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Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates 688

HughPickens.com writes: Claire Cain Miller notes at the NY Times that economists long argued that, just as buggy-makers gave way to car factories, technology used to create as many jobs as it destroyed. But now there is deep uncertainty about whether the pattern will continue, as two trends are interacting. First, artificial intelligence has become vastly more sophisticated in a short time, with machines now able to learn, not just follow programmed instructions, and to respond to human language and movement. At the same time, the American work force has gained skills at a slower rate than in the past — and at a slower rate than in many other countries. Self-driving vehicles are an example of the crosscurrents. Autonomous cars could put truck and taxi drivers out of work — or they could enable drivers to be more productive during the time they used to spend driving, which could earn them more money. But for the happier outcome to happen, the drivers would need the skills to do new types of jobs.

When the University of Chicago asked a panel of leading economists about automation, 76 percent agreed that it had not historically decreased employment. But when asked about the more recent past, they were less sanguine. About 33 percent said technology was a central reason that median wages had been stagnant over the past decade, 20 percent said it was not and 29 percent were unsure. Perhaps the most worrisome development is how poorly the job market is already functioning for many workers. More than 16 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960s; 30 percent of women in this age group are not working, up from 25 percent in the late 1990s. For those who are working, wage growth has been weak, while corporate profits have surged. "We're going to enter a world in which there's more wealth and less need to work," says Erik Brynjolfsson. "That should be good news. But if we just put it on autopilot, there's no guarantee this will work out."
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Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @06:25AM (#48615551)

    If the job still gets done it's a good thing that jobs gets replaced by AI.
    The flaw isn't in who does the work, but how the economic system around it is set up.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @06:46AM (#48615591)

      Agreed. If we ever reach a state where most things can be produced without significant human labor, and say 90% of the human population is unemployed because everything is produced automatically, there's a simple fix. Raise the corporate taxes and distribute the wealth. After all, corporates will be the only entities earning and money. And while it may mean that the owners get less, if everything is also much cheaper it still works out. Also, the owners will probably also be working a lot less since their job might be automated as well. Hence even if some owners would shut down a factory out of anger, some new owner would surely open a new factory.

      Of course there will be glitches and headaches but in the end, cheap means of production should benefit everyone as it always has in the past. Think of how piss poor we would all be if it wasn't for automated processes!

      • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @09:35AM (#48616315) Homepage
        But who's going to do the 10% of the work that can't be done by machines? If the system is set up to distribute the wealth, and nobody has to work, who's going to do the 10% of the jobs that still require humans. Sure, some of them will be interesting jobs, and you might find people lining up to do them, just to keep their lives interesting. But there's still going to be jobs that nobody wants to do. These kinds of jobs exist already, but people do them because they need money, and they don't have a lot of other choices.

        And that's at 10% of people working. Problems will become apparent in the current system way before that. Once you have 40-50% of people not working, it becomes essential that there's a system to redistribute the wealth such that people can live their lives. But then there's still 50% of people who need to work just to keep that going. And it's going to be very hard to convince people to go to work day in and day out when they can have a comfortable life doing whatever they please.
        • by Hodr ( 219920 )

          Even in utopia, where everything is provided for, there will still be an elite. Someone has to be first in line (unless all products are instantly available in any quantity). Someone will need to possess the one of a kind artworks or antiques. Property will always be a necessity.

          Perhaps in utopia having a job allows you to have more children and live in a bigger home.

          There are lots of ways this could play out.

        • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @10:39AM (#48616685) Journal

          Who cleans the toilets on the starship Enterprise?

          I also always wondered about the waiters at restaurants on Star Trek. Nobody needs to work. There's free energy and free food. I totally get the idea that some people would choose to submit to a military hierarchy for a chance to explore the galaxy and conduct research, treat the sick, engineer great things. Give me free everything and I'd still write code. I enjoy it. I'd do more, not less!

          But you still see people do shit jobs on Star Trek. I understand perhaps the barber on the Enterprise, or the waiters in Ten Forward. You want a ride on the starship, but you're not smart enough to get through the academy, so you sign on as a waiter. But there were still people doing this kind of shit on earth. Like at Sisko's dad's restaurant. Who the hell, given the wonders of the future, free of want and worry, says "I'm going to go wait tables for 8 hours at a stretch!"

          Maybe they get paid a lot. Maybe that's the answer to the "10% of people working" thing. Those people are paid a shit-ton. They get way more resources than everybody else. And they're the ones doing the worst jobs. Perhaps the janitor really will be the highest paid employee at the company.

          • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @11:52AM (#48617313)

            I understand perhaps the barber on the Enterprise, or the waiters in Ten Forward. You want a ride on the starship, but you're not smart enough to get through the academy, so you sign on as a waiter. But there were still people doing this kind of shit on earth. Like at Sisko's dad's restaurant. Who the hell, given the wonders of the future, free of want and worry, says "I'm going to go wait tables for 8 hours at a stretch!"

            Waiting tables isn't all that bad when you're not doing it because you have to feed your family and you have to work long shifts whether you're sick or not because you can't afford to take time off. Especially when you're dealing with a relatively affluent clientele that understands your explanation "Oh, the soup is cold because the replicator is on the fritz".

            I waited on executives and bused tables for everyone else at a corporate campus cafeteria while in college, and it was one of the easiest jobs I've had. They didn't even complain to me about the food if it didn't come out right since it was their own company's chef that prepared it. Food was so cheap to employees that it might as well have been free. Since it was at the workplace, everyone was nice and didn't leave any big messes or anything, the worst we had to deal with was when someone accidentally dropped a tray and we had to mop it up, but even then the tray dropper was very apologetic and helped to clean up. This is what I imagine waiting on tables in the Star Trek world must be like.

          • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @11:54AM (#48617335)

            Who cleans the toilets on the starship Enterprise?

            Nobody. That's why they have so much trouble with Cling-ons

          • by Matheus ( 586080 )

            Maybe a clear distinction of wants vs. needs? Take the Star Trek example: Energy and Food and Housing seem to be pretty much "free". You need to live? You can sit on your ass all day and live all you want. Transportation is also free so you can travel and see stuff and live and also do no "work".

            BUT If you want to do anything more interesting then either you're signing up for Star Fleet (military) or you're doing something more interesting "of value" that affords you the resources to do that.

            It's a radic

        • by Sir_Eptishous ( 873977 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @11:06AM (#48616917) Homepage
          40-50%?!? Really?!?

          All it will take is about 20%-25% unemployment for social order in the US to break down. The "thinkers" in govt, business and academia know this. The increasing militarization of the police, the complete disregard for the Constitution, the NSA monitoring everything, etc is getting ready for this. The canard of islamic terrorism was a good ploy and it has worked very well.

          As much as I love the idea of robots creating a paradise on earth for humans to live out their fantasies and do what they all really ever wanted to do, without the need for working,etc; I just don't see that happening. Greed will win out. It always has.

          Again I will reccomend the following good read on this subject: Manna [marshallbrain.com] by Marshall Brain.

          So again, the question remains, and will continue to for the foreseeable future, what are the millions of soon to be unemployed going to do? Who will feed them, house them, etc?
        • by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @11:11AM (#48616969) Homepage

          But who's going to do the 10% of the work that can't be done by machines? If the system is set up to distribute the wealth, and nobody has to work, who's going to do the 10% of the jobs that still require humans. Sure, some of them will be interesting jobs, and you might find people lining up to do them, just to keep their lives interesting. But there's still going to be jobs that nobody wants to do. These kinds of jobs exist already, but people do them because they need money, and they don't have a lot of other choices.

            And that's at 10% of people working. Problems will become apparent in the current system way before that. Once you have 40-50% of people not working, it becomes essential that there's a system to redistribute the wealth such that people can live their lives. But then there's still 50% of people who need to work just to keep that going. And it's going to be very hard to convince people to go to work day in and day out when they can have a comfortable life doing whatever they please.

          Automation was suppose to produce a 10 hour work week. That never materialized yet but that's probably the better direction to go.
          If most of the crap jobs disappear and there are more workers than jobs then maybe the solution is to make it illegal to work more that
          20 hours a week. Heck, if you just made it illegal to work more than 40 hours a week in the USA, you would instantly create millions of
          new jobs.

        • by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @01:15PM (#48618237) Homepage

          I actually think we're at the point where we can start to do this. There's enough wealth to give everyone a living-wage stipend without requiring that they have a job. Enough to cover food, shelter, clothing, and health care so no one ever has to worry about starving or freezing to death, but not enough for a lot of luxuries. To get more, a person needs to work at one of the jobs that automation can't yet do. As automation improves and is capable of taking over more, the line between "necessities" and "luxuries" will shift until, at the extreme when automation can do everything, everything will be classified as "necessity".

          There will be people who just don't want to work and are satisfied with the basic stipend. That's fine. I think that most people want to do some sort of job, though. They may not want to the job they have, or may not want to work as much as they currently do, but in general I think people like to have a sense that they're doing something useful. People will find a way to make some luxury money with their hobbies and by doing the things they like to do.

          But who will do the dirty work? Who will be the garbage collectors, the janitors, etc? I have a feeling that the current wage structure will be turned on its head. If no one has to do the dirty, dangerous jobs in order to eat we'll have to increase the wages to create the incentive. The person who cleans the toilets might end up getting paid more than the middle manager in the cushy office. This extremely socialist society might finally achieve the free-market ideal in the labor market by giving everyone the ability to say, "Screw it. I'm not getting paid enough for this bullshit."

          Yeah, the devil's in the details. This scheme has a hell of a lot of details to work out, and even in the best case I can't see any politically feasible way to get from here to there. I anticipate that we're going to have a very nasty time of it as the pool of workers grows and the pool of jobs shrinks, until the culture grows out of the "Why should I work to pay for them to be lazy?" mentality.

    • But humans have a long history of having to work in order to get food, clothes, shelter and other essentials. We have at least a cultural instinct, possibly a genetic instinct, to think that people who work a lot deserve to have a lot of possessions and status, while people who work a little or don't work at all deserve nothing. It's not going to be easy to relearn that instinct.

      Of course, there are already large swaths of people who do little to no useful work and have high social status...

      Maybe the short-

      • by ranton ( 36917 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @07:11AM (#48615671)

        Of course, there are already large swaths of people who do little to no useful work and have high social status...

        There has always been a small percentage of aristocrats in society who do not have to work because of their amassed wealth. Looking at how they spent their time is probably a decent indicator of how most of the population will spend their time 50-100 years from now. My guess is most people will put far more effort into their hobbies, and many of those hobbies will turn into part time jobs. All basic and even most non-basic needs will be covered by social welfare programs paid for by publicly owned mostly-automated industries. People will only work because they want to, and the very few undesirable jobs that can't be automated will pay excessively well.

        At least that is the best possible outcome. Their are plenty of dystopian possibilities as well.

      • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @08:33AM (#48615971) Journal

        I don't think this is right. While some people no doubt feel this way, as a society we rarely complain that some people have tons of possessions and status having done relatively little work. Lots of people inherit fortunes and we don't say its undeserved.

        What we do think is that people who put in a lot of effort should be compensated, and we do that with possessions and status. Which becomes a problem if nobody wants your effort anymore and you don't have possessions and status already how can you obtain them?

        Technology has always been in the business of reducing labor. The upshot has always been there has been more worth doing and society's wealth has increased. Once you don't have to have everyone hunting and gather constantly it frees time up, farming produces more food with less laybor resources so you start writing. Once you discover printing writing and copying takes less time, meaning more people can start reading; and it all snowballs. Fewer people are need to produce food, they produce other things.

        The last area where technology has not saved labor is thinking. Once humans are freed from having to do all the thinking there is very real possibility the machines will solve the automation of the last hard to automate physical tasks which exist. At that point labor will no longer have any value, in trade. Now individuals might take personal satisfaction in doing something by hand but nothing produced that way will be marketable.

        Trying to answer how society will function if it comes to pass that only capital is valuable and there is no value in labor and little in ideas is an interesting question. We are not there yet, not by a long stretch but the potential for it is looking less science fiction like all the time.

        • by LDAPMAN ( 930041 )

          We are in no danger of ideas having little value. We haven't achieved even rudimentary AI. Creativity will always have value.

      • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @08:39AM (#48615997) Journal

        We have at least a cultural instinct, possibly a genetic instinct, to think that people who work a lot deserve to have a lot of possessions and status, while people who work a little or don't work at all deserve nothing.

        Well, that varies by culture. People from the US and Japan, for instance, seem to worship work as a good thing in itself.

        As an Englishman, I would rather that everybody was able to live like Eighteenth Century aristocrats.

      • The economists rational makes no sense. First of all, AI creates more jobs than it destroys at the moment. There is currently no autonomous car to buy anywhere. No taxi, truck, bus driver has been replaced so far and no one knows when it will happen and if it will happen at all.

        Second thing, most examples given are low wages jobs, then the argument does not hold water if you pretend it is responsible for stagnation of the average wages, the average wages should go up if there is less people with minimum wa

        • Second thing, most examples given are low wages jobs, then the argument does not hold water if you pretend it is responsible for stagnation of the average wages, the average wages should go up if there is less people with minimum wages.

          If you destroy a low-wage job, the workers who previously did it become unemployed, and their wage goes to zero. Also, there's more competition for the remaining jobs, thus even non-zero wages tend to fall.

    • If the job still gets done it's a good thing that jobs gets replaced by AI. The flaw isn't in who does the work, but how the economic system around it is set up.

      The economic "system" in front of you today is slightly divided between the 99% and the 1%.

      And that gap continues to grow more and more every day, with the "system" not really giving a shit about those who are now unemployed, unless you want to define Government welfare as an acceptable "system" for the future.

      There will have to be a considerable model shift in the future. You may only have one citizen working for every 20 people. We can assume families won't grow that large, so this does mean a single in

      • by turbidostato ( 878842 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @08:44AM (#48616019)

        "That model doesn't really exist today other than by force (taxes), and it will be interesting to see how the great divide will handle that."

        What does make you think it will handle in any way? History shows that aristocracy is quite acquinted to do nothing about it and if 90% of population becomes unshelted pariahs, so be it. This has only changed when the 90-percenters have taken care of it by means of revolution and revolution only happens when the 90-percenters are really starving *and* the get a minimal support to revolt from some people of higher ranks. What makes you think this will happen again in the future?

    • If you can't trade your labor for food and people feel it's immoral to give you food, things will get very bad for a period of time.

      Then, like the luddites (who saw they were screwed- requested training on the new machines and didn't get it), most of the losers will starve to death homeless and then 20 years later everyone will refer to them the way we refer to luddites today.

      It's a fundamental challenge to capitalism.

      In the short term- fewer jobs will mean capital requires even more hours of those who do h

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @06:32AM (#48615565)

    That's what jobs used to be, work, stuff that you don't want to do, hence getting paid to do that stuff. Modern technology is invented by people who think: "That looks boring, dangerous and/or unhealthy. Let's find a way to get rid of that work." Destroying "jobs" is the very purpose of technology. If people find work that was previously unnecessary, then that's essentially a negative side effect (although usually combined with the positive side effect of a higher standard of living through higher total productivity). But still, "creating jobs" has never been the purpose of technology.

  • Take self driving cars for example. Once they're good enough to be on the road safely, insurance companies will notice that their accident statistics are lower than human drivers. So first of all they'll lower the insurance for them. Somewhat later they'll put up insurance for human drivers. Then after that some companies will refuse insurance for any manually driven car. Then they all will. And not long after that governments will ban human driven vehicles entirely from public roads.. I reckon this time fr

    • by jopsen ( 885607 ) <jopsen@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @07:09AM (#48615665) Homepage

      Now this might come as a surprise to some of the technokids out there - but some of us actually *like* driving and don't want a computer doing it for us.

      Well... The public roads aren't for joy riding. It's infrastructure for transportation. One might very well argue that you do not have the right to subject other people to unnecessary risk, just because you want to have fun.

      Luckily the US has plenty of desert and car-crazy people, so if public roads were closed to human drivers, I'm sure there'll be lots of race tracks and open areas were human drivers are still allowed, etc...
      Why should public roads be a government subsidized joy ride arena?

      • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @07:25AM (#48615711) Homepage

        There's a level in risk in life that most people are willing to accept in order to live life the way they want. Just because some people are happy wrapped up on cotton wool and kept away from any possible harm doesn't mean that sort of life should be inflicted on the entire population.

        • by jopsen ( 885607 ) <jopsen@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @07:53AM (#48615825) Homepage

          There's a level in risk in life that most people are willing to accept in order to live life the way they want. Just because some people are happy wrapped up on cotton wool and kept away from any possible harm doesn't mean that sort of life should be inflicted on the entire population.

          True.... But on the other hand, just because some people thinks is cozy to send telegrams doesn't justify that the government keeps a telegraph network running :)
          Well, some countries does have things like a ministry of culture, that subsidizes theaters and other useless things...

          With regard to the whole risk thing... I don't know.... The US is remarkably bad at being rational about that... Just consider the excessive airport/plane security vs. poor car standards, shitty roads, lack of driver education, crazy traffic laws and poor enforcement, etc... Or how you violate human rights (on many levels) in the fight on terrorism, while allowing people to own guns and refuse to talk gun regulation after a school shooting.
          Just saying, the discussion of risk in the US is very irrational :)

        • The risk associated with driving isn't just for your personally, but also for the life and health of others.

    • Lets dissect your post for a sec, shall we?

      Take self driving cars for example. Once they're good enough to be on the road safely, insurance companies will notice that their accident statistics are lower than human drivers. So first of all they'll lower the insurance for them.

      I agree, it only makes sense.

      Somewhat later they'll put up insurance for human drivers.

      This makes not sense at all. Why would they increase insurance for humans? Do you think humans will become more dangerous and reckless than they are now? Just because there are more self driving cars on the road? I completely disagree. I'd think that humans will be less prone to getting into accidents precisely because they'll be surrounded by more self driving cars, which are more predictable, better able to avoid accidents caused by

      • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

        >This makes not sense at all. Why would they increase insurance for humans?

        They already increase the risk for certain demographics. Why do you think they would refrain when the demographic is the entire human race?

        >This makes not sense at all. Why would they increase insurance for humans?

        Plenty of insurance companies don't offer insurance where others wood. Its a matter of cost. You're not going to bother spending money maintaining re-insurance cover if you can't recover your costs.

        > then as a soci

        • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @09:18AM (#48616215) Homepage

          In the USA there are only 2 cities with "perfectly good" public transportation. NYC and Chicago. Everywhere else it's a steaming pile of poop. Why do we have people driving everywhere? Because we have to, there are no other options.

          I will be driving from Chicago to Florida in 2 weeks. Why? because it's dramatically cheaper than Flying or taking the train. In fact taking the train from Chicago to Tampa is a 4 day ride that goes from chicago to WashingtonDC on down, and it's $450 per person plus $30 per bag. WTF is that?

          Public transportation in the USA is a complete and utter joke.

    • If you're worried about what'll happen to driving, look at what happened to horseback riding and sailing.

      If self-driving cars become a reality, car driving enthusiasts will probably settle down in an area where there is at least one good racetrack that they can frequent and racetracks will probably have garage spaces for rent, much like marinas have dock spaces for rent. So you won't have to drive your race car to your regular race track.

      Many towns will have a historic car day, say on a Saturday, when certa

    • by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @08:34AM (#48615977)
      My Uncle has a country place that no one knows about / he says it used to be a farm, before the motor law.......
  • by SuperDre ( 982372 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @07:04AM (#48615645) Homepage
    This is nothing new, we already knew this 10-20 years ago, hell even before that.. It's time to really start thinking about how to transform our society to one which isn't reliant on having a job (as most jobs will in the near future be replaced with AI/robots)..
  • ... over the short term jobs may be lost. They were after every previous advancement. But then the market found a place for the labor that was freed up in the process.

    What happened to all the men that used to clear wheat fields? At one time over 80 percent of the labor force was concerned with agriculture. Today it is less then 5 percent. What happened to all those men? Do you think they got jobs immediately? Look back to the industrial revolution. Look at the starvation, poverty, etc. What was going on the

    • by idji ( 984038 )
      I think we will experience a renaissance of personal creativity when AI automates all of the non-creative jobs. The twentieth century was an era of global businesses pushing their uniform products on mindless consumers. I would like to believe that the 21st century will be more colorful, individualized, personal and creative, with people doing interesting and satisfying work, because they are doing it for themselves and their families, not the corporate übermonster.
      Life is definitely better than 100 y
    • by javilon ( 99157 )

      1. Humans are able to do physical work. This was automated away.
      2. Humans are able to do repetitive manually skilled work. This is being automated away.
      3. Humans are be able to do repetitive intellectual work. This is starting to be automated away.
      4. A subset of humans are able to do highly creative / complex intellectual work. This will start to be automated away in about 20 years from now.

      Then what? I mean, as long as you define work as "something useful that needs to be done in order to solve some proble

      • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @08:56AM (#48616093)

        Humans are be able to do repetitive intellectual work. This is starting to be automated away.

        Its really not, we've made zero progress in actually making machines that can act intelligently and creatively. We can make at best imitations that try to fool one into thinking that there is creativity, and we can use brute-force searches on certain types of problems. Actual innovation is not something we have seen, nor (IMO) will we ever see from AI-- and certainly not until we make phenomenal bounds in understanding consciousness.

        • Oh, talk to the lawyers. Lots of them are being automated out of a job right now due to advances in pre-trial discovery software. Strong AI isn't necessary for this process to happen, expert systems will get us 90% of the way there.
    • by turbidostato ( 878842 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @08:54AM (#48616077)

      "... over the short term jobs may be lost. They were after every previous advancement. But then the market found a place for the labor that was freed up in the process."

      Yes. It's only that in the case of the industrial revolution it took, what? 100 to 150 years to recover. Are you ready to destroy the lives of yourself, your son, your grandson, your grand-grandson and the son of your grand-grandson for the one-percenters to be more wealthy?

  • Paraphrasing the work of Steve Keen;

    Taking out a loan to buy something, increases the income of the seller and the supply of money in circulation. A constant velocity of new loans, would result in a constant influence on economic activity. An accelerating amount of new loans will boost the economy and create jobs. The reverse is also true, decelerating loans will cause spending power to shrink and jobs will be lost. And this is borne out in economic data, there's a strong correlation between debt acceleration and change in employment.

    Now, since the 60's the level of private debt has been growing, to become a significant force driving the economy. While borrowing more to buy an existing asset does nothing to create real wealth, it does push up asset prices giving us the illusion of rising prosperity. While rising interest payments are draining real wealth from borrowers.

    The banking system should eventually go bust. Probably not tomorrow, but all we have managed to do so far is delay the inevitable. The loans they have issued cannot be repaid. The only question is how we are not going to repay them. Either we go bankrupt, or we find some other way to wipe off the debt.

    The Great Depression started with the stock crash of 1929, lasting for the next 10-ish years. But it was the rising debts of the 1920's that were the real problem. Through the depression, those debts started to reduce. But it took the huge spending effort and industrialisation, fighting WWII to really eliminate them. Setting us up for the boom years of the 50's and 60's.

    Our economic woes will not go away until we deal with the problem of our private debt. We may see another Depression, some parts of the world already are. Or we may see an extended period of stagnation. History doesn't repeat, but it sure does rhyme.

  • Whence the trend? (Score:5, Informative)

    by some old guy ( 674482 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @07:37AM (#48615765)

    Disclaimer: I've been an industrial automation engineer since the PLC-2 and System 1 were king. I'm still at it, killing jobs wherever possible. Not out of malice, nor with any joy in that, but just doing my job.

    TFA may be authored by a fuzzy-headed economist, but the core concept is undeniable. Humankind faces a surplus of employable bodies, and a deficit of employer positions, in the industrialized world. This trend can be compared to the situations in a lot of 3rd World countries. The industrialized nations, once fully built-out with AI and AA (Advanced Automation) will become 3rd world societies too. We're getting close to the tipping point already. There are only so many burgers to be flipped, and consumers with enough money to buy them.

    Nature used to auto-correct overpopulation problems, with food supply vs. demand being the major engine. Is that what we're going to see when the whole world becomes third world? All the attendant unrest and upheaval will not be pretty.

    My own solution: Enable and reward birth control wherever possible. Not as efficient as famine or genocide, but much less nasty.

  • Live by the quant, die by the quant you rich assholes.
  • Those were the people who actually had the balls and the guts to go and destroy the machinery that put them out of work - because they were literally redundant as soon as those machines were switched on.

    • And if they'd gotten their way, the "norm" for industrialized societies today would be 12 hour workdays, six days a week, and a standard of living comparable to the better sort of Third World country....
  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @08:03AM (#48615863)
    Back in the 60s and 70s they used to say that computerisation would give increased leisure time, with many of us working a 4 day week with a 7 hour day. I read that the predicted reduction in employment happened. The only problem is that it is shared out in such a way that some people can't get work or have to work on "zero hours" contracts for whatever time is available. The rest are over-worked and spend even longer in the office than they did in the 60s and 70s.
    • If you think about it, that was always going to be the outcome.

      There is a cost to hiring, training and retaining each employee, so if advances in technology made a task which required 2 men a week to complete, can now be done with 1 man in the same time, it will be cheaper to have 1 man work full time rather than 2 men work part time.

      The more specialized the job, and hence the more training needed, the more that is true.

      In tasks where the training requirement is very low, you have zero hour contracts being

  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @08:09AM (#48615883) Homepage
    Not so long ago we had a discussion about the Third Industrial Revolution, and how it differs from the other two. And there, exactly the same issue was raised. Both industrial revolutions before were able to increase the productivity of the single worker. The first one, with the mechanic loom and the steam engine, increased the output of the factories and the farms, setting people free to do more sophisticated work that was already present, but not enough skilled people were there to take all the research, engineering and construction jobs, that were open before or opening because the First Industrial Revolution needed them. The Second Industrial Revolution, with trains, motor powered ships, cars and airplanes allowed to increase the amount of goods transferred and lowered the prices for trade, because now transportation after production was cheap too, and we got globalization and international division of labor. Ever larger plants could now produce more products which then could be delivered everywhere, resources could now be shipped from everywhere, still increasing productivity and setting people free who were until then occupied with necessary, but rather unproductive jobs.

    But with the information revolution, the Third Industrial Revolution, the productivity increase didn't happen, or where it happened, it was only gradual. You can't mine iron much faster with more information at hand, crop yields don't increase with more information at hand. Travel times aren't reduced since several decades, and where they are indeed reduced, it's far away from what happened in the 19th and early 20th century. From a productivity point of view, the information revolution is a disappointment. Jobs get slashed, but there is no increase in the creation of actual wealth or value.

    • by burbilog ( 92795 )
      crop yields don't increase with more information at hand

      Nonsense. Crops yield more when agricultural information is applied. Crops yield much, much more when genetics information is applied...

      Travel times aren't reduced since several decades, and where they are indeed reduced, it's far away from what happened in the 19th and early 20th century.

      Travel time is close to 200 ms as packets travel around the world from me to US. Thus, my travel time to US is close to the speed of light in many cases (not

    • by orlanz ( 882574 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @02:30PM (#48619079)

      You can't mine iron much faster with more information at hand, crop yields don't increase with more information at hand. Travel times aren't reduced since several decades, and where they are indeed reduced...

      Totally disagree. Not to nitpick words, but information by definition is useful data that you can understand & incorporate. So unless you got a ton of just raw useless data (ie: just a simple text file of first & last names of every person who went on site) on your We Mine Iron Inc. server then the information would certainly speed up your mining to consumer operations. Same with crop yields. Information is just as useful and many times more so as mechanical efficiencies. If one doesn't see the increase in productivity, then they don't really have useful data (no information) or they don't know how to properly measure it.

      Travel times? Work from home. Video conferencing. Remote monitoring. Smart Grids. Smart Factories. Parking Reservation Systems. Online Shopping. Video Funerals! Another way to look at it is that travel time has been reduced from days & hours to 5 minutes.

  • Well, shit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @08:13AM (#48615909) Journal
    Now, I'm no optimist on the imminent-coming-of-strong-AI; but this I do know: The University of Chicago does not specialize in producing lefty-pinko-economists. They have departments with a much stronger liberal bent; but econ sure as hell isn't one of them. It's pretty much the altar of Milton Friedman, the school that made the 'Chicago boys' of Latin American, um, repute. If the UofC says that robots are screwing the proletariat, I'm going to err on the side of caution and suspect that the proletariat is screwed...
  • by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @09:09AM (#48616165)
    "We're going to enter a world in which there's more wealth and less need to work,"

    So what hey're saying is we need is a new method of distributing that wealth so that work is not the only way to obtain it?
  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @09:13AM (#48616181)

    About 33 percent said technology was a central reason that median wages had been stagnant over the past decade, 20 percent said it was not and 29 percent were unsure.

    Which means nobody has any real idea and the data isn't conclusive yet one way or the other. Furthermore economists are noted for being unable to come to a consensus. There's an old joke that if you ask 10 economists about something you'll get 11 opinions. If they do come to a consensus about something THAT is worth paying attention to. Otherwise it is pretty much business as usual. I also think that you'll find that those percentages correlate heavily with the political leanings of the economists being polled in this very unscientific poll.

    More than 16 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960s; 30 percent of women in this age group are not working, up from 25 percent in the late 1990s.

    Umm, perhaps that has quite a bit to do with the fact that we're still recovering from the Great Recession. You know, the economic problems of the last several years that have NOTHING to do with AI or automation and EVERYTHING to do with finance run amok? Hell, prior to the crash in 2008-9 unemployment was at historic lows.

  • by shambalagoon ( 714768 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @10:27AM (#48616635) Homepage

    Who wants jobs?

    Seriously, who wants to commute 5 days a week and work 8+ hours a day doing something they'd rather not?

    Let AI take all the jobs it can. As it does so, shorten the work week, provide more benefits to the people, and before long we're living in a utopia where more time is ours to work on our hobbies and spend time with our families and friends. Of course, we'd have to prevent private industry from owning all the robots and AI, less they become the de facto new government.

    My thoughts on this is that an arrangement could be made where private industry has to pay a monthly fee to the government - what amounts to a small salary - which goes towards benefits/income to the masses. Private industry gets work done through AI and robots at less than what it would cost to employ someone, and that money goes to the benefit of the people.

    Of course, it's more complicated than that, and that's just one possible scenario that could work. But the point is - the goal isn't more jobs, but a better life.

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