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The Minimum Wage and the Rise of the Machines: The robot future is coming
National Review ^ | 12/06/2013 | Jonah Goldberg

Posted on 12/06/2013 8:54:25 AM PST by SeekAndFind

After you heard President Obama’s call for a hike in the minimum wage, you probably wondered the same thing I did: Was Obama sent from the future by Skynet to prepare humanity for its ultimate dominion by robots?

But just in case the question didn’t occur to you, let me explain. On Tuesday, the day before Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage, the restaurant chain Applebee’s announced that it will install iPad-like tablets at every table. Chili’s already made this move earlier this year.

With these consoles customers will be able to order their meals and pay their checks without dealing with a waiter or waitress. Both companies insist that they won’t be changing their staffing levels, but if you’ve read any science fiction, you know that’s what the masterminds of every robot takeover say: “We’re here to help. We’re not a threat.”

But the fact is, the tablets are a threat. In 2011, Annie Lowrey wrote about the burgeoning tablet-as-waiter business. She focused on a startup firm called E La Carte, which makes a table tablet called Presto. “Each console goes for $100 per month. If a restaurant serves meals eight hours a day, seven days a week, it works out to 42 cents per hour per table — making the Presto cheaper than even the very cheapest waiter. Moreover, no manager needs to train it, replace it if it quits, or offer it sick days. And it doesn’t forget to take off the cheese, walk off for 20 minutes, or accidentally offend with small talk, either.”

Applebee’s is using the Presto. Are we really supposed to believe that the chain will keep thousands of redundant human staffers on the payroll forever?

People don’t go into business to create jobs; they go into business to make money. Labor is a cost. The more expensive labor is, the more attractive nonhuman replacements for labor become. The minimum wage makes labor more expensive. Obama knows this, which is why he so often demonizes ATM machines as job-killers.

Just a few days before Obama’s big speech on income inequality, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos launched a media frenzy by revealing on 60 Minutes that he’s working on the idea of having a fleet of robot drones deliver products straight to your door. I can only imagine the discomfort this caused for any UPS or FedEx delivery guys watching the show. There are still a lot of bugs to be worked out, but does anyone doubt that this is coming?

You might take solace in the fact that there will still be a need for truck drivers to deliver the really big stuff and to supply the warehouses where the drones come and go like worker bees. The only hitch is that technology for driverless cars is already here, it just hasn’t been deployed — yet.

None of this is necessarily bad. Machines make us a more productive society, and a more productive society is a richer society. They also free us up for more rewarding work. As Wired’s Kevin Kelly notes, “Two hundred years ago, 70 percent of American workers lived on the farm. Today automation has eliminated all but 1 percent of their jobs, replacing them (and their work animals) with machines.”

While some hippies and agrarian poets may disagree, most people wouldn’t say we’d be better off if seven out of ten people still did backbreaking labor on farms.

That doesn’t mean the transition to a society fueled by robot slaves won’t be painful. The Luddites destroyed cotton mills for a reason. Figuring out ways to get the young and the poor into the job market really is a vital political, economic, and moral challenge. My colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, James Pethokoukis, argues that one partial solution might have to be wage subsidies that defray the costs of labor, tipping the calculus in favor of humans at least for a while.

“Of course,” Pethokoukis notes, “wage subsidies are an on-budget, transparent cost — which politicians hate — while the costs of the minimum wage are shifted onto business and hidden. But the costs exist just the same.”

The robot future is coming no matter what, and it will require some truly creative responses by policymakers. I don’t know what those are, but I’m pretty sure antiquated ideas that were bad policy 100 years ago aren’t going to be of much use. Maybe the answers will come when artificial intelligence finally comes online and we can replace the policymakers with machines, too.

— Jonah Goldberg is the author of The Tyranny of Clichés, now on sale in paperback. Y


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: automation; economy; minimumwage; robots
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1 posted on 12/06/2013 8:54:25 AM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Robots - You can’t get any more ‘minimum wage’ than that.............


2 posted on 12/06/2013 8:55:09 AM PST by Red Badger (Proud member of the Zeta Omicron Tau Fraternity since 2004...................)
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To: SeekAndFind

We’re gonna need robots to fix the robots too.


3 posted on 12/06/2013 8:57:22 AM PST by headstamp 2 (What would Scooby do?)
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To: SeekAndFind
The robot future is coming no matter what, and it will require some truly creative responses by policymakers.

Because policymakers always do such a bang up job in responding to the effects of creative destruction.

4 posted on 12/06/2013 9:01:57 AM PST by vbmoneyspender
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To: SeekAndFind
I've used the pads at Chilis a few times. They are convenient to pay as you don't really have to wait around for the waitress to bring back your card, sign, etc. You just swipe and go. But, I don't think I'd like it to order. When you order you want to speak with a human being who can comprehend special or different requests than presented by a mere menu.
5 posted on 12/06/2013 9:03:33 AM PST by Obadiah (I Like Ted.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Of the 203,000 jobs created last month,
41% or 83,200 jobs are in government!

Every government job is overhead on private sector.
More people in government to suck blood of hard working
people who must be productive enough to make a profit
just to stay in business.

The enemy is not robots, it is the bureaucracy and
regulations from the government.


6 posted on 12/06/2013 9:04:07 AM PST by entropy12 (Zero thanks to all who stayed home and helped elect Acorn lawyer Zero.)
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To: SeekAndFind

In Boise, ID on the corner of Overland and Five Mile, there is now a motorized sign waving device that mimics a person waving around a sandwich board sign. Robots are even replacing the guys that wear foam pizza costumes and stand outside on street corners. Also, there are now automatic sky writing devices which make perfect messages. All you need is a drone to fly it. I hope the blue skies don’t get littered with ads...


7 posted on 12/06/2013 9:04:54 AM PST by jimmygrace
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To: vbmoneyspender
and it will require some truly creative responses by policymakers.

Increase SNAP, extend unemployment benefits, and tax the robots to pay for it.


8 posted on 12/06/2013 9:05:04 AM PST by Buckeye McFrog
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To: SeekAndFind

I don’t think it’s a problem right now - but this has always raised a question in my mind about the future.

Given that technology always advances and it does more and more of those chores and duties for us - at some point in the future, it’s conceivable that robots could do every bit of “work” required in society. Perhaps it wouldn’t be 100% of the total “work” available, but the overwhelming majority - anyway (with a very few people to “manage” certain situations).

I wonder WHAT EXACTLY is the majority of human beings on this planet going to do in order to “earn income”.

Is this going to completely change the entire economic structure to be something completely unrecognizable to us today. It seems it would have to be something completely different - because the majority of people could not “work” to earn income - no matter what.


9 posted on 12/06/2013 9:06:01 AM PST by Star Traveler (Remember to keep the Messiah of Israel in the One-World Government that we look forward to coming)
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To: SeekAndFind
So we can blame Skynet on the minimum wage?
10 posted on 12/06/2013 9:06:06 AM PST by Sybeck1
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To: Obadiah

Oh, I can see this at McDee’s...

tap tap tap
two cheeseburgers, medium fries, diet coke, swipe, ding!


11 posted on 12/06/2013 9:08:06 AM PST by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter admits whom he's working for)
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To: headstamp 2
We’re gonna need robots to fix the robots too.

Wellllll.....

$15 / hour is about what I'd expect for a low-end tech to receive for keeping the fast food robots running. Not high-end work, mind you, but low-end, keep things on track and running, type-stuff. However - it would be more skilled than punching buttons with pictures on them, and asking "Would you like fries, too?"

It would be ridiculously easy to replace many of the behind-the-counter staff with automation. A couple of $15/hour people to keep the automation in line would be what I'd expect, and dump many - if not most - of the rest.

Dems and FF workers should be careful what they wish for.

12 posted on 12/06/2013 9:09:47 AM PST by wbill
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To: jimmygrace
In Boise, ID on the corner of Overland and Five Mile, there is now a motorized sign waving device that mimics a person waving around a sandwich board sign. Robots are even replacing the guys that wear foam pizza costumes and stand outside on street corners.

It's too cold today for a human sign waver, anyway. (Currently 19 degrees, 8 with the wind chill)

13 posted on 12/06/2013 9:11:20 AM PST by Disambiguator
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To: headstamp 2

14 posted on 12/06/2013 9:11:44 AM PST by Malone LaVeigh
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To: SeekAndFind

Will the off shored manufactures use Cantonese speaking robots?


15 posted on 12/06/2013 9:12:16 AM PST by central_va (I won't be reconstructed and I do not give a damn.)
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To: SeekAndFind

The service industry in our society has grown leaps and bounds. People don’t wipe their own butts, anymore. All while manufacturing jobs have decreased.

Automation, robots might reverse that a little. Where service jobs are replaced, manufacturing and engineering jobs will be created to design, assemble, program and maintain automated systems. They will require higher skills, they will be fewer but they will pay better.


16 posted on 12/06/2013 9:13:23 AM PST by ryan71 (The Partisans)
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To: entropy12

Thank you Winston please report for reeducation. Peace is war.


17 posted on 12/06/2013 9:14:19 AM PST by WilliamRobert (Rafael Cruz is an American hero)
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To: SeekAndFind

Big deal. In the 60’s and 70’s the burger chain called King’s had phones at every booth.

You just picked your menu items and picked up the phone to give your order.

Somebody still has to bring it out to your table.

This is the exact some thing but updated for modern times.

When thye actually have androids coming around to your table, I’ll begin to worry.


18 posted on 12/06/2013 9:15:59 AM PST by SolidRedState (I used to think bizarro world was a fiction.)
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To: MrB

I think that is only a matter of time. Further, I think the mechinization of fast food places is very near.

Tap, tap your order onto a screen then the computerized fry basket automatically drops into the fryer, and the cheesburger conveyer process starts and the drink machine automatically dispenses. Done. A total of 3 or so workers max at each fast food location.


19 posted on 12/06/2013 9:17:30 AM PST by Obadiah (I Like Ted.)
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To: Star Traveler

“I wonder WHAT EXACTLY is the majority of human beings on this planet going to do in order to “earn income”.”

I dunno. If what I hear about “Agenda 21” is correct, most of them won’t be around to worry about.


20 posted on 12/06/2013 9:19:42 AM PST by PLMerite (Shut the Beyotch Down! Burn, baby, burn!)
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To: headstamp 2
We’re gonna need robots to fix the robots too.

We'll have those, too, though we'll also have engineers and technicians to fix them when the meta-robots can't.

But this is raising a serious question: how will we organize society when every job that can be reliably done by a person of average or below average intelligence can be done at lower cost by a robot? Yes, even picking fruit. For that matter how will we organize society when the use of robots reduces the number of such jobs significantly below the supply of people who aren't suited for other jobs requiring more intelligence? We American conservatives (and our brethren the classical liberals world wide) had better figure out an answer that preserves liberty and individual responsibility, because if we don't the answer the left and the professional managerial class will give us will look like the worst aspects of 1984 and Brave New World rolled into one (maybe with a dash of The Hunger Games thrown in for bad measure).

That question was the real point of The Bell Curve which got lost in the left tarring the book as racist.

21 posted on 12/06/2013 9:22:57 AM PST by The_Reader_David (And when they behead your own people in the wars which are to come, then you will know...)
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To: PLMerite

Well ... without Agenda 21 ... the net result of the majority of people in the world unable to earn income - is basically “death” (under our present economic system).


22 posted on 12/06/2013 9:24:43 AM PST by Star Traveler (Remember to keep the Messiah of Israel in the One-World Government that we look forward to coming)
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To: SolidRedState

"Repliee Q2 can mimic such human functions as blinking, breathing and speaking, with the ability to recognize and process speech and touch, and then respond in kind.:

Would you like fries with that?

23 posted on 12/06/2013 9:28:52 AM PST by jpsb (Believe nothing until it has been officially denied)
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To: SolidRedState
When they actually have androids coming around to your table, I’ll begin to worry.

When I was a kid, my grandfather took me to a restaurant where your order was delivered by a toy train.

Yeah, it's pretty low tech, but it does eliminate the server.

24 posted on 12/06/2013 9:29:13 AM PST by Malone LaVeigh
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To: SeekAndFind
Soon the cresting of artificial intelligence will mark the greatest technological change in human history. Once computers are smart enough to design and build their own upgrades we will see technological advancement snowball at a rate 1000 times faster than we see now.

At that point the political battles will shift and it will be those who wish to have a government run by the incorruptible machines versus those who want the machines suppressed to maintain the current corruption/graft system.

Liberalism/socialism will not stand a chance against the irrefutable logic of an AI capable of becoming millions of times smarter than a human so watch for them to be the leaders among the tech suppressors. Their illogical laws and regulations designed to make everyone a potential criminal will need to be stricken and a more sensible system will be required with no room left for pie in the sky ideology. Congress will be made up of coders working to replace our laws with versions that we can all live with under an AI that cannot be tricked or hidden from.

25 posted on 12/06/2013 9:32:16 AM PST by Teflonic
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To: Star Traveler

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_Us,_The_Living:_A_Comedy_of_Customs


26 posted on 12/06/2013 9:35:01 AM PST by Eepsy
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To: entropy12
The enemy is not robots, it is the bureaucracy and regulations from the government.

**************************

Agreed. Many, if not most of the problems in this country today are a result of government interference and control.

27 posted on 12/06/2013 9:37:53 AM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: Star Traveler

Those unable to earn an income can at least grow food if they’re rural. Agenda 21 plans to eliminate that subsistence as well.

We supplement our income with a huge garden. We would be unable to do that in an urban environment. We would be forced to eat whatever the elites wanted us to eat.

Beware that road.


28 posted on 12/06/2013 9:39:35 AM PST by Black Agnes
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To: SolidRedState
“Somebody still has to bring it out to your table.”

How much would the average customer be willing to tip for the mere delivery of food? My guess... not much.

29 posted on 12/06/2013 9:43:07 AM PST by Tallguy (between taglines...)
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To: SeekAndFind

We’ll still need BLADERUNNERS.


30 posted on 12/06/2013 9:49:19 AM PST by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: The_Reader_David

Bell Curve bump.

Remembered when it came out, and assumed it was a racism-apologist book, as it was presented by the media.

Recently bought it at a garage sale, and was surprised to find out it was nothing of the kind. The authors address the issues you mention. Every single one of the trends they identified 20 years ago have continued and accelerated.

Yet we are still not having a public discussion of how to address the issues they defined.


31 posted on 12/06/2013 9:53:06 AM PST by Sherman Logan
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To: trisham

What the elites are doing is this. Preparing for a day when YOU and YOUR offspring are no longer necessary to the pursuit of their lives and goals.

The numerical ‘goal’ of 100M worldwide as a desirable population number hasn’t been thrown out there for effect. They really do mean that.

They already support unlimited infanticide and euthanasia. They’re just working up to the real goal. Elimination of most of US. Robotics helps them achieve that goal as painlessly (for them!) as possible.

Eliminating the excess regulations will do nothing to change that goal or the eventual achievement of that goal.


32 posted on 12/06/2013 9:55:52 AM PST by Black Agnes
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To: SeekAndFind

Back in the ‘70s a friend and I made a stopover in Stephenville, Newfoundland. We went to a relatively nice restaurant and when the waiter came over to see if we were ready to order, he gave us a blank form to fill out. We asked why the customer was supposed to fill it out and he just said “it’s traditional here.”

Apparently the chef was able to read our scribbling and the order came out fine. Then we had to total it. LOL.


33 posted on 12/06/2013 9:56:28 AM PST by NewHampshireDuo
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To: SeekAndFind

and under the inevitable single-payer healthcare system that’s sure to come, each seat & booth will have scales/BMI readers.

“Sorry, Mr. Wilson, but you are forbidden from having the double-cheeseburger...perhaps you’d like a salad?”


34 posted on 12/06/2013 9:59:06 AM PST by ItsOurTimeNow ("Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise, beating down the multitudes and scoffing at the wise.")
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To: Black Agnes

I think that many people laugh that off, but they could not be more wrong.


35 posted on 12/06/2013 10:02:24 AM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: Sherman Logan

Nature always selects the strongest to survive and reproduce. Only humans think intelligence uber alles. There are fertility, immune and other health traits (20/20 vision, good teeth, longevity, cancer risk) that will be dumped if the push for only intelligent peoples having children is put into place. Many uber intelligent people have other striking faults that should be reproductive end games. But, thanks to technology are not.

Fertility problems, for example, were widespread and extreme in my chosen field (STEM) Particularly with the women. And no, not all of us waited until we were 40 to have a kid. It was something conspicuous enough to have been a frequent topic of conversation. Of my friend group of 4 or 5 women, 2 were told they had the eggs of a 45yr old when they were 28-30. Even if they had begun having children at 16 or 18, their total number of children would have been significantly less than an ‘average’ woman who can usually bear children until their early 40’s.

Intelligence may be less genetic than epigenetic. Supplementation with micronutrients (iodine, choline, inositol, omega 3, others) during preconception and pregnancy can have a profound impact on the intelligence of the child. Many of the problems with continental Africa, for example, stem from chronic malnutrition in these and other (b complex vitamins) that stem from subsistence farming. Chicken, egg, chicken, egg.

Social darwinism is a human aspiration. Natural selection is a much more complex thing.


36 posted on 12/06/2013 10:10:50 AM PST by Black Agnes
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To: Tallguy

Yep, there was no tipping at Kings. LOL

Well, not much anyway.


37 posted on 12/06/2013 10:14:27 AM PST by SolidRedState (I used to think bizarro world was a fiction.)
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To: trisham

There’s really nothing to stop a Soros or a Gates (both absolutely OBSESSED with population control of everyone BUT their own germlines) from buying an army of robots in 10 or 15 years and just turning them loose.

You’d never know who did it. Imagine the gunshot detection technology in use in the cities right now being used to triangulate in on a baby’s cry.

What robotics will do is let the psychopaths have complete run of all their little fantasies. What might be difficult to convince 100 people to do will be completely doable when you need only program the robots.


38 posted on 12/06/2013 10:14:37 AM PST by Black Agnes
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To: Black Agnes

I’m not sure what your point is. From a Darwinian perspective, the “strongest” is the organism that reproduces itself. Nothing else.

In modern societies there is a very obvious inverse relationship between intelligence/success and reproduction.

Which of course means the “most fit” are the less intelligent and successful. For the logical conclusion of this trend, see the move Ideocracy.


39 posted on 12/06/2013 10:16:27 AM PST by Sherman Logan
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To: SeekAndFind
While some hippies and agrarian poets may disagree, most people wouldn’t say we’d be better off if seven out of ten people still did backbreaking labor on farms.

Not a day goes by that I don't miss that. Honestly.

The big issue is one we HAVE to face and deal with. What are you going to do with the majority of people who do not have the skills, desire, or the demand to service the machines?

Look at what happened when Rome replaced it's expensive labor with slaves.
40 posted on 12/06/2013 10:17:51 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: Star Traveler
the majority of people could not “work” to earn income - no matter what

Humans would still make decisions, set directions, negotiate, educate, design and build. As for jobs requiring few skills, there is a point where automation is more expensive than human labor -- unless government continues to raise wages by law.

Only government can create what you fear.

41 posted on 12/06/2013 10:18:36 AM PST by BfloGuy ( Even the opponents of Socialism are dominated by socialist ideas.)
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To: Black Agnes

Think of what they can do now with drones. That’s frightening enough.


42 posted on 12/06/2013 10:27:41 AM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: Sherman Logan

Only if you define ‘fit’ as intelligence only.

Beware that definition. As I said in my previous comment, Nature has a much broader definition.

It isn’t that they’re having babies in excess of their ‘place’ and therefore it’s our place to stop them from that. Or set up a system that forces them to starve. Even the bible tells the farmer not to gather up all the wheat that falls on the ground. He’s to leave it to allow the gleaners to have something too.

The problem is that intelligent people are deselecting themselves from the evolutionary island by having ‘other’ pursuits and placing greater importance on those.

And as I said in my reply to trisham, the elites view ALL of us as ‘those other people’. Robots will allow them to eliminate us with little everyday pain to their lifestyles.

Again, the problem isn’t less intelligent people having too many kids. The problem is intelligent people voluntarily deselecting themselves to pursue online gaming, sci-fi conferences, expensive high tech hobbies and just ‘me’ time to ‘think about stuff’. These habits are the true evolutionary defects.

From a long term nature standpoint, having a great immune system is far more important than being simply intelligent. Even with all the smart people working in great teaching and research institutions now, one pandemic could still wipe most of us out. And along with it, most of the smart people. Only those with a great immune system would survive.

I’m pretty sure allowing humans to select themselves and using only IQ as that selection mechanism will be a spectacularly bad idea, long term. Nature’s been doing this for billions of years. Starving the poor (by eliminating even their very ability to grow their own food by moving them forceably to the cities), and other eugenic methods are just that. Eugenics. No different than Margaret Sangar.

I get a strong vibe of that in this thread. The ‘yay robots, those stupid low iq denizens will starve to death! Special US will not because we’re smart! yay us!’.


43 posted on 12/06/2013 10:29:56 AM PST by Black Agnes
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To: BfloGuy

What do you do with the majority of the population that doesn’t take care of the bots? Starve them? Feed them for free? Turn the bots on them?

In a free society, like the early Republic of Rome, suddenly gets flooded with cheap labor (in that case, slaves from Germany) that the free man can’t make a living, you have a situation that will either lead to revolution, or to the State caring for most people in order to keep them happy. In Rome, it led to both. Massive welfare and a revolution from a Republic to an Empire.

We are trending to the same place.


44 posted on 12/06/2013 10:30:40 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: Obadiah

“You just swipe and go.”

How do you pay in cash?


45 posted on 12/06/2013 10:30:57 AM PST by dalereed
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To: SeekAndFind

Not a very good example since waiters and waiteresses in most states aren’t even paid the minimum wage. They get a fraction of the minimum wage plus tips. Obama’s raise won’t change that.


46 posted on 12/06/2013 10:32:59 AM PST by DoodleDawg
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To: jimmygrace

” there is now a motorized sign waving device that mimics a person waving around a sandwich board sign.”

A friend of mine has a barber shop that bought one andfor 2 weeks it brought in twice the business that his lazy person wavers did.

The only problem was after 2 weeks the city code enforcement cited him and he can’t use it any longer!


47 posted on 12/06/2013 10:34:04 AM PST by dalereed
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To: Star Traveler

You and me both. Even now, people with no real skills or education cannot perform most jobs.Back in the day, they could do something, and at least make some money. But, those days are gone forever.


48 posted on 12/06/2013 10:35:08 AM PST by Patriotic1 (Dic mihi solum facta, domina - Just the facts, ma'am)
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To: Patriotic1

And what was that saying about the Devil and Idle hands?


49 posted on 12/06/2013 10:35:49 AM PST by dfwgator (Fire Muschamp. Go Michigan State!)
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To: Buckeye McFrog

“Increase SNAP, extend unemployment benefits, and tax the robots to pay for it.”

GO TO HELL!!!!

Eliminate snap, welfare and unemployment!

If you can’t figure out a way to make a living lie down and croak!


50 posted on 12/06/2013 10:36:13 AM PST by dalereed
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