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(Wired)   How I learned to stop worrying about my job and love the robots   ( wired.com) divider line
    More: Interesting, automation, jobs, Robot, robots, American factory jobs, Productivity, jobless future, job market  
•       •       •

1007 clicks; posted to Business » on 19 Aug 2017 at 8:18 AM (16 weeks ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



34 Comments     (+0 »)
 
View Voting Results: Smartest and Funniest
 
2017-08-19 07:05:26 AM  
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2017-08-19 07:53:06 AM  
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2017-08-19 08:32:21 AM  
Yet, in reality, productivity gains over the past decade have been, by historical standards, dismally low.

It almost sounds like there's a fundamental problem in our economy that has nothing directly to do with automation. I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and suggest that the poor growth is a side effect of the fact that the capital classes aren't all that interested in growing productivity-per-worker. Why would they be? Labor is devalued to the point of being dirt cheap, so increases in worker productivity don't create all that much new wealth. Increased automation costs money. In the long term, it'd be cheaper and more productive, but modern capital doesn't operate on the long term- it operates quarter-to-quarter. Automation becomes little more than a threat in many cases- "$15 minimum wage? McDonald's will just fire everyone and put robots in, then."

As a society, we should be making a concerted effort to abolish work, automating as much as possible, while ensuring that the benefits of those productivity increases don't simply go to the capital classes, but to everyone.

//One fully automated luxury space communism please
 
2017-08-19 08:32:53 AM  
That was too long.  I will have my robot butler summarize it for me.
 
2017-08-19 09:03:46 AM  
I like all the comments in TFA about how little the US is investing in robots.

I think I missed the part about how the rest of the world is also not investing.  Yes China opening up exporting did affect our job market, but the Chinese are replacing their factory workers with robots these days.

Oh well, it's not like the US really needs innovation.  We have coal and that's all we need.
 
2017-08-19 09:38:30 AM  

t3knomanser: Yet, in reality, productivity gains over the past decade have been, by historical standards, dismally low.

It almost sounds like there's a fundamental problem in our economy that has nothing directly to do with automation. I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and suggest that the poor growth is a side effect of the fact that the capital classes aren't all that interested in growing productivity-per-worker. Why would they be? Labor is devalued to the point of being dirt cheap, so increases in worker productivity don't create all that much new wealth. Increased automation costs money. In the long term, it'd be cheaper and more productive, but modern capital doesn't operate on the long term- it operates quarter-to-quarter. Automation becomes little more than a threat in many cases- "$15 minimum wage? McDonald's will just fire everyone and put robots in, then."

As a society, we should be making a concerted effort to abolish work, automating as much as possible, while ensuring that the benefits of those productivity increases don't simply go to the capital classes, but to everyone.

//One fully automated luxury space communism please


There is a butter zone between manual drudgery and "robots, everywhere!" And it's actually an economic one. Robots will do the same thing over and over again until someone mashes the stop button. And if some part on them fails or the programmer screwed up some element of their routine, you can make millions of dollars of paperweights in short order.

So even the most robotic of shops needs a staff of people to inspect the output and keep up with preventative maintenance.

There is also a stage of part complexity beyond which cost of robot hardware and software development would exceed the profits from the output. For those you need humans, or to get out of the business of making those particular widgets.

What you find is that competent manufacturers are already using as much automation as is economically beneficial already.

Anyone who talks about a giant factory with no people is a moron
 
2017-08-19 09:58:09 AM  

Evil Twin Skippy: What you find is that competent manufacturers are already using as much automation as is economically beneficial already.


And that will never change in the future.
 
2017-08-19 10:18:15 AM  
Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall anyone getting pissed off about self-checkout at supermarkets.

Companies are essentially getting consumers to do for free what they used to pay an employee minimum wage to do. Now they have 1 employee over 4-8 self checkout stations to help when customers can't use the machines properly or want to buy NyQuil and need to verify they are 18.

Thousands or millions of entry level jobs eliminated nationwide, consumers giving free labor to WalMart and Kroegers. And yet no outcry from Bernie Sanders or the AFL CIO. What gives?
 
2017-08-19 10:23:41 AM  
Love robots, you say...I'm in!

img.fark.netView Full Size
 
2017-08-19 10:25:08 AM  
I didn't say anything when the robots cam for the auto workers...


Also


img.fark.netView Full Size
 
2017-08-19 10:34:22 AM  

zeppo_shemp: Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall anyone getting pissed off about self-checkout at supermarkets.

Companies are essentially getting consumers to do for free what they used to pay an employee minimum wage to do.


I do a better job than they do and there's no risk of being stuck behind the million coupons or year and a half to write a check.
 
2017-08-19 10:38:26 AM  

t3knomanser: Yet, in reality, productivity gains over the past decade have been, by historical standards, dismally low.

It almost sounds like there's a fundamental problem in our economy that has nothing directly to do with automation. I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and suggest that the poor growth is a side effect of the fact that the capital classes aren't all that interested in growing productivity-per-worker. Why would they be? Labor is devalued to the point of being dirt cheap, so increases in worker productivity don't create all that much new wealth. Increased automation costs money. In the long term, it'd be cheaper and more productive, but modern capital doesn't operate on the long term- it operates quarter-to-quarter. Automation becomes little more than a threat in many cases- "$15 minimum wage? McDonald's will just fire everyone and put robots in, then."

As a society, we should be making a concerted effort to abolish work, automating as much as possible, while ensuring that the benefits of those productivity increases don't simply go to the capital classes, but to everyone.

//One fully automated luxury space communism please


How many Puerto Rican women in spandex and go-go boots are there? I've seen a documentary from the 70s about that very idea.
 
2017-08-19 10:39:42 AM  

Evil Twin Skippy: So even the most robotic of shops needs a staff of people to inspect the output and keep up with preventative maintenance.


Right, but we'll build robots to do that, too. And robots to maintain those robots. It's robots all the way down.

Evil Twin Skippy: What you find is that competent manufacturers are already using as much automation as is economically beneficial already.


Not entirely true, or more accurately, economically beneficial to whom and on what timeline? If it costs $10M to build a newly automated line, that costs $100k/day to operate, but I have an existing manual line that costs $105k/day to operate, there's a clear economic benefit, but it won't be realized for 5 years.

What I'm suggesting is that automation and the elimination of wage labor is an economic goal that we should be working towards. We aren't there yet, neither culturally nor technologically. But we can see a path forward to get there, and we should take it. The largest obstacle is not a technological one, but a social one- if you eliminate the need for wage labor, in the eyes of the capital class, you have eliminated the need for laborers.

Which is why we need to carefully dismantle capitalism even as we improve technology.
 
2017-08-19 10:40:36 AM  
That article contained a whole lot of very weak premises to arrive at it's final conclusion.

Since 2007, it has grown at a rate of around 1.2 percent, the slowest pace in any period since World War II.

That sentence averaged in an economic recession that SLAMMED the manufacturing industry for at least the next 4-5 years.

Then the very next sentence:
And over the past two years, productivity has grown at a mere 0.6 percent-the very years when anxiety about automation has spiked

That completely overlooks the context of the election, in which a lot of companies basically put their plans in a holding pattern in the hopes that a Trump presidency would open some floodgates of tax reductions.  Not only that, but the automation sector has been picking up steam.  A lot of steam. And it takes at very minimum 3-4 years from when a company decides to automate a line, to when a machine is on the floor pumping out products.

When talking about job churn, in once paragraph he talks about how a lot of jobs are moving to the service industry, which would have a predicatively low churn, and then says a low churn in the overall market is proof that automation isn't taking over jobs.  The conclusion is not properly backed up by specific industry-based averages, but the overall market average, which he already discredited in the following paragraph.

Then a little while later:
...found that robots did reduce the hours of lower-skilled workers-but they didn't decrease the total hours worked by humans, and they actually boosted wages.

If you reduce the number of low skilled workers, and force your salaried, higher wage workers to work more hours, then the number of hours worked will remain the same, the average yearly wages paid out will increase.  Unless you are adjusting the salaried earnings for an hourly rate, this is a rather useless metric and doesn't lead to the conclusion the author is making.

TL;DR: The author seems to be cherry picking a lot of strange data sets to come to some weak conclusions.  We may not have to worry about automation in the short term yet, but this article is far from proof of that.
 
2017-08-19 10:47:56 AM  
Shut up and make me a robot that cleans up after my kids and my pets. That will also be able to wash dishes and clean clothes. Can mow my lawn and weed the garden. Drive me to work and buy my groceries.

A robot that can spit out a Big Mac or put a widget in a box isn't that interesting or clever.
 
2017-08-19 10:54:42 AM  

arrogantbastich: Shut up and make me a robot that cleans up after my kids and my pets. That will also be able to wash dishes and clean clothes. Can mow my lawn and weed the garden. Drive me to work and buy my groceries.

A robot that can spit out a Big Mac or put a widget in a box isn't that interesting or clever.


They don't do nearly all the work, but a vacuum cleaner and dishwasher and washing machine make for a whole lot less work than you would have had to do before they existed.
 
kab
2017-08-19 10:56:57 AM  
I like it.  The fewer gainfully employed people we need, the better.
 
2017-08-19 11:25:31 AM  
If your job may be taken by a robot - it should be removed.

Here's a thing called "internet", reeducate yourself for a better farking job.

/Changed what, 6 jobs? First one was "pulling a plow". Glory for automation!
//Now a programmer, mostly mechanical job that is a lot more automatized now than it was before. Easily robotized farther.
///And it's good! I'll find something more interesting to do.
 
2017-08-19 11:36:56 AM  

12349876: zeppo_shemp: Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall anyone getting pissed off about self-checkout at supermarkets.

Companies are essentially getting consumers to do for free what they used to pay an employee minimum wage to do.

I do a better job than they do and there's no risk of being stuck behind the million coupons or year and a half to write a check.


"Please place item in the bagging area."
"Unexpected item in the bagging area."
"Please place item in the bagging area."
"Unexpected item in the bagging area."

Fark no. I'll put that minimum wage gal at the checkout to work.
 
2017-08-19 12:28:43 PM  

t3knomanser: Yet, in reality, productivity gains over the past decade have been, by historical standards, dismally low.

It almost sounds like there's a fundamental problem in our economy that has nothing directly to do with automation. I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and suggest that the poor growth is a side effect of the fact that the capital classes aren't all that interested in growing productivity-per-worker. Why would they be? Labor is devalued to the point of being dirt cheap, so increases in worker productivity don't create all that much new wealth. Increased automation costs money. In the long term, it'd be cheaper and more productive, but modern capital doesn't operate on the long term- it operates quarter-to-quarter. Automation becomes little more than a threat in many cases- "$15 minimum wage? McDonald's will just fire everyone and put robots in, then."

As a society, we should be making a concerted effort to abolish work, automating as much as possible, while ensuring that the benefits of those productivity increases don't simply go to the capital classes, but to everyone.

//One fully automated luxury space communism please


Communes may sound attractive but they have a steep downside. They wind up having children that pretty much look like blurry clones of each other, and they tend to be piss poor students. Kids that are destined to pump gas for the rest of their lives. Not good.
 
2017-08-19 12:47:30 PM  
Is this the thread where farkers announce that their job will be one of the last to be automated, and then proceed to name their occupation, which is relatively easy to automate?
 
2017-08-19 12:48:54 PM  

zeppo_shemp: Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall anyone getting pissed off about self-checkout at supermarkets.

Companies are essentially getting consumers to do for free what they used to pay an employee minimum wage to do. Now they have 1 employee over 4-8 self checkout stations to help when customers can't use the machines properly or want to buy NyQuil and need to verify they are 18.

Thousands or millions of entry level jobs eliminated nationwide, consumers giving free labor to WalMart and Kroegers. And yet no outcry from Bernie Sanders or the AFL CIO. What gives?


maybe you did miss it.  (dunno why Bernie would rail about it now 20+ years later.)  i remember a lot of outrage over that in the 90s.  i dont have citations because this was before the internet was so ubiquitous but i remember magazine articles and local news segments about it.  and i remember a lot of casual conversation about it too.  but i also remember by grandfather's anger in the 80s at the lack of a gas station attendant when he filled up his car.  he didnt like that we had to do it ourselves and gas wasnt cheaper now that they dont have to pay an attendant.  this was in the 80s no less, and i wasnt ever raised on the norms of gas stations having attendants.  that was only stuff i saw on tv show reruns.

but it was a thing that people got used to.  it used to be a real embarrassment buying condoms or tampons with someone there right in front of you.  there were jokes about how to casually explain buying Jergen's hand lotion, a box of kleenex, and the SI Swimsuit Issue.  that was largely solved with those kiosks, hehe.
 
2017-08-19 12:55:22 PM  

zeppo_shemp: Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall anyone getting pissed off about self-checkout at supermarkets.

Companies are essentially getting consumers to do for free what they used to pay an employee minimum wage to do. Now they have 1 employee over 4-8 self checkout stations to help when customers can't use the machines properly or want to buy NyQuil and need to verify they are 18.

Thousands or millions of entry level jobs eliminated nationwide, consumers giving free labor to WalMart and Kroegers. And yet no outcry from Bernie Sanders or the AFL CIO. What gives?


As a species, we generally hate ourselves. Not our friends and (maybe) family, but everyone else. We consider ourselves slow, stupid, and annoying, which is why we'd rather use an ATM than a human teller where possible.

And that is why we'll willingly facilitate our own extinction. We may want to preserve ourselves and people we care about, but our apathy for everyone else, in aggregate, isn't enough to prop up the species.
 
2017-08-19 12:55:34 PM  

Yankees Team Gynecologist: Is this the thread where farkers announce that their job will be one of the last to be automated, and then proceed to name their occupation, which is relatively easy to automate?



Well, in my case it's "robot! Take my job! I know that it would be easily automatized, and I'm perfectly okay with it! Take away all that tedium in my job!"
 
2017-08-19 12:57:30 PM  

Yankees Team Gynecologist: And that is why we'll willingly facilitate our own extinction. We may want to preserve ourselves and people we care about, but our apathy for everyone else, in aggregate, isn't enough to prop up the species.


Here is the solution.

Immortality.

Just transfer my mind into a computer. Once I have the ability to self-repair and generally be a factory for myself, all you yahoos may die the fark out.
 
2017-08-19 01:23:40 PM  
Productivity growth is harder to measure now because so much more of what we do and value isn't measurable in dollars worth of factory goods.
If we valued information access, communication capability, and computer processing based on 1960s costs most of us would be 'billionaires".
 
2017-08-19 04:58:27 PM  

Driedsponge: That article contained a whole lot of very weak premises to arrive at it's final conclusion.

Since 2007, it has grown at a rate of around 1.2 percent, the slowest pace in any period since World War II.

That sentence averaged in an economic recession that SLAMMED the manufacturing industry for at least the next 4-5 years.

Then the very next sentence:
And over the past two years, productivity has grown at a mere 0.6 percent-the very years when anxiety about automation has spiked

That completely overlooks the context of the election, in which a lot of companies basically put their plans in a holding pattern in the hopes that a Trump presidency would open some floodgates of tax reductions.  Not only that, but the automation sector has been picking up steam.  A lot of steam. And it takes at very minimum 3-4 years from when a company decides to automate a line, to when a machine is on the floor pumping out products.

When talking about job churn, in once paragraph he talks about how a lot of jobs are moving to the service industry, which would have a predicatively low churn, and then says a low churn in the overall market is proof that automation isn't taking over jobs.  The conclusion is not properly backed up by specific industry-based averages, but the overall market average, which he already discredited in the following paragraph.

Then a little while later:
...found that robots did reduce the hours of lower-skilled workers-but they didn't decrease the total hours worked by humans, and they actually boosted wages.

If you reduce the number of low skilled workers, and force your salaried, higher wage workers to work more hours, then the number of hours worked will remain the same, the average yearly wages paid out will increase.  Unless you are adjusting the salaried earnings for an hourly rate, this is a rather useless metric and doesn't lead to the conclusion the author is making.

TL;DR: The author seems to be cherry picking a lot of strange data sets to come to some weak conclusions.  We may not have to worry about automation in the short term yet, but this article is far from proof of that.


I like the cut of your jib.

/I stopped reading when they compared money spent on automation to money spent on pets....how TF is that a logical comparison?
 
2017-08-19 05:33:38 PM  

Yankees Team Gynecologist: Is this the thread where farkers announce that their job will be one of the last to be automated, and then proceed to name their occupation, which is relatively easy to automate?


It's actually not, surprisingly.
 
2017-08-19 07:38:23 PM  

Yankees Team Gynecologist: Is this the thread where farkers announce that their job will be one of the last to be automated, and then proceed to name their occupation, which is relatively easy to automate?


Whistling in the dark?
 
2017-08-19 09:43:49 PM  

IlGreven: 12349876: zeppo_shemp: Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall anyone getting pissed off about self-checkout at supermarkets.

Companies are essentially getting consumers to do for free what they used to pay an employee minimum wage to do.

I do a better job than they do and there's no risk of being stuck behind the million coupons or year and a half to write a check.

"Please place item in the bagging area."
"Unexpected item in the bagging area."
"Please place item in the bagging area."
"Unexpected item in the bagging area."

Fark no. I'll put that minimum wage gal at the checkout to work.


I don't get that at Kroger or Meijer.  Only problem I have is the rare item with multiple bar codes and only one works.  Sucks to be you.
 
2017-08-20 09:40:10 AM  

Evil Twin Skippy: There is a butter zone between manual drudgery and "robots, everywhere!" And it's actually an economic one. Robots will do the same thing over and over again until someone mashes the stop button. And if some part on them fails or the programmer screwed up some element of their routine, you can make millions of dollars of paperweights in short order.


Unless, of course, you have a tiered AI hierarchical learning system (i.e.: which mimics obsolete meat management) that checks on such things.

We already have huge amounts of overproduction (two examples: industrial printing; industrial bakeries) where it is often cheaper to finish up the bottleneck raw material and have a 10% overage than it is to stop production.

harlee did some cost accounting planning for a major LA printer who had had a fire and was replacing two burned presses with this huge monster press from Germany. When it became operational, everyone quickly figured out that overruns to exhaust the paper roll were simply more economical than changing rolls (plus it eliminated the hassle of stockpiling partials). And it was great customer relations.

Bakeries are the same way. Consider, for example, the huge overruns of bread that, for years, have been appearing on the Food Bank scene. Yes, some of that is planned (government price supports for overproduction specifically for food banks) but a lot of it depends on the amounts of raw materials and the oven speed.

So even the most robotic of shops needs a staff of people to inspect the output and keep up with preventative maintenance.

Until, of course:
(1) maintenance bots and/or self-repairing bots, and
(2) that hierarchical AI management that harlee already mentioned
becomes reality.

There is also a stage of part complexity beyond which cost of robot hardware and software development would exceed the profits from the output. For those you need humans, or to get out of the business of making those particular widgets.

Hmmm.... Robots and automation making robots and automation. Tell us again how much robots get paid? Because ALL economic cost is ultimately labor cost of some sort. Even for the Ownership and Finance classes (they DO get paid for what they do, after all).

If you eliminate the meat in a particular economic chain, you eliminate the current (operational) cost. Agreed, sunk costs still exist, but that is a separate issue.

What you find is that competent manufacturers are already using as much automation as is economically beneficial already.

...at this point of technological development. Your statement assumes that the current levels of development will remain.

Anyone who talks about a giant factory with no people is a moron

Damn, and here harlee thought he was talking to an adult. Ad Hom is no way to go through life, son. People will laugh and point.
 
2017-08-20 12:16:39 PM  

Harlee: Evil Twin Skippy: There is a butter zone between manual drudgery and "robots, everywhere!" And it's actually an economic one. Robots will do the same thing over and over again until someone mashes the stop button. And if some part on them fails or the programmer screwed up some element of their routine, you can make millions of dollars of paperweights in short order.

Unless, of course, you have a tiered AI hierarchical learning system (i.e.: which mimics obsolete meat management) that checks on such things.

We already have huge amounts of overproduction (two examples: industrial printing; industrial bakeries) where it is often cheaper to finish up the bottleneck raw material and have a 10% overage than it is to stop production.

harlee did some cost accounting planning for a major LA printer who had had a fire and was replacing two burned presses with this huge monster press from Germany. When it became operational, everyone quickly figured out that overruns to exhaust the paper roll were simply more economical than changing rolls (plus it eliminated the hassle of stockpiling partials). And it was great customer relations.

Bakeries are the same way. Consider, for example, the huge overruns of bread that, for years, have been appearing on the Food Bank scene. Yes, some of that is planned (government price supports for overproduction specifically for food banks) but a lot of it depends on the amounts of raw materials and the oven speed.

So even the most robotic of shops needs a staff of people to inspect the output and keep up with preventative maintenance.

Until, of course:
(1) maintenance bots and/or self-repairing bots, and
(2) that hierarchical AI management that harlee already mentioned
becomes reality.

There is also a stage of part complexity beyond which cost of robot hardware and software development would exceed the profits from the output. For those you need humans, or to get out of the business of making those particular widgets.

Hmmm.... Robots and automation making robots and automation. Tell us again how much robots get paid? Because ALL economic cost is ultimately labor cost of some sort. Even for the Ownership and Finance classes (they DO get paid for what they do, after all).

If you eliminate the meat in a particular economic chain, you eliminate the current (operational) cost. Agreed, sunk costs still exist, but that is a separate issue.

What you find is that competent manufacturers are already using as much automation as is economically beneficial already.

...at this point of technological development. Your statement assumes that the current levels of development will remain.

Anyone who talks about a giant factory with no people is a moron

Damn, and here harlee thought he was talking to an adult. Ad Hom is no way to go through life, son. People will laugh and point.


With respect, are taking examples of economies of scale and applying it to economies of complexity. Big plants that produce larger volumes of undifferentiated product to tend to be more efficient in every way to smaller plants. That rule even carries over to the natural world. (And it's also exponential in the natural world. A whale is far more energy efficient per gram than a mouse.)

But complexity does not scale like that. In fact, it doesn't scale at all. Sure, Sun Tzu describes managing an army from the top down like you are managing a platoon. But you need competent leaders at every step of the decision making process, and total devotion. Robots are capable of neither. And any higher form of intelligence would have the same challenges with motivation and mission purpose as a human being. They will also need vacation time, and some mthinn
 
2017-08-20 12:22:44 PM  
Something akin to sleep. (Sorry, on mobile, and the damn window wraps.)

An intelligence that is geared to deal with drudgery will have few facilities for improvisation. And an intelligence with powers of improvisation will consider drudge work torture. Plus they need time to exercise and refine their mind, just like a human. And they need room to make mistakes, just like a human.

While an AI rivaling human beings in intelligence would be technically feasible today with neural networks, the brains produced by that would be about as useful as any other organically developed brain. And there is no guarantee that the mind produced would grow up to want to work in a factory. And be prepared for several years of lead time and something akin to a school system to take them from primordial thought to sentience with a side order of vocational training.
 
2017-08-20 12:24:42 PM  
Apologies if you felt disrepected by my previous comment, I thought I was speaking ina general case. I didn't realize folks would read that a repudiation of their personal world view.
 
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