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Sunday, July 10. 2016
Posted by The Barrister in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 17:27 | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)
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I think it would get worse much faster than purely economic/political arguments suggest. "The Devil finds work for idle hands to do." People need to be needed. If they aren't they seem to find ways to make their presence known.
I notice that he doesn't talk much about servants. They're a form of wealth redistribution, and of conspicuous consumption too. In Liberia someone who had a lot of money was expected to have servants--both to make sure outsiders understood that he was important, and to make sure some of the money went into the rest of the community.
I don't like the prospect, but a personal-servant-based "industry" is one possible outcome.
From a supply-and-demand standpoint, this approach always has mystified me. If robots produce all the material goods we all need, they'll flood the market and everything we need will be cheap. Where is the power boost to the owners of intellectual and material capital then? And how is this development any important departure from the millennia-old process of automating all kinds of brute labor? Every time we do that, everyone has to adjust to the new reality, but it's not all downside. The guy who used to spend days making a stone hatchet by hand has to find something new to do, but he gets his new stone axes more easily from the guy who figured out how to make them faster, which frees up his time to hunt more food or figure out a new method of farming. Why do we always assume the process will turn tragic in the future? It's just buggy-whip thinking, as far as I can see.
Texan99: From a supply-and-demand standpoint, this approach always has mystified me. If robots produce all the material goods we all need, they'll flood the market and everything we need will be cheap.
The answer is right there, in the word "need". People didn't used to "need" a smart phone, or fresh underwear for that matter.
It makes no difference whether you phrase it in terms of need or want, as the supply and demand behavior will be the same either way. The easier it is to get one's hands on, the less it will go for in price, and the less leverage the providers will have.
The point is that needs change. While old needs will be fulfilled, new needs will arise. The price of a ticket to Hamilton reached $20,000.
Machines are about to get very good at doing a range of tasks that human beings have historically been paid to perform. By some estimates, half of current jobs are in danger of being replaced. If anything close to this happens, a smaller and smaller share of the human population will possess skills that make them more productive than machines.
Nonsense. Far more than half the jobs that existed prior to the Industrial Revolution were replaced by machines and yet somehow we don't have a couple billion unemployed and unemployable farmhands and weavers roaming around looking for the jobs the tractor and the loom took from them. "Adaptability" is one thing humans have going for them that machines don't. The jobs may disappear but the people will create new ones.
And it's not as if low-skill workers replaced by machines are forced to become high-skill workers or perish - as machines make the necessities of life cheaper the luxuries become more affordable and there's a vast market for things our fore-fathers would recognize as luxuries that we take for granted. You think flipping burgers at a fast-food place is the epitome of low-skill work? Once upon a time there were no fast-food places to flip burgers at. What do you suppose those people were doing back then? Some of them were highly-paid chefs for the rich I'm sure but I suspect most of them stayed busy developing consumption and becoming corpses. Fast food is a luxury that employs far more people than fine dining establishments ever did. I don't know what the 2050 version of fast food and the automobile culture wil be but there will be something.
Wow this could have been written by me, and I do fear a kind of hitech feudalism. I am often tut tutted at and called a Luddite; my betters reassure me that new and better jobs always come back. I thought maybe it was just me and that I don’t have the imagination to figure out what the jobs in the future will look like. I do take some hope that economies of scale do require mass production to be cost effective so there will have to be consumers, right?
What is a working person to do? Dems offer condescension and paternalism, accompanied by "subsidies, handouts, and fake make work government jobs. Reps offer condescension and disdain coupled with the opportunity to work multiple parttime deadend jobs in the “vibrant” service sector while they cheerlead the devaluation of savings and labor (offshoring, open borders). Coupled with technology, it is a perfect storm for undermining the Middle Class. And, yeah, I think the middle class is what makes America, America.
Granted there are different kinds of working people, those for whom autonomy and self reliance aren’t a big deal, have the Dems. But the folks who were brain washed to value self actualization and all those middle class values like accomplishment/mastery of a skill, work ethic, independence, self discipline, family life, fairness, accountability, saving, postponement of gratification, civic mindedness……….and contributing to the economic pie, have nowhere to go.
It’s not just technology, though it is the gorilla in the room, but instant global communication and globalization which reinforce each other. Globalization, on today’s scale, would not be possible without technology, 13,000,000 cu ft cargo ships, logistic and navigation technology, the ability to digitize almost everything.
So who is going to be the taxpayer, who is going to be the consumer, who is going to commit to an education, who is going to buy a house or make a long term financial commitment without steady, reliable, long term employment?
It sounds like these guys want to kill all the poor people1 They must be cops (/sarc).
Well, Marx did predict after capitalism had run its course, there would be socialism. Of course, he grew impatient, not unlike those who expect the rapture. Of course, socialism is a good bait and switch, so many of this acolytes used his flawed logic to seek the reinstate the servile ideology and control everyone else.
Someone will finally break free of the past, but it seems this is is beyond the current thinkers. A robot "takeover" will require a radical change to recent, last 400 years or so, human philosophy.
The work ethic promoted by Protestantism will shift. Defining ones self worth by job/work will have to change. Even now we see the damage of this obsession when older people are tossed of their job in the 50s.
The current education system, rather indoctrination system, is already obsolete. The system to create docile workers will only create idle people more prone to drug use than self productivity.
But so far, the "thinkers" have yet to deal with the fact that humanity crossed an inflection point in the early 20th century and continuing population growth is not likely to continue. This, of course, puts the socialism imposed on West on weak footing. But it is the reality.
And, given human history, rival factions seeking power will break the system and plunge humanity back to subsistence to start over.
Like most articles on this subject, this one doesn't provide much in the way of historical perspective.
Use of machines to displace human labor has been going on for a very long time. Is there really any evidence that what is going on now is truly a sharp upward break, rather than a continuation of a long-term trend? The productivity statistics would not seem to support such a conclusion.
Texan99..."If robots produce all the material goods we all need, they'll flood the market and everything we need will be cheap. Where is the power boost to the owners of intellectual and material capital then?"
A very good point, and reminds me of something Warren Buffett said. When Berkshire-Hathaway was in the textile business, and improved automation was on the horizon, he concluded that this was not good for his profitability: other companies could acquire the same technology, the benefits would be competed away, prices for consumers would fall, but return on capital for textile manufacturers would also probably fall.
The authors belong to New America Foundation, a progressive socialist org funded by Soros and others through the likes of Open Society Institute, the Ford Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Not exactly people who consider government of the people an ideal situation.
The essay makes this clear. They want a centralized, class-based government. They have no interest in letting the economy (i.e. individual people) work itself out. They want it controlled from the top down. Dangerous people.
The claim that machines will replace humans in all labour has been stated for hundreds of years, it ain't happened yet and probably never will.
Sure, the skill level needed of the average worker will go up, but then so does education.
200 years ago the steam engine was replacing the human powered treadmill to pump water out of mines, and people were afraid it would take their jobs. So afraid they sabotaged the steam engines, and tried to boycot mines using them...
No doubt the same happened when animals were first put to use to pull plows and sowing machines, instead of an army of human farm hands doing the same work...
Virginia Postrel, who is smarter than I am, believes that jobs will just keep moving to the value-added sector, including personalization. James's thought about servants may fit that, as does much of the art and style value that many are capable of adding. Looking at the aisles of your grocery store you can see that a lot of people are making some sort of living with value-added products.
Still, I worry. I am not as optimistic as T99 that just because it always has worked, it's always gonna. That people have wrongly predicted collapse for years is encouraging, but not proof that one of these times it really will be true. A lot of jobs have gone to the service sector, including the Exciting Food Service Industry, and many of those may become obsolete soon.
One point about skills: it is true that mechanization increases the need for a certain number of high-skilled workers, but it also deskills some jobs.
The power loom created job opportunities for engineers, millwrights, loom fixers, plant managers, etc...but it also created jobs for large numbers of loom tenders, whose jobs by nature were less skilled than those of the hand weavers they replaced.
A point-of-sale system in a store significantly deskills the job of a checkout clerk. At a higher level, the manager of a chain store outlet has lower skill requirements than the independent merchant he may have replaced: merchandise selection, inventory management, etc are done by systems and people at headquarters, while the independent merchant did those things himself.