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AI Robotics IT

Why Automation Won't Displace Human Workers (diginomica.com) 540

"There was never a job opening for a drone pilot until there was something to fly," writes the founder of market research firm Beagle Research Group, arguing that automation won't inevitably lead society to a universal basic income "free lunch" because new jobs arise when "new capabilities, technical and otherwise, innovate them into existence." Heck, computer programmers had no existence until computers. At one point a computer was just someone who was very good at math performing calculations all day...it took a year to check all of the calculations needed to produce the atomic bomb and that work was all done by humans. Imagine how history might be different if even one of them had a pocket calculator. You get the idea. New technology inspires new jobs.
He also argues that historically automation eliminates jobs that were "dull, dirty, and dangerous," and that automation also ends up performing previously-nonexistent jobs -- or work that was forced onto customers in self-service scenarios.
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Why Automation Won't Displace Human Workers

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  • Finally (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sciengin ( 4278027 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @07:40AM (#53325855)

    Finally an article that goes against the nonstop doom and gloom tone of seemingly every single report on automation.
    Its as if no one had learned anything from the past revolutions and evolutions in the industry in general.
    Apparently people still think its a good idea to just linearly extrapolate from out current postion into the future without considering that maybe technology evolves into new branches, not just faster, harder, better.

    No, I do not believe that every single person who will loose their jobs to robots will (immediately) find a new, equal or better job. But predicting that we will be seeing 95% unemployment in the future is just plain silly.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Its as if no one had learned anything from the past revolutions and evolutions in the industry in general.
      Apparently people still think its a good idea to just linearly extrapolate from out current postion into the future

      So very little self-awareness here

    • Re: Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bistromath007 ( 1253428 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @07:52AM (#53325899)
      This is how it has always worked before because previous technologies solved specific problems better than human hands alone.

      We are on the cusp of general purpose automation. It won't work this way again.
      • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        It depends. There is still the element of creativity. Until the AI is so advanced that it can say "You know now that I have T if just did U and filled in V blank I could do Z!" That does not have to be some grand thing either it can be the small stuff and still be valuable.

        • Re: Finally (Score:5, Informative)

          by sinij ( 911942 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @09:46AM (#53326321)
          No, it doesn't depend. Most people are not creative in any way or form and you don't need creativity in routine situations. Most of what we consider a job today also does not require creativity. Sure, creative, knowledgeable and smart people will find jobs in post-automation world. This is maybe 10% of population, what the rest of 90% of population would do? Starve to death? It used to be service, but we killed that culture in the Western world - very few have a cleaner, cook, live-in nanny, butler and so on.
          • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @10:37AM (#53326593) Homepage Journal

            No, it doesn't depend. Most people are not creative in any way or form and you don't need creativity in routine situations. Most of what we consider a job today also does not require creativity.

            Exactly this, and even that's only applicable if AI stalls where it is, which is a ridiculously unlikely assumption to make.

            Sure, creative, knowledgeable and smart people will find jobs in post-automation world.

            They'll find undertakings that suit them (as will everyone else.) They won't find jobs. No one will be paying anyone for anything; because "pay" will be an obsolete model. There's no reason to have a medium of exchange that discriminates between one person doing something completely optional, and another doing something completely optional.

            It used to be service, but we killed that culture in the Western world

            There's only one class of service (or "service") humans can provide that automation is unable to eventually cover, and that is interaction with other humans. Bartending, maid/butler, sex, sports, appreciation -- these kinds of things. Having said that, if people want those most of the things those interactions accomplish done well, then they will still turn to automation, with at least the initial exception of sex for procreative purposes (but that's not to say that couldn't succumb as well.)

            I don't doubt for a moment that at least for a while, it will be a mark of some kind of status to have a human servant. But in a society where no one has to work, I also don't doubt for a moment that finding mentally healthy humans who want to serve in such fashions will be quite difficult.

            very few have a cleaner, cook, live-in nanny, butler and so on.

            [glances at Roomba cruising around in the hall] Actually, service is coming back. It is automated service though, and in its ultimate form, won't involve condemning people to working. The opposite: it will free them.

            What I do with my mind that is enjoyable for me, I already do for free (because I can... when others can, I am certain they will as well.)

            OTOH, what I do that I have to: I clean the catbox, mow the lawn, shop for food, wash the windows, dust, wash the dishes, cook, make the bed, wash the clothes, bedding, curtains, towels and so on, empty the Roomba, take out the trash, keep the house painted and otherwise maintained, gutters clear, deck stained and so on for a huge long list of "has to be done simply to maintain the status quo."

            There isn't even one thing in that list that I want to do, and as each one falls to automation, I will be smiling ear-to-ear.

            Non-conscious, sophisticated automation will free us. Conscious AI (which is to say, actual, true Scotsman AI) will almost certainly not, in and of itself; although I have little doubt that conscious AI will help us out quite a bit with non-conscious automation design.

            Just as those of us who could afford them almost entirely stopped sweeping when vacuum cleaners became a thing; and those of us who have circumstances where Roombas can work and have put one into play have stopped vacuuming... we'll stop emptying the Roomba when it can empty itself. That goes for everything we don't actually want to do. the writing's on the wall. All we have to do is read it.

            The problem isn't the non-working society I describe above. The problem -- and it will be a huge problem -- will be the transition from the working society we have now to a non-working society. UBI is the key to getting that accomplished with the least blood on the floor. Probably literally.

            Anyone who argues that jobs will remain a dependable social construct in the face of our present technological path is in error. Barring serious disaster - comet, climate, war, major vulcanism, significant solar misbehavior, etc. - there's just no way we aren't headed for a jobless society.

            • Roombas are a perfect example of 'not quite there's What happens when your roombas encounters cat puke ?
              • Cat puke on the floor suddenly becomes highly fashionable.
              • Roombas are a perfect example of 'not quite there's

                Sure they are. They're also the perfect example of "more there than most other things."

                As soon as anyone starts thinking "the way it is" is definitive of "the way it will be", they've fallen victim to a major cognitive error. Technological progress is non-linear, and there's not even a hint of it slowing down. Quite the opposite.

                Cleaning up cat puke is just another item on my very long list of have-tos that will go away as soon as it can go away.

            • Sure, creative, knowledgeable and smart people will find jobs in post-automation world. [implied: but the rest won't]

              They'll find undertakings that suit them (as will everyone else.) They won't find jobs.

              "Go away! Batin'!" - Frito Esq. Idiocracy

              Joking aside, I think this anon coward hit the nail on the head:
              https://it.slashdot.org/commen... [slashdot.org]
              The good but uncreative people will become self destructive. The sociopaths, bereft of accepted means to prove their superiority, will turn to unacceptable means.

        • It depends. There is still the element of creativity. Until the AI is so advanced that it can say "You know now that I have T if just did U and filled in V blank I could do Z!" That does not have to be some grand thing either it can be the small stuff and still be valuable.

          The problem is that there is a relatively limited need for creativity, and indeed excessive creativity is discouraged in the market. Computer interfaces, for example, are for the most part rehashes of existing ideas, because creating something new would cause problems for the consumers. There's already enough material in Spotify and the like that you could spend your entire life without ever listening to the same song twice, but most of us don't want to do that. And you could even do the same with TV and ci

        • Re: Finally (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Ramze ( 640788 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @10:18AM (#53326509)

          Creative solutions have to be worth the cost of implementing, and in most environments, corporations are huge slow-moving behemoths that get around to innovative solutions once every few months or years. Yay! You found a way to increase productivity by 1%. We would have to change all the manuals, rules of procedures, and disseminate the new method to everyone after we hold a few focus groups and make sure there's absolutely no downside to using this solution over our tried and true method... and maybe change it. Sure, let's pay you $60K+ a year to come up with an innovative solution once in a blue moon rather than just train the robots to do it the old way and maybe put that money towards a hardware/software upgrade for the robots which might boost them 20% instead of your crappy 1% boost.

          Point is, robots will eventually be able to do all manual labor, and with the coming AI revolution, most sem-skilled and skilled labor, too. Most businesses fall into manufacturing (all robots) or service industries (all AI and robots) with very few real jobs that couldn't be automated with AI. Even most surgeons can be replaced with a competent AI.

          Think of a job. Now ask why that job can't be replaced with an entity that is capable of physically doing things better, faster, cheaper, and longer than a human being and with the current AI revolution and quantum computing can also match the mental capabilities of most humans as well.

          Drivers, pilots, delivery people, wait staff, cooking staff, assembly line workers, auto repair workers, clerks, tailors, nurses, pharmacists... so many jobs can be automated. Humans will be relegated to extremely complicated, creative, and/or niche work. Even fully autonomous robot surgeons will be able to do most routine surgeries.

          I'm thinking.... plumber, carpenter, plastic surgeon, ER surgeon, brain surgeon, lawyer, judge, politician, actor, musician, writer, software coder, etc will stay largely human jobs for the foreseeable future, but their days are numbered, too. There is AI software that can analyze MRIs better than humans, and it's not much of a step to think it'd be able to choose a surgery option and perform it as well. There are AI law clerks as well. Recently, an AI teacher's assistant was given extremely high marks as the best TA who responded very quickly with helpful suggestions and answers at all hours. The students had no idea the TA was an automated system. Human jobs are often highly repetitive -- we're doomed, bro.

        • Re: Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

          by YouGotTobeKidding ( 2884685 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @11:45AM (#53326911)
          Sadly a large portion of workers are doing very easily automated tasks. Sadly a large portion of these people are also not creative enough.

          Lets take a recent example of a spring factory that REopened in MI. In the 90s they employed 200 employees. They went over seas (out sourcing) but the QC was crap so they moved back. Just one problem. The new factory only employs 20 people as the other 180 were replaced by machines. So while YES there will 'always' be some human input needed its only 10% or less of what is needed now. Where do the other 90% go? Hell where does the 90% of 90% who are not that smart go when there are no more 'make work' jobs for them and they have neither the aptitude nor inclination to become 'creative'?

          This article is pie in the sky, unicorns for everyone BS. Yes eventually humanity will figure out WTF to do... but as history has shown it takes a couple GENERATIONS for us to figure it out. Thats a lot of pissed off, hungry people with nothing to loose. That is a recipe for disaster.
      • No we are not!
        "Zomfg, AI is here, Singularity tomorrow!!!11" is another of my pet pevees.
        Just because we throw some neuronal nets at a certain problem and get the right result in some cases does not mean that we are anywhere near finding a general purpose AI, especially since this is not even the goal of AI research.

        To get AI we first need to understand NI, ask your neuroscientist how this is going. Spoiler: not very well. While we have some understanding about how a brain works, we really only understand t

        • To get AI we first need to understand NI

          That's like saying "to pitch a baseball, we have to understand physiology and be able to solve multiple simultaneous equations" or "to light a fire, we have to understand oxidation" or "to build a house we have to understand physics." No, we don't. We just need something that works.

          We already don't understand the details of what multilevel neural nets are doing. We just know -- empirically -- that they can do cool things. We can build them. We can train them. They the

    • Extrapolation? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's exactly what the article did.

      Automation has always been a net job destroyer and what created demand for workers in the past was labor intensive industries - like auto manufacturing in the late 19 th century.

      The people who were and are displaced find themselves out in the cold. Retraining is a fairy tale to keep folks from revolting.

      And as we have been seeing, there haven't been enough decent opportunites being created. New industries are starting fr heavily automated such as SpaceX. Their rockets a

      • Your casual comment about "automation has always been a job destroyer" - care to back that up? A study in the UK was done not long ago that proved automation since the Victorian era created more jobs than destroyed - they failed to read your book?
        Humanity has been predicting falling skies constantly on this topic since the dawn of the printing press - well ok, not the Technocracy movement from the early 1900s, which predicted we'd be lounging around pools being served martinis by robots except for the 3 day

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Kierthos ( 225954 )

          The problem is, in the Victorian age, automation freed people up from some jobs, but not everything was automated, so there were still jobs to be had. Sure, they might also be backbreaking labor, but it was still a job.

          We're on the cusp of self-driving cars right now. They're not perfect, and it's most cases, it's not true auto-pilot yet, but it's getting there. Assuming no road-blocks (no pun intended) in the way, within 5-10 years, we're going to have self-driving cars.

          And there goes the taxi industry. An

    • It's not silly. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zelig ( 73519 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @08:11AM (#53325965) Homepage

      If you want to try out your analysis of silly, start by trying to answer "What employment sector can absorb the 3.5 million truck drivers who will be replaced with automated vehicles?". Apply your own biases for how quickly this will have to happen; I'm wild guessing ~5-7 years, starting ~5 years from now.

      Then add a million bus and taxi drivers, and then add the job count you ascribe to the edges of trucking (convenience stores and such that cater to them) ... These are essentially unskilled jobs. All you need is a certain threshold of reliability and discipline; for that, you get a good, heretofore stable, career.

      • by alzoron ( 210577 )

        Silly man, those trucks won't program themselves. Those 3.5 million drivers will just have to enroll in some Automated Truck Programming night school classes and they'll be fine!

        • by gtall ( 79522 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @09:30AM (#53326253)

          The U.S. has about 3.6 million software developers. India is expect to outpace the U.S. in number of software developers in a few years.

          So, you expect the U.S. to double the software industry to accommodate the new lot, presuming they even have what it takes to retrain. And they'll be competing against India and, I presume, China, and every other country figuring to get in on software.

          Numbers are important.

        • That's 3.5 million drviers in tne US alone. How many globally? 10 million? The automated truck industry is not going to require 10 million programmers. It is only being DONE because it requires a vastly smaller labour force to support it ongoing.
      • "What employment sector can absorb the 3.5 million truck drivers who will be replaced with automated vehicles?"

        Automated-vehicle theft inspectors.

      • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

        If you want to try out your analysis of silly, start by trying to answer "What employment sector can absorb the 3.5 million truck drivers who will be replaced with automated vehicles?".

        If you knew that you'd be rich. Economics is like geology - it isn't about predicting the future, but finding out how things work and why things happen. In general, when an industry becomes obsolete, or replaced by another industry, the replacement industry spawns a bunch of other jobs. Another way to look at it is capital used to do one thing is freed up to do another. Also, making transportation cheaper makes everything cheaper, driving prices down.

        So far this has happened in most industries. The importan

      • It sounds as if those 3,5 million jobs will dissapear tomorrow. They wont.
        1. Autonomous vehicles are nowhere near where they need to be to be able to work in 99.998% of all situations. Sure they may work great on highways (most of the time) but try to get them to navigate those tiny streets in and old city with mixed vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Thats going to be fun
        2. People leave the business all the time, this applies to transportation business too. Some truck drivers will die, others retire others wi

    • The real problem is these new jobs require more and more for the people to be smart, creative and ambitious.
      Those jobs where you clock in do the same thing everyday and punch out will be gone.
      Remember about 50% of the population has below average intelligence there is a good part of the workforce who just doesn't have what it takes in today's economy.

      • That may be true for mentally handicapped people and those truely unwilling to learn at all (tiny minority).
        However most people are surprisingly flexible, intellectually. Drop a below average kid into a class full of geniuses and they will improve drastically just to keep up. Even if they may not reach "genius level" they will certainly surpass their previous level.

        Same applies to grown ups. At first it may be difficult for them to adapt, but most will eventually.

        • Meanwhile the rest of the class is bored out of their skulls waiting for the new kid to have the teacher explain it to them for the tenth time. I've seen it happen in a university course where someone (not me) spent a third of the lecture not grasping the idea before the professor shut him off and said to see him during office hours. By that time most of the class was ready to kick him into the hall, and not gently.

          Not everyone is a genius. Just like everyone is not cut out for university. That's perfec

      • The same was true 100 years ago, 200 years ago, ... You really think bookkeepers had the education to use Excel? Cotton pickers to operate the gins? Or hunters to plan out a years worth of farming?

    • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

      by HanzoSpam ( 713251 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @09:21AM (#53326219)

      Sure, automation creates new jobs, But not everyone has the wherewithal to be a software developer. High-skill jobs will always exist, but how many will be available to all of the truck drivers displaced by self-driving trucks?

      • by Kaenneth ( 82978 )

        Maybe we can have more artists, and more time to contemplate art.

        Or more youtubers and reality TV shows.

      • Software development can be a high skilled job but entry level skills can be obtained in months, which is not coincidentally, how much training time seems to be involved with learning to be a long haul truck driver in the USA (I see quotes of about two months of full time study for the formal exam around the internet so maybe call that three months when employer training time is included). Three months of full time study isn't going to make you a well paid programmer but that's plenty of time to learn basic

    • by Alomex ( 148003 )

      Finally an article that goes against the nonstop doom and gloom tone of seemingly every single report on automation.

      Indeed, according to these reports every single job is about to be lost to robots and AI. What they fail to mention is that in the latest robotic competition a robot couldn't even transfer a shopping basket of sundries from one box to another.

    • by Ramze ( 640788 )

      It's not silly. It's inevitable. Previous industrial and tech revolutions helped people to do things better/faster and sometimes replaced people in jobs. This one will replace ALL manual labor. Beyond that, it'll replace many office jobs, and eventually even high skilled jobs.

      It doesn't take a crystal ball to see the writing on the wall. Everything a human can do physically at work can be done faster, better, and cheaper with a robot. Sooner or later, AI will be able to do everything a human is menta

    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      According to the very summary, automation creates new jobs - and automation, quote, "also ends up performing previously-nonexistent jobs".

      So how many of those new jobs created do you really think are going to go to humans, who will demand such crazy things as not working 24/7?

  • by sulimma ( 796805 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @07:40AM (#53325861)

    New jobs - due to innovation or due to other reasons - is what macroeconomics call "growth".
    Less jobs for the same effect - due to automation or for other reasons - is what they call an increase in "productivity".
    Both effects are measured and reported by various sources.

    For the last decades growth has been lower thant productivity gains. These measurements include all the effects he is listing.
    The projections for the future are worse. Some of these projections take all these effects into account.

  • Not automation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by altrent2003 ( 904021 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @07:42AM (#53325869)

    "There was never a job opening for a drone pilot until there was something to fly,"
    A drone is not automation. A self driving drone that knows what to pick up and where to deliver it autonomously is automation. It doesn't need a pilot.
    I'd be concerned ordering market research studies from this man's company.

  • by blackest_k ( 761565 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @07:48AM (#53325885) Homepage Journal

    I've automated a few production lines and the reasons for the automation was to reduce the number of people running the lines. What does happen is a skilled maintenance engineer is required to fix problems on that line and generally a few other similar lines. That can result in the loss of 100 jobs and the creation of 1.

    Some processes can result in totally unmanned sites and people only are needed on site when the equipment reports a fault actually often not even then since a backup system tends to come online.

    It's not a bad thing to automate jobs but there is a cost to communities when the jobs go.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Another important factor we tech people often ignore is time: it takes time to learn a new job, so even if automation does not affect the total number of jobs, the new jobs will require different skills. The pace of tech change is so rapid these days that it becomes challenging to retrain works quickly enough to take their new jobs without catastrophic loss of income. The U.S. offers minimal care for displaced workers, which is the real problem.

      We need automation, even if it reduces the need for those wor

      • by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @10:42AM (#53326615)
        Another important factor we tech people often ignore is time: it takes time to learn a new job, so even if automation does not affect the total number of jobs, the new jobs will require different skills.

        And there's a non-zero cost to that retraining, which in the vast number of cases is expected to be borne by those that have been displaced. I'm guessing that most people that find themselves out of work aren't going to have the wherewithal to drop a few tens of thousands of dollars to learn what they need for a new career.
  • It is also true that for centuries people did not go to the moon. And then, in 1969, they did.

    History is not always a guide. In fact, due to technology, history never repeats - only human behavior patterns repeat.

    What is different how is that it is very likely that AI will attain human level thinking ability within the next decade. And that _is_ a game changer.

  • by iCEBaLM ( 34905 ) <icebalm.icebalm@com> on Sunday November 20, 2016 @07:57AM (#53325925)

    "There was never a job opening for a drone pilot until there was something to fly,"

    That's right, because actual pilots in manned aircraft did those jobs before drones.

  • by cellocgw ( 617879 ) <cellocgw&gmail,com> on Sunday November 20, 2016 @08:02AM (#53325943) Journal

    Yes, it's true that every automation, starting with steam engines to run mines, led to an explosion of new job categories.

    But what he's missing is that the concept of "everyone should get a job" is just plain wrong. The increase in productivity, and in automation, ought to lead to a situation where goods are so plentiful that we do not need to work, or maybe only work 20 hrs/week for 15 years before retiring. The whole "work ethic" thing arose from two events. The first was humans drifting out of their natural habitat into regions hostile to survival, necessitating a "work or die" paradigm. The second was the development of communities with leaders & followers, in which sooner or later the leaders stop working but spread the gospel of hard work -- which the proles must do to support the leaders.

  • Making things like BandAids and tooth brushes today would be impossibly expensive without totally automated production. Automation in manufacturing is generically at least a century old.

    Originally in pre-Christian times, the only people who could afford steel blades were the rich. Bessemer invented the oxygen furnace just before the US Civil War which "automated" the ability to convert iron to steel allowing the world to have massive amounts of steel at low cost.

    That put a lot of less efficient people out

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @08:15AM (#53325977)

    There is quite a high price to pay for ignorance here. Minimum wage finally gets a reasonable plan to increase which addresses many positions, and the greedy response from corporations? "Innovate" to replace these humans who are always bitching about a living wage with automation. We're seeing it everywhere, and that's no illusion. Care to tell me how the McDonalds corporation is creating jobs as they move to kiosks to replace cashiers? Next will be automating the food line. I would envision not a single human needed in a McDonalds store within 20 years, and a single "manager" monitoring hundreds of automated stores from afar. And that's but one example. Wait until the same touchscreen kiosk shows up at your local Starbucks, with a machine making your coffee, replacing those human baristas always demanding more pay. Robotics can also replace surgeons too, so don't dismiss the attack across the entire employment spectrum.

    And without some rather massive education reform (which will continue be the constant recommendation if you want to "go anywhere" in life), not everyone is going to be able to afford to go six figures into debt before they can even buy their first new car.

    Yes, future innovation may create some jobs, but automation is working hard to replace thousands of jobs that are a launching pad for those trying to pay for an education, or start a career. Without that launching pad, the future looks quite bad.

    • > replace these humans who are always bitching

      I hate to break it to you, but I've read texts from the Pax Romana era describing how to do this. People have been replacing labor with capital basically forever.

      • > replace these humans who are always bitching

        I hate to break it to you, but I've read texts from the Pax Romana era describing how to do this. People have been replacing labor with capital basically forever.

        I hate to break it to you, but the end result of humans being replaced has resulted in suffering and difficult times no matter what era it takes place in.

        TFS attempts to paint over that pain with an innovation brush, as if that is magically going to keep history from repeating itself.

    • Minimum wage is an easy thing to shout at.
      It may kick off automation several years early, but it doesn't triple labour costs.
      If your employee costs 1/3 of a robots purchase price per year, minimum wage pushing that to half might or might not cause you to get a robot.
      In five years, when the robot costs a third of what it does now due to a few thousand of them being installed, the difference between 1/3 and 1/2 is not meaningful.
      Unless the buisnes is either unusually principled, or compelled to keep the labou

  • "There was never a job opening for a drone pilot until there was something to fly" :rolleyes:

    There was something to fly before drones, airplanes. And they had one or more crew per aircraft. In comparison, drones have multiple aircraft per "pilot", and that pilot has far less to do.

  • ...it took a year to check all of the calculations needed to produce the atomic bomb and that work was all done by humans. Imagine how history might be different if even one of them had a pocket calculator.

    Apparently this statement refers to people working at the Manhattan project. They had a variety of computing machines [atomicheritage.org]. Feynmann described the process also.

  • When we replace menial jobs with specialized jobs, those people who are A) too young to have the ability or intelligence to do these new jobs or B) are too stupid to learn will still be pushed out of employability. When we replace the menial jobs, the new jobs generated can't necessarily be filled with the people who were pushed out in the first place. Not everyone is smart enough or determined enough to do anything but flip burgers and say "Hello" at Wal-Mart. Some people are just not useful and at some po
  • automation displaces specific people in specific jobs. It happens all the time. Look at the coal miners in W Virginia. If ever there was work that was best automated, drilling and digging coal is it. We can say it's a great thing that fewer people are having to risk their health and lives to dig coal, but that ignores what happens to the people who were doing that. Jobs are created for the people who design, build, and maintain the coal mining robots, but that doesn't help the guy who lost his dirty, d

  • So automation won't displace human workers because new jobs will be created for humans to do... Isn't that the definition of displacement?

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @09:05AM (#53326153)

    The beginning of automation saw a replacement of human and animal muscle power with water and (later) chemical power. There was little displacement going on, and the increase in output was a necessity anyway due to there being severe shortages. No problems here, quite the opposite.

    The next wave was the replacement of menial work with mechanical work. Especially in agriculture a lot of farmhands were replaced by machinery. Low skilled jobs were eliminated in favor of higher skilled jobs that again increased output. This did displace workers and was one of the reasons of the early problems with working poor in the early days of the industrial revolution, where farmhands that were out of a job now moved to the cities where industries offered them.

    Next in line were industry jobs getting the same axing, with more streamlining and fewer low skilled jobs being replaced by mechanical workers. This was buffered by the emerging service industry that could gobble up the eliminated low education workforce. That we were fighting world spanning wars around that time sure also helped.

    Fast forward to today. Again, jobs are being replaced by robots. This time around, though, none of the former buffering and mitigating factors come into play. We do not need more production. We already produce more than we can sell. By some margin and then some. We also cannot put more people into the service sector, 3 out of 4 people are already working there, and a service industry is highly dependent on people having spare spending money, so these people will not be moving towards another industry branch. They also cannot move anywhere because there is nowhere to go where jobs are being offered.

    This time around this is going to sting.

    • Back when automobiles started to be mass produced, it had to be done LOCALLY. Furthermore, companies were focusing on GROWTH back then, not cost savings. The name of the game for Ford was to become the biggest company. There is no room for these companies to grow any more and they must focus on cost savings in order to keep their shareholders happy. Growth requires more jobs, cost savings requires the exact opposite. Unless we have companies that intend to grow with local labor the average person is sc
    • You are correct. Human thinking is now being replaced. And the pace of change is happening too fast for natural attrition to other work (whatever this "work" might be - possibly digging holes and filling them back in exchange for a government stipend). This time it's different.
  • ...even one of them had a pocket calculator.

    Yes. Human calculators out of work. War ends a year early, putting thousands of military and factory workers out of work....

    You get the idea.

  • by jovetoo ( 629494 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @09:47AM (#53326335) Journal

    I can't word it differently. The man is right in every respect but it doesn't actually diminish the problem in any way.

    The main problem I see is not one of disappearing jobs it is one of pace of change: the type of jobs change so much faster than most of our population can handle, faster than ever in history and the pace keeps increasing. If you replace the garbage man with a robot, he won't be training AI neural nets or become a drone pilot... for more reason than one: he will need training (he is unlikely to be able to afford it), he will need certain abilities he might lack, he might not be mentally flexible enough anymore, ...

  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @10:01AM (#53326411)
    Fast food restaurants are going to be the first to automate. This alone will kill around 100 million jobs in the US. Furthermore, these aren't just 100 million 'generic' jobs like everyone tends to think of them as, but these are 100 million jobs that a student can do.. you know, the very kids that are supposed to be out there working hard to support their education so they can make it in the world. You can't tell me there will ever be 100 million drone pilots in the world, so this article has a long way to go to explain that.
  • by laird ( 2705 ) <lairdp@@@gmail...com> on Sunday November 20, 2016 @10:26AM (#53326529) Journal

    For most of history, anyone who was able and willing could find a job, because the vast majority of jobs could be done by nearly anyone with perhaps a few weeks' training. There are also skilled jobs, like doctors and engineers, based on deep training.

    With automation, the large bulk of jobs can be automated, meaning that people who are able and willing can't get work because the work isn't done by people anymore. For example, look at coal mining - 90% of the jobs were eliminated by coal companies buying huge industrial equipment that can get the coal out at lower cost with 10% of the number of people. Those jobs aren't coming back. And many manufacturing jobs are being automated, because it's cheaper and produced more consistent output.

    What that means is that people able and willing to work are unemployed, or at the very least get paid wages 1/2 what people were paid decades ago to do the work (in constant dollars).

    And as automation continues to improve its capabilities, and gets cheaper and cheaper, more and more jobs will be automated.

    GIven that society can produce things for 1/10th the cost, that means that we could easily provide everyone with food and housing for free. Sadly, in the US, some "Christian" people are so terrified of the idea of anyone getting anything for free, they'd rather force millions of people to be homeless and starve, just because their jobs were eliminated.

  • by jimharris ( 14678 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @09:08AM (#53331257) Homepage

    Denying the impact of automation is like denying climate change. We can now build machines that are more efficient than humans. Soon we'll be using machines that are smarter than humans. Whenever I read modern science fiction stories I ask myself could a machine replace the main characters in their jobs. Quite often I think they can.

If I'd known computer science was going to be like this, I'd never have given up being a rock 'n' roll star. -- G. Hirst

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