Automation killing jobs

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Automation killing jobs

Postby everything on Thu Jul 18, 2019 10:51 am

Forking off from the UBI thread, let's talk about if automation is really taking away a lot of jobs, and if so (sure seems like it), what does that mean? Should there be UBI? What else can be done?

1. Here are the fastest declining jobs in the US according to the BLS (sorry not sure the table will paste well):

https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/fastest- ... ations.htm I'm slightly amazed some of these jobs still exist. It's easy to see why IT removes or drastically reduces all of these jobs.

2. Here are the fastest growing:
https://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm On average, a mine shuttle car operator isn't going to become a statistician, nurse practitioner, or software developer.

3. Maybe they can do these:
https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/occupati ... growth.htm (most job growth in absolute numbers, different from fastest growing). At a glance, these wages look lower on average to me, with some exceptions of course like software developer (which is still vulnerable to off shoring).

--
Does this mean illegal immigrants took the jobs? Just looking at what goes away fast, it's so obvious those jobs are technologically obsolete. Why does anyone need a computer "operator" or switchboard operator?

Does it mean they need UBI? Doesn't seem clear to me. What other solutions exist? Gig Economy? Did wages go down and there is now "underemployment" and people need to use the Gig Economy? It seems like that could easily be the case.

Does it mean jobs got distributed around the world? Chef, nurse, waitstaff are needed locally. A lot of the others like software developer and management analyst: any "information worker" can be automated or offshored. Those are the higher paying ones on the list, so where the manual labor ones can be automated, the information jobs can also be automated or offshored. No one, blue collar or white collar, is really safe.
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Re: Automation killing jobs

Postby Steve James on Thu Jul 18, 2019 11:32 am

Well, you'll note that skilled trades are not declining or increasing. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians, are not on those lists. There's a shortage of skilled blue collar workers. A machine can't come into your home and rewire your house. A machine can't repair your doors. Auto mechanics don't seem to be on those lists, either. In fact, there's always a shortage, and the new cars all require mechanics to use computers --either in computer-assisted design, or computer diagnostics, to programming modern engines.

I agree, though, that railroad firers should not expect that electric trains won't make their jobs obsolete. Indeed, "all" technological progress makes some job obsolete. There used to be an iceman who came to the house with blocks of ice for the apartment icebox. When they invented freezers, oops, another job bit the dust. Same with bobby pin manufacturers, and hundreds of other occupations --like lamp lighters.

Assuming that it's necessary to use coal, there should at least be some protection for mine workers. But, frankly, I ain't encouraging my kids to look for coal mining jobs.
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Re: Automation killing jobs

Postby everything on Thu Jul 18, 2019 12:25 pm

hmm yeah the "conventional wisdom of tech types" is that the ICE car is dead technology. of course there will be a good, long, profitable ride down for a long, long time for skilled mechanics. electric car is (oversimplifying) a Li Ion battery pack and a simpler motor. not a lot to do (except that the batteries degrade so fast ... but that problem is also being worked on super rapidly). the answer for Leaf owners at the moment to repair their car is get a refurbished battery. as an owner you can plug a reader into your car and use an app to get detailed battery stats. you just change tires, wipers, brake pads, windshield washer fluid, battery.

everything else seems like that. you need electricians (maybe more now) but it doesn't make up for the lost computer programmers, etc. maybe teachers can finally be paid a lot??? I think this ties into the "career after your peak" thread. we all probably learned a lot (and hopefully not only about obsolete tech). as a middle aged person, it's so fun to try to help share some experience to younger people if they listen and if it actually helps. maybe that is monetizable in a gig economy sort of way.
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Re: Automation killing jobs

Postby Steve James on Thu Jul 18, 2019 1:07 pm

Hey, I own a Jeep because I can do most of the work on it for cheap. I only take it to the shop because I have the cash and can be lazy. But, I think you're talking about planned obsolescence. They just don't make things to last like they used to. They make stuff so that consumers have to keep buying.

The washing machine took the job of the laundry lady, but who's complaining about washing machines. Where are the telephone operators? Ok, if you need tech support, you might get an operator in India. Imagine what would happen if there were a regulation that tech support for US consumers had to come from the US?

People might forget that at one time the ability to use a word processor was a payable skill that not everyone had. If you could use Microsoft Word (or Wordperfect), you could go to a temp agency and work every day. "Do you know what Ctrl X' will do?" :) "Data entry" before that was stacking up big index cards.Ah well, just reminiscing.
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Re: Automation killing jobs

Postby Michael on Thu Jul 18, 2019 1:23 pm

Steve, you never said why you were asking me about Bezos and Musk. What was that about?

For some jobs, there may be a stepping stone to automation where people are treated like robots, which is how Bezos runs his fulfillment centers.

I Worked at an Amazon Fulfillment Center; They Treat Workers Like Robots

Technology has enabled employers to enforce a work pace with no room for inefficiency, squeezing every ounce of downtime out of workers’ days. The scan gun I used to do my job was also my own personal digital manager. Every single thing I did was monitored and timed. After I completed a task, the scan gun not only immediately gave me a new one but also started counting down the seconds I had left to do it.

It also alerted a manager if I had too many minutes of “Time Off Task.” At my warehouse, you were expected to be off task for only 18 minutes per shift–mine was 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.–which included using the bathroom, getting a drink of water or just walking slower than the algorithm dictated, though we did have a 30-minute unpaid lunch. It created a constant buzz of low-grade panic, and the isolation and monotony of the work left me feeling as if I were losing my mind. Imagine experiencing that month after month.


Totalitarian technocrats like Bezos really make one nostalgic for Jack London shorts like "South of the Slot" where the brawny protagonist, an incognito sociology professor, gets jumped by his co-workers for performing at a pace the average person can not sustain.
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Re: Automation killing jobs

Postby Steve James on Thu Jul 18, 2019 2:00 pm

Because the're the children of immigrants. I was responding to your point about job creation and the economy. The working conditions at Amazon warehouses can be improved just by letting the workers take more time between orders. But, I don't know if conditions at USPS warehouses or other online merchandisers is much better. Anyway, at best your argument should be that working conditions should improve and/or workers paid more. In factories and in construction, pace is everything, and there are deadlines.

Imo, nobody should have to work in a warehouse or do things a machine could do more efficiently.
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Re: Automation killing jobs

Postby Michael on Thu Jul 18, 2019 4:10 pm

So you were giving examples of successful immigrants? Seems like stating the obvious, so I did not pick up on your intent because at one moment you accept very time-limited and geographically averaged statistics—like the current unemployment rate—in order to dismiss one thing, and then ask some off-the-wall question that requires accepting that multiple generations of immigrants can lead to job creation to demonstrate another thing. There's some inconsistency in your time window for drawing conclusions.

I had no idea Bezos was first generation and I thought Musk was born in South Africa and was an actual immigrant. It's interesting, but not easy to immediately grasp the relevance. I do acknowledge the virtue and benefit of immigration, but I just don't know why they want to continue coming to such a horrible country as it is frequently described by them after they arrive, like that Congolese woman who scaled the Statue of Liberty last 4th of July to protest how racist and evil this country is. What is the difference between her, Bezos, and Musk? So she came here because she thought it was great, then after arrival she learned and/or was taught how it's horrible and she wants to protest at the monument that symbolizes immigration. Very odd.

Anyway, at best your argument should be that working conditions should improve and/or workers paid more.

That's what my argument should be, huh?

The working conditions at Amazon warehouses can be improved just by letting the workers take more time between orders.

You're trying to become an efficiency expert for globalization now? I am not optimistic that a few tweaks here and there are going to get the results that you expect.
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Re: Automation killing jobs

Postby Steve James on Thu Jul 18, 2019 6:12 pm

So, the typical resort to talking about me, why I use such and such, what I want to be, etc.

Anyway, I'm sure I'm not "an efficiency expert for globalization." You brought up working conditions at Amazon warehouses. I had read several documentaries on it. The problem workers face is a demand to fill orders and little time to do so, keeping them moving continuously for long shifts. If they don't fulfill their orders fast enough, they're reprimanded or let go. The workers wanted more time. Personally, when I order from Amazon, I just tell them to take their time. (You can choose that on ordering). Sometimes they give a $1 credit for doing so. But, my point is that there's no reason I need anything --except medicine-- the next day. It's the "next day" and "two day" delivery options that make working in the warehouse so hard.

Of course, Bezos is against unions. There was even a leaked video that was shown to employees to discourage them from forming a union. Short version here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQeGBHxIyHw

So, "why did you post that Steve?" Because there are lots of reasons to discuss working conditions everywhere. Bezos's company creates jobs with benefits. It doesn't depend on immigrant labor and is based in the US. Some cities fight to have Amazon distribution centers there. New Yorkers raised such a ruckus that Amazon backed out of putting a headquarters there. Of course, many were lamenting the loss of thousands of jobs, and the invigoration of the neighborhoods and stores around their proposed location.
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Re: Automation killing jobs

Postby Michael on Thu Jul 18, 2019 6:58 pm

We are really talking past each other.
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Re: Automation killing jobs

Postby Peacedog on Fri Jul 19, 2019 7:11 am

The automation killing jobs hysteria amongst the intelligencia annoys me more than just about anything and is much more reflective of their personal insecurities than anything else.

Part of it is the inability of the chattering classes to get over the fact that they just aren't that smart and that being educated in one thing gives you no real insight into generalized problems. It only gives you insight into what you are trained in.

The part that gets left out in all of this is that automation killing certain jobs opens the door to making other jobs possible by removing the need to have the other, traditionally more labor intensive jobs, possible. Essentially, new enterprise is made possible by reducing the traditional supporting costs. Independent publishing, for example, was made feasible by removing the need for traditional publishing.

It is not helped by the fact that every time in the past the need for raw labor was reduced people ended up being richer. Any time the need for raw human labor is increased people get poorer. The over-educated get pissy about this as they (a) cannot predict what will happen in general and (b), this is the real issue, are afraid that they will need to do something different themselves and this is a threat to their "position" in society.

To which I say f#$% these guys and get on with it already.
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Re: Automation killing jobs

Postby everything on Fri Jul 19, 2019 7:19 am

That all technologies make some jobs obsolete and enable new ones can be seen as an optimistic argument that "robots won't take all the jobs". In the list of fastest growing occupations are newer energy related jobs like solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine service techs. So maybe those replace coal related occupations.
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Re: Automation killing jobs

Postby Peacedog on Fri Jul 19, 2019 10:40 am

Everything,

I don't look at this as an optimistic view as the end result has always been the same. Everytime the need for labor decreases it makes things that were previously too expensive to do, due to those labor costs, possible.

The people loudly complaining about this are scared precisely because they are afraid that they will end up being the losers in the next round. They really could care less about "the working man."

This same bunch are the ones responsible for offshoring all of the low to mid range manufacturing in the US during the 80's and 90's who loudly proclaimed, "none of this is ever coming back and you have to get used to it," while cashing in their stock options. All of that is now coming back to the US as our more advanced factories can produce things using machines much more efficiently than 10K pairs of hands in the Middle Kingdom.

My opposition to that has always been the following...while all of those jobs eventually would have gone away anyway, if we had kept them in the US, the bleed would have been slower and more gradual. Likewise, billions of dollars would not have been transferred out of the US economy into the PRC.

Because this group of jerks has been wrong about every major issue I've personally ever dealt with : oil production in the US, increased trade with China will change the government in China, insurgency in Latin America, the war in Iraq, the environment, etc. I simply do not trust them regarding anything at this point.
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Re: Automation killing jobs

Postby everything on Fri Jul 19, 2019 11:44 am

Hmm yeah I do think you have a point to ask who is it that is asking these questions and why. I don't see it as some kind of ego issue for only intellectuals with nothing else to do, but a real issue for just normal people who want jobs. If your kids are going to college and preparing for work, how should they prepare?

I agree it's top executives who automated and offshored work, but the technology is pretty inevitable, I think we'd all agree. Where it gets hard to analyze (and this is probably where you have criticisms of who might be bringing up these questions) is what are the implications of the technology change, is the change much faster now (computing power and the ability to analyze it), what are some of the results as far as labor markets and wealth go?

Some of the results are very concrete. The rewards seem disproportionate. If you are relatively rich or even highly paid, your money is working for you well due to productivity gains. The S&P 500 has hit a new high. If you are just starting out, everyone seems fairly under employed and on the side hustle. So in the aggregate, there is a shrinking middle class, fewer "middle class" jobs with good pay/benefits. What does that mean for society and policies? I don't mean "can a motivated, smart individual do well" at the individual level. What does it mean for your side business - who you sell to? Who you hire? From there come some of the political debates (and yes maybe some conclusions are super super wrong but not being able to be very correct doesn't mean we shouldn't go ahead and ask some questions).
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Re: Automation killing jobs

Postby Michael on Fri Jul 19, 2019 11:44 am

I trust them to promote and subsidize inefficient ideas like wind turbines and solar airplanes as a way to at least feel like they're still in control of the direction of technology.
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Re: Automation killing jobs

Postby everything on Fri Jul 19, 2019 12:23 pm

Lol. Whether a government should have "industrial policy" is another interesting topic. If you are Dubai, and you think your oil reserves are done in 2030, it seems pretty smart (looking out for your long term self-interest) to invest or promote investment to diversify your economy so by 2030 you are still rich from various methods.

For whatever reason (whether government is involved or not or to what extent, was it corporate lobbyists), wind and solar are having improving technology and falling prices and of course are better for our overall environment. One important difference when we look at government investment vs. private sector is the investment horizon. The internet came out of government defense projects. The Web came out of CERN as a side portion of energy research. Of course the return on investment was probably really, really small for a long, long time. no startup would've stayed in business. Now we all benefit so enormously from these projects. I don't think we'll benefit from the atom smashing project. Now we are investing in technology for "space wars" (to protect or disable satellites). Who knows the long range implications or payoffs. Other than some tech firms involved, these aren't projects that companies would pursue. That doesn't mean we can say they're all really stupid in the same way only 1% of funded startups will hit home runs. Were the other 99% really stupid? I don't know. We had to fund those, too, so are we really stupid?
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