Report: 66 million people will lose their jobs to robots


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/04/04/report-66-million-people-will.html


#2

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#3

I don’t have to worry about robots taking my job but these guys do have me a little concerned…

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#4

Little Trumps in waiting are rubbing their little hands in excitement worldwide. So much rhetoric to spew.


#5

As long as property laws exist to benefit corporations, we are fucked.

Scenario A) Uber owns all the robot cars. Uber and Uber shareholders profit while millions are kicked to the curb.

Scenario B) The government nationalizes robot cars ensuring that all profits go to the people who have been displaced by the loss of livelihood.

All this grassroots conservatism is a huge pantomime, trying to draw the attention of the working poor until it’s too fucking late.


#6

I’ve said it before and will have to again and again: if robots can take our jobs, won’t there be an affordable version that can be a cross between farmer, butler and handy man? Imagine if you had a 24/7 cooking, cleaning, fixing, brewing, growing food robot in your home would you need to work 40hr per week? If people with jobs, save for this robot and the necessary peripheries at some point they won’t need their job in order to survive and even thrive, they won’t need the jobs and can either quit entirely or cut back to part time.
Open source software on an open platform that can almost be 100% 3D printed (except the processors), so that improvements can be used by anyone is going to mean we will bring back the barter system only this time we’ll use tech to avoid money.
This will bring a huge set of other problems, mostly social, but it won’t be unemployment.


#7

66 million will lose their jobs if they are replaced by robots and every single other thing in our economy remains exactly the same. But that’s not how this will play out. Our whole economy will continue to evolve, as it has.


#8

This chain immigration of robots must stop.


#9

Scenario A only goes so far. Uber, and every-other automated industry, can only make money so long as there are people with money to pay for their goods and services.


#10

I think that the treatment of the less fortunate of society is partly due to their numbers, and if they become a much larger section of the population then they won’t let you ignore them, and it would be foolish to try.


#11

Although I agree with you, and so does Warren Buffet, I’d rather something happened before the have-nots resort to pitchforks and torches.


#12

This is what I bring up whenever there is pushback against UBI or increasing the minimum wage. Retailers are already feeling the effects of this. It’s not clear how many more will go under before their owners/shareholders start advocating for change (if only for their own survival).


#13

But, given our track record for taking care of our most vulnerable fellows, I have my doubts that it’ll happen.

I doubt anyone will take action until self-driving trucks come on-line (this will happen before self-driving passenger cars do, probably in the next 10-15 years). Suddenly there will be a lot more men with a high school education or less and no options for a job that pays nearly as well stewing on the unemployment rolls. How many of these angry fellows might there be? Here were the most common jobs in every state in 2014:


#14

#15

Again, this claim is horseshit. First, robots have been taking jobs since 1764. The entire history of humanity is using machines to replace human labor.

There is a name for this in economics: it is called “productivity growth”, and it is one of the most measured things there is.

And guess what? Productivity growth is not increasing all that rapidly - in fact, it’s slowing globally, yea, even stagnating. Translation: there apparently aren’t that many jobs that can be highly automated, or there’s no capital available to develop this automation, or something, because it just isn’t happening.

So… it would actually be great if this were happening, because productivity growth is generally taken to mean an expanding economy, more wealth being generated for less labor input, etc. The sad fact about modern capitalism is that this isn’t happening, not that we’re in danger of losing our phony-baloney jobs.


#16

They’ll be fine. It’ll actually look a lot more like this.

Because it turns out: you can’t automate anything overnight. First of all, automation is difficult and expensive. It requires a lot of capital investment; it is a big risk (see Tesla’s effort at automating car production). So capital will generally be scarce to make this kind of investment, especially when there are private equity vultures, et al., giving much better returns out there. Then there is the actual difficulty of the technology - it will take years, possibly decades, before automated trucks are as good as human drivers. The replacement rate will be slow and gradual, not sudden (for example, trucks will start driving on highways decades before they can pull up to a loading dock in a city). Finally, there is the regulatory burden, which will slow new technology adoption.

So eventually all of these (3.5 million) truckers might go out of work. But it won’t happen all at once, and if the result is an actually expanding economy (more automated trucks means cheaper shipping means a host of new businesses are possible), they will be better off.

Unless, of course, the rich walk off with all of the productivity gains. But that’s a different matter that has nothing to do with automation.


#17

And to whom would that wealth accrue? Given the trend we’ve been seeing in the U.S. over the last three decades, I doubt it’s going to go to truck drivers made redundant by “productivity growth.”

Which is why I said 10-15 years. I do agree it will be a gradual process, but the end goal will be a lot fewer decently paying jobs in the U.S. for people with a high school education or less. There’s powerful motivation on the part of corporations to get to that point quickly.

The amount of capital currently being invested in R&D indicates that the demand for implementation as fast as possible will be there. If there’s one thing any CEO wants to do, it’s to reduce the amount of the “Labour” line item in the company’s financials.

Translation: for the past few decades race-to-the-bottom globalisation of labour has meant it was easier and cheaper to cut labour costs by paying a human peanuts to do a rote task the same way it has been done for decades or centuries.

Now that most industries are approaching bottom and now that technology is making leaps that haven’t been seen since the consumer Internet took hold, “productivity growth” and automation are the new priorities for an incumbent ownership class that’s loath to pay a single red cent more than it has to toward labour.

Which is understandable, but which requires us to consider how to handle the externalities now instead of leaving it up to the Invisible Hand to sort them out (the preferred approach for the last 35 years).

They don’t have to be. Despite the accidents reported lately, the general thrust of the industry’s (plausible) argument is that under the right circumstances and conditions (e.g. dedicated lanes on snow-free interstates) automated trucks will be better than human drivers. There are a lot of lobbyists who do nothing but try to make sure that regulations become not a burden but a means toward bringing some of those circumstances and conditions that are under the control of government into being.

Assuming that millions of unemployed truck drivers are going to turn into entrepreneurs and inventors is about as realistic as the old assumption that all those unemployed coal miners (you know, the ones who voted for Il Douche and his MAGA promise) could be re-trained as computer programmers.

Nothing? Do you think the American ownership and executive class is promoting and investing millions in automation because they love the idea of Fully Automated Luxury Communism?


#18

I’d say it has something to do with it, considering the rich control automation technologies.


#19

There is no shortage of capital. Just the reverse. Apple has (by one count) $285 BILLION cash and investments on hand. Alphabet, Microsoft, and GE have another $300 billion between them. All in all, the S&P 500 companies are sitting on a few trillion dollars of assets they simply cannot find anything to do with. This is totally unprecedented in the history of corporations. Private retirement accounts have also contributed to a massive over-demand for investments, and based on predictions of increasing longevity (at least for people who are rich enough to have a 401k) have lead fund managers to try to push for more aggressive investment portfolios.

This likely a big reason Tesla was so successful at raising money. It is easy to say it is all Elon Musk fanboys and his reality distortion field. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but there was also a ton of demand for that sort of investment and almost no supply.

So as soon as there is a clearly viable product, I think you will be surprised by how fast something like that can be rolled out.


#20

does this include sex workers? asking for a friend.