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Does information technology destroy or create jobs? Debate heats up
Smart Planet ^ | October 31, 2011 | Joe McKendrick

Posted on 11/14/2011 5:04:36 PM PST by gitmo

Is information technology destroying more jobs than it creates? That’s long been the conventional wisdom, of course. Proponents of IT, on the other hand, point to the new types of opportunities created as a result of the march of technology — from programming to analytics to technicians.

However, two longtime proponents of IT as an opportunity creator — Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, both with MIT — have taken a darker view of IT’s impact on the economy.

In the latest edition of MIT Technology Review, David Talbot reviewed Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s new book: Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, and pulls out the observation that the digital economy may be favoring that 1% at the top of the pyramid while sapping opportunities at lower levels of the economy.

The first decade of the 2000s was a time of accelerating technology, accompanied by stagnant employment growth, the authors point out. Employment fell by 1% during the past decade, compared to 20% growth in the 1980s and 1990s. This is no coincidence, Brynjolfsson and McAfee say. For example, increasing automation has dramatically reduced the need for customer service workers across many industries, such as airline reservations or directory assistance, the authors point out. MacAfee also points out that “certain kinds of document examination once done by armies of lawyers—can now be done competently by scanning technologies and software.”

It’s not the labor-intensive or professional jobs that will be replaced by automation — top executives may see their roles increasingly automated as well. Just last week, SmartPlanet Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan reported on Gartner analyst Nigel Rayner’s prediction that within a couple of decades, “many of the things executives do today will be automated.” Rayner observes that the only thing standing in the way of more automated executive decision-making is “business culture.” But, “effectively, most of what the CFO, CEO and managers do today will be done better by machines,” he says.

In addition, as Brynjolfsson and McAfee observe, “intelligent assistants and question-answer software—of which IBM’s Watson is one example—may accelerate the trend. (Talbot’s review and the book were written prior to Apple’s Siri introduction, so the implications of intelligent assistants in the palm of one’s hand were not explored.)

The rise of robotic automation is another trend, and in the book, Brynjolfsson observes that global electronics manufacturer Foxconn “plans to replace many of its factory workers in China with a million new robots.”

The employment numbers for this decade that Brynjolfsson and McAfee site are disturbing, and technology may be to blame, at least to a partial degree. But these official numbers but don’t take into account the emergence and evolution of entrepreneurial ventures. And technologies such as cloud computing and social networking are providing immense, low-cost resources for new business creation. Many of these new ventures are off the radar.

Talbot also offers an opposing point of view as well: Nobel prize-winning economist Robert Solow, for one, says it has been the norm throughout the course of history for technology to throw people out of work. But in the long run, employment keeps growing, and wages keep rising.

At the IBM Watson University Symposium at Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan School of Management, McAfee moderated a panel on the role of computers in 2020 (live-blogged by Paul Gillin), in which MIT’s Rodney Brooks made the observation that the rapid development of IT in North America is providing a competitive edge in the global economy:

“We think manufacturing is disappearing from the US, but in reality there is still $2 trillion in manufacturing in the US. What we’ve done is go after the high end. We have to find things to manufacture that the Chinese can’t. What this has led to is manufacturing jobs getting higher tech. If we can build robotic tools that help people, we can get incredible productivity. The PC didn’t get rid of office workers; it made them do things differently. We have to do that with robots. We can take jobs back from China but they won’t be the same jobs. That doesn’t mean people have to be engineers to work. Instead of a factory worker doing a repetitive task, he can supervise a team of robots doing repetitive tasks.”

More discussion on technology’s impact on jobs and job creation is available from IBM’s live-blogging coverage of the IBM Watson Challenge symposium. McAfee points out that technology now offers organizations robust analytic toolkits that enable greater insights and predictions on market trends. (IBM is sponsor of the SmartPlanet site.) As Irving Wladawsky-Berger, former IBM executive and MIT lecturer observed at the symposium: “Cloud computing and other technologies can help entrepreneurs get started and build companies and hire people. So a lot of small companies will spring up—not the high tech companies but companies that take advantage of technology.”

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.)


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Front Page News
KEYWORDS: computers; it; jobs
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It has been my experience that IT eliminates the tedious chores in manufacturing and planning, and at the same time allows workers lacking refined skills to step into jobs that would otherwise be beyond their ability to execute.

A dispatcher can quickly do the tasks that would require 5-10 years experience to perform by using well-designed dispatching software. Likewise, someone who is not a craftsman can do the work on an assembly line that formerly took an experienced metalworker or woodworker.

1 posted on 11/14/2011 5:04:42 PM PST by gitmo
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To: gitmo
If we were all subsistence level farmers, there would be almost no unemployment.

Just sayin'

2 posted on 11/14/2011 5:07:03 PM PST by ClearCase_guy (I won't vote for Romney. I won't vote for Perry.)
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To: gitmo

Technology eliminates/ makes the tedious chores easier and faster, freeing folks up to THINK.


3 posted on 11/14/2011 5:12:54 PM PST by bboop (Without justice, what else is the State but a great band of robbers? St. Augustine)
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To: gitmo
It has been my experience that IT eliminates the tedious chores in manufacturing and planning,

...and creates tedious software writing chores.

4 posted on 11/14/2011 5:14:36 PM PST by Vince Ferrer
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To: ClearCase_guy

Amazing how these people will make these stupid claims as they play iphones, laptops, and HDTVs.


5 posted on 11/14/2011 5:15:13 PM PST by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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To: ClearCase_guy

Technology (automobiles) eliminated buggy whip manufacturers and all of the jobs employed in that industry.

Just saying.


6 posted on 11/14/2011 5:16:23 PM PST by lmsii (No hope, and now no change in my pocket.)
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To: gitmo

I always say I’m a good example of someone who would not have my job without technology. I’m a bookkeeper and I would NEVER have been able to to do my job before the invention of the adding machine. And yes, I’m old enough so that I did use those for a while. And I even did work at one place with just a mechanical cash register, no adding just ringing. (However I got fired from that job, but not, iirc, for bad cash registering!)

However, this did not create a job, bookkeepers have been around almost forever, but it did enable me to do it for a living. And I’m pretty good at it, I just can’t do arithmetic very well without a machine.

Hubby laughs at me, but I tell him the job is BOOK-KEEPER, not mathematician.


7 posted on 11/14/2011 5:17:06 PM PST by jocon307
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To: gitmo

We have the ability to enter a “post-capitalist” society (if we can get Dumb0 and his crony-socialists out of the way). By “post-capitalist” I don’t mean socialist, I mean the need for massive amounts of capital to start a business is withering away.

Anybody can start an online business today from home for under a few hundred dollars. Of course, if each of us has our own online business it would be like each of us raising and bartering our own vegetables - we’ll each earn a living and afford the varied diet that bartering provides, but none of us will get “rich” (there will still be the “winner-take-all” rich - actors, musicians, etc - but even then, in the age of YouTube and the proliferation of media outlets, the ability of musical artists in this day and age to get as rich as Led Zep once did (who had there own 727 I think it was) is greatly diminished).


8 posted on 11/14/2011 5:17:06 PM PST by PhilosopherStone1000
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To: bboop
Technology eliminates/ makes the tedious chores easier and faster, freeing folks up to THINK. .

Okay, let's address the THINKERS in central Africa, the upper Amazon, or xxxxistan.... They all have plenty of time to contemplate their next move....

Like what am I gonna do for tomorrow's meal....

Your response was pure B/S.

9 posted on 11/14/2011 5:17:56 PM PST by ptsal
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To: bboop
freeing folks up to THINK.

This article is fretting for the people who are unwilling, or unable, to do that.

10 posted on 11/14/2011 5:20:17 PM PST by Onelifetogive (I tweet, too... @Onelifetogive)
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To: gitmo

both.


11 posted on 11/14/2011 5:23:36 PM PST by ken21
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To: Onelifetogive

And based on November, 2008 there are a lot of people unwilling to think.


12 posted on 11/14/2011 5:23:48 PM PST by dfwgator (I stand with Herman Cain.)
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To: Onelifetogive

And based on November, 2008 there are a lot of people unwilling to think.


13 posted on 11/14/2011 5:24:04 PM PST by dfwgator (I stand with Herman Cain.)
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To: lmsii

And I bet they are still getting unemployment compensation because of the buggy whip union! lol


14 posted on 11/14/2011 5:24:40 PM PST by Fledermaus (I'll vote for Mitt Romney when Hell freezes over. He's as bad or worse than Zero.)
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To: gitmo

I still contend that they ONLY way to create jobs is to create the MAXIMUM amount of productive output with the MINIMUM of jobs.


15 posted on 11/14/2011 5:25:17 PM PST by Onelifetogive (I tweet, too... @Onelifetogive)
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To: gitmo

Do tractors destroy or create jobs?


16 posted on 11/14/2011 5:30:22 PM PST by DManA
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To: lmsii
...and how many morticians were put out of work by Smallpox and Polio vaccines...

and these "experts" couldn't foresee Siri in the Iphone, yet they can predict the future for the entire world economy???

17 posted on 11/14/2011 5:31:16 PM PST by Thom Pain (OMG ABO USA = USC: United States of Chicago)
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To: ClearCase_guy

“If we were all subsistence level farmers, there would be almost no unemployment.”

Back to the future.

Damn that Jethro Tull and his improved seed drill!


18 posted on 11/14/2011 5:31:16 PM PST by Pelham (Islam. The original Evil Empire)
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To: Pelham

I hope we will all be able to at least use a plow and a mule to do our farming.

If we actually enforced immigration law and deported all the illegals we would have almost no unemployment either so all the blame is not on technology.


19 posted on 11/14/2011 5:40:04 PM PST by Tammy8 (~Secure the border and deport all illegals- do it now! ~ Support our Troops!~)
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To: Vince Ferrer

....and creates tedious tidying up after ourselves now that mistakes can be promulgated at a prodigious rate.


20 posted on 11/14/2011 5:43:57 PM PST by Paladin2 (Some people just don't get it.)
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To: DManA
"Do tractors destroy or create jobs?"

Do these tractors come equipped with ATMs?

21 posted on 11/14/2011 5:45:02 PM PST by Paladin2 (Some people just don't get it.)
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To: jocon307

Maybe we should get you a supply of clay, some styluses and patio for sun-baking?


22 posted on 11/14/2011 5:47:53 PM PST by Paladin2 (Some people just don't get it.)
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To: jocon307
There's also an iPhone App to help:


23 posted on 11/14/2011 5:52:17 PM PST by Paladin2 (Some people just don't get it.)
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To: Tammy8

Between the Democrats and the Bush wing of the GOP there is little chance that illegals are going to be deported.

You have greater odds of winning the lottery on the same day that lightning strikes you.


24 posted on 11/14/2011 5:52:41 PM PST by Pelham (Islam. The original Evil Empire)
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To: Pelham

Of course I know that, but to blame unemployment on technology with the illegal elephant in the country is pretty out there.

The only way illegals will be dealt with is if we the people get angry enough to force our politicians to do something about it. If people knew the whole truth about illegal immigration and the other border issues and how it impacts every single person in this country it would happen soon. Most don’t care though and will watch dancing with the stars while whining about things they could change if they would get their arses off the couch.


25 posted on 11/14/2011 6:06:31 PM PST by Tammy8 (~Secure the border and deport all illegals- do it now! ~ Support our Troops!~)
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To: Tammy8

“The only way illegals will be dealt with is if we the people get angry enough to force our politicians to do something about it. If people knew the whole truth about illegal immigration and the other border issues and how it impacts every single person in this country it would happen soon. “

I’ve lived in SoCal the last 40+ years. I know what you speak of and I share your anger.


26 posted on 11/14/2011 6:14:44 PM PST by Pelham (Islam. The original Evil Empire)
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To: gitmo
10 years ago I would have confidently stated that information technology created more jobs than it eliminated. Now I'm not so sure.

So much of what I've seen lately is what I like to call time wasting technology. Facebook, Twitter and a whole bunch of websites are not much more than gossip rooms. And that's about all the generation Y and millennial types are good for. The amount of time wasted on these sites is incredible. Our company has had to block access to these sites due to the time wasted by employees. And if you want to find the most unproductive worker in your company, it's usually the guy with the smart phone. Some of my co-workers can't get their work done because they are always playing around with their damn smart phones. So it looks like for now we are less productive than what we might be with some of the very newest technology. Hopefully this will change but for now low-productivity seems the name of the game. I hope this changes and it's got to change.
27 posted on 11/14/2011 6:17:21 PM PST by truthguy (Good intentions are not enough.)
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To: gitmo
"But these official numbers but don’t take into account the emergence and evolution of entrepreneurial ventures."

Got it in one. My company simply couldn't exist without the "IT revolution". It gives us a global reach and increases productivity and innovation by a huge amount. CAD alone is a huge productivity booster (I started out "before AutoCAD" back when drawings were done by "T-square and triangle"...in "lead" or ink...by hand). I can whip out a drawing in a few minutes that would take hours the "old-fangled way").

28 posted on 11/14/2011 6:26:03 PM PST by Wonder Warthog
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To: gitmo
I think the article misses the point. It is irrelevant whether IT directly creates more jobs or not. The only question is does it bring more efficiency to the business, which most people would agree it does.

If it is more efficient, it means the business makes more money, which means more money to the employees and shareholders and vendors, which then flows into the economy. It is crazy to argue that inefficiency ever is good for the economy.

29 posted on 11/14/2011 6:29:05 PM PST by MrShoop
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To: Vince Ferrer

for( size_t z = 0; z < vec.size(); z+z+z+z+z+z+z+z+z+z ) {...}


30 posted on 11/14/2011 6:44:08 PM PST by pierrem15 (Claudius: "Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.")
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“The Big Bang Theory: The Jerusalem Duality (#1.12)” (2008)

Rajnesh Koothrappali: Do you know what he did? He watched me work for 10 minutes, and then started to design a simple piece of software that could replace me.

Leonard Hofstadter: Is that even possible?

Rajnesh Koothrappali: As it turns out, yes.


31 posted on 11/14/2011 6:54:34 PM PST by MarkL (Do I really look like a guy with a plan?)
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Donate Today!

32 posted on 11/14/2011 6:57:07 PM PST by RedMDer (Forward With Confidence!)
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To: Wonder Warthog
CAD alone is a huge productivity booster (I started out "before AutoCAD" back when drawings were done by "T-square and triangle"...in "lead" or ink...by hand). I can whip out a drawing in a few minutes that would take hours the "old-fangled way").

I had an uncle who was an aeronautical engineer, who started with a slide rule, log tables, and as you said, a T-Square and triangles... Then the technology hit and productivity went WAY up... The Teledyne "Drafting Machine." Eventually digital calculators and computers helped a bit too.

Mark

33 posted on 11/14/2011 7:00:53 PM PST by MarkL (Do I really look like a guy with a plan?)
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To: gitmo

Bump for later


34 posted on 11/14/2011 7:15:45 PM PST by Lurkina.n.Learnin (The democratic party is the greatest cargo cult in history.)
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To: gitmo
IT has been very, very good to me.

Problem, it's eliminated the dumb from the workforce...and the dumb gotta eat too.

I don't know the answer. I know the principal reason most companies use computing machines is to reduce human effort (hours) in order to reduce cost and increase precision.

If you have the brains and inclination, technology is THE field to be in.

It's busier now than at any time in the last 30 years as far as I can tell.

35 posted on 11/14/2011 7:26:32 PM PST by Mariner (War Criminal #18)
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To: gitmo

Let’s try a little bit of my vision:

The future belongs to humans, along with their “slave” machines, where, each human will be “partnered” with a robot, endowed with the best and most current “AI” of the times.

The slave will make each person independent and capable of functioning without government involvement or any kind of group thought or group interaction. The robot will take care of the human owner’s needs, and that could include food (through independent gardening), clothing, housing (building shelter shouldn’t be that difficult in the future wink ), entertainment (playing videos, music, movies), education (internally contained information, with lectures and everything that a teacher/professor might do), medical needs (blood tests, blood pressure tests, recommending medicines, etc), and much more.

Now, the robot could be free-standing and accompanying the owner everywhere for everything that the owner does. The robot would be equipped to recognize dangers in the environment and to take appropriate action to “defend” or warn the owner.

The robot could also be in the form of “attachments” on the body of the owner, worn (like clothing, glasses), embedded/inserted (like heart pumps), and much more. That robot would provide for locomotion (something like a Segway) so that the human can go longer distances than humans can currently on foot.

In essence, all of the needs that a human has, would be provided by the “slave”, with no questions asked, no complaints, and no getting tired, and working as independently as possible with very little outside intervention or interaction.


36 posted on 11/14/2011 7:29:17 PM PST by adorno (<)
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To: gitmo

luddites are revolting.


37 posted on 11/14/2011 7:30:18 PM PST by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Happiness)
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To: bboop

Or sit around all day playing XBOX, watching cable and eating the proverbial government cheese.


38 posted on 11/14/2011 7:32:57 PM PST by Personal Responsibility (Obama 2012: Dozens of MSNBC viewers can't be wrong!)
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To: gitmo

What we are watching is the failure of the government education model. Otherwise IT wouldn’t have a negative effect at all.

Instead you’ve got generations trained not to think and to expect a hand out.

Right now educational methods can teach in 1-2 months what takes a year under the government schooling model and I mean teach to mastery. Imagine 1st graders doing iterations. It works and is very effective, except you don’t need a teaching certificate nor the current educational paradigm.


39 posted on 11/14/2011 9:03:00 PM PST by 1010RD (First, Do No Harm)
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To: ShadowAce

ping.


40 posted on 11/14/2011 9:17:26 PM PST by bamahead (Few men desire liberty; most men wish only for a just master. -- Sallust)
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To: ClearCase_guy
If we were all subsistence level farmers, there would be almost no unemployment

That's what the enviro sucm want. After killing off a few billion first.

41 posted on 11/14/2011 9:20:54 PM PST by Drill Thrawl (The patient is too far gone to save.)
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To: Paladin2

LOL! I’m pretty sure the abacus would be beyond me!


42 posted on 11/14/2011 9:27:11 PM PST by jocon307
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To: adorno
If you *really* want to save humans effort, forget about artificial intelligence.

We need artificial stupidity!

Cheers!

43 posted on 11/14/2011 9:28:00 PM PST by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
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To: GeronL
luddites are revolting.

Yeah and they stink too.

44 posted on 11/14/2011 9:34:18 PM PST by Drill Thrawl (The patient is too far gone to save.)
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To: gitmo
I'll read the article, but that looks like an absolutely horrible place to work. No individuality, no creativity... no privacy. No wonder these big firms want to hire certified, servile lambs only, those bearing the imprimatur of the Bismarck System of Education.

No thanks... I'll take Edison and individual initiative.

Now, to read the article! :-)

45 posted on 11/14/2011 10:16:42 PM PST by Lexinom
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To: Mariner
Problem, it's eliminated the dumb from the workforce...and the dumb gotta eat too.

Are you serious? You don't have to be able to punch the price of a Big Mac into the register, simply press the key with the picture of a Big Mac.

You don't have to add the items, multiply by the local tax rate, then subtract from the amount the customer gives you. You punch the pictures, press the key with the dollar amount the customer gives, and it tells you how much change to give. In some cases it dispenses the change for you in case you can't recognize the coins' values.

The equipment tells you when the fries are cooked(again, with pictures to clue you in).

I think technology is making the workplace available to the ignorant.

46 posted on 11/14/2011 10:19:38 PM PST by gitmo (Hatred of those who think differently is the left's unifying principle.-Ralph Peters NY Post)
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To: Mariner
It's busier now than at any time in the last 30 years as far as I can tell.

Agreed. In the middle of this economic collapse, I cannot beat back the phone calls and emails bidding for my attention.

47 posted on 11/14/2011 10:23:10 PM PST by Lazamataz (Monkeys do not like getting slapped, contrary to popular belief.)
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To: Mariner
"Eliminated the dumb from the workforce."

Ergo, those performing repetitive, brainless functions.

120IQ is the new 100IQ.

People need to use their brains, to, in the words of my grandfather, the inventor of many things, to "find a need and fill it."

The days of the Warcraft "What is it?" peasant are drawing to a close.

What, though, of the dumb, of those whose only capacity is to change sheets, stamp metal with a repetitive pattern, or what have you?

I'm torn between the need to evolve as a society to keep ahead of China and others, and showing mercy to the poor - the poor in intellect, in this case.

At the risk of being flamed here, I do not want to see the plantation owners, the so-called "1%" get even more. These do-nothints seldom lift a finger relying instead on the labors of de facto if not de jure slaves for their wealth.

Your thoughts?

48 posted on 11/14/2011 10:28:15 PM PST by Lexinom
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To: gitmo

It does both creates and destroys jobs, and the jobs it creates requiring new skills.


49 posted on 11/14/2011 10:29:42 PM PST by Fred (no job no house no gas no food no problem Obama 2012)
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To: Vince Ferrer
...and creates tedious software writing chores.

When a software chore becomes tedious, that's simply another opportunity to automate!

50 posted on 11/14/2011 10:35:12 PM PST by cynwoody
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