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The future of jobs - an opinion
Old 10-16-2014, 08:42 AM   #1
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The future of jobs - an opinion

An opinion... That will finish with some suggestions...

More jobs is a myth! The world has changed, and the politics that revolve around the subject of jobs are lies, because It Ain't Gonna Happen
The public is living in the 1970's and 1980's and business has raced past into the next decade. Instead of a long winded explanation, here's the logic:

Part 1
.Robotics, Electronics and Technology is putting intelligence and experience far down on the needs of business.
.Manufacturing needs ten minute training or a robot. Not skill or experience.
.Most Services don't need people. Robots to take orders, machines to cook and deliver. Hair Dressing, Massage etc, currently exceptions.
.Prefab to replace much in building. Cookie cutter carpentry.
.Computers still important, but (tech guys bear me out)... What used to take hours to do in "Basic" is now a few clicks.
.Retail.. buyers, accounting, typists, stockroom, pricing, accounting, salespersons, personnel... don't exist.
.Humanities, ecology, sociology, history, religion - low, low pay.
.It goes on... through almost all 5000 major professions.
...............................................
Part 2
Business...
Which used to be based on planning for increased production, growth, and building for the future... is now:
.Concentrated on the bottom line. Reduce costs. Reduce Payroll. Mechanize to eliminate people.
.Short term everything and virtually no long term planning.
.Production no longer a major concern, or part of company value. Instead of automatic transmissions, a larger rearview screen.
.Dumb down people jobs. Experience consists of a 20 minute training program.
.................................................. ....
Part 3
Education...
.A natural result of parts 1 & 2, job descriptions become cookie cutter, specialized, using cumulative experience in the core business to define responsibilities and define measurable performance standards.
.Currently, with some exceptions, advanced higher education courses of study are becoming less important to many, if not most businesses... especially in the more intense, creative and forward looking technical aspects.
.................................................. ....
Conclusion:
.The new workforce becomes human/robotic. Lowers the premium on experience, or specialized skills.
.Fewer jobs for people.
.Lower wages. Less security.
.Business looks for intelligence, adaptability, creativity, and generalized knowledge. Instead of experience, ability to manage with vision and proven worth.

This puts the emphasis on a more generalized education, and a track record of success in previous positions, forcing a change in education priorities... not to liberal arts per se, but more on the new philosophy and needs of an advanced civilization.
In the end, a wide split between the business elite, and a more mobile low(er) class.
Something to consider, when planning a young person's educational path.

The time line is shortening.
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Old 10-16-2014, 08:49 AM   #2
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A large part of my career has been spent installing mechanical and electronic equipment that were justified by eliminating human positions. Part of the justification usually (but not always) included the addition of a small number of slightly better paid individuals with specialized training/skills.

The higher the wages of the people in the position the easier it was to justify eliminating them.
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Old 10-16-2014, 09:25 AM   #3
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A large part of my career has been spent installing mechanical and electronic equipment that were justified by eliminating human positions. Part of the justification usually (but not always) included the addition of a small number of slightly better paid individuals with specialized training/skills.
+1

My last few years of work revolved around implementing a system to automate everything and not rely on any humans for a traditionally low skill labor-intensive application.

The labor inputs required to develop, install, test, and maintain the system were very high skill positions (programmers, fiber techs, IT security, systems engineers, RF experts, data architects, etc).

Instead of creating 40-60 jobs that pay $9/hr and occasionally steal things, we created a mostly bullet proof system with 100% audit capability with a theoretical zero leakage (slightly higher than zero due to The Real World).

The jobs didn't go away completely, there are just fewer jobs at much higher skill levels and salaries. As costs for this type of system go down, there will probably be more systems installed. Meaning more higher paid jobs. These systems do require some moderately paid jobs with moderate skill levels, but almost no low skill, low pay jobs.
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Old 10-16-2014, 09:26 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by 2B View Post
A large part of my career has been spent installing mechanical and electronic equipment that were justified by eliminating human positions. Part of the justification usually (but not always) included the addition of a small number of slightly better paid individuals with specialized training/skills.

The higher the wages of the people in the position the easier it was to justify eliminating them.
Thank you... This is a great example.

I'd like to pass on one of my own empirical observations, that may go to the heart of the transition taking place. (I hope I don't step on toes)

It has to do with a job that I believe begs for change in light of the rising cost of medicine. The position is that of XRay Technician. Job overview here:
X-Ray Technician | Education & Certification Requirements | InnerBody

I note that the median salary is $55K. Here's the part I think begs for review.
It involves our own local hospital. In talking with a lady who was conducting a routine Xray for my DW. I am sure her salary was in the median range. Her job requirements were to guide the patient through the Xray process, but she was not allowed to review or discuss results. To qualify, she was required to have an Associates degree, with basic courses in biology and anatomy, plus six month training in Xray technology.

The question is why? Advanced education to position a patient in front of a machine? In a private business, without government cover, irrational rules, and importantly, a "for profit"... objective, the narrowly defined position would have required a two week training course, and a one week apprenticeship.

This wasn't meant to be a rant against the medical profession, but in this case, I believe a good example of what I see as "dumbing down"... Artificially protected by law, but eventually to be the future.
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Old 10-16-2014, 09:31 AM   #5
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+1

My last few years of work revolved around implementing a system to automate everything and not rely on any humans for a traditionally low skill labor-intensive application.
There was a senior manager that used to say (I think he got it from a book but I'm not sure) that the plant of the future would only require one man and one dog to operate. The man was there to feed the dog. The dog was there to bite the man if he tried to touch anything.
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Old 10-16-2014, 09:36 AM   #6
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In 2000 I visited the Fanuc robotics factory in Japan. It was a surreal experience to see teams of robots, making other robots. At night there was only one worker to watch over it all and they turned out the lights, because the robots didn't mind working in the dark.

`Microsoft' of Machine Tools Runs World's Factories from Base of Mt. Fuji - Bloomberg

Manufacturing and information management jobs are vulnerable to disruptive technology. Service jobs are more likely to continue to need humans. For example, there is no way a robot could replace the humanity and expertise of a good nurse. There have been many attempts to replace nurses with nursing assistants, licenced practical nurses, etc, but the quality of care usually suffers. The OP referred to X-ray technicians. All these professions have licencing and standards, which are key to protecting the public.
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Old 10-16-2014, 09:38 AM   #7
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I spent 30+ years in the business of building computers.

We used to wonder how many people we were putting out of jobs. Then we realized that we were hiring more and more people. In 1975 we had 100 employees...in 2005 we had over 9,000.

"So that's where those jobs went!!"

We had an anecdote that for every person who lost their job to a computer, 5 more were required to do the 'next generation' job.
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Old 10-16-2014, 09:41 AM   #8
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I do agree that automation and robotics have replaced many of the basic assembly/labor type jobs. However, service and maintenance jobs are required to be more specialized to know how to diagnose the problems with machines that can't always tell you what is wrong. Just look at automobiles, your local mechanic is not just a wrench turner, but rather increasingly more of an electronic technician. Requires more advanced training to be able to diagnose problems, a higher skill level than used to be. Whether this translates to higher wages, or is just an increased barrier to job entry I am not sure.

Being an engineer, I do see value in being more general and having knowledge that can be applied to many situations. You hear the tale about the more and more education you have about continuing smaller areas of expertise, until you know everything about nothing.

Not necessarily related to jobs, but rather the whole company short term bottom line mentality has resulted in we have become too accepting of poor quality for lower price. The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.

So what would I recommend to a soon to graduate high school kid? First go to some form of advanced education: be it college, tech school or something that will give you skills that an employer will pay you for. This also means an education that has good job prospects, not a future with barely more than minimum wage potential. Second look for growing industry area. Not a declining one. Lot better to be in a career that has demand for good workers than one where it does not replace those retiring out.
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Old 10-16-2014, 09:45 AM   #9
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I worked on a team that designed a printer to be built by robots. When the machine went into production, it was built by humans. The deal was, it was cheaper to pay the humans than it was to build out the robotics.

If this exercise was repeated today, maybe that would not be true. But I don't believe jobs "go away". Basically, what happens is called "creative destruction". that is where some jobs go away but it requires a higher skilled job. read the book "the rational optimist" by Matt Ridley.
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Old 10-16-2014, 10:11 AM   #10
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I worked on a team that designed a printer to be built by robots. When the machine went into production, it was built by humans. The deal was, it was cheaper to pay the humans than it was to build out the robotics.

If this exercise was repeated today, maybe that would not be true. But I don't believe jobs "go away". Basically, what happens is called "creative destruction". that is where some jobs go away but it requires a higher skilled job. read the book "the rational optimist" by Matt Ridley.
If the jobs didn't go away, why are we flooded with unemployed high school dropouts that used to go to work for GM, Ford and Chrysler building cars?
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Old 10-16-2014, 10:12 AM   #11
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I worked on a team that designed a printer to be built by robots. When the machine went into production, it was built by humans. The deal was, it was cheaper to pay the humans than it was to build out the robotics.

If this exercise was repeated today, maybe that would not be true. But I don't believe jobs "go away". Basically, what happens is called "creative destruction". that is where some jobs go away but it requires a higher skilled job. read the book "the rational optimist" by Matt Ridley.
+1 There are many industries/lines of work that employ millions of people today and didn't exist (or barely existed) 20 years ago. How many people are employed developing and maintaining wireless networks? Or supporting e-commerce, or.....
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Old 10-16-2014, 10:33 AM   #12
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...

More jobs is a myth! The world has changed, ...
We need some context here. In many cases, those jobs did not 'vanish', they moved to lower cost areas of the world.

If automation is cheaper overall than labor for product X (considering time, quality, shipping, etc), then it is the right answer for product X. Who is served by producing higher cost products?

If that were the case, we would solve unemployment by scrapping all the tractors in the world, and fertilizer plants, and go back to farming and fertilizing with horses. In 1900, roughly half of all workers were farm workers, I think that is single digits today. So if those jobs just 'vanished', we would have near 50% unemployment.

To repeat from your post...

The world has changed,


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Old 10-16-2014, 10:36 AM   #13
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I remember when automation was supposed to shorten our work week to 32 hours.

What happened to that?
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Old 10-16-2014, 10:37 AM   #14
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Cleanrooms became wafer fabs became "factories"...

Cleanrooms were full of people; "factories" have only a handful, many who aren't even sure what they're making, and they're slowly going the way of the dinosaur. Equipment techs are being asked to be process or product techs, which sounds good in theory, but that's because upper management thinks we're all nothing but wafer bitches trained chimps, totally interchangeable. But experience still matters, no matter what UM thinks...
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Old 10-16-2014, 10:37 AM   #15
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If the jobs didn't go away, why are we flooded with unemployed high school dropouts that used to go to work for GM, Ford and Chrysler building cars?
Those jobs were eliminated. Other jobs were created during the evolution. The key is education. The new bar is set at college graduate.
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Old 10-16-2014, 10:43 AM   #16
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Adding a few more thoughts about jobs...

One has to do with one reason why there is less hiring. Existing businesses are loathe to add new workers because of the rising systemic costs that exceed the potential returns. Reducing expenses is more productive to the bottom line, than untried ventures, or long term expansion plans.

A second reason is the change in hiring mentality and the impending demise of the stable long term (expensive) work force. Increasingly, the trend is toward replacing this with outsourcing specialties, and going to the flexibility of freelance contract workers.
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Old 10-16-2014, 10:48 AM   #17
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Granted, protected, tenured-type jobs often result in lazy, incompetent employees being kept around, but treating employees like interchangeable parts, with no "loyalty", results in much the same thing; i.e. people who don't really care.
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Old 10-16-2014, 10:55 AM   #18
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We need some context here. In many cases, those jobs did not 'vanish', they moved to lower cost areas of the world.
Absolutely... Globalization. An excellent discussion subject for a theoretical "balance" of world economies, vs. the singularity of the United States. So many pieces come into play. The time element, the movement of goods, the environmental cost... etc. As other countries achieve pay parity, as many have, the equalization will enter into the workforce, as with the auto industry, where much production has moved back to this country.
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Old 10-16-2014, 11:02 AM   #19
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If the jobs didn't go away, why are we flooded with unemployed high school dropouts that used to go to work for GM, Ford and Chrysler building cars?
Specific jobs do go away. Jobs in general stay somewhat level. So the destructive part of "creative destruction" is what you appear to be concerned about.
And that is a reason to be concerned. The creative portion is comprised of higher skilled jobs. So in my mind this is about education and training. But there is a problem in that it's difficult to teach old dogs new tricks. Creative destruction is not easy but it is necessary to move beyond an old economy and an old way of doing things to a new, more efficient way of doing things. Personally, I was able to take advantage of the move from more manual labor to more automation. Most of what I did during my career was putting certain groups of people out of work! But in doing so I increase the efficiency of sales and distribution and manufacturing so that the products being sold were more affordable. I did not feel bad that my contribution was causing certain groups of people to lose their jobs because I do not believe that standing in the way of progress is the right way to proceed.
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Old 10-16-2014, 11:12 AM   #20
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I
So what would I recommend to a soon to graduate high school kid? First go to some form of advanced education: be it college, tech school or something that will give you skills that an employer will pay you for. This also means an education that has good job prospects, not a future with barely more than minimum wage potential. Second look for growing industry area. Not a declining one. Lot better to be in a career that has demand for good workers than one where it does not replace those retiring out.
+1
Yes I agree. The single remaining question is that of defining the growing industry. I may have missed a thread about this. In any case, will what is important today, be important tomorrow? Medicine and Energy are two of today's best opportunities, but will this continue? Will medicine become specialized to a fine point, with few needs for a full 8 year degree? I have two grandsons who are college/graduate school age. The younger on plans on a dual challenge of South American Culture and Biochemistry. Strange as that sounds I think he's on the right track.
I believe there is still a place for polymaths.
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