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Construction Firm Balfour Beatty Considers Drone Workers 129

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the mechanical-ones dept.
cagraham writes "International engineering and construction firm Balfour Beatty is considering using drones in order to construct walls and monitor work sites, among other things. Beatty CIO Danny Reeves, speaking at the Fujitsu Forum, said drones could improve efficiency and safety on sites. He also talked of implementing sensors that would monitor worker's stress levels and bodily functions, and notify management when they became less effective, or mistake-prone, on the job."
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Construction Firm Balfour Beatty Considers Drone Workers

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  • by burni2 (1643061) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @06:04PM (#45379137)

    Boss: Can't be, your bladder is only 85% filled, you must give 120% !!

    Brave new Odity

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 09, 2013 @06:16PM (#45379181)

    What we envisioned: Man overseeing the construction robots doing their elaborate dance.

    What we got: robotic sensors collect every bit of observable data, so that the man can be put into good use with highest efficiency.

    • by turgid (580780)
      *sigh*
    • Well, the question is: When will the drones get the power to automatically fire an "underperforming" worker?

      • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gma i l . com> on Saturday November 09, 2013 @07:17PM (#45379489) Journal

        The bigger question is how long are we gonna keep this broken system we call capitalism? Like it or not Star Trek had it right in that once the tech reaches a certain point capitalism doesn't work and I'd argue that for the majority we are already there.

        Lets face facts, the entire basis of capitalism, trading labor for capital, is already dead. Like it or not the true moral of John Henry was that you could work yourself into a grave and still not beat the machine because it never gets tired, never hurts or gets sick, doesn't take bathroom breaks, it will work 24/7. Its quite obvious that we are already reaching the point that the majority simply isn't required to work as their labor is worthless when compared to the machine. Hell we are already at the point that corps like Walmart and Mickey D's have their wages paid by the government in the form of aid, why? Because if they had to pay a living wage they could just replace the workers with machines and end up better off, less errors, better performance, the human will always be at a disadvantage compared to the machine. You could replace the entire staff at a Mickey D with a modern computer controlled assembly line and it would run like Swiss watch, the people just aren't needed.

        We have already seen the "just educate the masses herpa de derp" is a failure, the massive student loan defaults drive a stake through that particular lie, so what to do? I would argue the only thing one CAN do without having massive revolts is to simply pay the masses not to work, just as we pay farmers not to grow, because like it or not we are quickly reaching a point where the tech has made us humans obsolete.

        • by Musc (10581)

          I agree that one day we will likely reach a point where machines can do so much that the only work that people need to do would be the research of inventing better robots. And since you can't expect your average person to be able to do that level of research, nor would you need the whole world working on it, most people would be unemployed and we would need to replace capitalism with something else. Probably the new system would have to reward the people who do invent better robots, to encourage further i

          • But sadly not enough of them. How do you plan to solve that issue? By paying the "lucky" ones that get one just barely enough for them to get by and hoping the others simply die and don't kill you because you're in their way to food?

            • by Musc (10581)

              I thought today's unemployment was due to a recession, not automation.

              • Does the reason matter?

                Unemployment is like a bullet. When you're at the receiving end, do you care who was to blame for you getting it?

                • by Musc (10581)

                  I agree completely, but what does this have to do with the conversation we are having?
                  This conversation is about robots replacing humans thereby putting people out of work.

                  • OK, then back on topic.

                    I do think that the advances in robots, or technology in general, are directly tied to the cost of the human workforce. Only with an expensive workforce there will be technological advances. If necessity is the mother of invention, then I guess profit is the father. If it's cheaper to simply employ humans to do menial work than to design and build robots, no robots will be built. So if your goal is to employ as many humans as possible, you should consider enslaving them. Or just do wh

                  • by Musc (10581)

                    And more to the point, the reason for unemployment is critical to understand, if you wish to find a solution.

                    If there are no jobs because we have unlimited resources due to cheap energy and robots, then the solution might be socialism.

                    If there are no jobs due to wallstreet screwing us over, then regulation might help.

                    If the problem is too much government interference, then maybe the conservatives are correct.

                    I don't have the answers, but you need to know the cause if you want to make things better.

        • The bigger question is how long are we gonna keep this broken system we call capitalism?

          We will keep it until we find something better. That hasn't happened yet.

        • Somebody has to design the machines, build the machines, maintain the machines, recycle the used up machines, generate the power the machines consume, and provide all the food, clothing, shelter, entertainment and government (police/military protection) that those people need.

          I think the real question becomes: what are we going to use money to allocate, and what are we going to provide "for free" out of the tax base. Before anyone gets up at arms about "nothing comes for free" stop and think for a second a

          • by Optali (809880)

            Somebody has to design the machines, build the machines, maintain the machines [...]

            Yeah, but as it seems from this thread they don't consider us poor overworked IT staff as part of the Human species.
            Hmmm, now that I think about it... this may be the answer for why the guys in the other departments don't even notice us...

        • by aekafan (1690920)
          Go read Nancy Kress' novel Beggars in Spain. She had an answer to that question, and probably not not one you would like. When those in power realized they no longer needed the underclasses, the lower classes were eliminated. With prejudice, outside the US, at least. Seems grimly plausible to me.
        • by Kiuas (1084567) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @12:13AM (#45380777)

          the entire basis of capitalism, trading labor for capital

          Uhm, that'd be wrong. The basis of capitalism is the ownership of the means of production.

          Yes, it also implies that since everyone owns their own bodies, they're free to trade the labor provided by their body - be it mental pr physical - to capital, but that is not what the ideology is founded upon.

          You're entirely correct in that western societies are fast approaching a point wherein the need for low skill (ie. uneducated) labor will be zero. This means that we societies at large need to figure out how to best handle the masses of people who don't want to or cannot be educated and thus cannot employ themselves in a future where there is no need for manual labor. Personally I think that a person's ability to live and enjoy a decent standard of living should never be dependent on how much they are able to work.

          However, it is important to realize that even if we agree to this, it does not mean the end of capitalism. Even if we an use machines to do work faster and better, those machines need to be built. And even though we will most likely end up at a point wherein we use machines to build those machines we will still need raw materials to do so. Even if we figure out a way to build a machine, which will produce anything we can think of, that machine will still be limited by 2 factors:

          1) the resources available and
          2) the energy needed to run the machine

          Now, theoretically we can even eliminate the 1st one of these. But supposing we manage to build a functioning replicator, unless we figure out a way to get unlimited energy to the replicators it will still be constrained in how much stuff it can produce. As long as this is the case, meaning; as long as there exists any sort of material and/or energy-production scarcity, some form of capitalism will exist. Why? For the simple reason that if we need to utilize some finite resource to produce stuff, somebody will need to provide those resources.

          Using the example of star trek, supposing we have the capability to replicate anything, I want to replicate myself an entire starship. If we have unlimited resources this will be no problem, because we can simply replicate entire starships or even fleets of starships to anyone who wants them. But if we have limited resources, producing a starship for me will mean that we can't produce a starship - or anything else using the same amount of resources - for anyone else.

          That is to say as long as we don't have infinite amounts of energy and materials, we cannot simply give anyone anything they desire. So if both me and Bob want a straship, but we can only manufacture 1 of them, what basis do we use to decide which one of us gets it? There needs to be some way to determine how the finite resources are to be allocated unless you're just advocating for a model of society in which anyone can ask for anything and someone randomly chooses which items get produced (and for whom). This doesn't necessarily mean we'll always have a money based economy - simply that as long as there is any type of scarcity there will also be supply and demand, and the demand has to be quantified in some way. I can say I need a starship more than Bob does and therefore I should be the one who gets it, but need is an entirely subjective concept and is of no use unless I tell, why I need it. I can say I need the starship to explore the galaxy and seek out new materials and life, and Bob can say he needs it because he really likes piloting a starship. Both are valid reasons for wanting a ship, but if we only have the resources to fulfill either my wish or Bob's, whoever controls the starship-factory will have to decide who he'll listen.

          This is where the true basis of capitalism lies: the ownership of the means of production. Whoever controls the manufacturing, controls the supply. If Bob owns the replicator, he can simply build a ship for himself no matter how good arguments I might present to him for why I

          • by rtb61 (674572)

            KISS, keep it simple stupid. So, reality check. Need vs Greed, Humanity vs Psychopathy, Socialism vs Capitalism. Reality here, the current crop of greedy psychopathic capitalists at the top will kill as many as they need to in order to stay at the top and turn the majority into body slaves of one form or another. For the sane majority the choice is how early to nip this insanity, the later, the more will die and the more brutal it will become.

            NEED vs GREED, that is what it is all about.

          • A "basic income" is one way to deal with this, and is also described in Marshall Brain's "Manna" novel. So, you get a set number of ration units every month as a human right or right of citizenship (or in Manna, from stock holdership).

            Excellent example related to rationing with the conflict over who gets the starship. Currency can be useful for rationing. See C.H. Douglas on Social Credit in Wikipedia on why money is better to signal demand than as a store of value. However, there are multiple ways to signa

        • by fritsd (924429) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @07:13AM (#45382293) Journal
          It probably depends a lot on the cultural and moral values of each society: in a society that believes in the values of capitalism, the economic values will trickle up to the "1%", who will be quite happy with all the money and power and replacing all those potential "saboteurs" (original meaning) with obedient factory robot slaves.

          Until the inevitable revolution, of course, when their heads will be proudly paraded around by their own industrial robots (operated by the workers).

          In a society that believes in the values of socialism, I't imagine that this trend would evolve into the logical extreme of a basic income [wikipedia.org] ("too much to die from, but too little to live comfortably"). A bit like the old people's basic pensions in Europe. Motivation is that it's better for the "1%" that all old people grumpily can afford their apartment's heating bills and a monthly bag of potatoes, rather than the obvious shame of having the people that built up your society and paid income tax all their life, begging and starving and freezing in the streets.

          An important factor in social democratic thought in Europe was, that the masses need to be educated, to free them from the chains of ignorance that the bosses wrought ("the police exists to keep you obedient, the director exists to keep you poor, and the priest exists to keep you ignorant and happy with your lot").

          But as you point out, educating the masses won't help much if they still will be unemployed/unemployable, because UNLIKE the early 20th century, they will never reach the level of income necessary to buy the capitalist goods (computers and 3D printers excluded).
        • by Optali (809880)

          Mate, you don't work in IT, do you?

          Because else I don't understand how you can even consider putting "machines" and "less errors" in the same sentence ;)

           

      • Never! Are you nuts, that could eliminate management positions! Never chop off the branch you're sitting on.

    • "What we envisioned: Man overseeing the construction robots doing their elaborate dance. What we got: robotic sensors collect every bit of observable data, so that the man can be put into good use with highest efficiency."

      Good to see people starting to think about this. To generalize along those lines, see my essay here: http://www.pdfernhout.net/recognizing-irony-is-a-key-to-transcending-militarism.html [pdfernhout.net]
      "Military robots like drones are ironic because they are created essentially to force humans to work like

  • by richlv (778496) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @06:17PM (#45379185)

    the latter part sounds like the beginning on "manna" - computer system in a short story somebody linked to in ./ recently.

    http://www.marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm [marshallbrain.com]

    creepy.

    • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @06:36PM (#45379281)

      I hate that story... no matter how many free energy robots you have, they can't build you a home on Lake Washington if all the lots are already taken. Nor can they arrange 50,000 people to *all* have the front row at a popular concert.

      The economics of it make no sense.

      • by femtobyte (710429) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @06:56PM (#45379367)

        The main part of the economics that don't make sense is trusting a secretive technocratic savior, wielding trillions of dollars of resources, to actually give a shit about helping out all the low-level peons who initially funded the system. It's an extremely elitist vision, that, by people's parents handing over investment money to a small cabal of technological geniuses, their kids will be handed a post-scarcity utopia on a platter --- instead of the wealthy technocrats simply joining forces with the rest of the oppressive oligarchy, laughing at the suckers who gambled away their children's futures on promises of technology serving the people rather than vice-versa. The story provides a well-founded criticism of the use of technology/Taylorization to enslave the masses, but the solution offered (post-scarcity salvation handed down from a technocratic elite) is absurdly prone to failure (i.e. the typical pattern that a technocratic elite will be just as self-serving as any other authoritarian elite handed control over human society).

        • I just think the author didn't want to end on a dystopian downer...
        • by maxwell demon (590494) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @07:21PM (#45379515) Journal

          Except that if you look closer at it, the utopia isn't a real utopia. If you don't follow the rules, you get re-educated ... where did I hear something like this, again? Ah, right, from communist countries. Where people really did not enjoy their re-education. And you get an operation which essentially gives the system complete control over you (the system can control your body for you, cut off your sensory perception and inject arbitrary artificial perceptions. And it is installed operatively, so you cannot just remove it. And apart from the word of a single person (who itself has that system implanted, so how can you trust that person, or even that you are really speaking to the person herself, for which you also have nothing but her word), you have no guarantee that it really will work for your best.

          So why would this be set up? Well, to deal with the potential trouble makers, of course. The narrator of the story has several times tried to leave the zone she has to remain in. She's clearly someone who might cause serious trouble sooner or later. So she gets the control system implanted. Like all the other potential trouble makers. And to make sure they don't resist it, they get told this nice story about the Australian paradise. When they notice that they have been tricked, it is too late: They already have that system implanted in their head (and also, they have to remove something from the brain to install it; what function does this removed part normally perform? Maybe something related to critical thinking?).

      • I agree that you can't have 50,000 in the front row of a live concert, but think for a minute about a bank of 4K cameras feeding multiple walls of video monitors around the world - people in the remote locations would have better views of the performers, and probably equal sound, though they couldn't climb up on stage or heckle... post-scarcity access to popular concerts won't be 100% like being there.

        And, of course, part of the fun I had in being front row at a show with an estimated 300,000 attendees was

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        Nor can they arrange 50,000 people to *all* have the front row at a popular concert.

        Sure you can, it just means there are no seats between the stage and about 4-5 miles away from it.

    • Reminds me of that skit that The Yes Men did. Check it out. [youtube.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Because in every employee survey about why morale is down, and turnover high, the answer is consistently "because the boss isn't watching me enough." :-P

  • by sethstorm (512897) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @06:27PM (#45379227) Homepage

    In addition to adding drones to its workforce, Balfour Beatty is exploring the possibility of incorporating “body area networks” into its work-sites. Such networks consist of wearable tech devices that monitor various bodily functions such as heart rate, stress levels, and hydration. For companies, the idea is that such networks could alert management when individual workers stress or fatigue levels make them ineffective on the job, or even a danger to themselves and others.

    If anything, it'd be more likely to be used to get rid of soueone that is hard to fire(e.g. whistleblower, minority, union support) while maintaining a clean excuse. They'd just point to the sensors and fire/not renew the contract of the worker.

  • by Rigel47 (2991727) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @06:28PM (#45379237)
    This is all well and good and inevitable but society really needs to think hard and fast about what we are going to do with a future where there are only so many jobs available for people with a shovel or a wrench. It used to be something like 30% of the nation was involved with food production. Thanks to industrialization that's now 1-2%. Even the last bastions of farm work -- fruit picking -- is being inched into by robotics. The farm hands who left the fields and went into the factories are now finding themselves being replaced en masse by sophisticated machines.

    In the utopian fantasy the rise of the bots means the people have more leisure time and devote themselves to intellectual pursuits. In the reality playing out they go on disability and other "safety net" programs and lead meager lives of not-so-quiet desperation. As it is there are now more people going on disability than entering the work force. The economics of all this is just disastrous. From the government deficit on down to the generation of kids being raised in food stamp households the situation is untenable. One can only hope we find a path forward that does not involve increasing social decay and civil unrest.

    It's a brave new world alright.
    • what about a basic income CEO / EX pay caps / taxes and a OT limes can all help in that.

      Why should some be on the disability bench while others are pulling 60-80 hour weeks?

      • what about a basic income CEO / EX pay caps / taxes and a OT limes can all help in that.

        Say what?

      • by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @07:44PM (#45379643)

        what about a basic income CEO / EX pay caps / taxes and a OT limes can all help in that.

        Why should some be on the disability bench while others are pulling 60-80 hour weeks?

        I'm going to take a lot of heat here, but the fact is, people have different talents. Unless your job is exceedingly simple, you aren't going to just plug another person into it. Not everyone is cut out to be the CEO, and not everyone is cut out to work on construction or work on the highway.

        The Disability issue is an extremely interesting one. Many of the recipients are 50 plus year olds who have been displaced from local factory jobs. While they usually want to work, they have essentially no options. Training that they might have is in a field that doesn't exist any more, and where they are at, there are no where near enough jobs available. And packing up and moving somewhere else is a bad option, their best hope would be to gat a jobe at a fast food place making near minimum wage. Even if they were to do that, fast food is becoming the new province of college graduates, while once upon a time it was entry level work for the young. Now the average age of a McDonald's woeker is 30. Fast food has become a career option. But it is a career option that qualifies you for food stamps and other subsidized living.

        So these thousands of virtually unemployable people need some option. So enter disability. Most people in their 50's have some physical issues. But like other 50 year olds, most are capable of working. But of what use is packing up your life, moving to another city, still not getting a job, or if you are lucky enough, you'll still be on the federal or state dole?

        Alternatives are letting these people starve, or perhaps churches can open soup kitchens ala the Great depression. Then they can go live under bridges or something.

        There really aren't many good alternatives.

    • by Fwipp (1473271)

      You make two contradictory points:

      1) There will not be enough jobs, because machines will supply all we need.
      2) This lack of jobs will result in not enough supply.

      Also, do you get your news from Fox? Cuz that whole figure about "more people on disability than working" includes all people in a household where one person receives assistance (like, kids, the elderly, stay-at-home moms) and also includes people with full-time jobs (cuz min wage doesn't pay enough to not need government assistance).

      • You are making a bold assumption: Just because there will be enough for everyone, it will be distributed in a way that everyone has enough.

        The current reality points against that assumption.

      • 2) This lack of jobs will result in not enough supply.

        I don't see any mention of lack of supply in his post. Simply that there will be an increasing number of people that can't afford stuff, because they have no work, and they aren't getting much welfare.

        (cuz min wage doesn't pay enough to not need government assistance).

        Which is scandalous. It should be raised to the level where a full time minimum wage job doesn't ordinarily require top ups from the government.

      • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rsilvergun (571051) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @07:33PM (#45379581)
        because you're ignoring the core problem he's discussing because he didn't name it: idle capacity. The wealthiest Americans have 40% of their net worth in cash [cnn.com]. They're not investing. They're grabbing all the wealth and grinding the US economy to a halt. If anyone calls them on this and suggests we use the gov't to address the idle economy they're shouted down with cries of "Theif!" and "Deficits!".

        Basically, we have enormous idle capacity in our economy and it's getting worse because we're racing to give ownership of everything to an increasingly small number of people, and these people can't possible use that idle capacity. No matter how greedy you are there's only so many hours in the day to buy stuff with...
    • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

      In the utopian fantasy the rise of the bots means the people have more leisure time and devote themselves to intellectual pursuits. In the reality playing out they go on disability and other "safety net" programs and lead meager lives of not-so-quiet desperation. As it is there are now more people going on disability than entering the work force. The economics of all this is just disastrous.

      We are in a disruptive stage of the "brave new world". But imagine the other disruptive stages we've had. At one point, almost everyone was subsistance farming. Along comes machinery like the steam engine, which multiplied man's ability to do work. Instead of mules or humans pulling the plows, we had steam engines, from cable plows to steam plows. The steam power also made it possible to run machinery which at one times was run by hand, or by water wheel power. This made it possible for relatively few worke

      • by femtobyte (710429) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @01:06AM (#45381109)

        The only reason technological advances have benefited the working class in the past is Luddites.

        That is, the working class organizing into labor movements saying "give us a cut of the improvements in production, or we'll bring your wage-destroying, employment-destroying factories to a grinding halt." The wealthy elite love spinning a narrative where technological improvements come along, and the elite generously hand out the benefits to the working class (so everyone should uncritically love technological improvements). But, throughout history, the only reason technology hasn't been an unmitigated disaster leading to starving masses of the unemployed is that those potential starving masses of the unemployed *fight back* and demand things like minimum wages and maximum working hours to re-distribute the benefits of mechanization. We need Luddites (who, rather than misunderstanding technology, understand its impacts best) to keep up the good work of striking fear into the hearts of the ruling oligarchy, and making sure We The People aren't left in a post-employment, post-getting-food-on-the-table dystopia of maximized profit.

        I am a Luddite, and proud of it.

        • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

          The only reason technological advances have benefited the working class in the past is Luddites.

          At what point do we say "No more progress, as it is bad for the working class?"

          Should it be at the time of Hunter-gathers? The initiation of agriculture? The wheel? Feudalism and serfs? Should it be at the time of subsistance farming? Steam powered Factories? The birth of th automobile? Computers? The internets?

          Fact is, and you may wish to dispute it - We ALL live much much better today than we did in the past. My Great Grandparents had huge families with one or two children who survived to adulthood.

          • by femtobyte (710429)

            You're not great at reading comprehension, are you? The point of my post above was not that I want to "stop technology" and say "no more progress," but rather to bring down Ned Ludd's hammer on applications of technology that steal from the working class to enrich the wealthy elite (who didn't actually invent the technology, but just choose to deploy it in manners destructive to humanity). I have no "fear of progress" or desire to revert to some pre-industrial agrarian society. However, I demand that "progr

            • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

              You're not great at reading comprehension, are you? The point of my post above was not that I want to "stop technology" and say "no more progress," but rather to bring down Ned Ludd's hammer on applications of technology that steal from the working class to enrich the wealthy elite

              Which part of the industrial sabatoge that they performed helped them and not your wealthy elite? Or am I also experienceing a deficit in mind reading as well as my obvious poor comprehension?

              A large part of the Luddites objection was the new looms that would put the more skilled workers out of jobs in favor of less skilled workers. A situation not at all unlike the one being discussed in this very article.

              After persusing your two posts, it's pretty obvious that you would be better off with dealing wit

    • This is all well and good and inevitable but society really needs to think hard and fast about what we are going to do with a future where there are only so many jobs available for people with a shovel or a wrench.

      This is a recurring fallacy that you are not remotely the first person to point out. Your argument is predicated on the assumption that someone that works with a wrench or a shovel will be unable to do anything else valuable to society in the future. So far every time this argument has been made it has later been proven false by future events. We are tool builders and over time we have built more and more effective tools. These tools eliminate some jobs and help us create new ones. Furthermore labor co

      • Your argument is predicated on the assumption that someone that works with a wrench or a shovel will be unable to do anything else valuable to society in the future.

        I can't speak for the OP, but I, at least, understand that there are people who can be useful, productive members of society working with a wrench, a shovel or a pushbroom, but can only be useful that way. What are they going to do when all of those jobs are automated out of existence? That's not to say that we should stop all progress, or
    • With all due respect why do we need to change anything. If you don't work you don't eat, because you haven't earned the right to eat (what's that old line? Coffee is for closers?).

      To do otherwise is to rob Peter to pay Paul. How can you morally and legally justify taking money from group A to give to group B? I don't think you can safely say: because it's in the best interests of both groups, because if it's in the interest of group A then they'll do it on their own (Enlightened Self-Interest) and if it
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by maxwell demon (590494)

        The trouble is everything above makes perfect sense

        Everything except the one fundamental premise on which the whole argumentation is built:

        If you don't work you don't eat, because you haven't earned the right to eat

        You must eat in order to live, and to live (and therefore by extension, to eat) is a fundamental human right which you do not have to earn. Since the basis of the argumentation is invalid, the whole argumentation falls down.

        • by epyT-R (613989)

          Even before industrialization, when humans were nomadic, eating was earned through back breaking labor.. so no, it's not a 'fundamental right.'

          • by femtobyte (710429)

            Or, through the support of your fellow human beings who shared a little of their "backbreaking labor" to help out those less able. There is abundant archaeological evidence that early humans kept the elderly and injured around long past their "usefulness" for hard labor, so far as scant resources allowed --- indicating that valuing others for something more fundamental than their capability to work has been part of the human psyche since the first humans walked the Earth. Only modern Homo capitalisticus rej

      • by Anonymous Coward

        With all due respect why do we need to change anything. If you don't work you don't eat, because you haven't earned the right to eat (what's that old line? Coffee is for closers?).

        Let me put it in flippant language so we'll all be sure you understand:

        Because when a large enough subset of the population - rightly or wrongly - feel they can't work, and thus can't eat, they start cutting off people's fucking heads en masse.

        That is why we have to change things.

        Frankly, if you choose to rule the masses, regardless of your political bullshit, you're partly responsible for the well being of those masses. And if you fuck them, they're going to fuck you. Much harder, because they are, after

      • by Musc (10581)

        If automation enabled us to produce food without anybody working to produce the food, then why would you have to earn the right to eat?
        Food would be zero cost so it could be given out for free and nobody would suffer.

        The owners of the robots might not like this because they want to get paid. So the poor voters who have nothing to eat would vote for a welfare program that gives everyone free food, produced for free by robots. This is no worse than today's welfare, better actually because with robots it wou

        • by Musc (10581)

          And regarding your question of why does anything need to change, since people should be required to work to eat?
          This concept falls apart when robots have replaced most jobs and there is nothing useful work left for be to do to earn the right to eat.
          What then? Let everybody but the 1 percent who own the robots be fabulously wealthy, while 99 percent of the world starves to death?
          This conclusion directly follows from the premise that you need to work to eat. Is that what you want? If so, you are worse than

      • Because if me and my family are starving and you have food, then I'm going to kill you and take it. You can give me your bullshit Randian lecture about the morality of it before I put a bullet in your head, but it certainly won't save your life any more than the divine right of kings saved the Czar. All it will do is make me feel even less guilty about doing it.
    • by fermion (181285) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @07:40PM (#45379619) Homepage Journal
      The answer is a 30 hour work week.

      Look, higher efficiencies have tended to lead to less hours dedicated to survival. While some research has indicated that a hunter gatherers actually worked less those based of fixed agriculture, for recorded history is does seem that the average number of hours required to subsist has decrease. For much of history those that worked worked all the time. When formal government and royalty emerged, peasants certainly never got a day off. Judism may be several centuries old, but we don't know when anyone started getting a day of rest. Certainly Christianity has only been giving some workers a day of rest for a couple thousand years. I suppose the American slaves worked seven days a week, at least a partial day.

      So through the 19th century we has a 60-100 hour work week, with one day off. Kids worked. In fact kids working were such a ingrained part of the time that in some places when a kid was accidental killed there was a statutory payment made by the culprit representing the value the he had to the family.

      So that is another thing. Fewer people working. When we gained sufficient efficiencies, and enough wealth, we implement child worker laws. So four year old kids were no longer employed in factories during the industrial revolution. In 1904 children were regularly employed int he textile industry in the US. Want to know what killed manufacturing in the US? Cheap child labor. Wan to to know why we have child labor laws in the US. Because increases in efficiencies and a bad economy meant there were not enough jobs to go around for everyone. Except for agriculture which no one wanted to do. Which children continued to do until the later quarter of the 20th century. At which point immigrants became the primary agricultural worker.

      In the mid 19th century though, professionals enjoyed a 10 hour work day. and federal workers had an 8 hour work day. By the turn of the 20th century we had an 8-10 hour work day for most people, and many firms increased wages to account for the decreased time. It proved beneficial for profits, so the movement grew. Around the time that we stopped employing children in factories, the US also required employers to generally only ask for 40 hours of work, pay overtime, and pay a minimum wage. Again, because efficiencies to productivity were not being pass on the workers, unemployment was high, and clearly that many firms did this voluntarily indicated it was not bad for bidness.

      We do have a similar situation now. Gains in efficiencies are not being passed on to workers. In a generation or two many studies have suggested that most manual labor, even professional trades like lawyers, who have already taken a significant hit, will be greatly diminished as viable work. Engineering is expected to take a hit soon after that. The reduction from 16 to 8 was quick as the industrial revolution progressed. I have seen offices go to a four day week, and time will show that nomore work gets done in 10 hours than 8. It will be 32 hour week, then 28 hour week.

    • I'm sick and tired of hearing "what about unemployment" when every new piece of technology is developed. They will have to find something else to do, that's what. Do we need millions of blacksmiths making horseshoes today? Where are millions of unemployed blacksmiths? Do we need millions of cotton pickers? Do we need millions of farmers with scythes?

      Long term, developing technology and improving efficiency and reducing labour is always beneficial.

      There are slightly different problems. One is availabil
    • by DaveGod (703167)

      We could give them spoons?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      We'll pay people to shop. They'll serve the function of allocating resources by determining the hierarchy of currency distribution within the newly hybridized remains of capitalism. In other words, we'll still need people to legitimize the concept of competiton even after its been made obselete.

    • I dunno ... the whole known history of mankind seem to be one of increasing productivity (which is, basically, decreased need for labor) yet the dystopia from that never arrives.

      When dystopias do show up, they seem to come from systems of governance that are not based on voluntary cooperation and trade. Which kind of doesn't support the "we have to dump capitalism" meme.

      One thing that probably hasn't helped is pushing women into the outside the home workforce, which basically doubled the supply of labor fo

    • In the real world every single techonlogical advance ever has resulted in MORE jobs, better pay, etc etc etc.

      But I suppose if youre really worried we could abandon farming machinery etc, since its such a job killer.

      The farm hands who left the fields and went into the factories are now finding themselves being replaced en masse by sophisticated machines.

      Seems to me they could leave the factories for machine maintenance, or design.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      There's some speculative fiction called Manna by Marshall Brain [marshallbrain.com] over just this.

      It's a good story and describes exactly what happens - the rich control everything, while everyone else is on "welfare" and stuffed into overcrowded apartments and provided food. They're not allowed to leave and explore - just hang around.

      I won't spoil the ending - it's a good read and it shows one possible way to have robots provide us with what we need.

      In short, it's not about letting machines control US, but having us control

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "and notify management when they became less effective, or mistake-prone, on the job"

    We don't trust our employees in any way, and would rather spend money on better ways to catch and punish them than on making it worth wanting to work for us as usual.

    Because our HR department is ungodly huge and happy long-term workers don't need that many people interviewing their replacements.

  • All technology rests in eliminating human effort. We have now hit the tipping point where entire industries will be replaced with new technologies. Drones building walls is just the tip of an iceberg larger than our entire planet. 3D printing is about to take over manufacturing as well as the construction industry. Your next car may be entirely built by a 3D printer with bots used to assemble parts made by the printers. Considering that a Colt 1911A was recently printed in appropriate metals and i

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Your use of the term "unwashed" shows that you see yourself as some intellectual elite. Sorry Charlie, you are one of the "unwashed."

  • In future revisions to this, they may have their entire work crews living underground with shaved heads and all white clothing, enforce drug usage, and forbid sexual activity. "What's wrong?"
    • In future revisions to this, they may have their entire work crews living underground with shaved heads and all white clothing, enforce drug usage, and forbid sexual activity.

      "What's wrong?"

      The "forbid sexual activity" part. Because if you do that, there will soon be no work crews at all. Workers don't grow on trees, you know?

      • In future revisions to this, they may have their entire work crews living underground with shaved heads and all white clothing, enforce drug usage, and forbid sexual activity.

        "What's wrong?"

        The "forbid sexual activity" part. Because if you do that, there will soon be no work crews at all. Workers don't grow on trees, you know?

        It's a reference to THX1138. I haven't seen it a while. But if i recall correctly, sex was regulated.

  • Read Manna [marshallbrain.com] if you want a likely idea of how this will end up. But probably without the upside of The Australia Project.

  • Aren't those things called "Boomers"?

    Anyone has the phone number for Nene? The older one with pink hairs not the young blonde one.

  • Which way do you think the us would go on that situation?

  • by fritsd (924429) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @07:41AM (#45382401) Journal
    This story makes me feel a bit down, so I'll just dump the lyrics of the Dead Kennedys' prophetic song here, and go do something more useful than Slashdot:

    We're sorry but you're no longer needed Or wanted, or even cared about here
    Machines can do a better job than you And this is what you get for asking questions

    The unions agree sacrifices must be made Computers never go on strike
    To save the working man You got to put him out to pasture


    Looks like we'll have to let you go
    Doesn't it feel fulfilling to know
    That you, the human being, are now obsolete
    And there's nothing in hell we'll let you do about it


    Soup is good food
    You make a good meal
    Now how do you feel to be shit out our ass
    And thrown in the cold like a piece of trash?
    (etc. etc.)

    Link: http://lyrics.wikia.com/Dead_Kennedys:Soup_Is_Good_Food [wikia.com]. You'll need it, because Jello Biafra sings very unclearly even at the best of times.

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Sunday November 10, 2013 @01:10PM (#45384507) Homepage

    Have Rioters Nerve Stapled (Atrocity)?

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde

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