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Noah Smith, assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University and a blogger at Noahpinion, writes The End of Labor: How to Protect Workers From the Rise of Robots:

Here's a scene that will be familiar to anyone who's ever taken an introductory economics course. The professor has just finished explaining that in economics, "efficiency" means that there are no possible gains from trade. Then some loudmouth kid in the back raises his hand and asks: "Wait, so if one person has everything, and everyone else has nothing and just dies, is that an 'efficient' outcome?" The professor, looking a little chagrined, responds: "Well, yes, it is." And the whole class rolls their eyes and thinks: Economists.

For most of modern history, inequality has been a manageable problem. The reason is that no matter how unequal things get, most people are born with something valuable: the ability to work, to learn, and to earn money. In economist-ese, people are born with an "endowment of human capital." It's just not possible for one person to have everything, as in the nightmare example in Econ 101.

Noah Smith, blogger at Noahpinion and asst. professor of finance at Stony Brook U.
Noah Smith is not a robot.
Here's a scene that will be familiar to anyone who's ever taken an introductory economics course. The professor has just finished explaining that in economics, "efficiency" means that there are no possible gains from trade. Then some loudmouth kid in the back raises his hand and asks: "Wait, so if one person has everything, and everyone else has nothing and just dies, is that an 'efficient' outcome?" The professor, looking a little chagrined, responds: "Well, yes, it is." And the whole class rolls their eyes and thinks: Economists.

For most of modern history, inequality has been a manageable problem. The reason is that no matter how unequal things get, most people are born with something valuable: the ability to work, to learn, and to earn money. In economist-ese, people are born with an "endowment of human capital." It's just not possible for one person to have everything, as in the nightmare example in Econ 101.

For most of modern history, two-thirds of the income of most rich nations has gone to pay salaries and wages for people who work, while one-third has gone to pay dividends, capital gains, interest, rent, etc. to the people who own capital. This two-thirds/one-third division was so stable that people began to believe it would last forever. But in the past ten years, something has changed. Labor's share of income has steadily declined, falling by several percentage points since 2000. It now sits at around 60% or lower. The fall of labor income, and the rise of capital income, has contributed to America's growing inequality.

WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING?

What can explain this shift? One hypothesis is: China. The recent entry of China into the global trading system basically doubled the labor force available to multinational companies. When labor becomes more plentiful, the return to labor goes down. In a world flooded with cheap Chinese labor, capital becomes relatively scarce, and its share of income goes up. As China develops, this effect should go away, as China builds up its own capital stock. This is probably already happening.

But there is another, more sinister explanation for the change. In past times, technological change always augmented the abilities of human beings. A worker with a machine saw was much more productive than a worker with a hand saw. The fears of "Luddites," who tried to prevent the spread of technology out of fear of losing their jobs, proved unfounded. But that was then, and this is now. Recent technological advances in the area of computers and automation have begun to do some higher cognitive tasks - think of robots building cars, stocking groceries, doing your taxes.

Once human cognition is replaced, what else have we got? For the ultimate extreme example, imagine a robot that costs $5 to manufacture and can do everything you do, only better. You would be as obsolete as a horse.

Now, humans will never be completely replaced, like horses were. Horses have no property rights or reproductive rights, nor the intelligence to enter into contracts. There will always be something for humans to do for money. But it is quite possible that workers' share of what society produces will continue to go down and down, as our economy becomes more and more capital-intensive. This possibility is increasingly the subject of discussion among economists. Erik Brynjolfsson has written a book about it, and economists like Paul Krugman and Tyler Cowen are talking about it more and more (for those of you who are interested, here is a huge collection of links, courtesy of blogger Izabella Kaminska). In the academic literature, the theory goes by the name of "capital-biased technological change."


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2012John Boehner—who could make a mint on pipeline—whines about President Obama delaying Keystone:

With the Obama administration's refusal to kowtow to the arbitrary and politically motivated Republican deadline to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, Speaker of the House John Boehner was one of the first out of the gate to express his fauxrage:
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah …
What he didn't say?
... in December 2010, according to Boehner’s financial disclosure forms, he invested $10,000 to $50,000 each in seven firms that had a stake in Canada’s oil sands, the region that produces the oil the pipeline would transport.
So in the coming days, as Republicans crawl out of the woodwork to denounce the president's decision, ask yourself what's in it for them besides scoring political points.

Tweet of the Day:

"i got it, guys, instead of governing, we'll come up with a twitter hashtag. then it trends, and... well..."
#NoBudgetNoPay
@owillis via web




On today's Kagro in Morning show, Greg Dworkin with more polling on guns, and evidence of a shift in intensity shifting the ground, post-Newtown. Armando joined for our interview with former Hostess bakery worker Mike Hummel, aka bluebarnstormer. Hear the details the traditional media skipped in telling the story. See today's podcast post for a link to Mike's short film on the whole debacle. You won't believe what the hedge funders get away with!


High Impact Posts. Overnight News Digest.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tomorrow is his Birthday (28+ / 0-)

    So I took his picture today.

    “I need scarcely observe that a poem deserves its title only inasmuch as it excites, by elevating the soul. The value of the poem is in the ratio of this elevating excitement.”

  •  Where are the Dems on this?!?! (28+ / 0-)

    Why aren't they raising hell about it in the media? This crap will make our elections no better than some tin pot third world country.

    Seriously, if the roles were reversed here and it was Democrats who were doing this, Faux News would be having a 24/7 meltdown about it. Hell, Hannity would be opening his shows with videos of nuclear bombs exploding......and they would be right!

    PA GOP Introduces Bill To Rig 2016 Presidential Electoral Votes

    Just like clockwork, it begins:

    On Monday, seven Pennsylvania Republican state representatives introduced a bill to make this vote-rigging scheme a reality in their state. Under their bill, the winner of Pennsylvania as a whole will receive only 2 of the state’s 20 electoral votes, while “[e]ach of the remaining presidential electors shall be elected in the presidential elector’s congressional district.”

    Pennsylvania is a blue state that voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in every single presidential race for the last two decades, so implementing the GOP election-rigging plan in Pennsylvania would make it much harder for a Democrat to be elected to the White House. Moreover, because of gerrymandering, it is overwhelmingly likely that the Republican candidate will win a majority of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes even if the Democrat wins the state by a very comfortable margin. Despite the fact that President Obama won Pennsylvania by more than 5 points last November, Democrats carried only 5 of the state’s 18 congressional seats. Accordingly, Obama would have likely won only 7 of the state’s 20 electoral votes if the GOP vote rigging plan had been in effect last year.

    http://crooksandliars.com/...

    "I'm so happy 'cause today I found my friends, they're in my head. Light my candles, in a daze 'cause I found god." - Kurt Cobain

    by Jeff Y on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:38:32 PM PST

  •  "Hey! No one at the NRA... " (14+ / 0-)

    A Poet is at the same time a force for Solidarity and for Solitude -- Pablo Neruda / Netroots Radio podcasts of The After Show with Wink & Justice can be found on Stitcher

    by justiceputnam on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:41:25 PM PST

  •  Rifkin's "The End of Work" was copyright 1995 (17+ / 0-)

    This has been something I have been shouting about for so long I got tired of being a Cassandra.  But Rifkin nailed it in 1995.  

    The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era is a non-fiction book by American economist Jeremy Rifkin, published in 1995 by Putnam Publishing Group.

    We have a small window of time to decide to do in a workerless world.  Think Star Trek TNG as one extreme outcome and 13th century Europe at the other.  Either way, we have about 30-50 years.  Let the chaos commence.  The cool thing is that it is one of the many ways the world is about to change massively and it is nearly impossible to guess which dystopian future to predict will occur first: water wars; rising oceans; famine; GMO gone bad; Nukes; H1N1 pandemic; 90% unemployment; Fundies gone wild; etc etc.  Happy weekend everyone!  I try to be a Pollyana and just think if we smile enough it will all be dandy! :)

    Mmmmm. Sprinkles. - H.J. Simpson.

    by ten canvassers on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:41:43 PM PST

    •  IIRC Around the time (5+ / 0-)

      Crossing Your T's and Dotting your I's was replaced with

      Doing Due Diligence

       in the corporate vernacular.  

      I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

      by JML9999 on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:45:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  10 Years Earlier I Was Replacing College Labor (11+ / 0-)

      with machinery as a programmer and systems analyst.

      15 years earlier, as the National Guard was mowing down Kent State University students with M1 rifles, under my arm was a flow-chart for how a computer could discover for itself how to skipper a sailing vessel.

      I tried to explain to my co-workers what this meant and to a man/woman they all laughed at me as an idiot.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:59:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yup. As a prof, my students jeered me in 2000. (8+ / 0-)

        They said I was nuts.  When I talk about Rifkin now, they are just scared.

        Here is from Wikipedia on Rifkin's book:

        In 1995, Rifkin contended that worldwide unemployment would increase as information technology eliminated tens of millions of jobs in the manufacturing, agricultural and service sectors. He predicted devastating impact of automation on blue-collar, retail and wholesale employees. While a small elite of corporate managers and knowledge workers would reap the benefits of the high-tech world economy, the American middle class would continue to shrink and the workplace become ever more stressful.

        As the market economy and public sector decline, Rifkin predicted the growth of a third sector—voluntary and community-based service organizations—that would create new jobs with government support to rebuild decaying neighborhoods and provide social services. To finance this enterprise, he advocated scaling down the military budget, enacting a value added tax on nonessential goods and services and redirecting federal and state funds to provide a "social wage" in lieu of welfare payments to third-sector workers

        http://en.wikipedia.org/...

        Mmmmm. Sprinkles. - H.J. Simpson.

        by ten canvassers on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:02:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Kurzweil would agree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lawrence, Aunt Pat

      His prediction is by 2029 AI will be equal to humans and that soon after (15 more years) there would be little to distinguish between humans and computers as far (economic) ability goes.  One would guess in the run up to that, anyone not augmented by AI (chip implantation, etc) would be out competed/obsolete.

      •  SciFi writers have been saying that for decades (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ten canvassers, JeffW

        but actual AI researchers haven't.  Not only are we nowhere near that kind of technology, but nobody even has any ideas that are likely to bear fruit.  It's like time travel - a fun plot device, but unlikely to ever happen.  Ever.

        Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

        by Boundegar on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 03:35:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You can't escape exponential growth of information (0+ / 0-)

          It will happen, it's just of matter of time.  Perhaps not exactly along Kurzweil's timeline, but Moore's Law and it's analogs can't be avoided.

          Consider, what is the theoretical limit to information transmission speed?  There is none.  All you need is a faster DSP processor (a computer), and indeed from the 1980's to mid 2000's, the limit to  transmission speed to the home has increased from essentially 10000 (Modems) bits/second to 1000000000 bits/second (FTTH). Roughly a factor of 10000 increase in 25 years or approximately what Moore's Law would predict (2^13 ~ 10000).

          What else?  The ubiquitous internet and mobile computing.  The emergence of Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Blogs.  HST accounting for 70% of stock market trading volume.  The 10 TB disk drive.  Deep Blue beats Kasparov, Watson wins Jeopardy.  Checkers completely solved.  Even Siri.

          What could a person do now without computer aid in the US?  In China?  In New Guinea?  And what is their life trajectory?

          Will things ease?  Slow down?  No, they will accelerate, in fact the theory is they they will accelerate exponentially.  The singularity is about the effect of e^x overwhelming anything, everything.  It will happen and it's going to be beyond anyone's comprehension.

          •  Your faith is touching. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ten canvassers, JeffW

            However, nothing in the real world grows exponentially without limit.  Ever.

            Also, it's beside the point of my post, which is that true artificial intelligence - according to actual researchers in the field - is no nearer now than it was in the 1950's.  There is something missing besides brute processing power.  

            That "something" might be a million years of evolution.  I'm not an expert myself, so that's just a guess.

            Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

            by Boundegar on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 05:43:54 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  It's not power, it is about learning algorithms (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JeffW

              Look at Siri.  All those data points (users) and all that Business Intelligence data yield crappy searches and crappy voice recognition.  I believed Dragon Naturally Speaking + 100mil users + 100TB of data + 2 years = voice recognition and Natural Language voice interface.  Nope.  Fail, fail, fail.  Every time I think AI or something that is really Judgement-related (e.g., what humans do well) will be automated, it looks like I am wrong by another 50 years.  So, yes, I agree.

              Mmmmm. Sprinkles. - H.J. Simpson.

              by ten canvassers on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 05:48:35 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  True experts in the field know (0+ / 0-)

              that IBM's Watson computer winning at Jeopardy against past champions was a watershed event.  Tasks that traditionally involve humans remembering, making intelligent guesses and informed estimates, even if backed up by filing through mountains of data, will be increasingly impacted Watson and its derivatives. The natural language processing capability exhibited by Watson will impact medical and health services, financial and economic analysis, help desks, legal firms and myriad other fields that now require human reasoning and judgement.  Watson was as much about great programming and clever heuristics as powerful computers.  Something like Watson was unattainable ten years previous, ten years from now its capability will be commonplace and transparently incorporated into people's everyday lives.  

              •  One specialized application... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ten canvassers

                ...does not make a generalized AI application suite. And Watson ain't small!

                Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

                by JeffW on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 07:16:08 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Deep blue was big, bulky, and specialized (0+ / 0-)

                  when it beat Kasparov in 1997.  Today its capability fits in a desktop computer and its deep dive analytic architecture is today used for general data mining.    

                  •  It's a tool, not an operative... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ten canvassers

                    ...that's the state of AI at this point. The computer can't just decide to do something on its own.

                    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

                    by JeffW on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 08:12:26 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Fundamentally, what's needed by you then? (0+ / 0-)

                      If you took a riding lawnmower, put it in drive and let it go, it sure will look like it doing stuff on its own.  If you put a collision avoidance computer in it, now it's making decisions.

                      If someone took Watson and bolted on a parser and wget and a thread detector and randomly set it to answer questions in blogs, how long do you think would it take you be able to tell it's not human?

                      •  I don't know... (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        ten canvassers
                        If someone took Watson and bolted on a parser and wget and a thread detector and randomly set it to answer questions in blogs, how long do you think would it take you be able to tell it's not human?
                        ...but maybe if you did that, had IBM set up a account for it on Daily Kos, and let it lurk for a while, we'd find out.

                        At minimum, such a machine would have to consistently pass a Turing Test for me to consider it more than a tool.

                        Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

                        by JeffW on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 09:26:14 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  So it need not do stuff on it own, then (0+ / 0-)

                          Or if you still require that, you agree there are some pretty simple tools and a loop to make it look like it?

                          You need it to respond like a human to queries (pass the Turing test as you said).

                          I wonder what Alex Trebek thought?

                          •  It should be able to act on its own... (0+ / 0-)

                            ...to be considered a true, fully-functional AI. Otherwise, it's just a damned big database.

                            Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

                            by JeffW on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 12:17:10 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

    •  heck (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lawrence, Aunt Pat, JeffW

      This is almost standard late 1940s Sci-Fi.  Robots replace low- and unskilled labor, leaving masses of unemployed who threaten everyone's stability.

      Osamu Tezuka had it in his Metropolis manga in 1948.  It was the underpinning of why humans still hated Robots in Asimov's stories, in spite of the Three Laws.

      We have no desire to offend you -- unless you are a twit!

      by ScrewySquirrel on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:57:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Interestingly, the utopian existence of Star... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bobinson, Aunt Pat, ten canvassers

      Trek TNG is preceded by 100-200 years of chaos and slaughter, starting with relocation of 'undesirables' to ghettos and culminating in nuclear holocaust that kills around 600 million. It takes another 100 years or so for Earth to unite and conquer deprivation and factionalism.

      All of which is to say, it's entirely imaginable that we could see a return to the Middle Ages before we get to Star Trek.

      "The Democratic Party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with."

      by 2020adam on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 12:27:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And Star Trek did not use money (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aunt Pat, 2020adam

        It was kind of an egalitarian meritocracy in my humble opinion. I always wondered what the folks were like who weren't good enough to make the Starfleet cut. On a related note, I really did not like the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition.


        i just baptized andrew breitbart into the church of islam, planned parenthood, the girl scouts and three teachers unions. - @blainecapatch

        by bobinson on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 03:05:15 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Picard's brother, back on Earth, was a... (0+ / 0-)

          wine maker. Rather obsessed with maintaining his Luddite existence. Jean-Luc indicates that the Federation basically gives out replicators. So it seems that anyone can do anything they want with their life, productive or otherwise.

          "The Democratic Party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with."

          by 2020adam on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 03:58:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  A very thought-provoking story (0+ / 0-)

      on this subject is available online.  It's nearly novel-length, but worth reading.

      Manna, by Marshall Brain, founder of How Stuff Works.

    •  You make those sound like bad things. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BusyinCA
      The United States - indeed the whole earth - is fast running out of the resources it depends on for its existence. Well before the last of the world’s supplies of oil and natural gas are exhausted early in the next century, shortages of these and other substances will have brought about the collapse of our whole economy and, indeed, of our whole technology. And without the wonders of modern technology, America will be left a grossly overpopulated, utterly impoverished, helpless, dying land. Thus I foresee a whole world full of wretched, starving people with no hope of escape, for the only countries which could have aided them will soon be no better off than the rest. And thus unless we are saved from this future by the blessing of a nuclear war or a truly lethal pestilence, I see stretching off into eternity a world of indescribable suffering and hopelessness. It is a vision of truly unspeakable horror mitigated only by the fact that try as I might I could not possibly concoct a creature more deserving of such a fate.
      (By Louis Pascal / Walter Bradford Ellis in Hofstadter's Metamagical Themas -- emphasis mine.)
  •  The spectre of better robots has been around... (6+ / 0-)

    ...for almost a century. Most robots now in use don't come anywhere near what you would expect from, say, Robby in Forbidden Planet, or the Robinsons B-9B Robot in Lost In Space, and they probably won't for some time. And it isn't just a problem of software or cognition, but also power. The same limitation on electric vehicles also would hamstring a general-purpose mobile robot. I don't point this out to encourage complacency or to minimize the possibility of such machines, nor would I be a Luddite to say that we should drop the research.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:43:39 PM PST

    •  This sounds promising, however: (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jeff Y, ZenTrainer, Not A Bot, Aunt Pat




      Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
      ~ Jerry Garcia

      by DeadHead on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:54:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No thanks! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jeff Y, DeadHead

        I can think of a few really bad scenarios with that!

        Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

        by JeffW on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:55:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  And to atone for their sins (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aunt Pat, ten canvassers, JeffW

        the robot hookers can be recycled and come back for a try at a better life the second time around (or the five hundredth), perhaps as Priuses.  Plus, a daily post-coital chlorine bath and UV shower cures all potential STDs.  Very clean, very efficient, very COLD.  In time, the degenerates of our species could watch straight robot porn -- two machines doing the nasty on screen.  

        I prefer marriage, in which two people enjoy youth together warmly, wrinkle together warmly, and move on to better climes together when finished with this life.  Unfortunately, and perhaps due to good genes, I've outlived two lovely wives.  I refuse to take a third, in part because I don't want to be forced into being an harem master in the after, and in part because my ability to adequately service a woman has degenerated to the point of futility, probably even humorous futility.  Also, I feel I've already accomplished sufficiently the requirements of the Torah's earliest direct commandment.  Fulfilling it further would be gratuitous, and it is possible to over-perform a mitzvah -- there are already plenty of little Not A Botettes and their offspring and their offspring and their offspring on this planet.  

         

    •  I don't think that's true any longer (9+ / 0-)

      I'll give you an example of parallel thinking: in the 1970s I remember reading an article in Electronics magazine (no longer exists, but was the source for leading edge hi tech info at the time) where a lot of smart people said that computers weren't going to find their way onto the factory floor any time soon.

      They could say that because a) they hadn't been on a factory floor and seen the increasing use of "numerically controlled" (NC) machines;  b) they weren't aware of the possibilities of using microprocessors instead of minicomputers for process control; c) they couldn't see the cost curve - my employer at the time was Intel's second customer for microprocessors (and using them for general process controllers), and we had 8080A micros (just the chip) that ran a 1 MHz and cost $360 each. No other memory, peripherals, nothing - just the chip. The computer I'm typing this on cost about $360 ($500 with the LCD display). It's a complete system, 2.5 million times faster than the 8080A chip, 4GB of memory, 500GB of hard drive and everything else that goes with it. And the same 8080A that cost $360 in 1975, cost less than $1 more than ten years ago.

      Another fallacy is that you need a general purpose robot like Robby from Forbidden Planet to replace people - you don't. A number of people in Idaho lost jobs when my employer's process control system was hooked up to cameras and did image recognition to remove the black spots from potatoes being cut into fries. Thirty-five years ago. Open a bag of frozen fries now and you'll almost never see a french fry with a black spot.

      The combination of vastly improved technology with an understanding of how to design products to be manufactured automatically makes the spectre of robots eliminating a significant amount of human labor a reality - in fact in a lot of industries it's already happened.

      Your argument was true in the past - it's been obsoleted by technology too.

      In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

      by badger on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:11:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't see it globally... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aunt Pat

        ...but your example is a good one. Automation replacing tedious jobs isn't necessarily bad. Retraining the displaced workers is important, though.

        Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

        by JeffW on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:17:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Lots of examples (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Pluto, Aunt Pat, ten canvassers

          Automotive assembly, especially welding, is highly automated. Nearly all electronic assembly is 90% or more automated - components are inserted by machine, soldering is done by passing the circuit board/components over a solder wave (which is 1960s technology). A few things need to be hand soldered still - those will eventually be eliminated, and probably have been in some designs. The individual components - like chips and circuit boards - are all manufactured and tested automatically.

          The use of electronic motor controls means a computer can control speed now easily and cheaply, instead of relying on an operator, which allows for a lot of automation of different tasks.

          Blood tests are highly automated - all except actually drawing the blood. I toured my first fully automated warehouse in the mid 1980s, at an IBM facility. The printers they made were packaged automatically, too. Nobody even puts software in boxes or on shelves anymore - it's all downloaded from app stores. So is music and movies - Blockbuster was basically automated into bankruptcy. How many jobs were lost in video stores alone? How many fewer are at Netflix? ATMs replace tellers. Online bill pay replaces ATMs and cash.

          I haven't had TV for a long time, but there used to be a show called "How things are made", that documented the manufacturing process for all kinds of things - sheet rock, food, musical instruments, etc. The striking feature is that you could watch an entire show sometimes - usually 3 different products, IIRC - and never see a human being. They were there to push a few buttons to start and stop things, probably, but they weren't relevant to the manufacturing process.

          And the learning curve for doing all this stuff is still advancing - there's a lot more to come, and  it will be easier and cheaper in the future.

          In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

          by badger on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:38:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I forgot the best example (5+ / 0-)

          What was the ratio of farmers to total population in 1800 (when we couldn't feed everybody and still had famines)?

          What's the ratio now (when we have cheap food and surpluses, at least in the US)?

          That's almost entirely due to automation (binders, threshers, tractors, etc) and redesigning the process of growing crops (like pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, and breeding and GMOs).

          All those farming jobs were eliminated - we just didn't pay attention because we created industrial jobs for all the displaced farmers. And now the industrial and service jobs are being automated and designed away.

          In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

          by badger on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:46:45 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Retrain them to do what? (5+ / 0-)

          As time goes by, that will be the question.



          Perpetual crisis means never having to say you're sorry.

          by chuckvw on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:12:40 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I just heard a description of how many people it (0+ / 0-)

          used to take to analyze DNA from rape kits - 10 people, and it took weeks.

          Now?  Computers and robots do it, and they analyze hundreds in hours.

      •  I have been talking a lot about this with a (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        basquebob, Pluto, Aunt Pat, JeffW

        friend of mine. He thinks it's fine to replace people with robots in the future (he thinks it's inevitable), but a way will need to be found to still provide a good quality of life for people.

        I think that in the future it will be discovered that people producing things adds some intangible quality to whatever is being produced whether it's a toaster or a tennis shoe.

        I believe that in the future that intangible quality will be measurable and highly valued.

        Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

        by ZenTrainer on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:07:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Kurt Vonnegut wrote his first book about it (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ZenTrainer, basquebob, AnnCetera, Aunt Pat

          in the late 1940s - Player Piano.

          The technology he referenced is more or less obsolete, but the social outcome still seems likely.

          I think robots and productivity improvement are fine, too - I like the increase in efficiency and in quality. But like you, I want to see living standards maintained, and that requires either enough good jobs, or some other economic system that distributes wealth more evenly.

          In some ways those intangibles are significant. I've designed and built things, from my own stereo, my own computers, to my own house. I make my own frozen french fries now. I read books from a book stand my wife made for me, and a scarf she wove 30 years ago still keeps me warm in winter. Our good "china" is from recycled wine bottles that my wife made in her studio.

          But, outside of the house, for which the "sweat equity" turned out to be significant, it's hard to make a living off of all those things. Maybe the barter economy will improve as more people are automated out of work.

          In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

          by badger on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:20:39 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  How will you know? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ZenTrainer

          Philips Electronics manufactures the same electric shavers in China and the Netherlands.  The factory in China uses an army of workers doing intricate hand assembly.  The factory in the Netherlands uses a tenth as many workers supervising 128 robots.  Philips claims the plant in the Netherlands is cost competitive with the one in China.  How would you, as a consumer, know that a Philips electric razor was manufactured by a robot or a person? What's the intangible quality that would tip you off?  How will you know in the future whether your apple or tomato was tended, picked, sorted, and packaged by a person or a robot?  What's the intangible quality that will tip you off?

    •  There is a robot on the moon right now... (6+ / 0-)

      ...that has the power thing figured out. Plutonium. It's expensive. And I'm not recommending it. But it works.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:33:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  They don't need to be R2D2 to be proficient on the (4+ / 0-)

      assembly line.  There are enough examples of factory floor robots performing tasks that would have been impossible ten years ago and enough recent improvements in vision, touch and handling technologies that it is likely that we're seeing an new paradigm in manufacturing automation emerging.  Are robots going to totally eliminate people from manufacturing? No, but I do believe they will drastically reduce the need for human labor in manufacturing.  Not just in the U.S. but globally.  

    •  "Anger, Will Robinson!" /nt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat, JeffW

      Warning - some snark above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ “If someone has a tool and is trying to negate your existence it would be reasonable to reciprocate in kind with your own tool.” - Dalai Lama XIV (sic)

      by annieli on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 02:49:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Does anything wear these people out? (5+ / 0-)

    What with the last four years of trials and tribulations, two years of election build-up and culmination, and two lame duck sessions that were anything but half-time, it may well be that Barack Obama will end up having served more than two terms.
    Think of Lincoln, his first four years must've been a lifetime.
    Incredible. I'd like to see a $5 robot pull it off without, at least, one recall.

    Fuck Big Brother...from now on, WE'RE watching.

    by franklyn on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:48:25 PM PST

  •  "What do I think the betting line... " (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, sboucher, jlms qkw, Jeff Y, Aunt Pat

    A Poet is at the same time a force for Solidarity and for Solitude -- Pablo Neruda / Netroots Radio podcasts of The After Show with Wink & Justice can be found on Stitcher

    by justiceputnam on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:52:49 PM PST

    •  Atlantan here (waves, hi y'all!) (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      justiceputnam, Jeff Y, Aunt Pat

      and you had better believe everyone has a line on this game, it's like a ginormous lottery that no one can resist.

      I'm not looking forward to the game, win or lose, who knows how people will react. I have hated the Falcons since moving here over 20 years ago.

      As far as this season, I lost interest when the Giants went out, but dwell instead on last year's game.

      It's not just a zip code, it's an attitude.

      by sboucher on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:03:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There are two kinds of change that (10+ / 0-)

    technology makes possible. One is automation, and that eliminates some or all labor in manufacturing a product or performing a service.

    The other is design - you can design products to be built with less or even no labor. You do it by eliminating things like fasteners (products snap together), designing things that don't need to be adjusted or calibrated, and a host of other techniques. Screws already exist for automotive applications that don't need a screwdriver to tighten them - they do it themselves automatically/electronically (they've been around a while - I don't know if anyone uses them yet, though).

    When I was a manufacturing engineer, way back in the 1970s, it was the responsibility of everyone in the department to think about cost reduction. It's easier to increase profits more by cost reduction than to increase sales, which can be difficult. Cost reduction means you remove labor in your factory or office, or you eliminate materials, which removes labor in someone else's factory or office.

    Every time you hear someone like Alan Greenspan talk about the wonders of productivity improvement, keep in mind that productivity improvement almost always involves producing the same amount of product (measured in dollars) with less labor (measured in hours). And then think about the fact that the US is the leader in productivity improvement.

    You may think it unfair that productivity improvements don't benefit labor, but the fact is that in the modern era, improving productivity means investing capital - in the automation and product design this comment began with. It no longer comes from people working harder or smarter, like it used to. The manufacturing that some predict will move back to the US from offshore will be much more highly automated - and lower paying, with fewer jobs.

    If we're not going to be a banana republic eventually or worse, a feudal state, we need to rethink how our system allocates wealth and income now, because the old system of working to earn your daily bread is going to disappear some time in the future - and it may not be in the distant future. In some ways, the change is already here.

    In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

    by badger on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:54:49 PM PST

    •  Humans Only Do 2 Things: Labor and Problem Solvng. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, basquebob, chuckvw, Aunt Pat

      IT now can do both.

      Design, like management, accounting, neurosurgery, you-name-it, is problem solving, and IT can do it.

      In principle, there's no need in the economy for humans, other than waiting for implementation to catch up to principle.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:04:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Um, no... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aunt Pat
        IT now can do both.
        ...artificial intelligence hasn't come along that far. I subscribed to a amagazine called AI Journal, with the idea that maybe some neural networking software could be adapted to observing and operating a traffic-responsive traffic signal system.

        The magazine folded within a year.

        Robots in surgery are mostly waldoes. Having management software means the managers need to learn and use it. My old section had a 1-man IT section, until a couple of months ago, when the Principle Programmer found a better-paying job with anothe City agency. When he was hired in 2005, he had been promosed a staff of up to 7 people! Never happened. And the number of engineers will go down by 1 at the end of June this year. The computers won't replace the engineers, can't replace the engineers.

        Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

        by JeffW on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:12:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Humans are needed for the dirtiest jobs (5+ / 0-)

        And I'm not talking about the kinds that Mike Rowe used to showcase on his TV program.  I'm talking about the job of lying, of covering up, of pretending something is what it isn't.  Don't believe me?

        A recent diary on Kos talks about how an engineer was complaining about problems with the battery of the 787 long before it started catching fire.  That engineer was fired, ostensibly because he was a jackass, but I'm sure that telling his bosses they were fucking up didn't help.  

        Corporations like to blame "human error" but they generally create the situations where certain kinds of errors can thrive while the important ones (the ones that affect the bottom line) are snuffed out.  But it is only with human beings, and "human error," that this is possible.

        Let's say you're a housekeeper at a fancy hotel.  You are taught that you have to do 17 things in each hotel room before it can be considered clean.   But because of requirements that you be "efficient" it is impossible to do all of the 17 tasks and finish in time.  So, you do the 13 that are the most important.  Sometimes, when you're down one person, you can only do 8 tasks.  

        Most of the time, this doesn't matter.  But every once in a while someone gets a staph infection from the countertop.  They probably won't ever link it to you.  You'll be fine.  Or, if you forget to check the lightly used bed for a condom wrapper, you'll be fired.  No big deal for Marriott, right?  

        But now, say, the hotel chain gets a robot to do your job.  The robot can clean twice as many hotel rooms per hour as a person.  But it can't "hurry up" as well as a housekeeper.  The only way to do so is to tell it not to clean the counter, or to check for used condoms.  But if you do that, you can't fire the robot.  Instead, you learn that Mariott turned off the function in its robots to check the beds.  Now it's a big deal for Mariott.

        Another great use for people is bigotry.  In Phoenix, AZ they placed cameras all over the city to catch speeders and red-light runners. There was so much uproar that they took them out.  I suspect that those red lights were trapping too many reg'lar guys in pickups and soccer moms in minivans.  Now, with the cameras gone, police officers can go back to focusing their attention on brown people.  

        In short, human beings serve an excellent function of obfuscating the selfish motives of corporations.  If anything, this employee was acting like a robot-- doing his job and giving the proper warnings.  People hate computers when the computer doesn't do what they want it to. But, the computer is actually doing exactly what you've told it to do.

        So humans will always have jobs, but it likely will involve a great deal more of covering up for the entitled class.

        One man gathers what another man spills

        by John Chapman on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:05:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  One big problem - there's no increase in capital (5+ / 0-)

      a stunning March 2012 report, Worse Than the Great Depression: What Experts Are Missing About American Manufacturing Decline, by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, which refutes the common wisdom that the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs is because of gains in productivity. If new, more productive manufacturing technology is the primary reason for the loss of manufacturing jobs, then we should be seeing a pattern of rising capital investment in that technology. But there is no such pattern. In the chapter entitled, “Capital Investment Trends in U.S. Manufacturing”, the study notes:

      …a more accurate measurement of U.S. manufacturing output suggests that superior productivity was not principally responsible for the loss of almost one-third of U.S. manufacturing jobs in the 2000s. If it were, we would also expect to see a reasonable increase in the stock of manufacturing machinery and equipment, for it is difficult to generate superior gains in productivity without concomitant increases in capital stock. Conversely, if loss of output due to declining U.S. competitiveness caused the decline of jobs, we would more likely see flat or declining capital stock. In fact, we see the latter, which is more evidence for the competitiveness failure hypothesis.


      U.S. Manufacturing Capital Stock is Stagnant
      Over the past decade, as Figure 45 shows, the overall amount of fixed capital investment (defined as investment in structures, equipment, and software) made by manufacturers as a share of GDP was at its lowest rate since World War II, when the Department of Commerce started tracking these numbers. An analysis by year shows that the annual rate has generally declined in the 2000s, going under 1.5 percent for several years for the only time since 1950. (See Figures 45 and 46) This decline represents the decreasing amounts invested, on average, in new manufacturing plants and equipment every year.

      These two graphs show clearly show the decline in capital investment in manufacturing.
      http://1.bp.blogspot.com/...

      http://2.bp.blogspot.com/...

      But if these were adjusted to a per capita basis, the trend would be even worse, because of growing population. This is important, because it means that as a nation, the United States is becoming less capital intense. It is becoming, in other words, less capitalistic.

      This is a symptom, as well as a function, of the U.S. economy coming to be dominated by rentiers and usurers, rather than producers. It's more than disappointing that Smith and other economists are not including the burdens of economic rent and usury among the possible causes for the decline in share of GDP going to labor.

       March 2012, Mark Ames of Consortium News revealed a McKinsey report from a few years ago entitled "The New Metrics of Corporate Performance: Profit Per Employee," which, Ames wrote, "argues that the best performing firms in our increasingly financialized era are those companies that have learned to squeeze ever-larger profits out of each employee — and not by the more traditional "return on investment" metric." Then Ames provided this quote from the McKinsey report:

      "If a company's capital intensity doesn't increase, profit per employee is a pretty good proxy for the return on intangibles. The hallmark of financial performance in today's digital age is an expanded ability to earn 'rents' from intangibles. Profit per employee is one measure of those rents. If a company boosts its profit per employee without increasing its capital intensity, management will increase its rents."
      I don't know about you, but I'm pretty shocked that one of the elites' premier outfits would come out so openly and declare that they're hooked on rent seeking behavior. "Rents" appears three times in that quote Ames lifted.

      The McKinsey report goes on to argue that "One way to improve a company's profit per employee is simply to shed low-profit employees." Ames writes that this management outlook is "the language of feudalism, not modern advanced capitalism," and writes that this comparable to the chattel slavery we had to fight a Civil War to end.

      Also, John Quiggin had a great article in September: The golden age: The 15-hour working week predicted by Keynes may soon be within our grasp – but are we ready for freedom from toil?

      A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

      by NBBooks on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:46:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sure - because there are two ways to increase (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        basquebob, Mike Taylor, Aunt Pat

        productivity - automation and design - and three ways to reduce costs - automation, design and offshoring.

        US manufacturers in some cases have move capital equipment overseas along with jobs - people I worked with in Milwaukee supervised moving all of the production equipment for that company to Juarez.  More often, obsolete product lines have been shut down here and new product lines - often capital intensive - started offshore. So for example, Apple discontinues the original Apple II and Mac, and builds the new Macs, iMacs, iPhones, iPads and iTunes all in China. That's massive capital investment by an American company (or more likely a "subsidiary") - somewhere else. That phenomenon has been used to "prove" that no US jobs have been shipped overseas, when in fact entire product lines and jobs were discontinued here and new products lines that replaced them built offshore.

        Another thing that's been constant since the 70s and the conglomerate fad is consolidation. Domestic companies have facilities utilization far below 100%, so they buy or get bought out, combine operations, and now one of the two companies capital equipment is largely trashed, while the other gets more utilization (if the buyout isn't simply to eliminate a competitor, which happens too).

        There is supposedly a trend starting of manufacturing returning here. If it does, it will be so highly automated it creates few jobs, or else it will be at wages comparable to China. In the former case, you'll see a big upsurge in US capital spending, and corporations are sitting on capital in cash and equivalents - but a lot of automated equipment manufacturers do their manufacturing in China now, and the US machine tool industry died years ago.

        In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

        by badger on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:04:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Forgot one other thing (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        basquebob, Aunt Pat, JeffW

        The other trend - starting in the late 70s/80s - is outsourcing. So when IBM introduced the original IBM PC, they didn't make as much of capital investment as they might have, because they outsourced the metal bending to a steel furniture company in Menomonee Falls, WI and the electronic (circuit board) assembly and maybe final assembly to a company in Neenah, WI. Both of those companies used existing capacity - didn't need new capital investment.

        Even within companies, one of my business's largest customers is a division of a Fortune 100 company, and that division takes all of the "outsourced" work from other divisions within the company that used to build their own products or sub-assemblies. And they serve too as a contract assembler for other companies.

        In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

        by badger on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:09:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  What time does Bo get sworn in on Monday? (13+ / 0-)

    Bo Obama

    "I'm so happy 'cause today I found my friends, they're in my head. Light my candles, in a daze 'cause I found god." - Kurt Cobain

    by Jeff Y on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:57:24 PM PST

  •  When 93% of all wage/productivity gains (10+ / 0-)

    goes to less than one percent of the population and wages have stagnated for forty years ...that's what the problem is.

    There are more people (even w/the robots) working than ever before!!!

    If productivity gains were spread reasonably there wouldn't be a problem.

    The problem is sociopaths like the Walton's, Koch's, de Vos', Simmons', Peterson's and a few dozen other families rigging the political and economic realms.  They reign.

    His argument was first brought up in the '30's and 40's and today is a distraction from the truth!!!

    I'm sick and tired of the cool kids distracting from what is really going on.

    Heck, today instead of talking about the absurd republican debt ceiling solution, all we are hearing is some dude who rides bicycles and a football players girlfriend.  That's what the billionaires want...distractions while they steal our labor.  

    It's not the robots...it's the Koch's etc!

    Next week it will be football games, giant squids, bubble boys, pythons and any other shiny things the five media corporations can distract their writers and talking heads w/.

    •  I agree that the distribution of wealth (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, basquebob, dclawyer06, mike101, koNko

      needs to be much more equitable - that wages need to be higher and people's personal wealth needs to start increasing again. Both wages and wealth have declined since the 1970s, no matter which party governs.

      But ...

      Economic gains due to productivity gains used to go at least  partially to labor, because productivity was improved by employees working harder and smarter. Except today, it's capital investment in automation and product design that drives nearly all productivity improvement, even in the service sector.

      Rather than demanding that productivity gains go to labor, you need to come up with a justification for why they should go to labor rather than to the capital the produces and pays for the gains. That means coming up with a new economic paradigm for how our society operates that justifies redistributing income and wealth.

      I'm all in favor of that happening, but I don't know how you change our culture to accept it, when most of our political leadership is already drifting in the opposite direction.

      In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

      by badger on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:21:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We also need to start thinking of an economy... (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badger, basquebob, mike101, koNko, Simplify

        which will not depend upon consumption from wages. Because I'd wager that, in 40 years, most jobs of today can and will be done by computers/machines.

        Name a job and 9 times outta 10 it's one that can be done competently by a machine. Or will within a few years.

        I'd include surgeon, nurse, lawyer and judge in that statement.

        •  There's another issue (0+ / 0-)

          Most of the projections for human population plateau out and then start to decline. They may vary on when that plateau will be reached and what number it will be, but they all agree that will happen.

          Then economies will have to really start dealing with something they never have before: inevitable contraction. What happens when expansion of your economy is impossible because there are literally no more new customers, and the ones that are there already have what they need/want? How does an economy work then?

      •  It's a small planet. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mrsgoo, Simplify, JeffW, mike101

        We seem to have accepted who ever gets there first owns it all.  The raw materials of Our planet need to be made available to all humans.  We The People.  Not My Corporation.
        Capital investment is a shibboleth for greed and mayhem.
        The same workers who created the industrial revolution created automation and product design and robots and capital investment.  They drove on the roads I helped pay for, drank the water I helped pay to clean, lived safely because my father fought for them, printed ideas on someone elses machines and paper etc.  They don't deserve 93% of my labor or this planets resources.
        Please don't fall for their misdirection and distortions.

        What percentage we deserve is up for negotiation, but let's not start by saying the independent, inventors of things did it by themselves.  

        We All stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.  And the unborn of our planet deserve a chance to create and advance  civilization w/o the concept that they don't deserve a first class education so they too can do great things for future generations.

        How? Instead of focusing on distractions, focus on who is causing and benefiting from the darkness.  Focus on how to shine the spotlight on the few dozen sociopath billionaires like the Koch's, Simmons', Peterson's, Walton's, de Vos' etc.  

        Instead of reacting to the fires they start w/their billions, focus on them personally.  Who are they talking too? Where are they today?  Why do the Koch's have over four hundred 'small businesses.
        How can Linda and Pete Peterson ... Paul Blumenthal
        paulblumenthal@huffingtonpost.com reports...
        "According to a review of tax documents from 2007 through 2011, Peterson has personally contributed at least $458 million to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to cast Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and government spending as in a state of crisis, in desperate need of dramatic cuts. "
        That's the real problem...spending half a billion dollars by one man to turn us into wage slaves and the Koch family has contributed even more and that's only two families.
        It's not by accident or serendipity we are under siege.

  •  A question I've always wondered about: (7+ / 0-)

    If Dick Cheyney had died in office, who would've become president?

    Fuck Big Brother...from now on, WE'RE watching.

    by franklyn on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:09:40 PM PST

  •  Check out (5+ / 0-)

    Electing people who don't believe in government to Congress, is like installing an atheist as pastor of a church. If they don't believe in the institution or its goals, they won't care if it does a good job for its members.

    by Lefty Coaster on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:12:53 PM PST

  •  Just heard a good one on Ultimate Presidents (7+ / 0-)

    Hoover asks a guy for a nickle to call a friend. The guy gives him a dime.
    "Here," the guy says, "call 'em all."

    Fuck Big Brother...from now on, WE'RE watching.

    by franklyn on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:30:20 PM PST

  •  Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut predicted... (7+ / 0-)

    ...what the world would become once robots replaced workers.

    Player Piano

    The basic premise of the story is that American industry is run by a tiny group of wealthy and powerful managers and engineers, while the vast majority of the population are stripped of their well-paying industrial jobs and forced to live as poor, powerless menials.
    Vonnegut shows how most managers and engineers have always had a contempt for the average American worker and have been looking for a way to replace them even before WW2. He thought that this would primarily be by automation (as opposed to simply shipping the jobs out of the country.)
    I read it a long time ago and it still resonates.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:45:18 PM PST

  •  Wiki stumble upon at-large house seats (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dclawyer06

    This use to a thing.

    There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

    by slothlax on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:49:57 PM PST

  •  I'm glad you wrote about robots... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    basquebob, Lawrence, mike101

    Matt Miller, a bright but No Labels-style conservadem, wrote a great op-ed in Washington Post the other day about the dangers of robots to American workers.

    It's frightening and worth a look:

    In a phone interview Tuesday, Ford emphasized that the pace of technological change is a much bigger force for disruption than globalization – yet it’s the latter that generates the ink and the fears. It’s wrong to think that only less-skilled workers are at risk, Ford adds; it’s much easier to automate a radiologist’s job than a housekeeper’s. For this reason, the idea that the policy answer is “education and training” strikes him as self-evidently flawed. Yet less-skilled workers will have no haven either, as Foxconn’s recent order of 1 million robots for its low-wage Chinese factories proves.
    Note the line about radiologists. In 20 years there will be robots/programs that can detect cancer on a scan better than the best radiologists today.
    Airplane pilots, bus drivers, surgeons, teachers...how long before those jobs can be done by computers/robots?

    I'm guessing 15-20 years, tops.

    •  The issue will be, (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dclawyer06, mrsgoo, JeffW, mike101

      who will be able to afford the x-rays? In the end, "efficiency" can become a self fulfilling prophecy. Change is always accompanied by many tribulations, but there are always unforeseen outcomes and then we adapt. Of course the purpose of these discussions, and forums like this, is to shape, or at least try to shape, some of those outcomes.

      A lot of interesting comments here tonight.

      "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." -John F. Kennedy

      by basquebob on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:45:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm with the students: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lily O Lady

    "Economists!!"  (Sheesh!)

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:14:44 PM PST

  •  Not the time to bash robots, please. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW

    Thousands and thousands of high school students worldwide are on Week 3 of a marathon 6 week "Build Season" designing, constructing and testing competition robots for the F.I.R.S.T. Robotics Competition this spring.  

    Here's a video describing the program:  http://www.usfirst.org/...

    Lots more competition videos can be found on YouTube by year.  It is one of the most exciting high school activities that is both legal and safe.

    Give these kids a cheer for taking on the new technologies and making change a part of their own lives!  We all need their problem solving skills as soon as we can get them into the workforce.

    Robots are tools, but not static durable items like wrenches, batteries, or dishwashers.  A robot is a job creator!  Just last November, a family member of mine had robotic surgery.  Thousands of jobs over decades led to that application.  Just today, I saw the truck and crew that maintains and operates a city robot which checks the integrity of sewer lines.  Glad that manual job was 'eliminated'!  The process of development, design, engineering, testing, modification, implementation and operation of robots employs an army of skilled workers in reliable jobs all over the country, even in rural areas.  Robots will be part of more types of jobs, in just a few years, than we can even imagine at this time.  How long has it taken the workforce to retrain to use simple computers?  Most of my lifetime!  Have computers made life better for most people?  I certainly think so.  I believe that robots have even more potential and that the more we become familiar with the ground being broken, the easier it will be to take advantage of the technology in unforeseen ways.

    Go watch your local F.I.R.S.T. regional competition: I guarantee you will feel the excitement of change.

    •  Calm down, (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DeadHead, Lawrence, hrvatska, mike101

      this is not about bashing robots. Sure some comments can sound like it, but the bigger picture is how robots are being used to displace many in the economy. In many instances with adverse results for many in society. Robots are here to stay and will continue to advance and increasingly perform functions that take over jobs that people perform, it is inevitable in an open society like ours. But the bigger question is: what are we going to do as a society to minimize the dislocations and tribulations?

      This is the problem, the way I see it, we are being asked to accept at the very same time 21st century technologies while functioning under 19th century economic models and dogmas. This is not necessarily accidental and something has to give. For the unimaginative the answer might be to restrict or eliminate the robots. For others the answer is that we have to change our economic models, they need to evolve at the same pace than technology and preferably in a way that is beneficial to everyone and  not just for a few in our societies.

      "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." -John F. Kennedy

      by basquebob on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 11:25:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Education is the lubricant. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        basquebob

        If liberals have a goal of equal access to opportunity, they must focus on delivery of quality education to every child in a way that is blind to poverty.  We have never achieved anything close to this in the U.S. and are limiting opportunity for more kids every day as we turn to profit over knowledge.  New technology will always change the tasks of jobs but workers need built-in flexibility in order to adapt quickly and efficiently whenever an old career becomes obsolete.  It's not necessarily money that produces an educated population.  It's always leadership, first.  Any other social ill is secondary to our lack of support for knowledge.  It may be too late, as the attacks on universal education have been deadly effective.  Brainwashed segments of society are anti-knowledge.  Nothing will change until the country realizes just how much trouble we are in and just how drastic the measures need to be to salvage the system.

        Of course, an educated and informed population is difficult to control.  It takes a brave leader to relinquish control for the benefit of a population.  

  •  I have been ranting about tech and jobs (0+ / 0-)

    for a while now.  It's a bit like climate change, we are just beginning to see the effects that could get a lot bigger in the future.

    I am happy to see that some people are beginning to discuss this.  Jared Bernstein and Paul Krugman have recent blog posts on the subject.

    Technological advance should make society as a whole richer, but with the way the economy works now, it might make most people poorer.

    This is far from the only problem behind inequality, with outsourcing, destruction of labor unions, financialization of the economy, and regressive taxation contributing to the plutocracy we are moving to today.  But the ideology of the plutocracy will prevent most people from getting the benefits of technology.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:33:51 PM PST

  •  Wired had a pretty interesting article about (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto, basquebob, Simplify, annieli

    robots last month. Robots are already replacing us

    if a habitat is flooded, the improvement for target fishes increases by an infinite percentage...because a habitat suitability index that is even a tiny fraction of 1 is still infinitely higher than zero, which is the suitability of dry land to fishes.

    by mrsgoo on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 11:01:25 PM PST

  •  On the topic of robots replacing me: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW

    I work at a Walmart store,
    and I've worked in retail for over 20 years.

    It would be nice to have robots
    at the particular store where I work,
    since I work at the busiest store in the Wichita area,
    and we're always swamped.

    If we had robots helping us stock the shelves,
    no one would be laid off,
    and everyone would feel a little better.

    The store level managers
    would simply see more getting done,
    sooner,
    faster,
    and the rest of us could spend our working day
    doing those things the robots couldn't do,
    such as load the goods in the robot's in box,
    resetting the robot for a different aisle,
    taking away empty boxes to the baler,
    helping customers find the lemon juice,
    and on and on.

    Robots?

    Bring 'em on.

  •  How do these economists define Robots? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lawrence, JeffW

    As those that mere mock human-like actions on a human scale or do they apply a broader definition such as those that perform tasks beyond human ability directed by a program?

    Because most of the automation in use probably fits the second.

    In fact, we wouldn't be having this discussion without them.

    It's a good discussion because we need to consider what humans will do in the future.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 12:00:00 AM PST

  •  There is no economic incentive to develop robots (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    squarewheel

    to do unskilled human manual labor, because human manual labor is dirt cheap.

    •  Tell that to Zappos. (4+ / 0-)

      Wired had a great article in 2009 about the automation of retail warehouses. The robots follow bar codes along the floor until they get to the right shelving unit, which they then pick up and bring to the human who stands in one place, picking stuff off the shelves as they come to them.

      The first advantage is speed, which includes the ability to move entire shelves for faster access as different items become popular. The second, obviously, is no need for meal breaks, HR or scheduling. And the last is the elimination of all the equipment humans need. Everything from locker rooms to lighting, ventilation, bathrooms, parking lots and water fountains can be eliminated if you turn the place over to bots.

      Underlying it all is simplification of life for ownership. Less to think about, less to worry about going wrong, fewer humans to bug you with demands.

      "The Democratic Party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with."

      by 2020adam on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 12:46:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  to a certain extent I agree (0+ / 0-)

      the problem is that companies HATE employees.

      they have to manage them, and provide benefits and compete for them (sometimes).

      overal they are a pain in the neck.  a company would love to replace you with a robot.

      but generally, people are really cheap.

      big badda boom : GRB 090423

      by squarewheel on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 01:35:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  and still we need the economics of the 24th centur (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lawrence

    we should be working to better ourselves and society.

    there's a book, Voyage from Yesteryear, by James P Hogan

    he's bit of a  libertarian, but the book had an interesting society.

    material things were valueless because they could be produced so cheaply.

    people pursued intellectual pursuits for self-satisfaction and the respect of their peers.  and yes some of them were still craftsmen, because, you know high levels of skill are always valuable, so it wasn't a planet-full of mathematicians.

    some interesting ideas, and a great sci-fi book as it explores a lot of concepts which are not that far-off technology-wise.

    big badda boom : GRB 090423

    by squarewheel on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 01:33:13 AM PST

  •  time for the butlerian jihad ? (0+ / 0-)

    Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.

    big badda boom : GRB 090423

    by squarewheel on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 01:36:30 AM PST

  •  Robots (0+ / 0-)

    To me the spread of cheap robot labor means the rest of us should be living easy.  Why should I go out and work 40 hours a week if robots can do all the actual work?  Can't we just live off of the robot slave labor?

    There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

    by slothlax on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 01:40:51 AM PST

    •  Yeah, "Hey Bob, how many robots ya got (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      slothlax

      workin' for ya these days?"
      Robots gotta work because they wear out and they need to buy new parts for themselves. There's our new economy.

      -- We are just regular people informed on issues

      by mike101 on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 10:06:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  not like Anne Romney's Raifalca (0+ / 0-)
    Now, humans will never be completely replaced, like horses were. Horses have no property rights or reproductive rights, nor the intelligence to enter into contracts. There will always be something for humans to do for money.

    Warning - some snark above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ “If someone has a tool and is trying to negate your existence it would be reasonable to reciprocate in kind with your own tool.” - Dalai Lama XIV (sic)

    by annieli on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 02:11:37 AM PST

  •  "like a strip club with a million bouncers and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mike101

    no strippers" an apropos analogy about ignoring the erosion of important civil liberties while contesting trivial ones

    Warning - some snark above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ “If someone has a tool and is trying to negate your existence it would be reasonable to reciprocate in kind with your own tool.” - Dalai Lama XIV (sic)

    by annieli on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 03:15:03 AM PST

  •  Robots doing taxes. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW

    We already have this.  It's called "do it yourself, free, on our website."  The website is even "intelligent" enough to offer advice.

    When I worked at the IRS, I learned they absolutely hate those websites, because the users make tons of mistakes, and then the IRS has to fix them.  It turns out accounting isn't easy enough to delegate to an expert system.

    So yea, people will delegate a lot of cognitive work to robots.  Just go to ask.com to see the results.  Lots of random, irrelevant stuff.  It may be cheaper than hiring humans, but the quality is terrible.

    This is also true in many other industries.

    Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

    by Boundegar on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 03:27:42 AM PST

  •  dreamliner batteries reason for proliferation stop (0+ / 0-)

    Dreamliner batteries are the reason Boeing stopped the "proliferation" of the batteries and the airplane around it. For further information on the batteries I found the following in some (German) comment section:  http://ccoaler.blogspot.com/...  Large lithium ion batteries are dangerous. Therefore you may take very little of lithium-ion batteries into a plane. So much as the largest Notebook battery got. For larger system, you should only use lithium iron phosphate, for sure. I was recently testing (since 2008) electric scooters with lithium iron phosphate batteries. Most recently I was participating in test drives, where a bus of 12 m with 324 kWh lithium iron batteries drove up the Gaisberf and drove down (http://auto.pege.org/...). I don´t dare to park an electric vehicle with lithium ion accus in my car storage . As of such, 2005, I saw a video of the U.S. Army about firing bullets on accus as a test for potential equipment for soldiers, onto a about 2 kg heavy battery package. After the bombardment the lithium iron phosphate battery was simply flattened. The lithium ion battery began 2 burn hereafter , and every of the 24 cells nearly exploded.

  •  Thank you for addressing the 800 lb. gorilla (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mike101

    in the room that nobody seems to want to talk about much.

    Automation and computerization is changing our society in a fundamental way and society will probably have to be completely revamped within the next couple of decades.

    Otherwise we may face a dystopian nightmare of just two classes - the robot-owning wealthy and the non robot owning poor.

    As someone else mentioned in this thread, we're going to need an economic model where wealth and earnings across the board aren't just tied to labor and/or ownership of robots.

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 03:30:56 AM PST

  •  Instead of fighting technology (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mike101

    which hasn't worked since the Luddites, we need to find out how we can use technology, like increasing robotics, to make things better for us as humans. Socialist thinkers in the late 19th and early 20th century, from Karl Marx to Kropotkin and Rocker, saw the potential in technology to free us from the need to work, to have a society dedicated to scientific development, art, and recreation. The problem isn't that money is going to people who own capital, the problem is that we have capital for people to own. If the automation is by the people, for the people, and its benefits are shared equally by the people, as suggested by Kropotkin, then this ceases to be a problem.

    If modern liberals hadn't so soundly turned their backs on socialism, they'd have a much easier time seeing this.

  •  Flaming Lips (0+ / 0-)

    Those evil natured robots
    They're programmed to destroy us
    She's got to be strong to fight them
    So she's taking lots of vitamins
    Because she knows that it'd be tragic
    If those evil robots win
    I know she can beat them

    Oh, Yoshimi
    They don't believe me
    But you won't let those
    Robots defeat me
    Oh, Yoshimi
    They don't believe me
    But you won't let those
    Robots eat me

    48forEastAfrica - Donate to Oxfam, help the hungry.

    by randallt on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 06:27:11 AM PST

  •  Why all the duplication? (0+ / 0-)

    The excerpt from the article has entire paragraphs duplicated. What gives? Reading online articles is already annoying enough without having to scroll back up to verify that (whew) I'm really not getting senile; I actually have already read this paragraph. Doesn't anyone proof these posts before they're published?

  •  We need some very radical (0+ / 0-)

    new ideas to come from the economics profession. And soon.

    In the meantime, everyone needs to become aware of just what a load of crap they've been feeding us all these years - dogma that benefits the haves masquerading as immutable impersonal laws of nature.

    The needs of human beings have to be paramount. The rules of the economic game have to bend to meet the needs of human beings and not the other way around. Somehow they've managed to convince us that it's the humans who need to bend, to conform to the supposed natural laws of the economy. Only they aren't natural laws at all; they're rules that we can change.

    The old economists aren't going to change. We've already seen that - even when they're proven completely wrong they won't budge in their belief systems. And they keep training the next batch to think just like themselves.

    But radical thinkers do break free sometimes and send us in new directions. Let's pray for some bold and brilliant people to come along, soon - and some bold political leaders to take them seriously.

    We decided to move the center farther to the right by starting the whole debate from a far-right position to begin with. - Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

    by denise b on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 06:13:21 PM PST

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