Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses Technology

The Luddites Are Almost Always Wrong: Why Tech Doesn't Kill Jobs 674

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-is-your-ice-delivery-man-doing dept.
Mystakaphoros writes "Mike Masnick of Techdirt argues that we can all put down our wooden shoes and take a chill pill: technology 'rarely destroys jobs.' For example, telephone operators have largely gone by the wayside, but a (brave) new world of telemarketing and call center support jobs have opened up because of advances in technology, not to mention the Internet. Masnick points out writing from Professor James Bessen that makes the same point: 'In other cases, technology creates offsetting job growth in different occupations or industry segments. For example, word processors and voice mail systems reduced the numbers of typists and switchboard operators, but these technologies also increased the number of more highly skilled secretaries and receptionists, offsetting the job losses. Similarly, Amazon may have eliminated jobs at Borders and other national book chains that relied on bestsellers, but the number of independent booksellers has been growing and with it, more jobs for sales clerks who can provide selections and advice that Amazon cannot easily match.' That said, I think it's worth asking: if machines are going to replace all our fast food workers, are we going to start paying our gourmet chefs minimum wage just because we can?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Luddites Are Almost Always Wrong: Why Tech Doesn't Kill Jobs

Comments Filter:
  • by dontbgay (682790) on Friday October 04, 2013 @08:55AM (#45034543)
    The article is absolutely correct. But it also fails to take into account that the new jobs are lower paying while inflation decreases the value of the new wages.
    • by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:01AM (#45034575) Homepage Journal

      Hey now, let's not let facts get in the way. This article uses the same flawed logic as Rick Perry when he says under his Governorship he's created thousands of jobs without telling you roughly 90% are minimum wage jobs.

      • by rufty_tufty (888596) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:23AM (#45034779) Homepage

        Any job is/becomes a minimum wage job if it meets any of the following criterion:
        1) It takes relatively little training, i.e. replacements can be brought in rapidly.
        2) It is a skill that is common, either because of a good education system or desirability of the task(mostly just a re-phrasing of 1)
        3) The people once employed do not have much incentive to move on: i.e. they won't leave if conditions deteriorate

        The capitalist in me says this is fine* as long as the minimum wage provides a basic level of acceptable living**. If you wish to have more than the minimum it is then up to you to do a job that is either undesirable or one that is both highly & unusually skilled. Alternatively if the problem with that sector is that the business owner is skimming off the profits then it is up to you to challenge that and become a business owner yourself***; take the risk and make the investment or stop complaining.
        Look at some of the most successful tech companies and I don't think it is any co-incidence that they put a lot of effort into making sure 3 is not a factor by trying to have good working conditions. They need to do this because !1 is such an issue for them.

        * If the employer can't afford to pay the minimum wage then capitalism should kick in and mean that they don't employ someone for that role because it is not worth it for society to do so.
        ** I do not believe this is the case and this needs to change. Acceptable minimum to me includes healthcare, pension and ability to support a basic family.
        *** There are some sectors where again this is not an issue, one man can't decide to become the next Apple, but there are always ways into a sector if you have idea and skills and luck and are prepared to take the risk.

        • by CastrTroy (595695) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:49AM (#45035071) Homepage
          How do we really define "provides a basic level of acceptable living"? 100 years ago, even 50 years ago, it was acceptable to not have indoor toilets (my mom didn't when she was a kid, in Canada). Is it considered OK if people can't afford internet or cell phones? Because neither of those are really necessary, and I know plenty of people who go without them, but there's also a huge group of people who think they can't live without them. Same goes for a lot of other luxury items, like cars and designer clothes. Defining that "basic level" is extremely difficult because in a free market, the people making stuff that people buy continually raise prices to the point where people can't just barely afford to buy the necessities. Also, there's the question about people who simply don't need to make an "acceptable living" with their job. High school kids who live at home, sometimes want a few extra dollar to spend on movie tickets and skateboards don't need to be making as much as a someone supporting themselves. Sure you can make the minimum wage lower for those under 18, but that discriminates against young people who for whatever reason don't have dependable parents and need to earn their own money, while continuing to attend highschool classes. There are other ideas, like garuanteed income supplements, where you let the employers pay whatever they and the employee agree on, no minimums, and the government tops up the difference between what the person is making, and the acceptable minimum. But very few governments want to have these services, because it looks like a free hand out, even though in many cases it would be cheaper to operate than the current welfare systems.
          • by sjames (1099) on Friday October 04, 2013 @11:16AM (#45036087) Homepage

            For many people, no car == no job. Most of the U.S. is laid out assuming that people have a car. In theory, they could move to where they don't need a car, but things are more expensive in such places to the point that it would be cheaper to get the car.

            Internet is becoming increasingly a necessity in order to participate in society. Educated voters can't depend on network news to be informed anymore.

            Food stamps and other social safety already act as a handout to minimum wage employers. We pay the costs of maintaining their worker units and they profit. Minimum wage needs to be high enough that employers are actually paying the full cost of an employee's labor.

        • by evilRhino (638506) on Friday October 04, 2013 @10:50AM (#45035763)
          Capitalism requires that increased productivity should cause increased wages. When the 10 Luddites are replaced by a machine (that costs the same as paying 4 Luddites) and 1 Luddite, does the remaining Luddite's pay increase 10 fold, 4 fold, or 2 fold? Where does the money go? This is the riddle of the robot menace, and why Capitalism can't solve the problem by itself.
          • The money goes to the owner of the business who invested in that machine, to the engineers who spent their time designing and building it and to the shareholders in the form of profits. Alternatively this allows a lower cost of product in which case it goes nowhere, except not out of the consumers pocket. This is why in real terms the cost products can fall.

        • by Maudib (223520) on Friday October 04, 2013 @10:53AM (#45035793)

          "don't employ someone for that role because it is not worth it for society to do so."
          "Acceptable minimum to me includes healthcare, pension and ability to support a basic family."

          Nice. So if someone has no interest in supporting a family, it doesn't matter you are going to force the job to not exist through price controls?

          The real problem with the minimum wage is that you are restricting an individuals ability to price their own labor. Someone without a family should have the ability to compete on price with someone who does. Stopping them is immoral.

      • Texas has added wages across all income levels. [willisms.com]

        But no, you just keep quoting that 90% figure from the Institute for Numbers I Pulled Out of My Ass...

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 04, 2013 @10:17AM (#45035319)

        That's why we should stop talking about "jobs" as a unit of quantitative measurement. Closing a Boeing plant with 250 workers making $75,000 per year and opening a mall in its place with 300 part-time workers making $15,000 per year can be described as "creating 50 jobs," but it's bullshit. The community has lost 76% of the personal income that those Boeing workers were making. That's money that won't be spent at the grocery store, buying a new car, paying sales tax, and so on. The *real* impact of such a move could be captured by some measure that takes into account the pay difference. I suggest something like the dollar--hours FTE per capita. An mental shortcut to imagine this measurement is to figure what one person working full-time would earn if they received all of the pay. The Boeing plant had 9,014 dollar-hours worth of employment, but the mall only has 2,163 dollar-hours.

    • by Cornwallis (1188489) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:06AM (#45034611)

      "...telephone operators have largely gone by the wayside, but a (brave) new world of telemarketing and call center support jobs have opened up because of advances in technology, not to mention the Internet."

      Not exactly a selling point! In years past, the telephone operator wasl almost a family member in small town America. They were helpful - even in the big city. Telemarketers and call center support staff are almost universally loathed.

    • by Bacon Bits (926911) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:14AM (#45034697)

      It also fails to take into account that the skills required for the jobs that disappear are entirely different than the skills required for the new jobs that replace them. This means you lose everything you've worked for, career-wise. I might have 30 years in as a buggy whip craftsman, but that doesn't mean I have the skill set required to assemble an automobile. It also means that the salary I've been building up disappears. Even if the jobs are equivalent pay ranges, a senior buggy whip architect probably makes a lot more than a junior steering column technician.

      If I started at $40,000/yr 30 years ago and make $75,000/yr today and suddenly lose that because my entire industry has been obsoleted -- including my retirement possibly -- and can now only take a new job at $50,000/yr... I'm still screwed.

      I'm not arguing we should stop inventing, but its hugely callous to ignore the difficulties inflicted on people when this kind of thing happens.

      • by Mystakaphoros (2664209) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:36AM (#45034901) Homepage

        It also fails to take into account that the skills required for the jobs that disappear are entirely different than the skills required for the new jobs that replace them. This means you lose everything you've worked for, career-wise. I might have 30 years in as a buggy whip craftsman, but that doesn't mean I have the skill set required to assemble an automobile. It also means that the salary I've been building up disappears. Even if the jobs are equivalent pay ranges, a senior buggy whip architect probably makes a lot more than a junior steering column technician.

        If I started at $40,000/yr 30 years ago and make $75,000/yr today and suddenly lose that because my entire industry has been obsoleted -- including my retirement possibly -- and can now only take a new job at $50,000/yr... I'm still screwed.

        I'm not arguing we should stop inventing, but its hugely callous to ignore the difficulties inflicted on people when this kind of thing happens.

        "Callous" is really the only possible word I think we can use here. Look, I respect people's understanding of the benefits of capitalism. There are some brilliant capitalists around here. But when the problem is "solved" by market forces, there's another problem left over-- lots and lots of now-unqualified, unemployed people. Just using their children's hunger as a whip to scramble for a new job may again be a market force in action, but it's certainly not kind.

        And then you run into the problem of... if we're all broke on our asses, who is going to buy your products?

      • You know this is exactly what happened to the Luddites.

        Luddites tended to be middle aged middle class families. Men would work in the fields, Woman would weave at home. It was great â" a decent wage and a decent life/work balance. In a stoke their physical capital (looms at home), human capital (knowing how to maintain and operate a hand powered loom) and a way of life (They would have to leave their husbands and farms and go to the city) were destroyed.

        What is the lessoned learned?

        Revolutions are goo

    • by OzPeter (195038) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:18AM (#45034725)

      The article is absolutely correct. But it also fails to take into account that the new jobs are lower paying while inflation decreases the value of the new wages.

      This.
       
      I can't remember the source, but recently I saw a graph that showed a timeline of $US minimum wage vs inflation. Up until the the 80's or 90's the minimum wage was keeping track with inflation, but after that it flattened off. So inflation kept on going up, but the minimum wage stayed the same.

      If the US minimum wage had kept track with inflation, then it would be around $13/hr or $14/hr right now. Interestingly the Australian minimum wage *is* around $14/hr

      • by SJHillman (1966756) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:27AM (#45034819)

        But cost of living and inflation don't always go up at the same rate either. Why should be tie minimum wage to inflation rather than cost of living?

        • by mhajicek (1582795) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:40AM (#45034951)
          Inflation should be measured by the cost of living. The only reason it isn't is to try to make people feel better.
        • by SecurityTheatre (2427858) on Friday October 04, 2013 @10:33AM (#45035537)

          Inflation is primariliy measured by changes to the CPI.

          The CPI is calculated by taking a "basket of goods" that a consumer would buy.

          This includes things like... a pint of milk, a loaf of bread, a gallon of gasoline, a pound of beef, a 600sqft apartment in downtown of several cities, a 1200sqft house in the suburbs of several cities.

          Then you average it out and see if it changes over time.

          How is that not cost of living?

          Here is the actual basket and weighting from Canada:

          http://www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb-bmdi/document/2301_D48_T9_V2-eng.htm [statcan.gc.ca]

          • by NoImNotNineVolt (832851) on Friday October 04, 2013 @11:02AM (#45035891) Homepage
            Except that in the United States, core CPI [wikipedia.org] specifically excludes food and energy costs. Calculations of core inflation also specifically exclude food and energy costs. Of course, "core" CPI isn't really used [bls.gov] for anything important, allegedly. "The Man" doesn't hesitate to tell us that Social Security, federal retirement benefits, etc., are all calculated based on the CPI figure that does include food and energy costs. Of course, "The Man" doesn't go as far as to tell us what the "core" CPI is used for within government.
            • by Copid (137416)
              That's why there's CPI and Core CPI. They're different. CPI includes them and core CPI doesn't. CPI is for measuring the cost of living. Core CPI is more useful for looking at inflationary trends. For example, if the CPI skyrockets and core CPI stays stable, it's extremely likely that the CPI will drop back down to track with core over the medium run. If the core CPI starts increasing, it's good evidence that there's a real upward trend.

              Basically, policymakers care about the current CPI and where t
            • Oh, I can easily answer that one. The Federal Reserve, Economist and lots of other people use it. What you have to think about is what is inflation and where does it come from? Is it because there is money floating about? Does it indicate a oversupply of one good (such as labor today) or a undersupply of another good (crop failure due to draught.) The difference between the 2 numbers can give you clues.

              Lets say you're the Fed's chairmen and inflation hits 10% - what should you do?

              If Urban CPI and Core infla

    • Actually, the movement toward computing has tremendously reduced the average medical knowledge in the country. Good secretaries in doctor's offices used to know a huge amount about the doctor's field of medicine because they had to transcribe dictation all the time. Today, they know how to book appointments, but tend to know much less about medicine. (And be less helpful to patients who spend hours in the waiting room).

    • This isn't necessarily a problem. The biggest thing the luddites overlook is that wealth can increase even while wages decrease. Too many people put too much emphasis on money and not on actual purchasing power or wealth. Worse is they flat out confuse money and wealth, and generally think of them to be one and the same (they aren't at all the same.)

      The whole point of having machines do labor is that now a person no longer has to do it. This means the job can be done cheaper. The end result is a less expens

  • hahahahahaahaha (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 04, 2013 @08:59AM (#45034565)

    Obviously, this guy doesn't know anything about the restaurant industry, at least in the USA. Most "chefs" are already making minimum wage or very close to it. In the USA, only the servers and managers make money in a restaurant due to the messed up tip system [jayporter.com]. However, when it comes to "gourmet chefs" they make even less. At the highest levels, a.k.a. 3 star restaurants, most of the kitchen staff are unpaid interns. They all dream of opening up their own place some day.

  • by TheloniousToady (3343045) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:04AM (#45034595)

    Though technology may not "destroy" jobs, it certainly shifts them. For example, car factories are increasingly populated with robots. Although that creates economic prosperity that may show up somewhere else, it certainly displaces the unskilled, who previously could at least hold factory jobs.

    In my area, we now have garbage trucks that pick up (standardized) trash cans. Presumably, this leads to fewer "garbage men" - who used to be the archetypal unskilled laborers. But the few garbage men that remain now must be skilled as truck drivers.

    So, assuming that a certain portion of the population will always be unskilled, and assuming the portion of unskilled jobs is shrinking, the unemployable underclass will continue to grow.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      So, assuming that a certain portion of the population will always be unskilled, and assuming the portion of unskilled jobs is shrinking, the unemployable underclass will continue to grow.

      And yet, somehow, that doesn't seem to be happening. Sure unemployment figures are high all over the world at the moment, but a few years ago these figures were very different. Current unemployment is mostly caused by economics rather than technology.

      I think that in more advanced economies, where more and more simple jobs are being replaced by machines (it's indeed mostly the unskilled positions that are replaced by technology), education keeps improving as well, meaning there are less and less unskilled wo

    • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:25AM (#45034803)

      In my area, we now have garbage trucks that pick up (standardized) trash cans. Presumably, this leads to fewer "garbage men" - who used to be the archetypal unskilled laborers. But the few garbage men that remain now must be skilled as truck drivers.

      I actually know a guy who worked as a garbageman who got replaced by automation. It paid good money, because he had qualifications that most people didn't. He had the strength and agility to lift 70 lb barrels into the truck, hang on for dear life at speed, tolerate a "variety" of weather conditions and a living situation that allowed him to go to work at 4 or 5 AM. Unfortunately, when the demand for those skills and qualifications evaporated overnight, there weren't that many package handling jobs to absorb the influx, and his earning ability dropped just as quickly. Kinda sucks to be forced into a 6-12 month unpaid vacation while trying to find money to get trained for something else at wages that will never match what he made before. No way around it, of course, those jobs are just gone and he understands that. He's got another job, so I guess you could say his job wasn't "killed," it just became something else that didn't pay as well even after becoming proficient.

      • In my area, we now have garbage trucks that pick up (standardized) trash cans. Presumably, this leads to fewer "garbage men" - who used to be the archetypal unskilled laborers. But the few garbage men that remain now must be skilled as truck drivers.

        I actually know a guy who worked as a garbageman who got replaced by automation. It paid good money, because he had qualifications that most people didn't. He had the strength and agility to lift 70 lb barrels into the truck, hang on for dear life at speed, tolerate a "variety" of weather conditions and a living situation that allowed him to go to work at 4 or 5 AM. Unfortunately, when the demand for those skills and qualifications evaporated overnight, there weren't that many package handling jobs to absorb the influx, and his earning ability dropped just as quickly. Kinda sucks to be forced into a 6-12 month unpaid vacation while trying to find money to get trained for something else at wages that will never match what he made before. No way around it, of course, those jobs are just gone and he understands that. He's got another job, so I guess you could say his job wasn't "killed," it just became something else that didn't pay as well even after becoming proficient.

        And now we have a potentially very angry man who has the strength and agility to lift 70 lb barrels into the truck and hang on for dear life at speed. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

  • That depends on one question: Can we replace them with illegal aliens?

    Because the political establishment, along with business interests, have decided that a permanent underclass of illegal alien workers is just fine with them. This in turn has depressed the wages on labor-intensive jobs while making welfare a more attractive option than work [forbes.com] for many.

    The unwillingness to enforce border controls has probably cost more Americans jobs in the last 20 years than any technological advance.

    • by T.E.D. (34228) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:21AM (#45034755)

      making welfare a more attractive option than work [forbes.com] for many.

      That just shows you how ludicrously, immorally low we have our minimum wage set to right now. However, I will admit that it is also pretty darn messed up that we have set up a system where only those here illegally (an thus unable to collect welfare) would take an actual minimum wage job, and then we yell and scream at the inevitable flood of illegal aliens who come here for all those jobs we reserved just for them. Like they are somehow more immoral for wanting a better life for their families, than are the rich folks who set up this system for them to have that role.

    • by kilfarsnar (561956) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:54AM (#45035133)

      The unwillingness to prosecute businesses who employ illegal aliens has probably cost more Americans jobs in the last 20 years than any technological advance.

      FTFY

      • While I do agree, there is something to be said with the byzantine rules and case law surrounding even things like e-verify that are meant to prevent hiring of illegal aliens. When it is possible to consider it discriminatory to not hire some because of a failed e-verify query something has gone very wrong with our legal system. Granted these are a very small minority of employers hiring illegal employees and most who hire illegal aliens know full well what they are doing and should be fined into oblivion.
  • What? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:08AM (#45034619)

    For example, word processors and voice mail systems reduced the numbers of typists and switchboard operators, but these technologies also increased the number of more highly skilled secretaries and receptionists, offsetting the job losses.

    I haven't had a secretary since smart phones came on the market. The Administrative assistant was canned and we were handed these things.

    Similarly, Amazon may have eliminated jobs at Borders and other national book chains that relied on bestsellers, but the number of independent booksellers has been growing and with it, more jobs for sales clerks who can provide selections and advice that Amazon cannot easily match.'

    Borders went out of business, Barnes and Noble is hanging on a thread and the ONLY independent bookstore around me is a Christian bookstore. And they a lot MORE than books.

    Look it, the data is showing that between automation and globalization, it is doing some real harm to our employment here in the US. And what this article misses is that job replacement isn't always one-to-one. Meaning for one worker who loses a job because of automation, there isn't always another job him to slip into: it usually hundreds get canned and a fraction of those move into the new area.

    I am by NO means against automation - to head off the ad-hominems - but what I'm trying to point out is that there are some drastic changes happening NOW in our economy and things are going to get ugly.

    Oh, to the weavers. Back in the 19th Century, automation increased worker productivity - it didn't replace them because you needed a human to be the brain of the machine.

    Today, humans aren't necessary because the machines are "smart" enough to be autonomous.

    When those new looms were put in place, you needed operators, and a few (children) to go inside a running machine to lubricate it - they lost life and limb and we got those "job killing" government regulations as a result.

    So maybe a weaver lost their job as a weaver, but an entire crew was hired for the new machine.

    Today, it's the opposite. Entire lines are replaced by robots and maintained and programmed by a hand full of people.

    And that as a society is where we 're going to have to make some hard adjustments.

    Anyway, BOOKS are going to be written on this and there's no way to do justice on the topic in a techdirt article let alone a Slashdot post.

  • Yes it does (Score:5, Insightful)

    by T.E.D. (34228) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:08AM (#45034627)
    Tech most certianly does kill jobs. It may make even more in the long term, but they are very different jobs. For the 50 year old newly laid off factory worker with kids he has to put through college now, the fact that there are suddenly lots of new jobs in robot design isn't a lot of comfort.
    • by Arduenn (2908841) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:17AM (#45034723)

      Why can't tech make having to go to work obsolete?

      Why can't we make all the tech stuff, like robots, do all the dumb work for all of us so we can spend the rest of our lives playing, or do the kind of work we really enjoy? Isn't this the frigging thing we should strive to achieve in society? Not create more jobs, but less?

      • by kilfarsnar (561956) on Friday October 04, 2013 @10:24AM (#45035411)

        Why can't tech make having to go to work obsolete?

        Why can't we make all the tech stuff, like robots, do all the dumb work for all of us so we can spend the rest of our lives playing, or do the kind of work we really enjoy? Isn't this the frigging thing we should strive to achieve in society? Not create more jobs, but less?

        I very much agree with this. We should all be working less. However, American capitalism isn't set up that way. Capital always wants Labor to work more for less money. Everyone would have to be paid more (or the same) for doing less work.

        I'm certainly down for that, but we'd probably need a law restricting the work week to 20 hours or something like that.

      • by SecurityTheatre (2427858) on Friday October 04, 2013 @10:39AM (#45035627)

        Hell Mr Marx, nice to see you're back.

        Good luck with that revolution of yours, I heard the last one didn't go so well. :-)

        Yes, what you just said is the core ideal of Marxism.

        Not that it's bad... just maybe not realistic, given human nature to horde.

  • Telemarketer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rob the Bold (788862) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:08AM (#45034631)

    For example, telephone operators have largely gone by the wayside, but a (brave) new world of telemarketing and call center support jobs have opened up because of advances in technology

    If I had my druthers -- and we don't, because time and tech marches on -- I'd rather be an AT&T operator in 1973 than a telemarketer in 2013.

    That said, I think it's worth asking: if machines are going to replace all our fast food workers, are we going to start paying our gourmet chefs minimum wage just because we can?

    Yes. If the "market" can set wages below minimum for gourmet chefs due to an infusion of newly retrained fast food employees so they bottom out at that limit, then it will. That's just what happens. Whether or not that entire scenario occurs -- laid off McDonald's cashiers going to culinary programs and flooding the upscale restaurant and hospitality business letting wages be depressed rather than trying to find other more immediately available jobs -- that's really the question to be asking. (I would answer "no" to that question.)

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      I think the whole premise of comparing a gourmet chef with a burger flipper at McDonald's quite disturbing. The only thing that relates them is that both work with food. So do farmers, who are mostly much more skilled than a burger flipper.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:09AM (#45034647)

    The basic parameters of the argument are clear, sure, and have been clear for a few hundred years: automation may replace large numbers of jobs with machines controlled by a smaller number of people, but may also create new jobs, either directly working on the technology involved, or indirectly in other areas. The more difficult questions are in the details. Do the numbers always match up, and what factors influence whether they match up? Does automation lead to more general shifts in the economy, e.g. either concentration of wealth or decentralization of wealth? If it could do either, what factors influence that?

    My own view is to be rather skeptical that there is a universal answer. These kinds of articles give off a whiff of a kind of Panglossian view that the technology/economy ecosystem is in a Gaia-like eternal balance, and I don't see a strong reason to believe that's true. Instead I think we need to look at specifics to determine what effects a given technological advance, within a particular existing economic situation, will have.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      I think looking at history is not really a good predication, in the beginning you had primary industry which was mainly agriculture. Then you had the industrial revolution and people moved to the manufacturing industry. Through mass production and automation we transitioned to the service industry. But what happens when computer systems take over providing services, is there something past services? Or do we think services is a never-ending well of services we'll need as others are automated? Or that they w

  • by Alejux (2800513) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:12AM (#45034657)
    That people will always be able to do things machine cannot. Sure, maybe machines will not be able to play rock-n-roll or write poetry, but it's not like these things actually pay very well. But what happens computers are as good as people in most of all the things that qualify as jobs nowadays? Are we to expect that suddenly 100 new paying professions will suddenly arise that we have no idea about today, that by some magic only humans (aka meat-sacs) will be able to perform? I doubt it.
    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:19AM (#45034735)

      But what happens computers are as good as people in most of all the things that qualify as jobs nowadays?

      Science fiction writing covers the two limit cases pretty well. Let's say machines can now account for all basic human needs, producing food, clothing, shelter, etc. sufficient for the whole human population. Then at the dystopian and utopian extremes, we have:

      Possibility 1: These machines are owned by a small ruling class, who uses their control over this vast pool of robot labor to rule the world, and over the impoverished underclass who own no robots.

      Possibility 2: These machines provide for everyone's needs, freeing up humans for a glorious age of space exploration, science, what-have-you.

  • by sinij (911942) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:21AM (#45034751) Journal
    This article is flawed because it relies on historical patterns when we are entering entirely different age. Industrial Age is over and we are transitioning into Information Age. Comparing pre-industrial agricultural society to early industrial age is much better comparison, but then it doesn't support the premise. Few of us that are familiar with the history will tell you that this transition resulted in a lot of societal ills and displaced farmers and merchants did not all find jobs in the factories. Few that did find jobs were ruthlessly exploited and did not at all benefit from this transition.

    Comparing telephone operator jobs to telemarketing jobs won't tell you what will happen when automation combined with a growing population will make any kind of job scarce. It is very possible that within generation only top 10% of intellectual ability will be needed, rest will be automated away. Even today we know that productivity already entered exponential growth period. We also know that benefits of this productivity are not reflected in growing wages - nearly all of the extra wealth created by this productivity increase is channeled into corporate dividends and not wages..Pattern is very clear - less workers doing more for about the same pay. This cannot support growing unemployed class by creating service job opportunities, unless you are talking McJobs.

    Attempting to portray critics as Luddites is 'poisoning the well' further compounded by willful denial of empirical evidence of the societal trends to the contrary. Yes, author is correct - technology is morally neutral, it is nether good nor bad. What we do with it - and presently as a society we chose to enrich 1% of our population, is what we should focus on.
    • This parallels my viewpoint. Extrapolating historical data is unwise in this case. The main difference nowadays is that computers and automation are reaching a level of sophistication that surpassed the abilities of a sizable percentage of the population. This bar is being steadily raised. The outlook for these displaced workers does not look promising. They are basically competing for a shrinking pool of low-skilled jobs that are already possible to automate, but just slightly too costly. I think this situ
  • Absolutely False (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:22AM (#45034775)

    How many people in Detroit were out of work once robots started spot welding all the car frames and moving parts into position for assembly? How about Robots in manufacturing in general? Lots of people used to do those jobs. Check out How It's Made sometime. You'll see huge assembly lines full of robots where people used to stand. Hardly anyone walking around.

    I've personally seen the labor force in Manufacturing facilities decline due to automated machining processes; 1 or 2 guys running 6 CNC machines where it used to take 6 people to do it manually. Polishing metal to a lustrous finish used to be a skill reserved for the 1 or 2 old German guys in the place. Now, you have CNC polishers do it in 5 different axes nonetheless.

    Next, lets talk about how global connectivity has put people out of work. CNC again. You only need one programmer to transfer the machining code to some place in china where a dude running the CNC machine uploads it, puts a chunk of steel on the table , and hits the Go button. For $1.75/hour wages.

    TFA is complete BS.

  • by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:25AM (#45034797)

    Technical progress has enormously boosted productivity worldwide and is still increasing it at a rate of about 2% per year. Theoretically, we needed to work four days less every year for producing the same goods and earning the same income. However it does not happen this way. Producers use productivity boosts for reducing costs - mostly wages and salaries. This is supposed to improve their profits, but it also has an adverse affect. Layoffs, unemployment, subsequent demand shortfall and economic crises eat a large part of the benefits from increased productivity. The remaining excess profits are invested - however not in production of goods, but in financial assets. Hedge funds, investment banks, and trading firms circulate an immense money volume (up to seven trillion US$ per day) through the financial markets, this way creating a shadow economy that largely surpasses the market of real products and services. It consumes most rewards of technical progress, and gives back occasional market crashes and financial crises.

    But it also offers the opportunity to redistribute some of the excess profit back from the rich to the poor. Providing many people with a small but regular trading income will take liquidity out of the financial markets and inject it back into the production cycle. This will boost demand worldwide and soften the world's economical problems.

    It's the regular trading income thing that has a lot of people stumped though.

  • by transporter_ii (986545) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:27AM (#45034817) Homepage

    The question is, are they good jobs? We have done everything possible to destroy the middle class. You can argue 1% vs. 99% until we are blue in the face, but the fact is, what built America was a strong middle class. The logical conclusion is, if you want to unbuild America, you destroy the middle class. Mission accomplished, America.

    I'm a libertarian-leaning independent, so I hate both parties. But, I find the Republicans piss me off the most, because they kept waving American flags as they shipped our good-paying jobs overseas.

    • by Vaphell (1489021)

      shipping jobs overseas was inevitable. In any given industry it takes one competitor to drastically reduce costs to make others follow, if they don't do that they are done as they lose all their market share. You could say the consumers were equally guilty - instead of 'better' or 'american' they voted with their dollars for 'cheaper'.

      Trade exists because of imbalance, you make profit by tapping into inequality and making it work for you, just like you tap into the difference of electric potential to make t

  • by wwwrench (464274) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:34AM (#45034881) Homepage
    I really hate the way the term Luddite is used -- people should read a bit of history (here [smithsonianmag.com] for a start). The real Luddites were not anti-technology. They were highly skilled workers rebelling against the creation of textile sweatshops. It's a pity their rebellion was put down so violently -- we have a need for more Luddites in today's economy where our iPhones are produced by people who are effectively living in slavery.
    • they wanted these machines to be run by workers who had gone through an apprenticeship and got paid decent wages. Those were their only concerns.

      That sounds like they were opposed to their guild or equivalent being undermined. They wanted the industry to be dominated by skilled workers such as themselves, when skilled workers were no longer needed.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday October 04, 2013 @09:44AM (#45034997)

    You might want to avoid an example where someone went from a good paying decent status job to the lowest paying shittiest work our society has.

  • by bsidneysmith (2528890) on Friday October 04, 2013 @10:03AM (#45035203)
    "Tech vs. Jobs" is the wrong frame, and the wrong debate. Jobs are lost, and (partially) replaced by lower-wage jobs, because of the enormous increases in productivity that increased technology (and improved management practices) brings. This should be making everybody better off--more product for less work should mean generally higher standards of living. The reason it doesn't is because our economic paradigm awards all of the benefits of increased productivity to capital, and none to labor. We need a system in which anyone who wishes can make a living working about 20 hours/week. But unless we rethink our economics we are teetering towards a crash, because the labor sector is collapsing, and capital must soon follow because it relies on a healthy consumer class--the very laborers whose livings have been pulled out from under them. If one looks at labor participation rates (instead of govt. unemployment numbers) the situation becomes quite clear.
  • by JMZero (449047) on Friday October 04, 2013 @12:27PM (#45036877) Homepage

    Imagine instead of people we're talking about horses. Horses have had a variety of jobs throughout history. They bounced around between farm, military, and transportation jobs as different trends and technologies came and went. Horses didn't have to worry, there was always something they'd be useful for.

    And then, within a 50 year span, they lost almost all those jobs, because machines surpassed them in their core competency (pulling and carrying stuff).

    Similarly, humans will get bumped and jostled around and generally will have something to contribute... until we quite suddenly (from a history perspective) don't. A few more advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, and the majority of humans will have nothing to contribute to the economy. The kinds of jobs that humans will still excel at (eg. creative stuff like writing) are also things that just don't require that many people to do, and which many people will continue having no aptitude for.

    This is good news. It'll be awesome to see what humans can do post-scarcity. But the transition will be awkward.

  • ugh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <[nomadicworld] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday October 04, 2013 @02:20PM (#45037885) Homepage
    Technology allows jobs to be done with less manual effort. By its very nature, it leads to less jobs; if it didn't, it wouldn't be adopted. Replacing 50 auto workers with 1 robot may create 1 robot repair tech job, but it's not going to produce 50. Otherwise you'd keep the auto workers on the job.

The economy depends about as much on economists as the weather does on weather forecasters. -- Jean-Paul Kauffmann

Working...