Thursday, October 23, 2014

How Technology Is Destroying Jobs

How Technology Is Destroying Jobs This is Google's cache of It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Oct 24, 2014 02:47:06 GMT. The current page could have changed in the meantime. Learn more Tip: To quickly find your search term on this page, press Ctrl+F or ⌘-F (Mac) and use the find bar. How Technology Is Destroying Jobs By David Rotman on June 12, 2013 Also featured in: MIT Technology Review magazine July/August 2013 WHY IT MATTERS Economic theory and government policy will have to be rethought if technology is indeed destroying jobs faster than it is creating new ones. Given his calm and reasoned academic demeanor, it is easy to miss just how provocative Erik Brynjolfsson’s contention really is. ­Brynjolfsson, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and his collaborator and coauthor Andrew McAfee have been arguing for the last year and a half that impressive advances in computer technology—from improved industrial robotics to automated translation services—are largely behind the sluggish employment growth of the last 10 to 15 years. Even more ominous for workers, the MIT academics foresee dismal prospects for many types of jobs as these powerful new technologies are increasingly adopted not only in manufacturing, clerical, and retail work but in professions such as law, financial services, education, and medicine. That robots, automation, and software can replace people might seem obvious to anyone who’s worked in automotive manufacturing or as a travel agent. But Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s claim is more troubling and controversial. They believe that rapid technological change has been destroying jobs faster than it is creating them, contributing to the stagnation of median income and the growth of inequality in the United States. And, they suspect, something similar is happening in other technologically advanced countries. Perhaps the most damning piece of evidence, according to Brynjolfsson, is a chart that only an economist could love. In economics, productivity—the amount of economic value created for a given unit of input, such as an hour of labor—is a crucial indicator of growth and wealth creation. It is a measure of progress. On the chart Brynjolfsson likes to show, separate lines represent productivity and total employment in the United States. For years after World War II, the two lines closely tracked each other, with increases in jobs corresponding to increases in productivity. The pattern is clear: as businesses generated more value from their workers, the country as a whole became richer, which fueled more economic activity and created even more jobs. Then, beginning in 2000, the lines diverge; productivity continues to rise robustly, but employment suddenly wilts. By 2011, a significant gap appears between the two lines, showing economic growth with no parallel increase in job creation. Brynjolfsson and McAfee call it the “great decoupling.” And Brynjolfsson says he is confident that technology is behind both the healthy growth in productivity and the weak growth in jobs. It’s a startling assertion because it threatens the faith that many economists place in technological progress. Brynjolfsson and McAfee still believe that technology boosts productivity and makes societies wealthier, but they think that it can also have a dark side: technological progress is eliminating the need for many types of jobs and leaving the typical worker worse off than before. ­Brynjolfsson can point to a second chart indicating that median income is failing to rise even as the gross domestic product soars. “It’s the great paradox of our era,” he says. “Productivity is at record levels, innovation has never been faster, and yet at the same time, we have a falling median income and we have fewer jobs. People are falling behind because technology is advancing so fast and our skills and organizations aren’t keeping up.” Brynjolfsson and McAfee are not Luddites. Indeed, they are sometimes accused of being too optimistic about the extent and speed of recent digital advances. Brynjolfsson says they began writing Race Against the Machine, the 2011 book in which they laid out much of their argument, because they wanted to explain the economic benefits of these new technologies (Brynjolfsson spent much of the 1990s sniffing out evidence that information technology was boosting rates of productivity). But it became clear to them that the same technologies making many jobs safer, easier, and more productive were also reducing the demand for many types of human workers. Anecdotal evidence that digital technologies threaten jobs is, of course, everywhere. Robots and advanced automation have been common in many types of manufacturing for decades. In the United States and China, the world’s manufacturing powerhouses, fewer people work in manufacturing today than in 1997, thanks at least in part to automation. Modern automotive plants, many of which were transformed by industrial robotics in the 1980s, routinely use machines that autonomously weld and paint body parts—tasks that were once handled by humans. Most recently, industrial robots like Rethink Robotics’ Baxter (see “The Blue-Collar Robot,” May/June 2013), more flexible and far cheaper than their predecessors, have been introduced to perform simple jobs for small manufacturers in a variety of sectors. The website of a Silicon Valley startup called Industrial Perception features a video of the robot it has designed for use in warehouses picking up and throwing boxes like a bored elephant. And such sensations as Google’s driverless car suggest what automation might be able to accomplish someday soon. A less dramatic change, but one with a potentially far larger impact on employment, is taking place in clerical work and professional services. Technologies like the Web, artificial intelligence, big data, and improved analytics—all made possible by the ever increasing availability of cheap computing power and storage capacity—are automating many routine tasks. Countless traditional white-collar jobs, such as many in the post office and in customer service, have disappeared. W. Brian Arthur, a visiting researcher at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center’s intelligence systems lab and a former economics professor at Stanford University, calls it the “autonomous economy.” It’s far more subtle than the idea of robots and automation doing human jobs, he says: it involves “digital processes talking to other digital processes and creating new processes,” enabling us to do many things with fewer people and making yet other human jobs obsolete. It is this onslaught of digital processes, says Arthur, that primarily explains how productivity has grown without a significant increase in human labor. And, he says, “digital versions of human intelligence” are increasingly replacing even those jobs once thought to require people. “It will change every profession in ways we have barely seen yet,” he warns. McAfee, associate director of the MIT Center for Digital Business at the Sloan School of Management, speaks rapidly and with a certain awe as he describes advances such as Google’s driverless car. Still, despite his obvious enthusiasm for the technologies, he doesn’t see the recently vanished jobs coming back. The pressure on employment and the resulting inequality will only get worse, he suggests, as digital technologies—fueled with “enough computing power, data, and geeks”—continue their exponential advances over the next several decades. “I would like to be wrong,” he says, “but when all these science-fiction technologies are deployed, what will we need all the people for?” New Economy? But are these new technologies really responsible for a decade of lackluster job growth? Many labor economists say the data are, at best, far from conclusive. Several other plausible explanations, including events related to global trade and the financial crises of the early and late 2000s, could account for the relative slowness of job creation since the turn of the century. “No one really knows,” says Richard Freeman, a labor economist at Harvard University. That’s because it’s very difficult to “extricate” the effects of technology from other macroeconomic effects, he says. But he’s skeptical that technology would change a wide range of business sectors fast enough to explain recent job numbers. Employment trends have polarized the workforce and hollowed out the middle class. David Autor, an economist at MIT who has extensively studied the connections between jobs and technology, also doubts that technology could account for such an abrupt change in total employment. “There was a great sag in employment beginning in 2000. Something did change,” he says. “But no one knows the cause.” Moreover, he doubts that productivity has, in fact, risen robustly in the United States in the past decade (economists can disagree about that statistic because there are different ways of measuring and weighing economic inputs and outputs). If he’s right, it raises the possibility that poor job growth could be simply a result of a sluggish economy. The sudden slowdown in job creation “is a big puzzle,” he says, “but there’s not a lot of evidence it’s linked to computers.” To be sure, Autor says, computer technologies are changing the types of jobs available, and those changes “are not always for the good.” At least since the 1980s, he says, computers have increasingly taken over such tasks as bookkeeping, clerical work, and repetitive production jobs in manufacturing—all of which typically provided middle-class pay. At the same time, higher-paying jobs requiring creativity and problem-solving skills, often aided by computers, have proliferated. So have low-skill jobs: demand has increased for restaurant workers, janitors, home health aides, and others doing service work that is nearly impossible to automate. The result, says Autor, has been a “polarization” of the workforce and a “hollowing out” of the middle class—something that has been happening in numerous industrialized countries for the last several decades. But “that is very different from saying technology is affecting the total number of jobs,” he adds. “Jobs can change a lot without there being huge changes in employment rates.” What’s more, even if today’s digital technologies are holding down job creation, history suggests that it is most likely a temporary, albeit painful, shock; as workers adjust their skills and entrepreneurs create opportunities based on the new technologies, the number of jobs will rebound. That, at least, has always been the pattern. The question, then, is whether today’s computing technologies will be different, creating long-term involuntary unemployment. At least since the Industrial Revolution began in the 1700s, improvements in technology have changed the nature of work and destroyed some types of jobs in the process. In 1900, 41 percent of Americans worked in agriculture; by 2000, it was only 2 percent. Likewise, the proportion of Americans employed in manufacturing has dropped from 30 percent in the post–World War II years to around 10 percent today—partly because of increasing automation, especially during the 1980s. While such changes can be painful for workers whose skills no longer match the needs of employers, Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist, says that no historical pattern shows these shifts leading to a net decrease in jobs over an extended period. Katz has done extensive research on how technological advances have affected jobs over the last few centuries—describing, for example, how highly skilled artisans in the mid-19th century were displaced by lower-skilled workers in factories. While it can take decades for workers to acquire the expertise needed for new types of employment, he says, “we never have run out of jobs. There is no long-term trend of eliminating work for people. Over the long term, employment rates are fairly stable. People have always been able to create new jobs. People come up with new things to do.” Still, Katz doesn’t dismiss the notion that there is something different about today’s digital technologies—something that could affect an even broader range of work. The question, he says, is whether economic history will serve as a useful guide. Will the job disruptions caused by technology be temporary as the workforce adapts, or will we see a science-fiction scenario in which automated processes and robots with superhuman skills take over a broad swath of human tasks? Though Katz expects the historical pattern to hold, it is “genuinely a question,” he says. “If technology disrupts enough, who knows what will happen?” Dr. Watson To get some insight into Katz’s question, it is worth looking at how today’s most advanced technologies are being deployed in industry. Though these technologies have undoubtedly taken over some human jobs, finding evidence of workers being displaced by machines on a large scale is not all that easy. One reason it is difficult to pinpoint the net impact on jobs is that automation is often used to make human workers more efficient, not necessarily to replace them. Rising productivity means businesses can do the same work with fewer employees, but it can also enable the businesses to expand production with their existing workers, and even to enter new markets. Take the bright-orange Kiva robot, a boon to fledgling e-commerce companies. Created and sold by Kiva Systems, a startup that was founded in 2002 and bought by Amazon for $775 million in 2012, the robots are designed to scurry across large warehouses, fetching racks of ordered goods and delivering the products to humans who package the orders. In Kiva’s large demonstration warehouse and assembly facility at its headquarters outside Boston, fleets of robots move about with seemingly endless energy: some newly assembled machines perform tests to prove they’re ready to be shipped to customers around the world, while others wait to demonstrate to a visitor how they can almost instantly respond to an electronic order and bring the desired product to a worker’s station. A warehouse equipped with Kiva robots can handle up to four times as many orders as a similar unautomated warehouse, where workers might spend as much as 70 percent of their time walking about to retrieve goods. (Coincidentally or not, Amazon bought Kiva soon after a press report revealed that workers at one of the retailer’s giant warehouses often walked more than 10 miles a day.) Despite the labor-saving potential of the robots, Mick Mountz, Kiva’s founder and CEO, says he doubts the machines have put many people out of work or will do so in the future. For one thing, he says, most of Kiva’s customers are e-commerce retailers, some of them growing so rapidly they can’t hire people fast enough. By making distribution operations cheaper and more efficient, the robotic technology has helped many of these retailers survive and even expand. Before founding Kiva, Mountz worked at Webvan, an online grocery delivery company that was one of the 1990s dot-com era’s most infamous flameouts. He likes to show the numbers demonstrating that Webvan was doomed from the start; a $100 order cost the company $120 to ship. Mountz’s point is clear: something as mundane as the cost of materials handling can consign a new business to an early death. Automation can solve that problem. Meanwhile, Kiva itself is hiring. Orange balloons—the same color as the robots—hover over multiple cubicles in its sprawling office, signaling that the occupants arrived within the last month. Most of these new employees are software engineers: while the robots are the company’s poster boys, its lesser-known innovations lie in the complex algorithms that guide the robots’ movements and determine where in the warehouse products are stored. These algorithms help make the system adaptable. It can learn, for example, that a certain product is seldom ordered, so it should be stored in a remote area. Though advances like these suggest how some aspects of work could be subject to automation, they also illustrate that humans still excel at certain tasks—for example, packaging various items together. Many of the traditional problems in robotics—such as how to teach a machine to recognize an object as, say, a chair—remain largely intractable and are especially difficult to solve when the robots are free to move about a relatively unstructured environment like a factory or office. Techniques using vast amounts of computational power have gone a long way toward helping robots understand their surroundings, but John Leonard, a professor of engineering at MIT and a member of its Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), says many familiar difficulties remain. “Part of me sees accelerating progress; the other part of me sees the same old problems,” he says. “I see how hard it is to do anything with robots. The big challenge is uncertainty.” In other words, people are still far better at dealing with changes in their environment and reacting to unexpected events. For that reason, Leonard says, it is easier to see how robots could work with humans than on their own in many applications. “People and robots working together can happen much more quickly than robots simply replacing humans,” he says. “That’s not going to happen in my lifetime at a massive scale. The semiautonomous taxi will still have a driver.” One of the friendlier, more flexible robots meant to work with humans is Rethink’s Baxter. The creation of Rodney Brooks, the company’s founder, Baxter needs minimal training to perform simple tasks like picking up objects and moving them to a box. It’s meant for use in relatively small manufacturing facilities where conventional industrial robots would cost too much and pose too much danger to workers. The idea, says Brooks, is to have the robots take care of dull, repetitive jobs that no one wants to do. It’s hard not to instantly like Baxter, in part because it seems so eager to please. The “eyebrows” on its display rise quizzically when it’s puzzled; its arms submissively and gently retreat when bumped. Asked about the claim that such advanced industrial robots could eliminate jobs, Brooks answers simply that he doesn’t see it that way. Robots, he says, can be to factory workers as electric drills are to construction workers: “It makes them more productive and efficient, but it doesn’t take jobs.” The machines created at Kiva and Rethink have been cleverly designed and built to work with people, taking over the tasks that the humans often don’t want to do or aren’t especially good at. They are specifically designed to enhance these workers’ productivity. And it’s hard to see how even these increasingly sophisticated robots will replace humans in most manufacturing and industrial jobs anytime soon. But clerical and some professional jobs could be more vulnerable. That’s because the marriage of artificial intelligence and big data is beginning to give machines a more humanlike ability to reason and to solve many new types of problems. Even if the economy is only going through a transition, it is an extremely painful one for many. In the tony northern suburbs of New York City, IBM Research is pushing super-smart computing into the realms of such professions as medicine, finance, and customer service. IBM’s efforts have resulted in Watson, a computer system best known for beating human champions on the game show Jeopardy! in 2011. That version of Watson now sits in a corner of a large data center at the research facility in Yorktown Heights, marked with a glowing plaque commemorating its glory days. Meanwhile, researchers there are already testing new generations of Watson in medicine, where the technology could help physicians diagnose diseases like cancer, evaluate patients, and prescribe treatments. IBM likes to call it cognitive computing. Essentially, Watson uses artificial-­intelligence techniques, advanced natural-language processing and analytics, and massive amounts of data drawn from sources specific to a given application (in the case of health care, that means medical journals, textbooks, and information collected from the physicians or hospitals using the system). Thanks to these innovative techniques and huge amounts of computing power, it can quickly come up with “advice”—for example, the most recent and relevant information to guide a doctor’s diagnosis and treatment decisions. Despite the system’s remarkable ability to make sense of all that data, it’s still early days for Dr. Watson. While it has rudimentary abilities to “learn” from specific patterns and evaluate different possibilities, it is far from having the type of judgment and intuition a physician often needs. But IBM has also announced it will begin selling Watson’s services to customer-support call centers, which rarely require human judgment that’s quite so sophisticated. IBM says companies will rent an updated version of Watson for use as a “customer service agent” that responds to questions from consumers; it has already signed on several banks. Automation is nothing new in call centers, of course, but Watson’s improved capacity for natural-language processing and its ability to tap into a large amount of data suggest that this system could speak plainly with callers, offering them specific advice on even technical and complex questions. It’s easy to see it replacing many human holdouts in its new field. Digital Losers The contention that automation and digital technologies are partly responsible for today’s lack of jobs has obviously touched a raw nerve for many worried about their own employment. But this is only one consequence of what ­Brynjolfsson and McAfee see as a broader trend. The rapid acceleration of technological progress, they say, has greatly widened the gap between economic winners and losers—the income inequalities that many economists have worried about for decades. Digital technologies tend to favor “superstars,” they point out. For example, someone who creates a computer program to automate tax preparation might earn millions or billions of dollars while eliminating the need for countless accountants. New technologies are “encroaching into human skills in a way that is completely unprecedented,” McAfee says, and many middle-class jobs are right in the bull’s-eye; even relatively high-skill work in education, medicine, and law is affected. “The middle seems to be going away,” he adds. “The top and bottom are clearly getting farther apart.” While technology might be only one factor, says McAfee, it has been an “underappreciated” one, and it is likely to become increasingly significant. Not everyone agrees with Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s conclusions—particularly the contention that the impact of recent technological change could be different from anything seen before. But it’s hard to ignore their warning that technology is widening the income gap between the tech-savvy and everyone else. And even if the economy is only going through a transition similar to those it’s endured before, it is an extremely painful one for many workers, and that will have to be addressed somehow. Harvard’s Katz has shown that the United States prospered in the early 1900s in part because secondary education became accessible to many people at a time when employment in agriculture was drying up. The result, at least through the 1980s, was an increase in educated workers who found jobs in the industrial sectors, boosting incomes and reducing inequality. Katz’s lesson: painful long-term consequences for the labor force do not follow inevitably from technological changes. Brynjolfsson himself says he’s not ready to conclude that economic progress and employment have diverged for good. “I don’t know whether we can recover, but I hope we can,” he says. But that, he suggests, will depend on recognizing the problem and taking steps such as investing more in the training and education of workers. “We were lucky and steadily rising productivity raised all boats for much of the 20th century,” he says. “Many people, especially economists, jumped to the conclusion that was just the way the world worked. I used to say that if we took care of productivity, everything else would take care of itself; it was the single most important economic statistic. But that’s no longer true.” He adds, “It’s one of the dirty secrets of economics: technology progress does grow the economy and create wealth, but there is no economic law that says everyone will benefit.” In other words, in the race against the machine, some are likely to win while many others lose. 777 COMMENTS. Share your thoughts » Credits: Noma Bar (Illustration); Data from Bureau of Labor Statistics (Productivity, Output, GDP Per Capita); International Federation of Robotics; CIA World Factbook (GDP by Sector), Bureau of Labor Statistics (Job Growth, Manufacturing Employment); D. Autor and D. Dorn, U.S. Census, American Community Survey, and Department of Labor (Change in Employment and Wages by Skill, Routine Jobs) Tagged: Computing, Biomedicine, Business, Communications, Energy, Web, Mobile, robotics, AI, economy, jobs, automation, middle class Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor RELATED STORIES YOU MAY HAVE MISSED MORE FROM THIS AUTHOR Technology and Inequality The disparity between the rich and everyone else is larger than ever in the United States and increasing in much of Europe. Why? CONTINUE 62 The Extremes of Inequality Q&A with Futurist Martine Rothblatt 19 Can Humans Benefit from Robots in the Workplace? 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Newest | Oldest | Top Comments andyrwebman 9 days ago The trouble with the "dream up new jobs" idea is that there is a tacit dependence on us consuming the produce made by these new jobs - be it physical or information. I personally find that I'm at the limit of what I can reasonably consume. I don't find that the new iPads or million and one other gizmos improve my life much at all, even though I'm a programmer by trade. Many are invented to sole "problems" that don't really need solving at all. Actually, they can be apt to make us all more apathetic - witness the people with eyes glued to the smartphone screen in bars and "social" places, downloading apps to make ever more of their decisions for them. It is fitting that this article is partly about robots, since Isaac Asimov famously predicted that robots would make humans apathetic by taking away all meaningful tasks from them. Worryingly, it's not the physical tasks that have been devolved, but many of the mental ones - as per the earlier smarphone comments. I wonder how long it will be before more and more people step out of the rat race - at least to the extent that they eschew the many consumer goods that are cheaper and more worthless by the day? The sad thing is that the actual raw material of the planet - particularly real estate to live on - IS becoming rarer and more precious. We have rooms full of gadgets and an ever decreasing space to put them in. Against this backdrop, the economic value of an individual person seems greatly reduced - far more a consumer of the limited resources than a producer of anything worth having. I'm left with a conclusion that recurs everywhere - that this planet would be better off with a smaller and more highly educated human population. FlagShare1LikeReply howiem 9 days ago @andyrwebman Take this with a grain of salt. Do you really think that your experience (or mine, for that matter) are indicative of the experiences of each of the other 7 billion people on the planet? My point is that you seem to be taking too narrow a view of the world and the potentials of individuals. But it is your last sentence that is disturbing: "I'm left with a conclusion that recurs everywhere - that this planet would be better off with a smaller and more highly educated human population." Firs, the claim the conclusion recurs everywhere needs to be justified. But more importantly, do you realize what you are advocating? You are asking for the e4xtermination of billions of people, unless you have a way to reduce the population by some other means. And how could you be sure that one of those billions would not be the Could you be sure that one of those terminated lives would not be the person with the breakthrough ways of better employing people so technology doesn't ace them all out of work of some type, or who will think up ways of getting to other planets in fast time, for example? That would be a better way to reduce the population on earth than exterminating those who some bureaucrat determines are "no longer essential". Or perhaps the robots will also exterminate the bureaucrats. Can you be certain that you would be one of those "allowed" to keep on living? Are you saying that the only jobs in life require a high level of education? If everyone has a very high level of education, who will change the light bulbs? I am not saying that the PhDs would not be capable, but it would be beneath their "dignity". Besides what's the point of becoming an intellectual elite if there is no one to lord over? Certainly if technology goes too far, the politicians will legislate then robots out of their jobs. Perhaps the robots will make life so easy that we will all over eat and explode. We can even have arenas lie on old Rome or in "Logan's Run". No need for lions. Just pins for the Pop the People weekly contests. Bottom line is don't discount humans too easily. It wasn't long ago that no one ever heard the word computer. We probably shouldn't assume that we know everything there is to know. But if we do, others will not. FlagShareLikeReply breister 8 days ago @howiem @andyrwebman howiem, I don't think anyone anywhere except nut jobs are asking for global exterminations, so maybe we can keep the hyperbole down? On the other hand, offering free birth control perhaps with incentives would probably be doing some impoverished nations a true favor, instead of simply sending them just enough food to create more people who can't feed themselves as we have been doing for decades. FlagShare1LikeReply howiem 8 days ago @breister If you had really read my post you might have even noticed that I started with "Take this with a grain of salt." That means it was tongue in cheek. Unfortunately some of those nut jobs you refer to happen to be in positions of power, and cannot be taken too lightly. You might want to rethink your suggestion to give free birth control to people in impoverished countries. In impoverished countries, people want to have children to care from them in their old age, and many of their babies die young. Therefore the more children they can produce the more chance there is of some surviving to take care for their parents when they get old. Do you really think that is a "true favor"? FlagShareLikeReply breister 8 days ago @howiem @breister "You might want to rethink your suggestion to give free birth control to people in impoverished countries. In impoverished countries, people want to have children to care from them in their old age, and many of their babies die young. Therefore the more children they can produce the more chance there is of some surviving to take care for their parents when they get old. Do you really think that is a "true favor"?" Let's think about this. In these countries, there are are already 10 people chasing barely enough food to feed 8. Do I understand that you are proposing that the "best thing to do" is to encourage them to continue their current practices, which will result in 20 people competing for only enough food to feed 8? Somehow, I don't think I am the one who needs to re-think that. Your suggestion is to perpetuate a cruel and deadly game of musical chairs. IMHO, if that is the only alternative then it would be more humane to follow your "dark-humored" suggestion of extermination than to doom future unborn generations to a perpetual cycle of death by starvation. At least it would be quick, rather than condemning them to a life of suffering. Offering voluntary birth control would at least offer them a third alternative unavailable to them today, and one which would not condemn their children to the same impoverished fate. FlagShare1LikeReply howiem 7 days ago @breister @howiem In fact, I was doing sort of a spoof on andyrwebman's comment in my first post. There are people in the current U.,S. government today who have in the past advocated for mass extermination. I do not agree with that. I live in a country where there were, and are relatively poor people; most in the agricultural sector. Some years ago, there was a successful campaign to get them to practice birth control by persuasion, which resulted in having too few children to meet the replacement needs. Other factors came along and the prosperity of the country increased. Today, there is a severe labor shortage, and instead of poor farmers having children to help them with the harvests, they have to use more hired labor than before. Much of this labor is now imported, and sometimes includes criminal elements. Now the “poor” farmers must pay cash to those they hire to bring in the crops instead of the cost of room and board for their children and hiring friends at low cost to help out, as they would help their friends. Thus, because of birth control practices it is now more costly to be a farmer, and poor farmers have it as bad as or worse than before. There are consequences of every action, foreseeable and unforeseen, as well as helpful and harmful. So, we need to consider very carefully before we determine what is “right” for someone else, particularly people we do not know, who are also unique individuals as we are, not commodities. Just giving out condoms or pills is sort of a cop out unless we know each person’s needs and wants, and what will really benefit them. Can we be certain that the intended recipients get the pills/condoms at no cost to them? Suppose their government takes control of the donations? What if their government, national or local, forces the poor to pay for the items? That will make them even poorer. Giving people birth control pills is saying, "Here's a pill, take it, go forth and have no more children and you shall be happy." However, some people are willing to take the risk of having children to make them happy. Furthermore, neither condoms nor pills last forever. Who will supply the next round, .... and the round after that? Should we force every man in "poor" countries to have a “voluntary” operation? Who will pay? Who will get the operations? Just the poor men? What about the not-so-poor men that impregnate poor girls and don't take care of them? These are all foreseeable impacts in many countries. Your comment that it is perpetuating a cruel and deadly game of death by starvation is not necessarily true, although in some cases that is the reality of life. People born in poverty do not always remain poor. Not all of the “poor” are starving to death. Young people, who live at home and have no income may be classified as poor, even if their family is well off. In many countries, farmers may be relatively “poor” in terms of cash, but they grow their own food and need less cash to survive,, and can live comfortable with little cash. They may be better off than people who have more money but who live in an expensive city. To determine relative “poorness” we can use Purchasing Power Parityto some extent for the products the “poor” in country A use compared to the products that the “poor” use country B or C. For example, where I live, I can buy a shirt that is also exported to the USA. I pay about 1/.3 of what someone in the U.S. pays, therefore, for that shirt, my purchasing power is three times that of an American in the US. Much of my food is a lot less expensive, and so are my accommodations. One of the problems with just deciding that birth control is necessary is that there are economic and other repercussions. Just giving out condoms does mean that we understand the needs and wants of the people themselves. To know that, they must be asked. I know many people with very low income who do not want handouts, because handouts are rarely sustainable, but mainly because they have self-pride. When we want to do something, after deciding what it is we want to do, just keep asking, "What happens next?" until you find out what can go wrong. Then decide if the benefits outweigh the pitfalls. If it were up to me, I would have everyone be a millionaire and able to purchase whatever each one wants. But who would make the products and provide the services they want if they were wealthy? Would enough of the millionaires be willing to work? This of course relates to the main theme of this thread which I have no time for now. I’ll just say that I doubt that there will ever be a robot who can see value in everything that humans see value in. FlagShareLikeReply rrusson 7 days ago @howiem I'm always struck by the way some people feel that providing birth control is the equivalent of mandatory sterilization. It just perplexes me how offering something as a choice for adults that have free will is a bad thing. If they want children, they decline; if they don't, there's nothing preventing family planning and more control over their lives (and finances). I suppose if our government provided free donuts, within a year 90% of us would be bloated and dead because we'd be compelled to eat them? Your other objections are similarly illogical. I can only imagine there's some odd, emotional eugenics baggage here to explain your reaction. FlagShare1LikeReply howiem 6 days ago @rrusson @howiem Read the other posts that led to my comments. I never advocated birth control. I just discussed it. FlagShareLikeReply breister 6 days ago @howiem @rrusson "Read the other posts that led to my comments. I never advocated birth control. I just discussed it." Clearly you did not - in fact, after parsing through your rather wordy response it appears you are in favor of perpetuating the status quo - which can be summed up as continuing the ongoing global intervention in other countries which consists solely of sending food, which only results in exacerbating their problems. FlagShareLikeReply howiem 6 days ago @breister @howiem @rrusson No, I did not say that either. And if you don't like my "wordy" responses, then don't read them. I see no point in continuing this. FlagShareLikeReply Pavla Foley Sep 18, 2014 Yes, the truth is that robots will take our jobs away, something they have actually already done for some while – they often take away unsafe, backbreaking, repetitive and boring jobs, freeing up humans’ capacity to do more interesting and less physical strenuous jobs. More importantly, as robots take on more jobs, we hopefully will dream up new jobs just as humanity has done for decades. Our Industries of the Future: Robotics Report is trying to answer the following questions: · How changes in global demographics are driving the need for “robotic workers” in the future. ·How technology advancements are pushing the world towards an era of robotic deployment. ·How robotic technology is impacting existing industries and markets. ·How innovative robotic technologies could impact jobs and skills required for the future. ·How we prepare the workforce for an era of “robotic workers.” FlagShareLikeReply Gary Reber Sep 17, 2014 if your assertions were true then we would have full employment and everyone with a job that pays a decent, livable wage. But this is not the reality, as the non-human factor of production constantly "saves" labor and shifts production off of human labor while increasing productiveness. FlagShare1LikeReply leopardpm Sep 16, 2014 Really ridiculous. There are always people claiming that machines, computers, and other people are 'taking jobs'. Fact is, humans have unlimited wants/needs/desires and the process of supplying these is called a 'job'... there will ALWAYS be work to do. People may have to understand better what a 'job' is (providing valued labor), and what it is not (getting a paycheck for 'working' at doing anything). Unemployment comes from two sources: frictional (the time/effort/study it takes to find another job), or institutional (the barriers put in place through government, ie: min wage, regulations, etc). Technology is just a 'tool'. It helps us produce more, or better, or faster, with less. Which frees up our time/resources for other things we might want to do/produce. If we desired, as humans, to increase our leisure time with these productivity gains, we could. But history has shown that instead we choose to continue to try to improve our living situation/conditions and develop even better/faster/more stuff. Another thing, the canard that 'only low-wage jobs' will be left, or, that technology puts 'downward pressure' on wages. Simply untrue! The economy, if left unhindered, will continually adjust wage rates according to changing values. Even if we were to become a nation of Massage Therapists, with every other conceivable 'job' being done (at no cost, of course) by robots/computers, we would 'earn' enough to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves as we wished, perhaps only 'working' by giving one massage a week. Maybe that wasn't really clear, basically, the economy will work out wage rates depending upon how WE value different labors, if robots make the value of a certain (or all) manufacturing labor go down, WE will more highly value OTHER things which will increase the wage rates in those industries. and... lastly. the notion that changes are occurring 'too fast' for society to keep up. Pfft! It is US that is changing things, so of course WE can keep up! Things are changing EXACTLY at the speed we desire, we can speed up or slow down as we see fit and there is no need to artificially (through some governmental intervention or edict) try to affect things. FlagShare1LikeReply Nicholas P Sep 26, 2014 @leopardpm "Unemployment comes from two sources: frictional (the time/effort/study it takes to find another job), or institutional (the barriers put in place through government, ie: min wage, regulations, etc)." This is an ignorant statement. You imply government regulation is the sole of cause of an area having fewer jobs available than its population can support, which is outrageous, as there are many other factors that contribute to the job market. You seem to think that economies are all the same and are not competing with each other, but they are, largely due to resource availability, location and infrastructure (think extraction and shipping). Besides, do you really want America to be more like China, where workers have no rights, a low quality of living (low pay), and a filthy environment to live in (air pollution in northern China is directly responsible for decreasing life expectancy by 5.5 years (1))? I personally am thankful for environmental regulation and workers rights, and believe more barriers should be put in place that discourage outsourcing and importation. If we were all massage therapists (or participant in any other undiverse job market), then there would be no demand in the field, since we would all have only one customer. Durp. (1) FlagShareLikeReply andyrwebman 9 days ago @leopardpm "Fact is, humans have unlimited wants/needs/desires and the process of supplying these is called a 'job" Not true. So many people are actually finding that endless gratification just doesn't make for happiness - especially not if you have to work extra hard to get the money to pay for an undending stream of consumer goods. FlagShareLikeReply patricksteenks Jul 15, 2014 Very interesting article. Recently I have watched a video by a Harvard professor which addresses the exact same problem and explains it by distinguishing between three types of innovation. See the 15 minute video on the link below to learn more about his explanation. This professor thinks that unless we change our innovation focus, technology will be destroying jobs in the near future at an alarming rate. FlagShareLikeReply Gary Reber Jul 15, 2014 @patricksteenks Tectonic shifts in the technologies of production are exponential and will destroy jobs as capital assets––structures, machines, tools, super-automation, robotics, computerized operations––replace the need for human labor. But still there is no one in academia addressing the issue of who owns the capital assets? We need to reform the system to empower EVERY child, woman and man equal access in interest-free, insured capital credit loans to purchase new issues of stock in the corporations growing the economy, repayable out of the FUTURE earnings of the capital investments. FlagShareLikeReply andyrwebman 9 days ago @Gary Reber @patricksteenks Interest free insured loans? Two probelms with that 1. Who would put up the capital - effectively all risk and no return? 2. Do you realise how much cheap - in this case free - credit pushes up the prices of things? You're asking for the worst kind of hyper inflation. FlagShareLikeReply Gary Reber 9 days ago @andyrwebman @Gary Reber @patricksteenks Influential economists and business leaders, as well as political leaders, should read Harold Moulton's The Formation Of Capital, in which he argues that it makes no sense to finance new productive capital out of past savings. Instead, economic growth should be financed out of future earnings (savings), and provide that every citizen become an owner. The Federal Reserve, which has been largely responsible for the powerlessness of most American citizens, should set an example for all the central banks in the world. Chairman Janet Yellen and other members of the Federal Reserve need to wake-up and implement Section 13 paragraph 2, which directs the Federal Reserve to create credit for local banks to make loans where there isn't enough savings in the system to finance economic growth. We should not destroy the Federal Reserve or make it a political extension of the Treasury Department, but instead reform it so that the American citizens in each of the 12 Federal Reserve Regions become the owners. The result will be that money power will flow from the bottom up, not from the top down––not for consumer credit, not for credit that doesn't pay for itself or non-productive uses of credit, but for credit for productive uses to expand the economy's rate of growth. The Federal Reserve should be required to stop monetizing unproductive debt, including bailouts of banks "too big to fail" and Wall Street derivatives speculators, and begin creating an asset-backed currency that could enable every child, woman and man to establish a Capital Homestead Account or "CHA" (a super-IRA or asset tax-shelter for citizens) at their local bank to acquire a growing dividend-bearing stock portfolio to supplement their incomes from work and all other sources of income. The CHA would process an equal allocation of productive credit to every citizen exclusively for purchasing full-dividend payout shares in companies needing funds for growing the economy and private sector jobs for local, national and global markets, The shares would be purchased on credit wholly backed by projected "future savings" in the form of new productive capital assets as well as the future marketable goods and services produced by the newly added technology, renewable energy systems, plant, rentable space and infrastructure added to the economy. Risk of default on each stock acquisition loan would be covered by private sector capital credit risk insurance and reinsurance, but would not require citizens to reduce their funds for consumption to purchase shares. The end result is that citizens would become empowered as owners to meet their own consumption needs and government would become more dependent on economically independent citizens, thus reversing current global trends where all citizens will eventually become dependent for their economic well-being on our only legitimate social monopoly –– the State –– and whatever elite controls the coercive powers of government. FlagShareLikeReply bowlweevils Apr 30, 2014 Here's the problem with economists: "Katz has done extensive research on how technological advances have affected jobs over the last few centuries...we never have run out of jobs" The "last few centuries" are nothing. Try extending the data set back to 1400 (how are those plagues going?) instead of 1700, 1100 (barley gruel and cold stone walls), 800 (look, Karl der Größe is being crowned emperor), 500 (der Volkswanderung), etc. And most of the data from "the last few centuries" comes selectively, from countries that experienced the industrial revolution. And they were added to the data set when they industrialized. There is no data from Russia 1700 because they weren't building steamships. There is no data from Africa, India, China. The fact is that the main human economic system has been small groups that manufactured their own goods out of animal and plant parts with assistance from stone. They occasionally exchanged precious (shiny, hard) objects and negotiated mating exchanges. There was an incredible level of inter-group violence. This system lasted, to be generous in our dating, 90000 years (we're going with 100kya for official "humans" to exist, 10000bc as end of the neolithic. Yes, those are very generous numbers, I know). This was followed by the domestication of animals and development of agriculture in certain areas, usually large river systems surrounding by poor living zones (i.e., the desert or mountains) to keep the population from wandering. And small empires emerged. When this happened depended on where you look. That lasted a very long time. With better technology for transportation, the range of activity increased. Some empires grew large and collapsed and grew large and collapsed and... But this lasted a very long time. So long that it did not even start for many areas of the world, which lived in a neolithic(maybe +agriculture) situation until the Europeans developed ocean-going vessels in the 15th century. Other regions remained as small empires. Some pretended they were democracies as long as you didn't count the slaves as people. Even in the traditional centers of the "civilized world", the Mediterranean, the Middle East and India (with east Africa joining in), and east Asia, our horse, sword, and coast-hugging boats provided the basics of the economic system until the 14th century. So data from a few centuries out of 100000 years, from a cherry-picked area of the world - essentially the parts of the world that produced the records used to make the data set - say that technology makes jobs. I'm not going to pretend I know what's going to happen. But let's bear in mind that many economists thought that Japan was going to dominate the world in the 1980s. If the world existed, because economists also failed to predict the relatively peaceful end of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. And then the 1990s became "the end of history" when we would all have no more war and shares worth millions, and live happily ever after. So what we know is that the data from 300 years from the countries producing the data are virtually nothing in the scope of human history. We also know that economists are terrible at making predictions 10-20 years in advance. When technologists and serious science fiction authors say it's time to worry, think about worrying. When economists tell you everything will be fine, they have nothing but false confidence and misleading graphs to support those claims.Economists may have physics envy, but it is not so great as to drive them to actually study physics. I also didn't see anything about the impact of rising oceans on billions of people living in small low-lying pockets of shoreline. You don't need to worry about where 25 million people in Florida will find jobs because there won't be a Florida. FlagShare1LikeReply zdzisiekm Apr 30, 2014 @bowlweevils "I also didn't see anything about the impact of rising oceans on billions of people living in small low-lying pockets of shoreline." Because it's not an issue. Sea levels have been rising and falling for centuries. During the Medieval Warm Period there was less ice on Greenland than today. During the Holocene Thermal Maximum, 7000 years ago, the sea level around Australia was 1 meter higher than today. According to Palanisamy et al the sea level in the Indian Ocean rises by between 4 and 7 inches per century only, doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2014.02.001, which is a small fraction of an average ocean wave height. No sea level rise acceleration has been observed. It's been rising like this at a relatively steady and slow pace ever since the end of the Little Ice Age. You are also wrong when you limit the scope of human civilization to the last 300 years only. Medieval China and Arabia were shining centers of human civilization with advanced technologies, knowledge and highly organized societies in place, as were Ancient Greece and Rome in Europe. Eratosthenes estimated correctly the Earth's size and shape in 240BC. To be able to do so, you had to live in a highly advanced society already, with profound knowledge of geometry and geography, and means to preserve and disseminate it. Economy was understood and practiced in the Ancient Mesopotamia, 3000BC, and Romans used to collect exhaustive statistics about their own society. The Egyptians have been taking regular censuses already in the early Pharaonic period, 3340BC-3056BC. FlagShareLikeReply bowlweevils May 1, 2014 @zdzisiekm @bowlweevilsI was not intending at all to limit the scope of human civilization to the last 300 years in Euro-America. In fact, I think my comment makes it clear that I think there is far more to human civilization than that period. What I was saying was that economists are relying on the last 300 years in Euro-America when they are making their predictions about the future, and neglecting most of human history and most of the world. As I said, even within Europe, the economists' data set is limited to industrializing nations. Those that are not industrializing are not included. So your very early period is mostly limited to England. Then parts of what is now Germany and the United States get added, then northern France, Silesia, the low countries. Eventually Spain and Prussia and Russia will be included. But only after they start building steamships, railroads, and factories. As long as they remain largely agricultural, they aren't included by economists. For economists, the world starts when those steamships and factories displace the agricultural workers. I was criticizing the limitations on the data economists use. I agree entirely with you regarding the scope of world civilization. However, you are wrong about sea level being a non-issue. And in a sense, you are reasoning like today's economists. First, your argument is that, on a macroscopic level, sea level fluctuation has been not an issue. This is true. However, this data is based on a world with a much smaller population. The population of the world has grown so much, and so many marginal regions have been populated that 150 million Bangladeshis don't have somewhere else to migrate to without causing major warfare. And that's the other flaw in your argument. Sea level fluctuations matter very much on the local level, and actions at the local level can change world history. Before the Medieval Warm Period, most of the Netherlands was firm ground, along with lower Saxony. Rising sea levels and post-glacial rebound caused massive flooding and loss of habitable land on the continental North Sea coast from Flanders to Jutland. The result of this was the Angles, Saxons, Frisians, and Jutes migrating to Celto-Romanic Britain. Continued warming boosted the population of Scandinavia, resulting in the Danes invading Anglo-Saxon Britain and Norwegians conquering Normandy, and later the Italian Peninsula south of Rome and Sicily, along with assorted smaller islands, Malta, Rhodes. It also sent the rising population of western and central Europe on the Southern and Northern Crusades. While we are pretty familiar with the massive change in world history that accompanied the Southern Crusades, the Northern Crusades resulted in Germanic rule over what is today's Poland and Baltic States, the formation of the Hanseatic League, and the increasing integration of Russia into the European sphere of influence. Amsterdam, London, Koln, and Hamburg were created by the Medieval Warm Period. The Medieval Warm Period resulted in huge changes in European population structure and permanently altered world history. The impact of Great Britain, Germany, and Russia on the world cannot be underestimated, and all three were sent on an expansionist mindset by the impact of invasion, migration, and trade networks. Again, I am not trying to limit civilization to Europe. But I am extremely familiar with northern European history. And northern Europeans and their former colonies conquered much of the world and continue to dominate today. This will probably change in the next century. For much of human history China or South Asia was more important than Europe. It will likely be China and the other East and Southeast Asian nations that are dominant in the future. But for the past 500 years, Northern Europeans and their former colonies have been the dominant force in the world, and the Northern European cultures and nations were very much shaped by the sea level and temperature changes of the Medieval Warm Period. Perhaps you are thinking now, What about Spain? Spain before the Moorish period was ruled by Visigoths, a Germanic people. Their descendants led the Reconquista. Not long after the unification of Spain, Spain became part of the Habsburg Empire. This was the first empire that the sun never set upon, long before the British Empire. And a key part of the Habsburg Spanish line was the low countries. The redistribution of precious metals, animals, plants, and peoples by Spain and the Netherlands again altered the world in the most profound way. The post-Roman forms of these nations were triggered by the Medieval Warm Period. Even if we ignore everything else, and just focus on the single group of people that the Medieval Warm Period affected the most, the Netherlanders, we have a massive change in world history - the discovery of Australia, the conquest of Indonesia, the monopoly on trade with Japan, the founders of New York, the masters of the transatlantic slave trade - that was generated by the sea level fluctuations of the Medieval Warm Period. FlagShareLikeReply zdzisiekm May 1, 2014 @bowlweevils @zdzisiekm "Even if we ignore everything else, and just focus on the single group of people that the Medieval Warm Period affected the most, the Netherlanders, we have a massive change in world history - the discovery of Australia, the conquest of Indonesia, the monopoly on trade with Japan, the founders of New York, the masters of the transatlantic slave trade - that was generated by the sea level fluctuations of the Medieval Warm Period." So? These were all good things. They led to the development of the world, technological and scientific progress, prosperity, modern medicine, etc. What's here to complain about? The building of terps and dikes in medieval Netherlands also contributed to human development by making the Dutch skilled in such earthworks and related technologies, e.g., pumping water by using wind power. By the time of the Dutch Republic, 1581-1795, the Dutch were amongst the richest people in Europe. FlagShareLikeReply andyrwebman 9 days ago @zdzisiekm @bowlweevils They might seem like good things with the benefit of hindsight, but living through turbulent change is never pleasant. Hence the chinese curse "may you live in interesting times" FlagShareLikeReply falstaff 9 days ago @andyrwebman @zdzisiekm @bowlweevils That saying is given as a blessing, not a curse. FlagShareLikeReply Lafayette May 1, 2014 @zdzisiekm @bowlweevils { By the time of the Dutch Republic, 1581-1795, the Dutch were amongst the richest people in Europe.} Because they were traders, but not producers? FlagShareLikeReply zdzisiekm May 1, 2014 @Lafayette @zdzisiekm@bowlweevils "Because they were traders, but not producers?" They were producers and traders. They excelled in high technology goods, e.g., clocks, watches, springs, jewellery, lenses. They excelled in producing food: dairy products, flowers, poultry, vegetables. Textiles--famous throughout all of Europe at the time. Their skill in using wind power led to mechanized sawmills, paper making, linens, oils, brewing, ceramics. They were people with great (Calvinist) work ethic. Their manufacturing prowess then led to them establishing the largest trading empire in the world at the time, having the largest merchant fleet and the best navy. FlagShareLikeReply Apr 25, 2014 It's interesting to see persons that manufacture and sell robotic applications to business and manufacturing claim that it doesn't eliminate jobs. Well let me tell you I am not nieve. I've been a manufacturing engineer for a lot of years, and I can tell you that all of the managements I've worked for insisted in seeing reduction of manpower to justify the expenditure for robots. Business is all about making money, that is all that matters to the stock holders and the company. The automation of factories will absolutely eliminate more jobs than it will create, otherwise the econoics of purchasing robots would not be justified and it would not occur. Sorry, but that is the reality. A very few will get richer at the expense of the middle. We are just beginning to see the effects of mass automation and the squeeze of the middle. There are a lot of big lies out there in our society, propagated by big business and the wealthy. Education is one of those lies. We already have many young people graduating from college whom can't get jobs, and yet these people keep touting that education is the answer. Education is important, however we have many, many engineers that can't find a job. Greed is why they lie, it's all about money, not people. We have all this technology, but we still have not learned how to treat each other decently. Best Regards, FlagShare1LikeReply paula.nef.3 Apr 24, 2014 There may not be any good historical analogy in past technological changes to the changes that computers will bring for us. Computers are so intelligent, so capable of learning, and evolving so fast -- past technologies essentially involved machinery without anything approaching intelligence and therefore make poor analogies to them. The best historical analogy we have may be to slave societies. Slaves could replace a broad range of paid workers without being paid. In slave societies like ancient Rome or the American South, slaves performed a very wide variety of both repetitive and skilled labor, (even in the American South, where slaves were forbidden to read and write, they both picked cotton which was repetitive but difficult to do by a simple machine, and in some cases performed skilled labor like blacksmithing or animal husbandry; in Rome, slaves performed an even wider variety of occupations such as tutoring, not unlike Khan Academy or computer programs which teach people at home). Because of the range of occupations that slaves could do, I think slave societies make a better analogy than early industrial society, with it's steam engines and so on, to what our future with computers may be like. If that is true, then what might our future look like? Well, one thing is that the societies which used massive slave labor, like Rome and the southern U.S., tended to have a very wealthy upper class that benefitted most from this labor, and a large poor class of people. Unemployment was chronically high in both cases, b/c there just weren't enough paid jobs available. Neither society produced a really strong, large middle class. And in both cases, these were chronic problems that persisted for generations. To the extent this analogy is valid, I think it is a rather pessimistic one. FlagShareLikeReply zdzisiekm Apr 25, 2014 @paula.nef.3 "even in the American South, where slaves were forbidden to read and write" This is incorrect. American slaves could read and it was legal to teach them to read. They were expected, for example, to read the Bible. Following Stono Rebellion of 1739--pre US, note--it became illegal to teach slaves to *write*, but it was never illegal for a slave to know how to write, so the ban was on teachers alone. Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) who was African American, born in Senegambia, became renowned for her poetry, on both sides of the Atlantic. Her white owners, the Wheatley family of Boston, taught her to read and write. Jupiter Hammon (1711-1806) was another African American writer, a slave all his life, was accepted as a writer and published in the US. FlagShare1LikeReply jay.viradiya.1 Feb 26, 2014 Automation is troubling for human being Because now a days large scale industries Firing their employees .Because large scale industries needs their production fast so it implement the machines to their industries and no space for human being.So I thought that Robots are replacing humans.I think that Technologies are very good for industries because with the help of technologies we can reduced our time as well as money.but if the Technologies are on its way then it's a big trouble for human being. FlagShareLikeReply woodstock Dan Jan 15, 2014 discussions of previous histories of unemployment and recovery miss the most significant point in your article i.e. we are entering a new paradigm where job destruction and job creation will not play out as they did in the Industrial Revolution. The exponential growth fo knowledge shared ubiquitously by the internet will drive development of new technologies and therefore job displacement at rates of change never before experienced. So for the first time those who study history may be doomed for disaster. And it isn't going to be robots competing for manufacturing jobs [we would be fighting over about 10% of the job market] the real dark side is what is beginning to happen in the service sector where 70% of the jobs are. Goodbye sales clerks cashiers,back office works, call centers for major corporations and financial institutions,paralegals,mom and pop anythings etc. Some of these jobs are going overseas but most are just gone--gone like blacksmiths. And who is counting the indirect loss of jobs? Everybody has a cell phone with a camera, so goodbye Kodak but also goodbye to sales of film,developing,photo journals etc and when was the last time you visited your local camera store? The service market left is not safe -very shortly voice recognition will work and IBM Watson smart machines will answer our phone calls so basic legal skills {yes ABA it is coming],accounting caregiving security,teaching government employees,yes even Doctors {you say never--prostrate cancer is being done every day with robots]. We have been in an exponential curve of knowledge [Moore's Law ]for a long time but rolling out job replacing technologies takes catch up time but we have more [no pun intended] than entered Kurzweil's " knee "of Radical Change. Studying history will only distract the dialogue in the new paradigm. There is, of course, the argument that most service jobs will always require a humans because of the "comfort" level. For me -a retiree- that is true but tell that to my grandson -when he is ready- because he is two playing with his child iPhone in his crib - quite happily! FlagShare1LikeReply UConnRon Dec 30, 2013 One thing not mentioned in this article is the bell shaped distribution of intelligence. This implies that half the population is average or above while the other half is average or below. Many of the new jobs wrought by technology require more than average IQs. Many in the lower half and those of average intellect will be drawn to service jobs that are less amenable to "robotization" and automation. I expect that as technology grows and productivity expands the cost of products will decline along with the work force. We must address the issue of an increasing decline in employment. I propose one resolution for this event in my blog: FlagShareLikeReply James A. Burt Dec 30, 2013 @UConnRon If you look at the broadest measure which is the population / employment ratio from the Bureau of Labor Statistics there has been no decline since 2010-- Unfortunately, there has also been no increase. FlagShareLikeReply breister Dec 30, 2013 @James A. Burt@UConnRon Hmm, you shouldn't cherry-pick your data.... From the same page: Change the start year to 1990 for a 20-year trend. Yes, if you go back further you'll see that that is cherry picking too, but here is the important part. The decline in employment in the past few years reflects the decline in overall prosperity of our nation, which can be traced to the collapse of 2008. I won't discuss the reasons for that collapse because it can only lead to partisan bickering. However, factually the overall employment rate is not up at all despite all the crowing about "lower unemployment rates," and much of the employment is now part-time instead of full-time which means things are worse than even the graph makes it look. That puts any claims about a "recovery" into the "pants on fire" category. FlagShareLikeReply James A. Burt Dec 30, 2013 @breister @James A. Burt @UConnRon I wasn't claiming recovery. Far from it. FlagShareLikeReply breister Dec 30, 2013 @James A. Burt@breister@UConnRon "I wasn't claiming recovery. Far from it." I got that; I was simply driving your point a bit further for others who may have not been as curious that our overall employment rate among working-age people has dropped immensely since 2008. By picking 2010 (your original link) it may have looked like things were "doing ok compared to before the drop;" I just wanted to make it clear that things are NOT ok and aren't getting better. The party currently holding the biggest microphone is trying to pretend things are getting better - which is rather disingenuous. Going backwards before 1990 we see employment rates drop below the 1990-2008 average, but that was for multiple reasons. Part of it was that a lot of "employment" was not documented; part of it was that women had not fully moved into the workplace; part of it was that it took a continuously growing (real growth, not simple inflation as we are now seeing) economy to absorb the additional population. The graph does not tell the full picture - throughout the 60's - 1990 we saw an almost continuous rise in the percent of working age people even though the population was growing; meaning that the economy was truly expanding. Now we see stagnation with about 30 million fewer real jobs than before the bust. FlagShareLikeReply Gary Reber Sep 29, 2013 We need to connect via private sector individual ownership in FUTURE non-human wealth-creating, income-generating productive capital assets––human-intelligent machines, super-automation, robotics, digital computerized operations, etc.––and establish the full voting and full dividend-payout of the earnings of capital to those who own. Future capital formation needs to be finance such that new owners are created via insured capital credit loans that pay for themselves, without taking from those who already own. Support the Capital Homestead Act at and See the full Act at FlagShare1LikeReply Mr. Rant Sep 29, 2013 What will happen to industry and big business when no one can afford their services and merchandise due to losing jobs to technology? Will there be a void of consumers? Moreover, there has been a large increase in government dependency since 2000, a considerable portion of which is paid for by successful business owners and large stock holders. Will technology lead us toward socialism? Would that be such a bad thing if technology could provide a high standard of living for the people? Without profit driving development, the rate of technological advancement would surely slow down. Then, of course, there is also the danger of becoming overly dependent on the government, which could potentially lead to totalitarianism. Maybe those old sci-fi authors were hitting on something. FlagShareLikeReply Kiljoy616 Dec 22, 2013 @Mr. Rant The rich will sell to the world, so basically with just 10% of the world been able to pay for it, the rest could be sex slaves or indentured servants if owning people is your cup of tea. I don't see when your selling to the world that you need to worry in finding customers. For now we have not reached that level of depravity but time is not on the side of most of our population. FlagShareLikeReply THE FUTURES FORUM Feb 27, 2014 @Mr. Rant @sagientfuturist This is what I dont understand about the policy makers. They dont seem to understand that the summation of technology efficiency with profit motive means that the 19th century economic model of profit first, will eventually make people last. Unless we start focussing on the real costs of AI and robots such as environmental cost of steel of plastic used to make robots etc. we wont be able to make sound decisions on what is long run good for HUMAN Economy.. I really want to know who they expect to buy all these goods when no one has work.. AI is replacing common sense.... FlagShareLikeReply Gary Reber Feb 27, 2014 @THE FUTURES FORUM @Mr. Rant "I really want to know who they expect to buy all these goods when no one has work.." As the Future source of income from ownership is broadened to include EVERY child, woman and man, people will earn income through the ownership of their "tool" or productive capital asset, and not be the slave to "jobs" that they are today, freeing them to develop their unique personal qualities and further contribute to society. FlagShareLikeReply Mr. Rant Mar 1, 2014 @Gary Reber @THE FUTURES FORUM @Mr. Rant It might take a while to reach that kind of utopia. I'd say we need to start focusing more on family planning and on utilizing technology to prevent ecological damage. FlagShareLikeReply andyrwebman 9 days ago @Gary Reber @THE FUTURES FORUM @Mr. Rant I personally think that most people have a lot less to contribute to society than the optimists would ahve us believe. Look at the web - plenty of interesting education material if you want to learn maths, science, history etc, provided by educated people. But most of what you'll find is banal dross - pictures of people's babies, gossip about who said what, who is sleeping with whom etc. And lots of Pron. Yes, people are the most overvalued asset, in my opinion, and the one we have too much of. By the same token we don't value green space and nature half as much as we should, bulldozing over it to make more space for the useless dross producing morons. FlagShareLikeReply goosh69 Sep 24, 2013 Excellent. Robots are replacing people even in highly populous, low-wage countries. This seems like it will turn out well. "Robots May Revolutionize China's Electronics Manufacturing" FlagShare1LikeReply goosh69 Sep 23, 2013 What he said: "The American Dream, RIP?An economist asks provocative questions about the future of social mobility" FlagShare1LikeReply Lafayette Sep 21, 2013 In French: "Les cordonniers sont toujours le plus mal chaussés!" In English: 'The shoemakers always wear the worst shoes!" FlagShare3LikeReply ezra abrams Sep 21, 2013 I find it amusing that (a) the MIT tech rev - an offspring of an institution about scholarship - doesn't have a pdf link to the orignal; that the login for comments is seriously broken; and that the form asking for feedback is FUBARed FlagShareLikeReply jpontin Sep 21, 2013 @ezra abrams We are a digital-first media organization: the Web site story *is* the original. The magazine publishes stories that are generally published first online. Our chief digital officer will reach out to you about your problems with log-in and feedback. FlagShare3LikeReply crlf Sep 13, 2013 Report Suggests Nearly Half of U.S. Jobs Are Vulnerable to Computerization FlagShare1LikeReply Lafayette Sep 13, 2013 @crlf DUNCES-ON-THE-DOLE Given the fact that the US economy has been trending towards a Services Industry economy for a great many years, it should not be surprising that employment is becoming more Information Technology related. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts out to 2020 that 80% of all employment will be Services Industry related. (See here: ) Which means what? Not necessarily that all jobs are lost and not replaced. So, let’s not go overboard just yet. The Services Industry will continue to create jobs, but they will be Skills-Oriented work. It does not take much skill to flip-hamburgers or slip a pizza into a fired oven and serve it. However, it does take some skill to manipulate the back-office process for following inventory, ordering ingredients and materials and the reports generation. And that skill implies not only manipulating a computer, but having the ability to Analyze And Think. My point: Our educational system can no longer stop at the HS diploma. We must find a way to throughput our young-adults into Tertiary Education - at the least possible cost to them. The cost of Tertiary Education [vocational, college (2 years), university (4 years)] is putting them off. Largely because the costs of such education are skyrocketing. The average debt of a student graduating from university is now around $25K. Why should our families have to support such a cost? Credit is NOT cheap, whether that credit is provided by the government or not. Europe has had a better idea, for over half a century. A postsecondary education must be as least expensive as possible, that is, it should be subsidized. In this manner, it is considered an investment in the future of our children. Either we (the taxpayer) make that investment by means of government expenditure, or we pay inevitably Unemployment Insurance. The choice of consequences, imho, is obvious. Another point … about criminality. Did you know that nearly 80% of all incarcerated felons have no High School diploma? So, what do you think is the obvious solution? Our secondary-schooling is failing them. It is useless to point fingers, but it is also obvious that we must make the investments necessary to really 'n truly assure that "No Child Is Left Behind". We cannot blind ourselves to this national challenge. If we do, we end up with a society of Dunces on the Dole. FlagShare3LikeReply THE FUTURES FORUM Feb 27, 2014 @Lafayette @crlf@sagientfuturist Well said.. They did away with the Office of Technology Assessment and now technology is the Emperor of anything.. No one is thinking about impacts and consequences.. We need an economic paradigm for the technological revolution. We are still using economic paradigms based on the industrial revolution.. FlagShareLikeReply Gary Reber Feb 27, 2014 @THE FUTURES FORUM @Lafayette @crlf And on one-factor thinking: LABOR. 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