap, why would anyone need to work at a job? We could have robots tend fields, pilot aircraft, explore the harshest environments, and do the dirtiest work. There would be no need for mindless consumption to keep our economy going. People would not have to get up and go to work to pay the bills or because they have to. Machines would do all the menial work.

Humans could produce a world like that of Star Trek. We pursue our own agendas free of the tyranny of the market or people seeking to make profits. While the end of capitalism can seem to be a scary thing, we don't know what new things we'll develop or invent.

Capitalism replaced mercantilism, which replaced feudalism. Socialism is the next step in economic development. We will get to a point where we no longer have to work for our survival because machines can do all the work. We'll be at a point trying to figure out what to do with our time. That's the next human adventure.

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Response to dash_bannon (Reply #26)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:50 AM

29. A refreshingly optimistic viewpoint.

 

And one I happen to share. Something comes after capitalism. What is it?

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Response to dash_bannon (Reply #26)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 11:10 AM

34. In a perfect world, this would be the case.

Sadly we have already witnessed the persistent return to fuedalist/capitalism with the disparity of wealth distribution currently in our very dysfunctional society. This fuedalist/capitalism model could(especially with the elite in charge) expand. IMO, it will expand until the majority demand change. If it takes the people so long to unite, that these proposed robotic police/soldiers are already in use, humans will not stand a chance.
Of course, I much prefer your scenario but until people actually refuse anything but equality, I don't have much hope that (at least in America) Socialism will be our futire.

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Response to dash_bannon (Reply #26)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 12:40 PM

41. Then why don't businesses pay their workers a fair living wage?

If businesses were so concerned about people having enough disposable income, they would pay them higher wages, wouldn't they? Yet we see many businesses looking for ways to pay their employees less money, with fewer benefits.

Something doesn't compute...

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Response to Hugabear (Reply #41)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 10:30 PM

62. easy. stupidity

any questions?

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Response to dash_bannon (Reply #26)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 01:12 PM

46. There's going to have to be a hell of a downside

for someone, or something, somewhere, if all we have to do is try to figure out what to do with so much time, because we basically have an infrastructure of robots supporting billions of people. Nothing like that comes for free.

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Response to The2ndWheel (Reply #46)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 04:41 PM

77. Nothing like that comes for free?

There are plenty of things in life that come for free. Why not an infrastructure of robots supporting billions of people. What is it about the robot or the sheer number of them that makes it impossible to be free?

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 09:46 AM

27. and customer service goes out the window

when they started pump your own gas and get a discount. People started to pump their own gas and forego the service. Then they just took away the service and upped the price on the gas.

If they can get us to bag our own groceries and scan the items (we do the labor) and then charge us for the non-service, they'll do it.

Once, we had business that focused on the customer, focused on quality service; now business still wants our money, but are attempting to find ways to get it and forego quality customer service. It's just like the ATMs, it was free until you got hooked. I admit it's a convenience; but I saw many friends get laid off in banking because of them.

I think people like Hershey, who thought of his community when he opened his business-thought about the well being of the people of hershey, is not a top priority with the global corporations. That's why I think peoples' cooperatives and small independent businesses may
be a solution for today's economic climate.

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Response to newspeak (Reply #27)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 06:24 PM

53. yip

I go to the unionize check out person, I go to my bank teller. I like the actual service provided. Automatic systems work great until something goes wrong then there is no one to make it work again. The parking near me went from a teller to a pay by machine. It was great until someone forgot to pay first and backs up traffic. Now they basically need a person to stand by the gate and make the automatic machine work when people forget to pay. That and tourist visits went down because the automatic machines scared off people who disliked figuring out how the system worked. I tried the whole bag my own once. Then I got to the produce and was like, how the fuck do I remember what type pears I bought? I'd rather pay for real humans to provide me service.

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 10:41 AM

33. The inevitability of robotic

police and soldiers (only inevitable because they can be programmed as monsters) is a very likely scenario. Police robot, automatically acess wealth level and treat the suspect accordingly. Robotic soldier (drones are a first step), no Americans are killed or injured while annihilating a country. No health benefits or pay. No empathy..
Thirty years ago I would not have imagined that when applying for employment,car insurance, etc., that it would entail a credit check. Any construction job for a pharmaceutical company, government contract, etc. requires a complete background check. These are usually done by a contract worker through computer employment. They are paid by the number of background checks completed, it doesn't matter if they are accurate. Incredibly, the same corporation that "scrubbed" the voter rolls in 2000 and was inaccurate in most reports :CHOICEPOINT INC. is the most currently used information reporting company in use.
In 2004 they cost me over $20,000 by reporting me as a felon to Eli Lilly. I had done annual carpentry work there, during their yearly "shutdown" for five consecutive years prior to that Choicepoint year. It took four months before Choicepoint admitted that they had made a mistake. By that time the job was finished. I was subsequently never hired again for an Eli-Lilly job.
My Union nor any attorneys in the Indianapolis area (that I contacted) were willing to sue either Eli-Lilly or Choicepoint. Their pockets were too deep and the Union depended on Lillys for much of their employment.
Sorry, I got off subject. But, 30 years ago, this was not widely considered a possibility. A credit check for employment? Hell, why do you think people need a job? Of course if your job is financial...but they are the thieves..

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 11:54 AM

36. Some people have seen this coming for decades!

From Norbert Weiner, one of the 'fathers' of the cybernetic revolution to R. Buckminster Fuller. It started with automation and industrial robots in factories. When I started to get really interested in future studies, I tried to talk to people about this, with the usual reply being: "Automation may replace factory jobs; but, there will always be the 'service economy.'"

I don't think a neo-luddite approach is either workable or even the best way to go. I go with the "technoprogressive position:

"The wealth and leisure created by automation should be shared equitably by all through a basic income guarantee and shorter work week."

A poll of readers on the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies site shows that most readers agree with the idea of a Universal Basic Income. That idea was proposed by Thomas Paine in his Agrarian Reform pamphlet, and endorsed by people from R. Buckminster Fuller to conservative economist Milton Friedman (He proposed a Negative Income Tax system).

By the way, txlibdem, you might want to check out Eric Drexler's post on his upcoming book: Radical Abundance.

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Response to LongTomH (Reply #36)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 11:50 AM

72. Great post. I've been calling it the black box singularity.

Eventually, inevitably, the technology will become efficient enough that for all practical purposes factories will become black boxes where automated systems deliver raw materials in one end and finished products come out the other end without direct contact with humans. This will at some point totally disrupt the capital-labor equation. There will be an economy of course, just not the model that dominated in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Exactly what comes next probably isn't the much hyped "service" industry exactly. I can see huge possibilities in the arts, design, and systems management areas. I also see the implosion of corporate capitalism as the means of production once again becomes local. For example, it didn't make any sense for a corporate blacksmithing company in the 1700s or earlier--you needed custom parts virtually everywhere. With industrialization, most metal parts became standardized and could be manufactured and shipped cheaper and with better (on average) quality than the local blacksmith could produce. A "maker" machine that can create custom, or semi-custom parts and can be owned by a small group, or even individuals totally flips the equation back. Centralized factories making mass produced products will give way to local, custom, commodities.
When you can simply download blueprints and feed raw materials into your own maker to produce anything from a delicious loaf of bread to a fully functioning car (and of course a spare maker machine), that puts a premium on creativity (got a new bread recipe, an idea for safer cars, then trade/sell your template).
There will of course be an awful lot of disruption between now and that future, and there will inevitably be issues with raw materials, energy, and a whole host of problems dealing with the social upheaval that will come with such a profound change. However, it has been the inevitable end game of automation. The genie can't be put back in the bottle, either the bottle gets smashed and the world plunges into dystopia/end of humanity scenarios or the genie unleashes social and economic changes much more profound than the industrial revolution.

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Response to Spike89 (Reply #72)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 04:56 PM

78. Maker bot gets a thumbs up

You are so right about that. There should be no manufacturing, warehousing, shipping, warehousing, stocking of retail shelves, and maybe shipping again.

With the new 3D Printers that they have out now, they can print metal, clear plastic and colored plastic. Cell phones, combs, tablet pc's, what is the limit to what you can print with one of those things?

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 12:27 PM

38. I almost never put the cart back in the corral at the grocery store

Chasing down carts sounds to me like a shitty job, but to someone else it sounds like a paycheck.

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 01:03 PM

44. It gets worse than that.

 

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 01:06 PM

45. There is nothing wrong with increasing productivity

provided the benefits are spread around. For example - does the customer see any benefit from using self-serve? If it's saving the retailer money, some of those savings should be passed on to the customer!

It actually costs more to use an ATM sometimes!

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Response to hedgehog (Reply #45)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 10:34 PM

63. You forgot about wages.

 

Productivity growth has vastly out paced wage growth.

So who will buy anything from these retailers, in the end?

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 05:47 PM

51. Everybody ignores how this technology will also make our lives tons times better.

Yeah, the checkout lanes for instance, suck now. They're in their infancy. In 25 years, we'll have something that's a million times better that everyone will love.

These jobs wouldn't be eliminated because of some nefarious plot. They would be eliminated because they would become antiquated - like for instance an elevator operator. When these jobs go away, think of the new jobs that will be created.

We are just at the start of a revolution - one 1000X more incredible and effective than the industrial revolution. I am sympathetic to people who would lose their jobs, but not techno-phobia as a whole. Either stick with the times or get left behind in the past, imo.

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Response to chrisa (Reply #51)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 06:16 PM

52. What new jobs will be created? Nothing. There'll simply be fewer jobs and more unemployed.

 

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Response to Zalatix (Reply #52)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 06:56 PM

58. People to maintain and create the new technology, as always

The times change, but people will always have jobs, trust me. They might be totally different from the jobs we have now, but they will be there - just like you don't have a town smelter who creates swords anymore, or jobs related to using horses to get around. The times change, and the types of jobs change with the times.

What I'm saying is, everything has a downside. People's valued skills one day will be totally useless the next. It's just the way it is. It's not a reason to turn technological advancement into the villain. It's just that, with progress, there is always a need to adapt.

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Response to chrisa (Reply #58)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 08:21 PM

60. Trust you? Job growth has lagged behind pop growth for OVER a decade

 

Automation means fewer people are needed to do things than before. People who create and maintain technology will never be as many as those who got replaced by technology.

And I will repeat again: job growth has lagged behind population growth for over a decade. This is a permanent trend.

Part of the problem was George W Bush, but jobs leaving the country and being replaced by automation also provided a few headshots.

Not only that, but here's something else for you to consider:

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Response to Zalatix (Reply #60)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 10:55 AM

69. Because we're not creating enough jobs.

We can create jobs lost from automation, and bring these people into other areas. Our government just hasn't been good at creating jobs recently. If you can replace those jobs in the country, and still have the automation, then the automation is purely beneficial without the downside of jobs that are lost forever.

As for the chart, could this be because some of these jobs are near the end of their usefulness, and are becoming less in demand? It's not the business's fault if that is the case -they're just trying to do what is most efficient. Certain skills will not be useful forever. Like I said in a post below, when was the last time you needed an elevator operator, or a blacksmith to make you a sword? Maybe we're trending away from manual labor and human goods producers to a state of almost pure automation - where those who were goods producers will be forced to get another set of skills?

The downside is the loss of jobs (but it doesn't have to be, like I said above), heavily offset by an increasingly efficient society where we have more free time due to machines doing stuff for us.

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Response to chrisa (Reply #69)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 11:21 AM

70. And how is the Government going to create jobs?

 

How will we replace the current batch of jobs lost by automation?

We need a new industry that creates a ton of jobs - no such thing is coming. We're pretty much at the end of the evolutionary road when it comes to new types of jobs. Of course if anyone thinks I'm wrong, please feel free to show us the new job booms.

What new set of skills do you think will be needed by the tens of millions of currently jobless and many more future jobless Americans?

All that free time is useless when you don't have any money to buy anything.

Automation is turning out more like this, actually:
http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm

Some of that technology already exists. Ever wonder why cashier computers tell the cashier to say "thank you" at the end of a purchase? That's what he's talking about in that link.

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Response to Zalatix (Reply #70)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 11:51 AM

73. Response

And how is the Government going to create jobs? How will we replace the current batch of jobs lost by automation?

If I had a clear cut answer for that right now, I would be a millionaire and a genius. I don't have the answer because I don't know what technologies will be created in the future. However, just like in the past, new technology opens up new avenues for jobs. One such example - with the creation of the internet, sites like Craigslist have been making people a lot of money. If you're handy, and can make dolls, for instance, the internet has increased your customer-base to everyone you can ship to.

We need a new industry that creates a ton of jobs - no such thing is coming. We're pretty much at the end of the evolutionary road when it comes to new types of jobs. Of course if anyone thinks I'm wrong, please feel free to show us the new job booms.

How can you make such a claim? That's like claiming, in the 1900's, "Business will always be this way. We will always have local businesses! Nothing new is ever going to come in the future!" In the 1800's - "We will always go around by horseback! We are at the end of our evolutionary road when it comes to travel! Might as well invest in horses in the future, because in 2100, we'll still be riding horses!" I also heard people having the opinion that we will never leave earth to colonize somewhere else, even after 10,000 years have passed. Why? How could we possibly know that?

What new set of skills do you think will be needed by the tens of millions of currently jobless and many more future jobless Americans?

If I knew the answer to that, I would invest in that industry and become a billionaire.

All that free time is useless when you don't have any money to buy anything.

Here's what makes no sense about this - if nobody has any money, why would companies pursue that business plan? So that their shelves can be full of items that nobody can buy? That doesn't make any sense.

Automation is turning out more like this, actually:
http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm


If a system can do something better than a human, than it's definitely preferable. This is especially true with surgery, for example. You want that done accurately and with precision - machines offer a form of precision that humans cannot give.

The future will be nothing like that story - in fact, that's why its fiction - it's supposed to be out of the ordinary and exaggerated. Why do construction companies not build homes out of sticks and dirt now? Why do the police not mandate that every phone installed in houses must be tapped so that all communication must be monitored? Why is there not a camera on every street corner right now? Because no one wants it. In the future, nobody will want it either. They may have robots building their houses, but they will demand quality. They won't want crappy "terrafoam" houses that fall apart at the drop of a hat. There's no demand for that.

A cash register telling an employee to say "thank you" is hardly a big deal. The manager could just tell them that anyways.


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Response to chrisa (Reply #73)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 12:51 PM

75. Ayup, and we're going to be waiting for decades for that next big thing.

 

In the 1900s the automobile factory was clearly rising against the horse and buggy cart.

What we're seeing now is quite unique - jobs are disappearing into automation and nothing is replacing these jobs. Unlike the 1900s, it is unknown what is replacing our jobs today. The problem is, no new job boom has been coming for the last 12 years; that's half a generation. In this economy that's an extremely long time - like 20 to 30 years by 1900 standards.

You yourself admitted you don't know what's coming. That's pretty unique. The Internet replaced AT&T switch operators and a lot of them simply transitioned over. There's nothing for millions of out of work Americans to transition to - except lower-paying service jobs if those jobs ever reappear, which they have not. There hasn't been anything since the Dotcom bust.

And... Craigslist? Chinese factories can easily undercut you on dolls. Remember what you said about being able to make money off anyone you can ship to? Well, so can China, and thanks to a lack of tariffs, they can make anything cheaper.

So yes, you can ask the question... when is the next job boom coming? We've been waiting for 12 years since the Dotcom crash happened. We'll be waiting into the indefinite future. That's a problem. That's part of why we have so many unemployed, and why our economy crashed in 2008: job growth has lagged behind population growth for over a decade, and wages have lagged behind inflation for the same period.

As for Manna - things are approaching situations like that in places like China. Look up 'cage people'. The Government is pushing for ISPs to monitor traffic and store your activities for them to browse whenever they want to; and then there was Bush's warrantless wiretapping. They've got cameras at almost every street corner in Britain and they're pushing for it here. Hell, Google just about has that covered. And finally? We may DEMAND quality, but if you have no money, you cannot afford to receive quality. You'll get terrafoam if you are unemployed because you can't afford better and the 1% will have the money to force you to take it. You seriously underestimate Social Darwinism and its power in modern America.

So let us recap: you are saying that automation creates jobs. I'm asking you to show us the jobs. You say you don't have a crystal ball and you can't show me the jobs.

So.... why should the working class believe you and disbelieve the last 12 years of current events?

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Response to chrisa (Reply #51)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 06:31 PM

54. because getting out of your car to pump gas is soooo much fun

Yeah and it's great to bag my own groceries. I love talking to a computer help menu on the phone to fix the automatic tellers banking error.

People that expect their lives to get better from technology are in general usually disappointed. The vacuum cleaner and washing machine made cleaning so much easier. But they also increased the standards for what people expected to be clean. Thus people now spend as much time cleaning as before. The computer was going to totally save your work day countless hours, but it didn't because standards changed. I remember when everyone could show up to a presentation and do hand made charts on the spot. Now you need to spend 3 days making power point slides.

We aren't ignoring how this will make our life better, we are just old enough to know life stay pretty much the same because standards often slide to conform to the new norm.

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Response to Johonny (Reply #54)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 07:10 PM

59. The end of full-service gas had nothing to do with technology.

It was just a change in American culture. There's nothing stopping gas stations from doing full service gas now. They just don't.

Your complaint about the computer help menu right now is actually because the help menu is not advanced enough to help you. What if you were able to talk to an algorithm that is so intelligent, it would fix that bank issue itself? In fact, scratch that - it wouldn't need to because the technology is so precise, the error would have never happened in the first place. However, if you were the .000001% that still had an account problem. what if it were better than talking to a human? It might not be now, but trust me, it will be.

Second paragraph - as opposed to typing everything out by typewriter, or having to write by hand - the computer has changed absolutely everything. The work day didn't get shorter because companies realized that, with it taking less time to do things, more can now be done.

It also takes me at most an hour to throw together a power presentation when aiming for quality - not even 5 minutes for a bare-bones one.

Making a presentation by hand was less efficient and took tons more time - it was so inefficient that it's unheard of now in some areas (for too many reasons to name).

Before the washing machine, washing clothes was a tremendous amount of work. With automation, this time can be spent doing something else. Who doesn't like having more time to ourselves? We as humans like it when the work is done for us so that we don't have to.

The vacuum cleaner also saves a lot of time - imagine having to clean everything with a dust pan and broom. In the future, we will even have a hands-off vacuum cleaner that knows how to clean your house for you - much more efficient than what we do now, and frees up even more time to do other things.

Life right now is actually the same as it was in the 50's? In 1900? In 1850? We're typing on the internet right now. If you want to order something, you can just go to a website and do so. UPS brings the package to your doorstep. Someone wrote this website for you to talk to other people when you used to either have to write letters, speak over the phone, or just talk to your local people. Want to learn all about a 9-banded Armadillo? You can just go on Wikipedia and learn all about it in not even 5 seconds. The internet is an explosive advancement that nobody has given enough respect yet - this is the greatest invention ever. Nothing ever invented has ever lived up to it in the history of mankind. Imagine then, what will be invented in the future?

Our life is much better now. In fact, it's not even close. Our lives will get easier and easier in the future - so much so that even thinking about it right now is somewhat unfathomable.

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Response to chrisa (Reply #51)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 09:56 AM

68. A voice of reason! Shocking! nt.

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Response to chrisa (Reply #51)

Wed Mar 28, 2012, 04:21 AM

81. That argument is a bit moot if the government won't even allocate funds for job training programs.

The bigger problem is a government run by people who simply don't want to pay taxes to support a national infrastructure everybody else also uses. They only see the benefits they receive in front of their faces and none of the consequences of cutting everybody off until it's too late. If things don't change, yeah, you'll have high technology and tremendous wealth creation, but few would enjoy the fruits of that revolution, kind of like what is happening now with incredible income and wealth inequality. You'll just have an underclass of people who were left behind in an economy resembling a banana republic's economy: Tremendous wealth created, controlled by only a few people.

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 06:38 PM

55. Jobs for programming/installing the machines and building/implementing them.



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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 06:43 PM

56. All except the ATM suck something awful and I avoid them.

 

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 06:53 PM

57. I still ride my horsey over to the Long Branch to get my sasparilla. won't catch me dead in one of

 

these:



agree with the sentiments expressed, btw, but it's happening. it's here, just like frankenfood

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 08:24 PM

61. WalMart took their automated checkouts OUT...

.. how's that for a confusing dilemma?

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 02:19 AM

65. The PC must have generated an even more seismic shift in the 80s.

I was suddenly able to do what had previously taken three people. What I do today on my PC would have taken five people in the early eighties.

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 11:23 AM

71. UAW has been saying this for 40 years.

Who's got money to buy stuff nowadays? Apart from the 1-percent?

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Response to txlibdem (Original post)

Tue Mar 27, 2012, 12:53 PM

76. Which is why I always ask for a clerk.

Clerks may have sick days, but automated systems GO DOWN.

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