Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 28th Mar 2017 20:46 UTC
In the News

Who is winning the race for jobs between robots and humans? Last year, two leading economists described a future in which humans come out ahead. But now they’ve declared a different winner: the robots.

The industry most affected by automation is manufacturing. For every robot per thousand workers, up to six workers lost their jobs and wages fell by as much as three-fourths of a percent, according to a new paper by the economists, Daron Acemoglu of M.I.T. and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University. It appears to be the first study to quantify large, direct, negative effects of robots.

These effects are only "negative" effects because of the way our society currently works. Nobody is going to stop automation, but automation is going to make our capitalist systems wholly and deeply untenable. Those countries who recognise and adapt to this fact the earliest, will be the ones coming out on top once the dust settles.

Countries that look backwards and thereby artificially stunt their economic growth by investing in wholly outdated and destructive industries... Well. Good luck.

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yes and no
by feamatar on Tue 28th Mar 2017 21:50 UTC
feamatar
Member since:
2014-02-25

Undoubtedly it is a complex topic, I, for one, don't think that Trump's anti-green decisions will have a negative impact on US's competitiveness in robotics, on the contrary it aids America. Energy policies and automation are two different things. In addition if he really tries to bring production back to the US, he will push companies to automate further. One can argue that automation is one of the great risks against American workers, but cheap Chinese workforce can be considered as the greatest enemy of automation.

Though I care about CO2 emission and most probably during Trump's tenure it will increase, from a green energy standpoint his stance on nuclear power might be actually useful. Building huge structures like nuclear power plant do not only make his ego bigger, but they slash CO2 output, create jobs, and can fuel electric cars at the same time.

(Btw, isn't it ridiculous that we have a big nuclear failure every 25 years with 40 year old reactors and instead of going all clean nuclear and emission free, it's those venerable green organisations are responsible for because of green organisations responsible for increasing our CO2 emissions? I say OK, maybe solar/wind can work, but what if we get along emission free until we figure out how to do it...)

Reply Score: 1

RE: yes and no
by Alfman on Wed 29th Mar 2017 14:56 UTC in reply to "yes and no"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

feamatar,

Btw, isn't it ridiculous that we have a big nuclear failure every 25 years with 40 year old reactors and instead of going all clean nuclear and emission free, it's those venerable green organisations are responsible for because of green organisations responsible for increasing our CO2 emissions? I say OK, maybe solar/wind can work, but what if we get along emission free until we figure out how to do it...


The problem is if we eliminate CO2 emission caps, as I expect the government to do under current leadership, then the business case for nuclear power stations throughout the US is greatly diminished compared to unregulated dirty power. You're probably not going to like this news, but private nuclear power companies all over are in dire financial trouble:

http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/29/investing/westinghouse-nuclear-bank...

https://atomicinsights.com/nuclear-plants-losing-money-astonishing-r...

http://wrvo.org/post/nine-mile-nuclear-also-losing-money-wants-stat...
(I used to live near the Ginna station referenced here)


A big reason for this is that fossil fuels are subsidized to the tune of hundreds of billions dollars per year in the US alone. It may be hard or impossible for nuclear, wind, or solar to become competitive when government policy puts them at such a big disadvantage.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305750X16304867

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: yes and no
by dionicio on Wed 29th Mar 2017 16:32 UTC in reply to "RE: yes and no"
dionicio Member since:
2006-07-12

"...then the business case for nuclear power stations throughout the US is greatly diminished."

You really don't get the Powers You put at Government, doesn't it?

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: yes and no
by feamatar on Thu 30th Mar 2017 08:20 UTC in reply to "RE: yes and no"
feamatar Member since:
2014-02-25

Certainly during the Trump administration it is not the motivating factor, this is why I mention that these are big, ambitious projects that suit his ego on the one hand, and big job generators on the other hand, so we might get more nuclear stations, and once Trump is gone, it is easier to revert to clean energy.

The problem is the very same people who advocate wind and sun and reduced CO2 emissions are the people who prefer coal to nuclear, all because of their ungrounded fears.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: yes and no
by Alfman on Thu 30th Mar 2017 10:15 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: yes and no"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

feamatar,

Certainly during the Trump administration it is not the motivating factor, this is why I mention that these are big, ambitious projects that suit his ego on the one hand, and big job generators on the other hand, so we might get more nuclear stations, and once Trump is gone, it is easier to revert to clean energy.


I highly doubt he's going to budge on coal.

The problem is the very same people who advocate wind and sun and reduced CO2 emissions are the people who prefer coal to nuclear, all because of their ungrounded fears.


That's not really the case for me. The main problem with wind and sun is that their power output isn't stable, which makes them rather supplementary. Hydroelectric is really fantastic in this regards because it can act as both a natural power source and a battery to store excess power, although not everyone likes the ecological consequences of building dams.

Reply Score: 2

I Agree With Thom
by Pro-Competition on Tue 28th Mar 2017 22:21 UTC
Pro-Competition
Member since:
2007-08-20

I started thinking about this as a teenager (in the 1980s) reading about the philosophical debates about robots from the 1950s and 1960s, when science and technology seemed to offer the possibility of a utopian future. (Most of this was explored through science fiction writing, of course.)

One of the main questions was: If robot do all the work, and the humans have nothing but idle time, how would we occupy ourselves, and what effect would it have on our happiness / mental state?

Even at that age, I realized that this missed a major point: Who owns the robots? Would everyone have a robot that "went to work" for them, while they stay home, collecting the robot's paycheck? It was utterly naive even at the time (for several reasons), and events took the obvious course, where the wealthy own all of the robots and use them solely for their own financial gain.

The bottom line is that Thom is right; there are two ways of dealing with the problem - ignore it or figure out some way to spread the benefits across society more evenly. (Benoît Hamon's ideas about taxing robots seem ridiculous in the current neoliberal environment, but it's the kind of thing we need to start thinking about.)

Unfortunately, mankind doesn't have a good track record of making the right choices before it's too late to prevent catastrophe (often not even afterward).

Reply Score: 4

RE: I Agree With Thom
by dionicio on Wed 29th Mar 2017 15:39 UTC in reply to "I Agree With Thom"
dionicio Member since:
2006-07-12

Haha. Also agree. 'Who owns your cellphone?' Anyone stupid enough as to believe 'everything going to be different' Propaganda?

Reply Score: 2

RE: I Agree With Thom
by unclefester on Thu 30th Mar 2017 03:21 UTC in reply to "I Agree With Thom"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

One of the main questions was: If robot do all the work, and the humans have nothing but idle time, how would we occupy ourselves, and what effect would it have on our happiness / mental state?


We'e already done this 'experiment' with the gentry in the 18th and 19th centuries. Liberated from work (which was performed by their servants) they spent a lot of their their time and energy trying to understand the world and trying to improve the human condition.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: I Agree With Thom
by kwan_e on Thu 30th Mar 2017 12:21 UTC in reply to "RE: I Agree With Thom"
kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

We'e already done this 'experiment' with the gentry in the 18th and 19th centuries. Liberated from work (which was performed by their servants) they spent a lot of their their time and energy trying to understand the world and trying to improve the human condition.


Yeah, they could live a life of luxury while forcing everyone else to suffer. The libertarian wet dream.

Reply Score: 1

Hate to say it ...
by JoshuaS on Tue 28th Mar 2017 22:35 UTC
JoshuaS
Member since:
2011-09-15

Am I the only one who wonders how the age old Western ideas of economic liberalism and quid pro quo can survive?

The idea that we can just tax automated companies and provide everyone with an unconditional basic income while keeping industry in private hands seems pretty unrealistic seeing how most industrial plants in most sectors coalesced into practically untouchable multinationals. These multinationals are so big that we even have governments of productive, well-integrated countries such as Ireland, The Netherlands and Belgium aiding them in their crystal-clear tax evasion schemes.

Also, almost all opinion-makers underestimate how far AI reaches. Creative AI is a thing. There are programs out there writing music you would mistake for a Bach work. Humans suck at heavy physical or repetitive mental labor, which is what the previous industrial revolutions were all about. This time, however, is different. Machines are becoming like us and as time progresses will outshine us in our own strengths.

I'm not sure, but I personally can't see any other way to support humanity going further than resorting to more collectivism in the future bearing in mind these two trends. We could nationalize profitable, fully-automated industries and use their profits for a basic income. Please do correct me if I'm wrong ...

Reply Score: 3

RE: Hate to say it ...
by Dano on Wed 29th Mar 2017 11:55 UTC in reply to "Hate to say it ..."
Dano Member since:
2006-01-22

There are always going to be jobs for the humans. Collectivism never works because with this you have to take from someone forcefully and give to someone else. Either taking from the robots (owned by some human) or taking from other humans directly is immoral itself.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Hate to say it ...
by dionicio on Wed 29th Mar 2017 15:53 UTC in reply to "Hate to say it ..."
dionicio Member since:
2006-07-12

Power. Power is almost never, voluntarily relented. The more the asymmetry, the less probable reason will prevail. [Is The Actual Level Of Asymmetry which make global instability So CRITICAL].

A true Nation - a Nation supported by her citizens - diligently look after their empowering.

Reply Score: 3

So why do we need so many h1b's ?
by pd1011 on Tue 28th Mar 2017 23:28 UTC
pd1011
Member since:
2010-12-08

Trump has 0 loyalty to his backers & American #STEM workers. He could kill 100,000+ American's job going to #H1B foreigners.

Reply Score: 2

Automation
by Alfman on Wed 29th Mar 2017 02:17 UTC
Alfman
Member since:
2011-01-28

Thom Holwerda,

These effects are only "negative" effects because of the way our society currently works. Nobody is going to stop automation, but automation is going to make our capitalist systems wholly and deeply untenable.


Yea, ideally automation would be good for everyone and uniformly increase everyone's quality of life. However because of how our society works, the means of production are owned by the wealthy and the benefits of automation become highly skewed in their favor. They become incredibly wealthy while the workforce who's jobs have been eliminated are left in an economic struggle to support themselves. Even the engineering jobs that build those robots are a fraction of the jobs they just replaced.


Many workers are totally ignorant about where automation is headed:

Michigan workers hate NAFTA but love robots
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzoWHEaBuwc

I get it; it's very human to want someone or something to blame as a scapegoat for one's problems. Leaders and politicians are more than happy to provide one, in this case NAFTA. But it's ironic that they remain so blind that don't see that their own companies are intentionally investing in both offshoring and automation to reduce the need for them as workers.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Automation
by dionicio on Wed 29th Mar 2017 16:04 UTC in reply to "Automation"
dionicio Member since:
2006-07-12

Yes, you get it.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by p13.
by p13. on Wed 29th Mar 2017 08:06 UTC
p13.
Member since:
2005-07-10

The main reason why people seem to think automation will spell doom for work opportunity is that people still seem to think that manual labor is the be-all end-all occupation for the majority of the population.

I don't think so.
Services are where it's at.

Now it's time to watch governments actually do their jobs and co-ordinate the arrival of AI and high-level automation. It is simply unavoidable.
Now governments around the world get a chance to actually do something useful for their population.
Although, it is pretty much guaranteed that most will fail.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by p13.
by Alfman on Wed 29th Mar 2017 14:03 UTC in reply to "Comment by p13."
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

p13,

The main reason why people seem to think automation will spell doom for work opportunity is that people still seem to think that manual labor is the be-all end-all occupation for the majority of the population.

I don't think so.
Services are where it's at.


I don't disagree with you that as a result in the loss of manufacturing jobs, people have to turn to whatever service jobs are available. However the fastest growing service jobs are also very low wage.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/elder-scare-low-pay-afflicts-americas-f...
The fastest-growing occupation in the U.S. is also among the lowest paid.

The aging of America's baby boomers has led to a surge in demand for home care workers to look after the nation's elderly, as well as the disabled and chronically ill. The work is as essential as it is poorly paid. Home health aides do everything from checking a client's vital signs and administering medications to looking after people's dietary needs and even operating life-sustaining equipment, such as ventilators.

Working poor

Despite the growing need for home health services, in 2012 (the latest year for which data is available) the median annual wage for the country's nearly 2 million so-called direct care workers was about $10 an hour, or less than $21,000 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The money can be even worse, industry data show, since many people in the field are paid a part-timer's hours despite putting in a full work week.

Among the factors combining to keep a lid on pay, experts say: a large pool of low-skilled workers, most of whom are minority women; weak union representation; and federal laws that exclude home health personnel from the wage protections common in other professions.



This has been going on for years already. It's one thing for a secondary family income to be low, but if job cuts due to automation leads to both breadwinners scrounging for whatever low paying service jobs that are available, then this is going to be responsible for some serious economic hardships.


Now it's time to watch governments actually do their jobs and co-ordinate the arrival of AI and high-level automation. It is simply unavoidable. Now governments around the world get a chance to actually do something useful for their population.
Although, it is pretty much guaranteed that most will fail.


I agree that there's a lot that could be done, but all to often we are impeded by government being run for corporate interests, which is the exact opposite of how it should be. Governments ought to protect the interests of the people first and foremost. Having government under the influence of corporations is extremely harmful because it allows the most powerful entities in the private world to control our public policy as well without regards for the people.

Edited 2017-03-29 14:05 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by p13.
by dionicio on Wed 29th Mar 2017 16:19 UTC in reply to "Comment by p13."
dionicio Member since:
2006-07-12

'Services are where it's at". Allow me to exemplify:

International prostitution, organ traffic, personal gardeners and 'massagers', 'sommelier' porno. Hunger games, on global media distribution. Lovely cared, 'human handled', $1K non GM melons agriculture.

Going to be great. At which side you will end: 0.01% or 99.99% ? Wish you good luck.

Reply Score: 2

Is....
by Dano on Wed 29th Mar 2017 11:52 UTC
Dano
Member since:
2006-01-22

Untenable the correct word? Clearly there is a case to be made in defending the use of automation.

Reply Score: 2

People...
by dionicio on Wed 29th Mar 2017 15:28 UTC
dionicio
Member since:
2006-07-12

And the most extreme forms of Capitalism, are about to clash... Going to get ugly. Nasty ugly.

Reply Score: 3

not enough data
by poliorcetes on Fri 31st Mar 2017 12:05 UTC
poliorcetes
Member since:
2009-05-06

This is not part of my core expertise, but nonetheless I do research for a living. And the problem is so factor-variant that we are damn far from modeling it properly and being able to measure its effects.

I am quite skeptical until hard data is presented properly and beyond reasonable doubt. Climate change is presented like that already. Meanwhile, I'm a robocalypse negationist

Reply Score: 1