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Jobs are for Machines
Old 03-18-2016, 04:15 PM   #1
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Jobs are for Machines

A deep, long read, but I found it fascinating. No 'click-bait' headline here. I just hope it doesn't hit government workers until after I'm through with my pension

https://medium.com/basic-income/deep...a49#.7no272bh0


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Old 03-18-2016, 07:58 PM   #2
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Thanks for posting. most interesting.

I have thought that insisting on a $15 minimum wage would merely hasten the automation of restaurants and such. It looks like the looming changes could go much further, and perhaps come much sooner.

The author calls for something called "universal basic income" to sustain those who find their work now done by machines. I think, "how they gonna pay for that?". Previously, the answer has been to tax wages and salaries. This will not cut it when employment is shrinking dramatically. SS will be even less sustainable than the current projections, which count on a growing labor force and growing real wages. The future will be taxing "machine work", i.e, taxing capital. The new world could be a problem even for those done with work (this board), unless they can FIRE on UBI.

Even if the taxes aren't killer, how well can our consumer-centric economy function when a big chunk of the population is on UBI and cannot afford the latest i-something? Developing country residents looking for a middle-class lifestyle building stuff or providing services for the developed world could go straight from subsistence agriculture poverty to UBI poverty.
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Old 03-18-2016, 08:58 PM   #3
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The author calls for something called "universal basic income" to sustain those who find their work now done by machines. I think, "how they gonna pay for that?".
I guess the question is whether the owners of robots get to keep all of the returns that used to pay salaries.

It's a bit easier to imagine an extreme case where machines can do everything humans can do and thereby replace all labor. Do we then choose a world where the people who own the machines live lavish lifestyles and everyone else becomes subsistence farmers for lack of other work? Or do we embrace some kind of redistribution where the machine produced wealth benefits everyone?
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Old 03-18-2016, 09:39 PM   #4
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... Do we then choose a world where the people who own the machines live lavish lifestyles and everyone else becomes subsistence farmers for lack of other work? Or do we embrace some kind of redistribution where the machine produced wealth benefits everyone?
Hmm... My answer depends on how many robots I own, indirectly via the stocks I have.
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Old 03-18-2016, 10:29 PM   #5
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This problem has been solved by Frederik Pohl, the Scifi writer, in The Midas Plague

Summary from Wikipedia:

"The Midas Plague" (originally published in Galaxy in 1954). In a world of cheap energy, robots are overproducing the commodities enjoyed by mankind. The lower-class "poor" must spend their lives in frantic consumption, trying to keep up with the robots' extravagant production, while the upper-class "rich" can live lives of simplicity. Property crime is nonexistent, and the government Ration Board enforces the use of ration stamps to ensure that everyone consumes their quotas. The story deals with Morey Fry, who marries a woman from a higher-class family. Raised in a home with only five rooms she is unused to a life of forced consumption in their mansion of 26 rooms, nine automobiles, and five robots, causing arguments. Trained as an engineer, Morey modifies his robots to enjoy helping to consume his family's quota. He fears punishment when his idea is discovered, but the Ration Board—which has been looking for a way to abolish itself—quickly implements Morey's idea across the world.

So there's nothing to worry about and we can all sleep soundly tonight.
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Old 03-19-2016, 05:28 AM   #6
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This is a recent blog article discussing the same topic -- the disappearance of "the job" and suggesting a basic income:

https://goplifer.com/2016/03/13/endi...ra-of-the-job/
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Old 03-19-2016, 05:48 AM   #7
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Hmm... My answer depends on how many robots I own, indirectly via the stocks I have.
Perhaps not in the way you think, though.

In a world where labor is irrelevant and everything from heavy manufacturing to haircuts is super capital intensive "stock owners" will need to produce high volumes in everything to recover their high capital costs. Where are those volumes to come from if the masses are all out of work?

In such a world the wealthy need welfare as much as the needy.
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Old 03-19-2016, 06:24 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Svensk Anga View Post
Thanks for posting. most interesting.

I have thought that insisting on a $15 minimum wage would merely hasten the automation of restaurants and such. It looks like the looming changes could go much further, and perhaps come much sooner.

The author calls for something called "universal basic income" to sustain those who find their work now done by machines. I think, "how they gonna pay for that?". Previously, the answer has been to tax wages and salaries. This will not cut it when employment is shrinking dramatically. SS will be even less sustainable than the current projections, which count on a growing labor force and growing real wages. The future will be taxing "machine work", i.e, taxing capital. The new world could be a problem even for those done with work (this board), unless they can FIRE on UBI.

Even if the taxes aren't killer, how well can our consumer-centric economy function when a big chunk of the population is on UBI and cannot afford the latest i-something? Developing country residents looking for a middle-class lifestyle building stuff or providing services for the developed world could go straight from subsistence agriculture poverty to UBI poverty.
From what I have read there is an assumption in the 'basic income' theory that those who wish to live above that basic level would still have a job and earn more on top of the basic income. Some would tie the basic income to seeking employment, like welfare. But if the jobs are going away, that idea won't work. And how do we tax corporations? I guess it would be paid for by taxing a large chunk of the money they save by using AI and robots to replace humans?

Hard to wrap my mind around this scenario...
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Old 03-19-2016, 07:35 AM   #9
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I really like this story to illustrate two possible (if unlikely) outcomes
Manna, Chapter 1, by Marshall Brain

As for the transition towards it, dunno. Hope I won't get squashed by the turmoil.
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Old 03-19-2016, 08:43 AM   #10
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Long term, this is an interesting dilemma.

Robots doing dangerous jobs is a good thing. Robots doing all work, and everyone living in a decent living standard, is also a good thing.

Unfortunately, there have been thousands of population studies on various animals that indicate without population control, there will eventually be shortages. Shortages of resources to sustain life, like food and clean water, will eventually doom the population.

People need to eat. They do not need to work to eat. If you take away the ability to get food (i.e. jobs), you will have to provide it. Providing it only works until the providers resources are out numbered by resources required by the ones being provided for.

Hopefully, I will see the robots, but not the world that comes from too many people that are not able to be provided basic needs.
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Old 03-19-2016, 09:26 AM   #11
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It supports the trend of jobs becoming clustered into high paying and low paying with less in the middle. The routine ones are most easily automated.
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Old 03-19-2016, 10:36 AM   #12
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Even if the taxes aren't killer, how well can our consumer-centric economy function when a big chunk of the population is on UBI and cannot afford the latest i-something?
They will be able to afford the i-something because its price will be low. The price will be low because unpaid machines are making the i-something.

The same applies for food: if all food production is automated via unpaid machines, from farm to supermarket, the cost of that food will also be low, at least compared to food requiring human labor.
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Old 03-19-2016, 12:34 PM   #13
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It supports the trend of jobs becoming clustered into high paying and low paying with less in the middle. The routine ones are most easily automated.
This chart shows how this may be happening in the U.S. now. The middle class is shrinking, especially compared to other countries:

1 chart every middle-class American needs to see | 12NEWS.com
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Old 03-20-2016, 10:47 AM   #14
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Actually, I believe that for work that requires even the tiniest amount of flexibility, people are cheaper than robots.

And automating dirty and dangerous jobs will put a lot of marginal people out of work.
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Old 03-20-2016, 04:42 PM   #15
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I just found this chart today - it shows over time how wealth inequality has been growing in the U.S. and the middle class shrinking since the 1970s:

America's explosion of income inequality, in one amazing animated chart - LA Times
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Old 03-22-2016, 10:13 PM   #16
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The only thing we know for sure in economics is that over the long term supply always equals demand. So these magnificent machines will not be able to produce more than can be purchased. However, that required equilibrium says nothing about the level of production.

There can be an equilibrium with a few very rich people, producing for a large number of poor. Total output would remain small, with a small group of rich people terrified of the growing number of angry poor. Long term, this is clearly not a stable system.

At the other extreme there can be large and growing output, and a growing number of people able to afford that output. We are still in equilibrium, but we have a much more stable system and higher output overall.

It seems to me that how to achieve this is the real question and the nation that solves it will own the future.
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Old 03-23-2016, 06:57 AM   #17
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Actually, I believe that for work that requires even the tiniest amount of flexibility, people are cheaper than robots.
I'm not sure about that. Robots don't get tired, can work in the dark, have no emotions, and can work 24/7 for minimal 'pay' (energy costs).

Everyone's favorite example is the self-driving car, loads of flexibility required for that. I'd consider that a very flexible robot.

Or look at amazon's warehouse with fully automated order picking (kiva systems). Sure humans are still more flexible, but the gap is closing fast.

And once a robot (or system) beats a human, that's it. Humans need to outrun all robots all the time. Only one specific robot needs to outrun a sub-average human. Once you have that, you can duplicate an army of them.
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