Skip to comments.Welcome the Robots: American workers should not fear the rise of the robot
Posted on 08/03/2014 5:04:36 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Is the increasing automation of our economy a threat to American wages and jobs? Should the American worker fear the rise of the robots? No, not really.
Eighty years ago, John Maynard Keynes warned that society faced a new disease of technological unemployment in which the means of economizing the use of labor [were] outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labor. Much more recently, Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute wrote about how robot workers could tear Americas social fabric. Strain worries that machines could eliminate the livelihoods of millions of less-skilled workers.
These fears are misplaced. In reality, technological advances will improve living standards and working conditions for the vast majority of Americans. Computers have certainly automated many tasks. From travel to banking to manufacturing to retail, machines now perform formerly human tasks quickly and reliably.
Technology has eliminated countless jobs in the U.S. and around the world. Even Foxconn, famous for its vast iPhone-assembly lines in Taiwan, plans to install a million robots.
But almost as quickly as technology has eliminated some jobs, it has created new ones. Like developing smartphone apps. Or shuttling Uber passengers. Or moving inventory in Amazon warehouses. Contrary to Keyness prediction of 15-hour workweeks, the economy has always found new uses for displaced workers.
(Excerpt) Read more at heritage.org ...
They work for free, and don’t chain migrate.
Seems to me like you have the cause and effect backwards.
Silence, you mechanical misery!
“Like developing smartphone apps. Or shuttling Uber passengers. Or moving inventory in Amazon warehouses.”
None of which create more than a handful of jobs and likely net out negative. Apps employ a few coders, but for every good app, there are a dozen that are simply time wasters. Uber is great idea, but it gets rid of taxicab drivers. Amazon gets rid of malls and warehouse workers, only added jobs are truck drivers.
I’m not seeing the jobs creation. I start businesses, I don’t want workers anymore.
“They work for free, and dont chain migrate.”
And, you don’t have to learn Spanish to get them to work.
Why use a backhoe to dig a pit, when you can employ 200 men with shovels, or 10,000 men with teaspoons?
Anyone familiar with the effects of automation on Britain during the Industrial Revolution will take exception to this statement. Agricultural workers were forced off the farm and into the cities and their "gin alleys" where they festered in squalor. The automation of the weaving industry out of the cottages and into the water driven looms and then steam driven factory looms accelerated this trend.
Eventually, yes the benefits of the Industrial Revolution raise all boats, the author is quite correct about this, but the politicians will always be quick to exploit the lag time between dislocation and general prosperity. They will certainly be quick to exploit the class who cannot adjust such as the elderly. Modern demagogues (Democrats) are quick to exploit the alleged problems accompanying extreme wealth creation such as we have seen in the founders of Microsoft and Facebook. Robots will tend to concentrate money in the hands of those who control robots.
I recite this so that we as conservatives are not behind the power curve. To deny that problems will come from robots is to stick one's head in the sand in the hopes that the problem will not occur and then go away if it occurs. Better to anticipate the problem and structure solutions which are compatible with the Constitution, conservatism and capitalism. If we fail to offer these kinds of solutions we will have "solutions" forced upon us with all their unintended consequences, with all their restrictions of liberty, and all their deadweight on growth.
What we need are robotic lawyers.
As part of TCM’s Walter Pidgeon day, “Forbiden Planet” is on late night tonight at 12:30 AM.
OMG, you swallowed the Marxist interpretation of the Industrial Revolution whole! No one was “forced off the farms”, people flocked to factories because the wages and working conditions were so vastly preferable. As Lenin said, “It was Ford, not Marx, who made the Revolution possible by freeing the proletariat from the idiocy of rural life.”
I’m surprised Amazon isn’t already using robots to move stuff around in their warehouses.
The Lego factory in Denmark is a marvel of robotic technology, with transporters running around all the time that are smart enough to stop when there are obstacles in the path.
or need expensive Obamacare insurance, although I could see democrats deciding robots have rights, and requiring them to join unions, which would skim 10% of their “wages”, defined as whatever the democrats decide a robot job is worth.
Automation doesn’t worry me. We’re a long way from crews of robots being able to climb on steel and build scaffolding, or run layout on a wall. The vast majority of things still require human oversight.
I hate to break it to the author, but most of the inventory in amazon warehouses is moved around by robots.
Please see my #26.
A couple of days ago, my daughter ordered something from Amazon at noon, and it showed up at our door at 6pm. Probably hard to do that with people doing all the work.
The only question regarding this picture is, “would Lazz hit both of then?”
And that ladies and germs is how you destroy a thread on Sunday morning.
What people forget is that someone will have to build the robots that build the robots that build the robots that build the robots that build the robots................................
IIRC from the documentary I saw, the only thing workers do is double check the order from an invoice printed by the computer, throw it in a package, affix a label (also printed by the computer) and send it on its merry way. BTW, posting this from a kindle.
You are mostly right. But a couple of points:
1. The coming Robot Age is not going to be a step function. It will come for sure but it wii come gradually and that in itself will ease the transition.
2. The premium placed on technical skills will continue to rise. Those who cannot or will not put in the effort to develop the skills that the labor market seeks are going to be at a major disadvantage. So - TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL.
You didn’t ping Laz. How are we to get his opinion if you don’t ping him?
Robots probably won’t be cost-effective to clean houses or weed your garden, so there’s always the low-end labor market.
We are doing it to ourselves. We are so technologically ahead of everyone that if we focused on educating our children to operate in these environments, there would be plenty of jobs.
Instead Johnny can’t read, write or add 2 plus 2, so Achmed is brought in to do the job. And frankly, Achmed with his masters in engineering from Chenai school of engineering and technology isn’t much better.
The other thing that is killing us is a product called Taleo. HR departments are so inept these days to a point they might as well be the DMV. The biggest problem in America today as I see it is one little line on a job application. COLLEGE DEGREE REQUIRED.
Many of these kids are intelligent and with a little OJT can figure out these systems. Instead they bring in people from off shore who take twice as long to learn things and in the end we wind up redoing it at twice the cost.
My best engineer has a high school equivalent. I fought HR and management to get him on board. And that was from over 200 resumes I received.
The difference between then and now is that the agrarian workforce was capable and willing to work. the displaced ‘workers’ today are neither.
These misanthropic fools are only fodder for the anti-christ-capitalism-america-family-culture evangelists who populate and pollute our social and political power structure. Revolutions rarely end as their proponents envision.
Society faces a new disease” Obama&Co.
Displaced workers, agrarian, riparian, or otherwise, are only unwilling to work these days because of hefty transfer payments extracted from those remaining in the workforce. The incremental tax on the first hour of labor is well in excess of 100%, close to 400%.
Sorry, don’t know how to ping. Could you do the honors, please?
Through family connections, I knew the vice president for public relations for Kodak. We tended to get along well and at his insistence, he arranged a private tour of one of their film factories in Rochester, around 1990, when people still used film. The degree of automation was impressive. Probably fewer than 20 people on the floor in a 20,000 square foot factory.
Mr Sherk hasn’t heard there are robots who can write think tank propaganda better than people.
If lawyers did what we assume they do then robots could do it better.
But that’s not what lawyers do. The law is a rich raw material. They mine it for material to bolster their client’s claims. And there is plenty of material in the law to make ANY argument, no matter how ludicrous or illogical.
We would have a better, more prosperous country if our laws were logical. But then what would lawyers do?
I agree and struggled with where to place the quote marks. The real stratification in the labor market has already occurred, but we would rather pretend that the American workforce is a homogeneous group with the work ethic of 1950.
The entitled class (fill in your favorite group) has been trained to disrupt the entire system. They will be at the forefront of protesting this technology, though they have predicated its development.
The question is, how long can the productive side drag them along? Will America be overcome by the unreasonable, insatiable masses, or will we return to our God and our senses?
Tell that tale of distorted history to the crofters of Scotland, to the tenant farmers of Ireland and to the Luddites of England.
Umm, I think invoking the Luddites tends to weaken your argument, such as it is.
But almost as quickly as technology has eliminated some jobs, it has created new ones.
Quite true, historically, though there is often a lag between the old jobs disappearing and the new ones showing up, creating a good deal of misery. Also, while true as a generality, does not mean individuals aren't hurt badly.
Like developing smartphone apps.
Now we get to the gorilla. Only those people well over on the right side of the IQ bell curve are even potentially able to do this kind of work. They're already in demand for a host of jobs, and the vast majority of those displaced from good jobs by automation are in the middle or left side of the BC.
Or shuttling Uber passengers.
As others have pointed out, this doesn't create new jobs, it's simply a different way of providing taxi service. Displaces drivers of traditional taxis. Also, a large percentage of Uber drivers do it as a sideline, not "a job." Nothing wrong with that, but it's certainly not a solution for unemployment.
Or moving inventory in Amazon warehouses.
Mostly automated and likely to become more so.
Contrary to Keyness prediction of 15-hour workweeks, the economy has always found new uses for displaced workers.
Past performance does not always predict future performance. The difference today is that most of the "new" jobs in the actually vibrant segments of the economy require significant technical skills. That's not a huge problem in itself. People can be retrained.
But to be capable of being trained in the jobs actually in demand requires high intelligence, and most of those becoming technologically unemployed aren't in that group. They are not now and never will be capable of doing the "new jobs."
The present Automation Revolution is not just a new iteration and elaboration on the Industrial Revolution. It's utterly different from anything in previous human history.
That’s a great story. Immense amounts of capital invested to automate a factory that would soon itself close as a result of technological obsolescence.
They saw Fuji as their chief threat at the time.
The pace of technological change is accelerating almost geometrically. New materials are coming on the scene with new medicines and new computer constructed robots. The impact of these changes can be very great and very sudden. How long has it taken the Internet to make snail mail and the post office system virtually obsolete? How long has it taken the Internet to make our telephone system archaic? Libraries irrelevant? These were the great institutions forming the backbone of our American society and they are on the verge of consignment to the museum
My point is that we may find that change will be somewhat ameliorated by leftist nostrums which temporarily postpone the pain, such as unemployment insurance or even minimum-wage raises, but which do not solve the problem and might indeed aggravate it.
We cannot anticipate the pace or the nature of the change which is coming except we can be sure that it will be radical. Your admonition, TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL, should not be ignored by anyone. But what to teach them? I am a reasonably educated man was seven years of higher education but I can do little more than superficially work with my computer which has been made dummy proof for me by Windows. My teenage kids have solemnly instructed me not to try to fix my computer and despair over my fumblings with at my smart phone, for which they insist I am too dumb.
What to teach them? We can only teach them how to learn. And that our school system most assuredly is not doing.
Actually conditions were utterly miserable for “the crofters of Scotland and tenant farmers of Ireland.”
The crofters were in most cases quite literally forced off their farms by landlords who wanted to use the land more profitably.
The Irish were in many cases forced to leave when unable to pay their rents due to the Famine. (Although it’s not widely known that Scotland had a Potato Famine of its own.)
Both groups (or the survivors and descendants thereof) were in the long run MUCH better off. But that didn’t ease the misery of those directly affected.
Should also be noted that, in England anyway, a great many of those who migrated from the farms to the factories were landless farm laborers. For most of them, doing so was a considerable step up.
Rural poverty is dispersed and less in-your-face than urban poverty. But it’s no more fun for the poor themselves. City life offers at least the illusion of possibility of improvement. Life as a farm laborer does not. As can be seen by the continued migration to cities around the world.
IOW, it’s complicated, and to my mind you’re both partly right and partly wrong