Are We All Destined To Lose Our Jobs To Machines?

from the simplifying-things-a-bit-too-much dept

Combining a bunch of different concepts we’ve spoken about here, Salon is running an article looking at Marshall Brain’s fear that robots are going to take over every imaginable job and leave us all with nothing to do all day. As we’ve discussed before, this is incredibly simplified and unlikely to happen. It reminds me of the whole “paperless office” concept – which has actually brought us to the point where we use more paper than ever before. All that automation does is free up the more tedious jobs, and opens up new opportunities for other, more fulfilling jobs. Brain, also, is hardly an unbiased party. He’s trying to sell a novel on this idea – and is also trying to patent the idea of robotic workers. The article takes the example of the self-checkout counter (another topic we’ve discussed here a few times), and points out that most of the places that have installed them haven’t let go any workers. Instead, they’ve been working on making the overall shopping experience more pleasant by actually putting people out there to help. It’s really not that hard to figure this out. There are some things – usually personal service – that really just can’t be automated in any reasonable way. The article also quotes a union guy who claims (incorrectly, I believe) that consumers are going to revolt against self-checkout machines and will demand humans. However, this is missing the point. These machines automate repetitive jobs. All the people who seem to be afraid about the loss of jobs on this issue seem to think so lowly of the people in these jobs to believe the only thing they can do is push the same button over and over again. I’d like to believe most people are capable of slightly more than that.

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Comments on “Are We All Destined To Lose Our Jobs To Machines?”

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Master of Destiny says:

job automation

I believe Brains point is that an inflection point is approaching where computers will take the interesting jobs too. At that point, the owners of the machines will make all the money, and everyone else will be on welfare, unless they can provide something to the machine owners that the machines can’t: entertainment, companionship, perhaps some sales jobs will exist.

D Henkel-Wallace says:

I really hope it's true

I really hope he’s right for two reasons. First, I have a utopian desire that most people will have the opportunity to happily live a life of leisure.

More importantly: the “first world” countries have a pending demographic problem because of the pyramid-scheme pension systems: current workers pay for the pensions of current retirees. By 2050 there will be 1 retiree per four workers in the US; the situation is more dire in Europe and Japan. In addition there will be a huge shortage of workers. So anything that alleviates this problem is welcome.

His idea of the machine that tells the people what to do is very depressing though.

Travis G says:

Re: patenting robot workers?

Robots won’t create a utopian society for humans but they will incite a Civil War. If machines take over repetitive jobs such as cashiering, mass production, and data input, that leaves millions of people on welfare. The nation may or may not pay for the well-being of these sweltering numbers, since Bush currently is depleting Social Security with his massive tax cuts for the wealthy and his war in Iraq. The United States might even end in chaos, resulting not in the formation of a gift economy, but in a conflict between anarcho-socialist and capitalist’s for their rights to a job.

William (user link) says:

Too True

This is too true. The fact is were losing a whole lot of jobs too Robots and Machines. I highly doubt that the Government will pay over 60% of the American Population’s Welfare. Only other choice I see we have is to find jobs that Robots couldn’t take from us. Sadly i’m only a 15 year Boy going on 16 in less than a month, and I can’t think of any job that Robots or AI’s could take over. But… Having not to go to work everyday does sound nice. But then there is no income.

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