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Technologies Like Google's Self-Driving Car: Destroying Jobs? 736

Nerval's Lobster writes "For quite some time, some economists and social scientists have argued that advances in robotics and computer technology are systematically wrecking the job prospects of human beings. Back in June, for example, an MIT Technology Review article detailed Erik Brynjolfsson (a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management) and a co-author suggesting that the evolution of computer technology was "largely behind the sluggish employment growth of the last 10 to 15 years." Of course, technological change and its impact on the workforce is nothing new; just look at the Industrial Revolution, when labor-saving devices put many a hard-working homo sapien out of economic commission. But how far can things go? There are even arguments that the technology behind Google's Self-Driving Car, which allows machines to rapidly adapt to situations, could put whole new subsets of people out of jobs."
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Technologies Like Google's Self-Driving Car: Destroying Jobs?

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  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Thursday August 29, 2013 @03:53PM (#44709697)

    I don't employ any people in my car so you must mean the chauffeurs in the yellow cars who speak only Pashto or Urdu?

    • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @03:58PM (#44709741) Homepage Journal

      Cars don't destroy Jobs.

      Cook destroys Jobs.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:03PM (#44709821)
        I thought cancer destroyed Jobs. Too soon?
        • Re:Out of jobs? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:49PM (#44710407)
          Cancer is evolution [wikipedia.org] on a cellular level, without any foresight into whether it's a good idea long term.

          Apple evolved with the loss of Jobs. Remember that evolution doesn't imply change toward something we like, just a change to better fit the current situation. Apple seems to have evolved away from the tactics that made it so successful. I expect that this evolution will end up damaging Apple, possibly killing it, though that's likely wishful thinking on my part because I don't like the walled garden approach.

          It could be that Apple evolved in a bad direction because a cell in Steve Jobs' liver evolved in a bad direction.

          I swear, I haven't been smoking pot recently!
      • by alexander_686 ( 957440 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:45PM (#44710363)


        Jobs created Cars.

        Jobs created Pixar which created Cars, using the transitive property.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      All technology destroys jobs. We invent things to save time and effort. I can't wait until we've saved so much time and effort that I don't have to work anymore...Not in my lifetime, unfortunately.

      • Re:Out of jobs? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:51PM (#44710437)

        Technology only destroys jobs if you accept that the vast majority of the improvement in quality of life resulting from less labor required for survival should be reserved for a handful of plutocrats. Employment is low. Profits are high. Fewer people work more to get less out of fear that they will be cut next.

        What technology can do is increase everyone's quality of life. Lower the work week to 32 hours and abolish the distinction between part time and full time employees and increase minimum wage to a scale that follows the cost of basic food, utilities, shelter and transportation (it would be around $18 an hour if it had been). More people working less and having more time for family or other hobbies that actually make life worth living.

        • Re:Out of jobs? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @07:14PM (#44711959) Journal

          While I love the idea of shortening the work week to increase employment, the minimum wage cannot be a living wage. It makes no damn sense.

          You need a place to work as a teenager. Someplace to develop the basic skills needed on every job: show up on time, well groomed, and ready to work, don't be a dick to your customers, and so on. You should not get a living wage for this job, because (a) you don't need it, these are the jobs you start with while still living at home, and (b) employers couldn't afford it - with a low enough wage, 100% employment of teens who can barely do anything is practical, and was common. That's the point of a minimum-wage job - it a job that you can always get, to learn how to work, and to get enough experience to get a "real" job.

          A semi-skilled job, the bottom tier of jobs that one would do as an independent adult, that requires a bit more then just showing up, that should pay a living wage.

          • Re:Out of jobs? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @08:07PM (#44712375)

                    Re:Out of jobs? (Score:?)
                    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 29, 2013 @08:07PM

                    Minimum wage jobs are not just for teenagers. There just are not enough teenagers to man every grocery store, every restaurant, every retail outlet, etc. Millions of people are attempting to support families on minimum or barely above minimum wage jobs. These people need to be able to support their families just like anyone else.

                    The only other option to a reasonable minimum wage is a guaranteed minimum income. And we don't have nearly enough automation to deal with the people who would simply choose not to work given the the option.

      • No, tech revolution goes like this:

        1. Robots are made that can replace workers.

        2. Employer fires workers and purchases robots.

        3.All additional profit is pocketed by the former employer.

        4. Workers find new jobs in the service sector (serving mostly former employers).

        While this model is oversimplified, 68% of US jobs is in the service sector.

        • Re:Out of jobs? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @10:13PM (#44713053)

          2. Employer fires workers and purchases robots.

          3.All additional profit is pocketed by the former employer.

          2a. Prices plummet as demand decreases. Less money in the hands of the consumers means less demand for everything. Any company that wants to continue to exist drops prices to match the lowered costs of production, thus eliminating the "additional profit" there would have been had sales remained constant.

          4. Workers find new jobs in the service sector (serving mostly former employers).

          One of the first adopters of automation will be the service sector. Imagine being able to remove the employee costs at a McDonalds by presenting a display of items to the consumer who selects his choices and then waits a few minutes for the food to pop out of a window.

          Automats [wikipedia.org] were one of the early "robotic" systems in service. Now that we have NFC and "wave your card at the cash register" payments, there is no reason for them not to come back in big style. Especially if costs can be cut and there are a lot of people out of work because larger scale automated systems have made them redundant. It's nice to walk into a Subway and have a low-paid "sandwich specialist" make your sandwich to order, but in the long run it will be a choice between paying for personal service like that at full price or being able to eat at all.

        • You seem to assume that workers can only do one job....or that jobs, such as Retail, are even ones that workers are really interested in doing.

          From what I can tell, many people would prefer to not work Retail, with its low wages and long hours.

      • Re:Out of jobs? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ewibble ( 1655195 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @06:21PM (#44711499)

        Technology does destroy jobs (well sometimes creates jobs in other areas as well), but the same is produced for less, so in effect society is better off. The problem is not with technology but with the method of resource distribution. As you need less and less jobs the wealth gets distributed more unevenly.

        The current system (capitalism) was ok, and maybe even necessary when we where not producing enough for people to survive, it encouraged people to produce more, but now we are producing enough to survive, to excess even. Society has a to find a better way of distributing wealth. If we don't the 99% will either die off because they are not needed, rebel because they don't accept dieing. If the 99% do die then the 1% will be split up again 99% of them will become redundant.

        If the goal is to own as much as you can, and it is all based on greed and you can make a robots that can produce anything that you want, why would you want any other person around taking up your natural resources?

    • Re:Out of jobs? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:01PM (#44709785) Journal

      I don't employ any people in my car so you must mean the chauffeurs in the yellow cars who speak only Pashto or Urdu?

      TFA seems to be arguing (not unreasonably) that if you've solved the machine vision and 'coping with surprisingly unpredictable environments' problems well enough to put a car on the road without being bankrupted by splattered pedestrians and next of kin, you've probably also solved the problems that were keeping our robot overlords out of a lot of 'semi-structured' environments that have not previously been economic to automate.

      Conventional industrial automation is unstoppably, brutally, efficient; but you pretty much have to build the entire environment around the robots; because they are dumb as hell if anything doesn't go to plan (though, so long as it does, they can stuff boards or spot-weld chassis parts like nobody's business). If you solve the problems inherent in driving a car, you've made substantial progress in attacking environments that aren't built around robots and their limitations, which opens up many more just-sloppy-enough-to-confuse-robots and not-labor-intensive-enough-to-rebuild-for-robots workplaces.

      Sure, a few Johnnycabs might be the most visible; but that'll be the tip of the iceberg.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        TFA seems to be arguing (not unreasonably) that if you've solved the machine vision and 'coping with surprisingly unpredictable environments' problems well enough to put a car on the road without being bankrupted by splattered pedestrians and next of kin, you've probably also solved the problems that were keeping our robot overlords out of a lot of 'semi-structured' environments that have not previously been economic to automate.

        Well, duh. I figured that out a decade ago; that's why I got into software engi

    • Don't forget truckers.

    • Re:Out of jobs? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:14PM (#44709979) Homepage

      Taxi drivers are only the tip of the iceberg, most people are employed transporting goods B2B, B2C or C2B. Who do you think brings the groceries to the grocery store? Deliver you pizza? Collect your trash? A self-driving car would solve the hardest part, being able to load up a truck and have someone meet it at the other end would be huge. Also imagine all the people who can be more effective by doing paperwork and such while going site to site instead of driving, that too should let fewer people do the same work. A self-driving car is going to be an Industrial Revolution-class change.

  • Oh noes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @03:56PM (#44709737)
    Nevermind the increases in safety. Nevermind the new jobs that this will enable. Nevermind the greater standard of living this will bring to all people. We've got to be concerned about potentially lost jobs above all else.
    • Re:Oh noes! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:01PM (#44709787) Homepage Journal

      Nevermind the new jobs that this will enable.

      I'm curious - what new careers do you foresee, that current professional drivers would qualify for? Or are you saying they should give up their fairly-decent-wage driving work and go flip burgers whilst sucking hind teet for minimum wage, social consequences be damned?

      See, that's the real problem - I'm sure we can all come up with a million ideas for work the next few generations can do, but that means precisely jack shit to the current generation who will lose their only source of income.

      What's the stop-gap for the time period between auto-cars taking work from humans, work they need to pay their bills, and the creation of these ephemeral 'new jobs' that won't exist for a good while?

      • Re:Oh noes! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hammeraxe ( 1635169 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:05PM (#44709869)

        Probably none. But I don't think the picture is as dire as you paint it because the change from "driver" cars to driver-less cars isn't going to be instant. It's not like all truckers are gonna lose their jobs tomorrow or next years. It's gonna be a gradual process over the next ten or maybe twenty years.

      • Re:Oh noes! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Computershack ( 1143409 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:08PM (#44709913)

        Nevermind the new jobs that this will enable.

        I'm curious - what new careers do you foresee, that current professional drivers would qualify for?

        I was a trucker for 20 years. I've just been given an offer of a place at a top 10 university to do a BEng (Hons) in Electronics Engineering. Not all of us do trucking because we're incapable of doing anything else and I find your insinuation that we are quite insulting.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 )

          Nevermind the new jobs that this will enable.

          I'm curious - what new careers do you foresee, that current professional drivers would qualify for?

          I was a trucker for 20 years. I've just been given an offer of a place at a top 10 university to do a BEng (Hons) in Electronics Engineering. Not all of us do trucking because we're incapable of doing anything else and I find your insinuation that we are quite insulting.

          I find your assumption that my statement is an insinuation of an inherent lack of non-driving-related skills, and thus an insult to professional drivers, quite telling - Firstly, being offered an opportunity to pay for a Bachelor's Degree isn't really all that impressive, considering how many other people in the world have received similar offers. It's also not a paying job, so far as I'm aware; what will you do to cover expenses while in the program?

          Also, there is something to be said for experience - 20 y

    • Re:Oh noes! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:09PM (#44709923)

      It'll bring a greater standard of those who still have jobs. We're looking at a very serious economic transition here, possibly a key point in history. How it is managed is the difference between a utopia free of work and want, or a dystopia where the poverty-stricken masses scavenge for scraps thrown out from the farms owned by the wealthy.

  • by stewsters ( 1406737 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @03:58PM (#44709749)
    It will destroy jobs like the farm destroyed the jobs of hunters and gatherers. It happens. If you can be replaced by a cheap machine, find another line of work where the quality that you can produce beats the machines.
    • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:04PM (#44709847) Homepage Journal

      I have a lot of sympathy with this point of view, but there is a problem with it.

      George Carlin said, to paraphrase, look at how stupid the average guy is and realize that half of the people are dumber than that.

      My point is that we are not going to have a country with nothing but doctors, high-end engineers, programers, and tech people. Not everyone has the brainpower to do that. We have to have something to do or we with have the society in Vonnegut's Player Piano.

      That could be the real challenge... what are we going to do when it's not economical for a human to do ANY busy work. Even the not-so-bright need something to do.

      • Re:Yes (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:12PM (#44709965)

        Come on, man, Wells explained this almost a century ago. The general busy-working masses that don't have the brainpower to be a "high-end engineer or tech person" live in a leisure garden paradise and do nothing, while the engineers and tech people live underground, keep the general machinery of the world ticking, and occasionally kill and eat one of the those surface-dwelling Eloi for sustenance. Simple!

  • Hopefully (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kruach aum ( 1934852 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @03:58PM (#44709751)

    So we can free up those people to do things we can't make robots do yet.

  • why leave the house (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ZombieBraintrust ( 1685608 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:01PM (#44709799)
    The things these articles miss is that in the future you won't ever need to leave your house. People won't own a car much less a self driving one. You won't need a hyper loop because there will be no traffic on the empty freeways. There will still exist a need to move food, water, and air around. But people can stay home. Not like they have jobs to go to. :)
    • by snarfies ( 115214 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:21PM (#44710079) Homepage

      Sure, if you want an insanely dull and boring life.

      Like, if I never want to meet people, make friend, get a girlfriend? I think I might need to get out now and again just to get to their homes.

      Concerts. Restaurants. Bars. Sporting events. Hell, shopping! I can buy literally anything online right now, today. But I sometimes I want to see and touch and feel what I'm buying.

  • I'm trying really hard to find a way to side with the humans on this one but I'm failing. I simply cannot figure out how to justify opposing this, particularly in reference to jobs like over-the-road trucking and basic shuttle-vehicle jobs such as buses and cabs. I can only imagine how much this would alleviate trafic in cities, cars with no ego behind the wheel, and how many meth-addled over-the-road truckers won't be behind the wheel (and honestly most should probably be replaced with improved freight r

  • I think it's very clear that most of the truck drivers will be replaced by autonomous trucks driven by software. Human drivers need to sleep, robots don't. As our storage warehouses are already mostly on the wheels and logistics is optimized that the required goods arrive just in time, all this makes sense. The change might even be very fast. 30% of truck cargo might be driven by robots in the end of the decade.
  • I think the introduction of "self-driving cars" would bring about a counter-balancing upsurge in jobs in the automotive/bodywork repair industry (at least for the first few generations of the technology).
    • I think you vastly overestimate the ability of human pilots. We're pretty fucking awful compared to a fully sensored autonomous vehicle.

  • by Connie_Lingus ( 317691 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:03PM (#44709835) Homepage

    omg here come the neo-Luddites (again)...

    there is just absolutely no way anyone can predict what kind of spin-offs will be created given the rise of autonomous cars...perhaps entire new industries (cough like IT cough) will be created that require real humans to work on and fix our new 4-wheeled overlords. In fact, it's almost a given.

    what IS guaranteed, however, is CHANGE...and man is that frightening for some people. i like to remember the old phrase "the only constant is change" at times like this.

  • by dyingtolive ( 1393037 ) <brad.arnett@[ ]f ... g ['not' in gap]> on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:04PM (#44709845)
    when the last buggy whip manufacturer went out of business because of Ford? What about when computers killed Underwood and the typewriter manufacturers? What about when video killed the radio star?

    Seriously, stop holding back progress in the name of the status quo, otherwise things can never improve.
  • Lots less business when they're scraping texting drivers off of guard rails.

  • There are plenty of circumstances where we have machines that are extensively automated and we still have highly trained people operate them. Commercial aircraft have pilots there because there are too many circumstances where a person is going to be best able to make the right decision. Most of the time, these planes are running on autopilot and they do very well. But the circumstances where the autopilot fails (i.e. does the wrong thing) can have catastrophic consequences. So we have multiple pilots there

  • Every time I hear this argument, I think of the book player piano. Anyway, why do people want jobs that are replaceable by machines? It makes about as much sense as hiring someone to cut my grass with a pair of scissors, just so they have something to do. Or those useless construction workers holding a stop sign, that could literally be replaced with a piece of wood.
  • by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:08PM (#44709909)

    This is the old Luddite argument: without technology a lot more effort is required to get things done -- so more people get work. It follows that technology is bad.

    In fact, the situation is exactly the opposite: if a machine can drive a car, then having a person drive the car is a waste of the person's time. They can instead do something else with their time, so society get both that and the driving done. In the 19th century, more than 80% of US population directly worked in agriculture. Today, the propotion is 2-3% -- yet we have a lot more food, and many other things to boot.

    It's true that in the short term, there is a loss when the specialized skills (say driving) of the people displaced become less valuable, and those people lose their jobs. But this is a transient effect. Some skills were standard 30 years ago, yet rare today.

    The more important issue is that technology more easily replaces low-skilled workers. Computers have reduced the demand for secretarial work; robots and other industrial automation reduce the demand for factory workers, and so on. This increases the returns to IQ and education, and reduces the number of well-paying jobs available to less-educated workers. But this seems inevitable, and needs to be solved by changing the attitudes of society toward education rather than by hamstringing technological progress.

    • Exactly. It's easy to have enough "jobs" for everyone. Give anyone without a job a teaspoon and point them to a ditch that needs digging or a hole that needs filling.

      The point is to have people doing jobs that contribute the most/build the most wealth. For that, anything that can be done more economically by machines should be so those humans (the real scarce resource) can be freed up to do more of things that they do better than machines.

  • by gumpish ( 682245 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:09PM (#44709925) Journal

    One nice thing about being a programmer is that if computers ever take over your job then the Singularity has arrived.

  • by rjstanford ( 69735 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:16PM (#44710015) Homepage Journal

    One of the big ideas behind "modernization" was that, in general, people could work less and enjoy more benefits. Indeed, our per-person output has skyrocketed. The idea that we could get even more productive in the future is a conditionally great one. The big "if" is that right now, in the US, almost all of the benefit is being concentrated at the top-end of the economic spectrum. Indeed, our GDP has more than recovered from the recession even though most people are still suffering because of even more recent wealth concentration.

    When normal people receive even half the benefits of modernization, its a good thing, and net job loss will be more than outpaced by work reduction.

  • by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:17PM (#44710035)

    Back in 2007 the company I work for (manufacturing) was going to outsource my entire department to a company in Taiwan. The logic was that there was no way we overpaid ($100K+ per engineer), lazy (40-50 hrs/week) Americans could do what the industrious (60-70 hrs/week) and inexpensive ($24K/yr) Taiwanese could do. It was an obvious win-win for the company bean-counters.

    However, when I was hired a few years before this, I began implementing a whole lot of automation into our stone-age processes. They were still keeping all production records in Excel spreadsheets and paper notebooks for fucks sake. Bar codes? RFID? What were those? I modernized the place, and after a few years of attrition we had fewer low-paid manufactuing drones working in the department, but we no longer needed them.

    SO the bean counters did their cost audit and were shocked beyond belief that the American factory was producing goods WAY cheaper than they could get them produced in Taiwan. Taiwan came back with a cheaper offer, but it was STILL higher than our costs. The bean counters did another audit, because they knew there was NO WAY we could produce goods cheaper than Taiwan. Results: We sure can.

    So, as a result of some (admittedly crude) automation, I and those who helped me with the automation, saved hundreds of jobs in the US from being offshored. And now my department is mosty highly trained (and well paid) engineers and technicians rather than mostly low paid people who move stuff from machine to machine. We still have the people who move stuff around, but they are fewer, more efficient and paid more than they were before. And the equipment is better maintained and more productive than ever.

    So whenever some jackwit like this says automation is killing jobs, I get to trot out my personal example of automation SAVING jobs and creating new ones.

    Self-driving cars will kill some jobs, but it will create plenty of new ones, many we haven't even thought of yet.

    • If you look at it from a global perspective, by automating the factory you allowed X people in the USA to produce a certain amount of goods. To produce that amount of goods in Taiwan would take X*Y people. Therefore globally you actually destroyed jobs via that automation.

  • by Missing.Matter ( 1845576 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:17PM (#44710041)
    I'm a robotics engineer. For me, it's creating jobs.
  • by cod3r_ ( 2031620 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:18PM (#44710045)
    I like the idea of robots just doing everything for us so we don't have to work. Maybe we can even do away with currency all together.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:18PM (#44710047) Journal

    You need the human touch to grow pot or cook meth. No machine could... Oh dammit! Drug-bot 3000 done took our jerbs, and it don't blow up or burn down no trailers.

    Don't worry. You need the human touch to pimp out your ride so you're down wid da' homies out front da sto' where you buy shit wid da' EBT card.

    Oh no! Pimp-bot 3000 done took our jerbs. Damn, he fly.

    Don't worry. You need the human touch to kill terminators. Oh no! Da terminators are killin' eachother. Look at that. HoneyBadger 4000 is killing that other robot. He don't care. HoneyBadger 4000 don't give a shit.

    Don't worry. You need the human touch to choke on burning robot fumes...

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:21PM (#44710081)

    Maybe even start to move the OT point to say 35-30 hours a week as well upping the ot exempt level to say 100K a year + COL.

    Why should BOB be working 60-80 hours a week when jack does not have a job?

  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:23PM (#44710093) Homepage

    The internet put people out of jobs in the newspaper and magazine industry, it also opened up a world of new ways for people to make money.

    Self-driving cars will have a lot less impact than the internet. A handful of cab drivers, whoopee do.

    It's going to be awesome seeing self-driving cars assign red light camera companies to the scrap heap of history...parasitic bastards.

  • by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) <slashdot@@@uberm00...net> on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:30PM (#44710193) Homepage Journal

    Read Manna [marshallbrain.com] by Marshall Brain. It's an interesting view of two potential post-labor robot-driven economies. I hope we end up in the robot-driven paradise instead of the everyone-on-welfare dystopia, but I'm not convinced we will. I'm crossing my fingers for a Star Trek economy in my lifetime.

    (Of course, given that we're looking perhaps a bit beyond 30 years in the future, it'll probably look very similar to today in a lot of ways with some changes that nobody predicted.)

  • by gallondr00nk ( 868673 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:30PM (#44710195)

    Self driving cars will cost jobs, as will eventual moves towards automation, telecommuting &c.

    The increasing role of technology in every sphere of life will eventually rule out all but very skilled, specialised jobs in small numbers. This is a trend that started in the industrial age, and no amount of legislation will stop the fact that we simply don't need to employ as many people as we used to.

    I've advocated on here before the role of a guaranteed minimum income, and this could be an opportunity to create the first real leisure society. Consumerism as we more or less know it would fund economic development still, as it does now, except the source of our income wouldn't be our increasingly obsolete labour but a guaranteed disposable income, rising gradually ahead of living costs over time.

    The amount of creative works, open source projects, general hackery &c. that'll spring from having a majority of people free from having to be employed will be mind boggling.

    The biggest stumbling block to this in my mind is the dismantling of "trickle up" neoliberalism and the replacement of a brain dead political class.

  • by Insightfill ( 554828 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:37PM (#44710283) Homepage

    I saw this on the Jetsons. George Jetson goes to work, pushes three buttons, and goes right back home.

    What we've seen over the past 50 years is a growth in per capital GPD, much of it due to automation. This should have led to more pay for less work, or same pay for less work. However: the median income has held steady while the "top 0.1%" has taken off. Instead of everyone working 10 hour days and getting a livable wage as the efficiency would indicate, we have people working 40-50 hour weeks for less money, while a select few get a LOT more for it - effectively getting thousands of hours of income for each week of work. The tying of insurance and other benefits to a floor in minimum hours of work made this condition worse. I know of many people, parents and artists mostly, who would LOVE to have a professional job of 20-30 hours/week and are even willing to take proportionally lower pay to get it, but our current (US) system doesn't allow it.

    Robots taking jobs isn't a bad thing - there's less work to do overall. If there are fewer hours of work to go around, then either everyone works fewer hours for the same pay, or... a few people work "full-time" and everyone else gets shafted.

    Quite a few sci-fi books have looked at this. I think Heinlein's "By His Bootstraps" visited a future where our protagonist worked at a junkyard where they took brand-new, off-the-lot cars and crushed them. The car builders had full-time work - the crushers had full-time work, too. That's messed up.

  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @04:50PM (#44710431) Homepage

    Eventually, almost everything will be done by technology. Even maintaining the technology will be done by technology. While it does mean more will be done, and more will be produced, this will collapse if there is not more of a market to consume it. Otherwise we will eventually get to a point that the 0.001 percenters will own all the production, and no one else will have anything to buy it with. So even the 0.001 percenters will end up losing. But how will that even be solved if there is nothing left for humans to do? Either we will have a world where no one has anything unless they have machines (and all they can produce for is themselves), or we will have socialism where the government provides everything ... so the 0.001 percenters will have a market to sell to.

  • by FuzzNugget ( 2840687 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @05:46PM (#44711097)

    But a societal one. Just like the industrial revolution put a lot of manual labourers out of work, the digital revolution will do the same to the vast majority of low-and-no-skill labourers.

    The moralistic notion that necessities, and even some small luxuries, need to be earned is starting to become antiquated. We need to begin seriously considering things like basic income [wikipedia.org] if we are to transition without a whole lot of bloodshed. Good luck convincing the X%.

  • by InterGuru ( 50986 ) <jhd AT interguru DOT com> on Thursday August 29, 2013 @05:54PM (#44711195) Homepage

    All of us benefit from being the heirs of the industrial revolution. Even the poorest of us have better health and nutrition than before. We all have better healthcare than the mightiest king did 300 years ago. Yet for the average person who lived during the industrial revolution life was poor hell. Craftsmen and herders were sent into Dickensian factories and mines. I hope we can live long enough for the majority of citizens to see a benefit from our present computer revolution.

  • by Bruha ( 412869 ) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @11:11PM (#44713341) Homepage Journal

    Robots will replace every human working in fast food eventually so what do you do to employ tens of millions of people put out of work? Look at the millions without jobs now. Even in IT a lot of automation has reduced the need for more IT engineers and to save money they are making us do more with less which forces is to rely more on automation. Robots will also evemtually replace surgeons and could replace lawyers too and so you and up with a broad swath of skill levels without jobs or money. Some sections of our society will just decide to kill the constitution and lock people up in dorms to keep these jobless out of the eye of those or we can free people to turn their attention to things that interest them. Things that they could not focus on before. Think scientist who did not have to worry about money or resources. Google manna chapter 1 and read it.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead