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Robotics Technology

Robots Join Final Assembly Line At US Auto Plant 223

Posted by timothy
from the season-one-episode-five dept.
moon_unit2 writes "MIT Technology Review has a story about BMW's new collaborative final-assembly-line robots. The move could be significant in the ongoing automation of work, as robots have previously been incapable of doing such jobs, and too dangerous to work in close proximity to humans. Robots like the ones at BMW's South Carolina plant will also cooperate with human workers, by handing them a wrench when they need it. Perhaps the next big shift in labor could be robot-human collaboration."
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Robots Join Final Assembly Line At US Auto Plant

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  • Coming Soon (Score:5, Funny)

    by evil crash (739354) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @10:58AM (#44873129) Journal
    Next the robots will want to unionize.
    • Re:Coming Soon (Score:4, Insightful)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @11:01AM (#44873151) Homepage Journal

      Nope, we're approaching 3 classes, Robot Slaves(who don't mind), super wealthy robot owners, and people who are expected to work in a world where work is done by robots.

      • Re:Coming Soon (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @11:16AM (#44873291)

        Robot designers? Robot systems integrators? Robot process engineers? Robot maintenance and field service engineers?

        Increasing productivity has historically been good for us. Less human capital spent on turning bolts frees up more for doing cool stuff. I don't doubt that there will be short-term pain for people who used to perform unskilled repetitive labor - but honestly they were losing their jobs to East Asians anyway. Sadly, retraining programs don't appear to work very well, so we might very well be stuck with a huge population dependent on public assistance throughout the remainder of their lives. But that is the short term view - the long term view is probably just as bright as other massive changes in productivity have been.

        • Re:Coming Soon (Score:5, Insightful)

          by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @11:21AM (#44873343)

          Eventually we will have to have a huge class of people either allowed to starve to death or cared for by the state. Some people are not ever going to be capable of more than manual repetitive labor.

          I think many nations will move towards extremely limited work weeks and high levels of social welfare. I think the USA will more likely go with more salaried employees who work long hours and a huge class of folks barely surviving. The salaried workers will be told by the media that these folks unable to find jobs are why they must pay high taxes and work long hours. The owners will profit even more.

          At some point every non-creative job can be done by a machine. Many folks will be employed making hand made items as those will be a novelty, or cooking amazing new foods and the like. Those will be the only workers left.

          • Re:Coming Soon (Score:4, Interesting)

            by somersault (912633) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @11:25AM (#44873365) Homepage Journal

            Sounds like it would be better to have everyone work one day a week, while everyone benefits from social welfare. Though it also sounds like severe taxes on having too many kids should be in order too.

            • by guru42101 (851700)
              I agree, a shift needs to occur in the expectation of what constitutes a full work week.
            • by DM9290 (797337)

              Sounds like it would be better to have everyone work one day a week, while everyone benefits from social welfare. Though it also sounds like severe taxes on having too many kids should be in order too.

              So tax the kids. makes sense.

          • I think the USA will more likely go with more salaried employees who work long hours and a huge class of folks barely surviving. The salaried workers will be told by the media that these folks unable to find jobs are why they must pay high taxes and work long hours. The owners will profit even more.

            What do you me will? Some would say we are already there.

          • Re:Coming Soon (Score:5, Insightful)

            by mjr167 (2477430) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @11:37AM (#44873503)

            Isn't that what they said about the industrialization of agriculture last century? Isn't it a good thing that we no longer need to perform manual labor? I hate picking up heavy things or performing mindless repetitive tasks. Hell, I have a robot to vacuum my floors...

            The economy is changing. Some fields are rapidly expanding and others are rapidly shrinking. As a result the people who are willing to accept the changes and adapt and move into the new positions will be successful and those who sit around go "woe is me! A robot took my job and I can't find another job turning this wrench a half turn every minute!" will be SOL and there will be no place for them.

            You can not stagnate the world just because you are comfortable in it. As an engineer it is my job to eliminate my job. I don't bitch about how if I automate this one step then I will have less to do. I automate it and say "thank god I don't have to do that anymore!" then move on to the next step. There are plenty of things that an industrious person can do to make a living. They simply involve stepping outside of the factory and doing something that actually requires thought and effort.

            • Re:Coming Soon (Score:4, Insightful)

              by jbmartin6 (1232050) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:05PM (#44873819)
              This old "people won't find work and will starve" horse is trotted out and whipped every time there is one of these 'robots now doing x' stories comes up. History says something else will happen, but this doesn't stop the doomsayers. Meanwhile, bring on the massive prosperity, robots!
              • by h4rr4r (612664)

                I am only speaking about the people who cannot do creative work. For you and me this will be great.

              • History says nothing: These events are unprecedented. The closest occurrence we have is the industrial revolution, but this could take it a lot further.

                • Re:Coming Soon (Score:4, Insightful)

                  by HornWumpus (783565) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:26PM (#44874093)

                  Bullshit. 90% used to work in agriculture. Now 1% do. The remaining 89% found something to do.

                  • by h4rr4r (612664)

                    Yes, but we are talking about a world where those jobs are all taken by machines. Imagine no manual labor being done by humans. Much of those 80% moved from manual labor on farms to manual labor in factories.

                    • That's a false premise. Without strong AI there is a _large_ chunk of manual labor that's not repetitive enough for robots to be more efficient then humans. Most basic example: Cooking good food.

                      The main point is; that it's not unprecedented for a majority of humans to shift occupations in a relatively short time.

                    • Cooking was just a single example. There are a million more. Robots suck at adapting, they're good at repeating. We still don't have robotic lawn mowers, just for a reality check.

                      If you want truly useless eaters, you should look to government workers. Not just no work, negative work.

                      If you want to postulate strong AI it changes everything. But it remains very far off. Theories aren't even there, much less practice.

                    • by mjr167 (2477430)

                      I welcome a world where we can all be artists while machines do the hard things. A world where people make long, successful careers out of creating elaborate fantasy worlds purely for my amusement... We often measure the success of a culture by its ability to produce art, even though art by itself is completely pointless.

                    • by JanneM (7445)

                      But unless the U.S. takes a huge turn to the left, disaster will result.

                      At which point the survivors|revolutionaries|a guy named Hank can pick up the pieces and build a new state that is better suited to the situation.

                    • by pnutjam (523990)
                      I agree, but I think there is room for robotics also. Maybe you key in your recipe and your timeshare robot comes over and peels the potatoes, fillets the fish, and washes your salad. After everything is prepped it places it back into the refrigerator and moves onto the next location.
                • Sure, if you expect 100% identical circumstances then nothing is precedented. This isn't a reasonable expectation. What history says is that when conditions change, humans adapt to them and find new ways to exist they don't' just sit around and give up because the old ways stopped working.. In a utopian future where physical needs are met by highly efficient automated production, who knows what people will use for exchange. I certainly don't. It may not resemble the "job" structure we are so fixated on toda
              • by P-niiice (1703362)
                Ordinary people won't benefit from the productivity. History says that THAT will happen, as it's happening now.
              • This old "people won't find work and will starve" horse is trotted out and whipped every time there is one of these 'robots now doing x' stories comes up. History says something else will happen, but this doesn't stop the doomsayers. Meanwhile, bring on the massive prosperity, robots!

                History also says that computing power will also double every few years (Moore's Law). And so far, that has been true, even past the anticipated limits. But past performance is no predictor of future results.

                In the case of labor, the trend over the last few years for people to move down to non-specialized jobs is not an encouraging sign. In past recessions, displaced people have either managed to stay in their old professions or move up to a more specialized one once the recession ended.

          • Re:Coming Soon (Score:4, Insightful)

            by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:00PM (#44873747)

            Some people are not ever going to be capable of more than manual repetitive labor.

            Some people, sure. But not "most people". I'll go so far as to say that 95% of people are probably biologically capable of going to college. We would need to straighten out our K-12 education problems first, and seriously tackle the problems of educating people in poverty, and those who are unwilling or unable to educate their children.

            The owners will profit even more.

            Unless we move to more consolidation and monopoly, I don't see why this would be the case. Robotic equipment doesn't magically remove competition - why should profit margins go up? If COGS go down, so will prices - not profits. Walmart will only be a single-digit percentage point profitable no matter what they do with robots.

            every non-creative job can be done by a machine

            Why not "creative" work?

            • I'll go so far as to say that 95% of people are probably biologically capable of going to college.

              With all due respect you're about 70% too high. If you honestly believe that all we need to do is "straighten out" our education problems by fixing only the educators you will be very disappointed by the results.

              • by MightyYar (622222)

                If you honestly believe that all we need to do is "straighten out" our education problems by fixing only the educators you will be very disappointed by the results.

                Did you stop reading my comment or something? LOL, I go on with: "...and seriously tackle the problems of educating people in poverty, and those who are unwilling or unable to educate their children." The schools are only half of the problem, and a big reason they are a problem at all is the population they are dealing with. We need to tackle the problem in a number of different ways. Changing the way we educate (and fund!) is one angle - another has to be direct intervention on the family level. We won't b

                • by h4rr4r (612664)

                  Good luck. You will need it.

                  You will also have to figure out how to handle sports and entertainment. Many people end up in poverty after thinking those were there ways out. Not every college player is going to the NBA.

                  • by MightyYar (622222)

                    None of these things are easy. Look how resistant people are to funding urban and suburban schools at the same level. Such a simple problem to recognize and solve, and yet here we are.

                    • by h4rr4r (612664)

                      Why would you expect anything different? The USA's current motto seems to be "Fuck you, I got mine".

                    • by MightyYar (622222)

                      I would argue that the problem of urban poverty affects the suburbanites, both by sucking away tax money and by increasing even suburban crime. Nearly every time they catch a burglar in my township, he comes from a bad section of neighboring Philly. We spend a lot on police because of Philadelphia poverty. We have a lot of Philly kids fraudulently attending our schools. We get the occasional dumped body near one of our creekside parks because some idiot thug thinks a wooded roadside 2 miles from his home is

                    • by h4rr4r (612664)

                      I totally agree, but these folks are way too myopic to understand that. They think only of the now, the immediate. This is the same reason they oppose healthcare reform. It is clear that anyone paying for healthcare is paying for the "free" care in the ER and those who skip out on the bill. Yet, they can't see that because it is one step removed from them.
                      The suburban town I live in just had every cop outside my place because someone was stabbed in the city and then drove out into suburbia to get as

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              There is no way 95% of people could go to college. Maybe 50%, maybe. Good luck with fixing an entire culture.

              Consolidation will occur, the first movers will have such an advantage they will buy up their competition.

              So far creative work has been something no AI can do. Also a lot of the appeal of these goods will be their handmade nature.

              • by MightyYar (622222)

                There is no way 95% of people could go to college. Maybe 50%, maybe. Good luck with fixing an entire culture.

                I won't fix it - it will fix itself, but only if it has to.

                Consolidation will occur, the first movers will have such an advantage they will buy up their competition.

                This is not new, though. Industries have moved toward consolidation since the corporation was invented - and maybe before that. Sometimes (ahem-Microsoft-ahem) we let it go on too long, but most of the time a monopoly gets stomped out.

                So far creative work has been something no AI can do.

                I don't expect that to last. People are using computers to figure out how the brain works. They can already model simple brains. Once they figure out how your specific brain works, they can make food that tastes perfec

        • There's an unfortunate problem with this historical trend. Human capability. The assumption is that robots will free humans to perform more sophisticated tasks. These tasks however require not only education/training the but mental faculties to perform. The workers being replaced are in those positions usually not because they wanted to be but because of limitations in either the former, the latter or both. If a worker is incapable of performing a tasks of a certain level of sophistication it really do
          • by MightyYar (622222)

            Since we are just speculating on the unknowable future, I can get away with a bit of optimistic fun, right? :)

            What if this increased productivity freed us up to have more education? What if we could devote the first 25 years of our life to purely academic pursuits? 30 years?

          • also taking the lower level stepping stones is bad for people who used to move up to the sophisticated tasks. College does not tech the missing skills. We also need more trades / apprenticeship like learning for some of the more sophisticated tasks.

          • by kwbauer (1677400)

            Seriously. The town I live in is full of people who could do more with their lives but have chosen to wait for the paper mills to reopen so they can have all the high paying jobs watching the dial so they can push the STOP button should the 3 levels of automation fail. Or they just hang out getting paid to do nothing.

            The main problem is that there is way too much incentive to not better one's self.

        • by invid (163714)
          People who are doing repetitive jobs right now at least have some sort of commercial value to society. I hate to sound draconian, but only with commercial value or military value does a population have any bargaining power within a society. If you have a significant portion of a population without commercial value, the question is whether or not they will be allowed to have any political power.
          • by MightyYar (622222)

            I'd argue that they will still have commercial value - I just don't pretend to be smart enough to know what value that is right now. I'm basing this on the history of productivity improvements. I share your fears, but also recognize that history is reassuring. It is natural for humans to fear the unknown.

          • If you have a significant portion of a population without commercial value, the question is whether or not they will be allowed to have any political power.

            Is that actually still a question? I thought we'd settled it already.

          • I think you are making the assumption that "commercial value to society" is a single measure. In reality, everyone has different ideas of value and this is what makes civilization possible. In this utopian future, for example, some or many may prefer to buy "robot free" goods just like people buy "organic" food now. Now that specific example may or may not work for everyone, it is just an example. My point is, since humans will always vary wildly in their preferences, there will always be opportunities for
        • by timeOday (582209)
          I hope you are right. What worries me is that, in the US, excess labor seems to have been a consistent (and increasing) trend for the last 40 years now. The value of labor here peaked and then started sliding in the 1970s. It only seems to be accelerating, since the adoption of rudimentary automation in previously-less-developed nations has now unleashed waves of billions of workers from subsistence farming. Luddites and marxists were wrong for centuries, but like peak oil, they must be right eventual
          • What worries me is that, in the US, excess labor seems to have been a consistent (and increasing) trend for the last 40 years now.

            Because of economic and political choices, not because of technology. Consider that in the Great Depression, there was something like 25% unemployment. In the 1950's there was far lower unemployment, despite greatly improved technology and far higher productivity. People worried that unemployment would increase because of the technology that was being introduced in the 1950's, like NC machine tools (replacing human machine tool operators, just as robots replace human assemblers), yet unemployment was very l

        • Robot designers? Robot systems integrators? Robot process engineers? Robot maintenance and field service engineers?

          A cottage industry compared to the Robot Slaves. One new job in robotics would replace at least thousands in manual labor. Maybe hundreds of thousands or even millions. Technology is the only limit.

          Either there needs to be a new economy of unimaginably trivial jobs (virtual pet caretaker, personal shopper, replacement of MMO NPCs with employees, etc) that pay a living wage (good luck) or it will turn out that the luddites were just early and a lot of people will be out of work.

          Interesting story, recently I

          • by MightyYar (622222)

            Either there needs to be a new economy of unimaginably trivial jobs

            You just aren't using your imagination. More unfounded speculation follows:
            1. The size of the labor pool could be reduced by increasing the number of years we spend in education, which is now necessary because unskilled labor is in low demand.
            2. Automation will keep the cost of goods low. Some goods may drop in price. This frees money up to buy more luxury or more complicated goods. This requires more automation, which in turn employs more high-paying people. Just like photocopiers vastly increased the dema

        • by P-niiice (1703362)
          There aren't many of those people you mentioned, and robots will be able to do those jobs. All of them.
          • by MightyYar (622222)

            "Will be able to do" does not mean "will do". It doesn't make sense to develop a robot to do one-off jobs. You need a certain amount of volume to make a task worth automating.

        • Robot designers? Robot systems integrators? Robot process engineers? Robot maintenance and field service engineers?

          These jobs are already done by computers and robots, mostly.

          Consider how many man-hours it takes to design/build/maintain one of these robots.
          Now consider how many man-hours it would take to design/build/maintain one of these robots without the aid of modern computers and robots.
          Even when it comes to making robots, a majority of the work is already automated.

          I agree with your final point though. The long term view is probably just as bright. I don't think, however, that the future will involve people

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Well clearly they should have picked their parents better and been born on third base like me.

      • by DM9290 (797337)

        Nope, we're approaching 3 classes, Robot Slaves(who don't mind), super wealthy robot owners, and people who are expected to work in a world where work is done by robots.

        You forgot the 4th class. The permanently underemployed.

      • super wealthy robot owners

        Decades ago many people predicted that only the "super wealthy" would be able to own computers, and decades before that the same thing was said about cars.

        “Automobiles are a picture of the arrogance of wealth ... nothing spreads socialistic feeling in this country more than the use of the automobile.” -- Woodrow Wilson

        So far, there is no reason to believe that future robots are going to be particularly expensive. I already have a Roomba and a 3D-printer, both easily affordable by any middle cl

      • by PPH (736903)
        Applicable advert [printfection.com]
      • by Da_Biz (267075)

        You may have forgotten "your basic pleasure model" ;-)

    • by CaptSlaq (1491233)

      Next the robots will want to unionize.

      naa.. the current unions will say that the robots need to pay dues.. and since they work all shifts, it's more like 3 or 4 workers.

    • by RichMan (8097)

      Can I have my Roomba take my place on the picket line?

    • Re:Coming Soon (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PPH (736903) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:11PM (#44873899)
      This, from 1955:

      CIO President Walter Reuther was being shown through the Ford Motor plant in Cleveland recently.

      A company official proudly pointed to some new automatically controlled machines and asked Reuther: "How are you going to collect union dues from these guys?"

      Reuther replied: "How are you going to get them to buy Fords?"

  • So what IS the plan? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @11:02AM (#44873165) Homepage Journal

    What is the plan for when no human need lift a finger? Are we just going to kill off all the unuseful population? Sterilize 'em, slap 'em on the ass, and send them off into the BLM land? Put them in uniforms and send them to war? Hook them up to the Matrix? Hmm, only one or two of these suggestions even sounds remotely plausible.

    We're on the cusp of having robots that pick fruit, for pete's sake. Floor-cleaning robots are becoming ubiquitous. Pretty soon the only jobs left to someone without an advanced degree will be plumber, and grade 1 robot repairman.

    • What, you've never watched Star Trek?

      When humans no longer need to do the work, then they can go bone green chicks across the galaxy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Are we just going to kill off all the unuseful population?

      We? No. After all, we have robots to do the dirty work for us.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      The Japanese have a robot that picks strawberries. Apparently it is faster than a human.

      Fortunately it seems that most Americans are unwilling to have sex with a robot, so there will always be some manual labour available.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      What is the plan for when no human need lift a finger?

      I don't think you really "plan" for this sort of thing - it just happens. People will do something. It used to be that 90% of the population farmed... what was the plan for them when farming started becoming more efficient? There was no plan - they moved to cities in desperation and I'll be damned if entrepreneurs didn't figure out something to do with all of those new warm bodies. It'll be like that. It will suck for some and be awesome for others, and in the end I think people will find some way to feed t

      • by Aguazul2 (2591049)

        I don't think you really "plan" for this sort of thing - it just happens. People will do something.

        What happens with most people when they have nothing to do is that they turn to distractions. What happens to a few is that they turn to their creative interests (I have enough interests to safely keep me busy until I die). But most people will be slipping into drug dependency or gang warfare or watching soaps 24/7 or gaming. Maybe soaps and gaming are the best we can hope for, actually. Keep them anaesthetised and out of trouble. If you want quality of life, you have to make it yourself. If the requirement

        • I knew a scumbag who scammed his way onto SSDI. He drank himself into liver failure before he was 50. There is already a LOT of that. Look at then numbers, SSDI is growing by a million scammers a year.

          Forcing them to work a shit job is for their benefit.

    • by alen (225700)

      new jobs will come up
      100 years ago people mostly read the bible for fun. today we have a trillion dollar leisure industry of theme parks, vacations, video games, etc

      money doesn't vanish, it will simply be invested into something else

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What is the plan for when no human need lift a finger?

      Minimum subsistence for those who choose not to work. Better living conditions and wages for those who choose to work.

      Same as it ever was - you don't have to lift a finger now to be guaranteed a minimum subsistence (food, some basic education, housing, clothing provided for by welfare and charity programs). If you want more than that, you work - as a robot janitor, as a robot accident clean-up guy, as a robot builder, robot programmer, robot repair guy

    • by worf_mo (193770)

      I may be a bit biased because this is related to the sector I've been working in for the past decade. But what's wrong with machines doing menial, repetitive and sometimes dangerous labor? Do you feel the same for all the office workers with their calculators, books and spreadsheets that have been replaced by ERP systems? Occasionally new technology "replaces" a person's job, but at the same time that technology creates new jobs (not necessarily as many, I concede) as it needs people who develop and maintai

    • by invid (163714)
      The jobless population will be hired as NPCs [amazon.com] in vast, ultra-realistic MMORPGs where they will supply amusement to the paying player characters; to be continuously killed, tortured, and humiliated by the ruling elite.
  • by tedgyz (515156) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @11:02AM (#44873171) Homepage

    That was a good example of human-robot collaboration.

  • by Spillman (711713) <spillman@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @11:15AM (#44873275)
    Robot human collaboration? I think you meant human cyborg relations.
  • by guanxi (216397) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @11:36AM (#44873487)

    The move could prove a significant in the ongoing automation of work, as robots have previously been incapable of doing such jobs, and too dangerous to work in close proximity to humans.

    The "ongoing automation of work" has been going on for centuries, and will continue thank goodness. Yes, that means rooms of human calculators were displaced by the device you are looking at right now, laundresses were displaced by automatic clothes washers, human dishwashers displaced by their automatic equivalents ... (and the last two helped half of humanity get out of the house and into far more rewarding, productive things).

    There is always more work to do. If you look at the jobs of 50 years ago, I expect a large portion are gone now, yet people have found new, more productive work. Where would the software developers come from if they were still sewing shirts and digging coal?

    The drawback isn't for society, but for individual workers. The economy as a whole becomes more productive, but the individual whose life-long skills become obsolete may be out of luck. We need to find a way to help and take care of those people; all of society benefits, while the entire cost is born by a very few.

    • The "ongoing automation of work" has been going on for centuries, and will continue thank goodness.

      The farmer has provided food and shelter for all the days of our life, said the turkeys. We therefore conclude that the purpose of a farmer is to provide our food and shelter, and that this will continue for the foreseeable future.

      "Predictions of our demise have no merit", they concluded. "We have abundant historical evidence to the contrary."

      • by guanxi (216397)

        OK, a reasonable point, but what do you suggest? Stop economic progress, the growth in productivity (if we could)? Should we have stopped in 1950? 1920? How would you and I be communicating?

        • People always complain that the march of technology will put people out of jobs, historically this has always been proven false.

          The issue here is one of similar contexts. If the current situation is the same as all the historical situations, then we can expect the same results. This is simple expectation learning from historical examples.

          I claim that the context is different this time. Looking at GDP per capita [google.com], we see the aggregate purchasing power is higher than the level needed for everyone to survive.

          St

  • Actually (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kilodelta (843627) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @11:55AM (#44873711) Homepage
    I believe there's a Kia plant in Kentucky where the vast majority of the car is assembled by robots. I couldn't find it but I once watched a video of it and it's fascinating.

    It essentially starts with roll steel, then stamping, welding, painting, final assembly and so on. It's completely removed the human labor component from automobile manufacturing. And one thing that amuses me - labor used to be the biggest expense of a car. Now it's electricity at a fraction the rate. So why do cars still cost so much?
    • by kwbauer (1677400)

      Labor is still the largest expense of the car. Well, previous labor is more accurate.

      GM's biggest problem is that they are actually paying more for retired union employees than for those working on the line. At one point, more than half the MSRP of a car was funding pensions and retiree health care.

      Paying someone $90,000 a year to install windshields also adds up pretty fast.

      • by kilodelta (843627)
        But with the government bailout of GM, didn't that drastically reduce the retirement liability? It may have preserved it for those already retired but those currently working are going to get the short end of the stick when it comes time for them to retire.
    • by femtobyte (710429)

      So why do cars still cost so much?

      They wouldn't "cost so much" if working/middle-class salaries had grown with increase in productivity over the last 3 decades. However, basically all the economic gains from productivity have gone to a tiny wealthy oligarchy. Consider a worker who could build 10 widgets a year and afford to buy 5 widgets back in "the old days." With improvements in technology, now a worker can build 50 widgets a year --- and gets paid enough to buy 4, because they're competing for jobs with all the other workers laid off wh

      • by tlambert (566799)

        Consider a worker who could build 10 widgets a year and afford to buy 5 widgets back in "the old days." With improvements in technology, now a worker can build 50 widgets a year --- and gets paid enough to buy 4, because they're competing for jobs with all the other workers laid off who now can afford to buy 0.

        Why didn't some of the laid off workers start 4 more businesses to soak up the additional productivity? Clearly, any worker they could hire would be 5 times more productive than before the change over, so now they can afford to start their won businesses and employ people, right?

        • by femtobyte (710429)

          Maybe because (a) laid off workers don't have a few hundred million dollars lying around to start up a high-tech factory (using automation to get high productivity per labor input), and (b) the market is already saturated with more widgets than a bunch of laid-off laborers can afford to buy. The people with the short end of the stick in capitalism (the working class) can't afford to start businesses when they're struggling to even keep a roof over their own head; only those already awash in money taken from

  • First they came for the weavers, but I was not a weaver, and so I said nothing.

    Then they came for the factory line workers, but I was in charge of programming the robots that took over that job so I said a whole lot of things about how to do it better. As I was paid a middle-class rate to automate a mind-numbingly boring job and remove the rote monotony of life freeing up a human soul to go do important things, I didn't feel particularly bad about doing it either. We're making the world a better place.

    And t

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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