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'We Need Robots To Take Our Jobs,' Veteran Tech Reporter John Markoff Explains Why ( 318

Former New York Times technology reporter John Markoff used to think robots taking jobs was cause for alarm. Then, he found out that the working-age population in China, Japan, Korea and the U.S. was declining. From a report on Recode: "We need the robots for two reasons: On the one side, there are not enough workers," Markoff said on the latest episode of Recode Decode. "The demographic trends are more important than the technological trends, and they happen more quickly. On the other side, there's this thing called the dependency ratio, the ratio between caregivers and people who need care," he added. "For the first time last year, there were more people in the world who are over 65 than under five. First time ever in history. By the middle of the century, the number of people over 80 will double. By the end of the century, it'll be up sevenfold, globally."
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'We Need Robots To Take Our Jobs,' Veteran Tech Reporter John Markoff Explains Why

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  • does this mean the population (world wise) is on the decline...

    • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @06:51PM (#53815141) Journal
      Population decline [] is an issue in many countries, primarily with low birth rates, but I think here they're speaking of the problems with population aging.
      • I think its better to have population decline than population increase, as indefinite increase is not possible. You need to stop at some point.

    • No because the number of years people are over 65 is higher than 5 years. Meaning, the sum of people 65 to, i dunno, 85 (that's about 20 years) is greater than the number of people aged under 5. That means the number of people born in those years could be much less than the people being born nowadays, even adjusting for deaths.

    • For the first time last year, there were more people in the world who are over 65 than under five. First time ever in history. By the middle of the century, the number of people over 80 will double. By the end of the century, it'll be up sevenfold, globally.

      SEVENFOLD? At that rate, by the first half of the century after that, everyone will have died off! (unless we've figured out how to halt/reverse the aging process, and then "age" won't really matter).

      Ya gotta question these numbers, but there's definitely a trend among developed nations toward not having kids, while better healthcare helps keep people alive longer. I think the former is ok (and if you don't now, someday you will), but not having kinds is a weird offshoot of how our world has evolved. Wit

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        SEVENFOLD? At that rate, by the first half of the century after that, everyone will have died off! (unless we've figured out how to halt/reverse the aging process, and then "age" won't really matter).

        Isn't extrapolation fun? Say the percent of the population that dies at 60-70-80-90 is 10%-80%-10%-1% and medical science bumps that to 1%-10%-80%-10%, being 80+ will go from quite rare to very common.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      John Markoff - is that the same asshole who made a career writing inaccurate shit about Kevin Mitnick and repeating the same erroneous stories? Even though he knew they were wrong? The same asshole who presented himself to law enforcement as an expert on Mitnick even though he never met him? The same asshole who spent half his time ridiculing Mitnick's body? Is it that asshole?

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @06:50PM (#53815137) Journal

    In theory it's great, in practice it will "hit" people in different ways unevenly, and is part of the reason the rich are getting richer while the rest stagnate.

    We don't know how to organize an economy to take advantage of such. We only have theories that have yet to be tested. That means we are guinea-pigs. But if we do nothing, we are still guinea-pigs, because doing nothing means changes in jobs and automation will still impact us, but without any planning.

    Such displacement is arguably why T won: he gave a voice to the displaced of the Rust Belt, which are swing states. His reasoning about solutions is all off kilter, but he at least gave the problem top billing.

    Managing change is politically tricky.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Monday February 06, 2017 @06:59PM (#53815207) Homepage Journal

      The problem is that the solutions are complex and a lot of people are conditioned to be automatically hostile to them (because they are associated with socialism). It's hard to sell complex ideas when your opponent offers simple and seemingly easy ones that don't require any effort on the voter's part beyond putting an X in a box.

      Unfortunately we may simply have to let guys like Trump fail hard before people realize that they need real, complex solutions.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        In general, there's truth to that, but in the most recent case, we had one party with a field so weak the just do something simple guy won. In the other camp, the guy who wanted a more nuanced and comprehensive approach got the sandbag so they could run on a platform of more of the same.

      • People won't learn shit from those failures... they'll blame it on the opposition.

    • we just don't want to do it. The rich don't want to do it because they don't want to share. Everybody else thinks they'll get to join the rich in not sharing.

      Redistribute wealth with Basic income. Set an increasing minimum quality of life. Make birth control widely available and make sure people are cared for in old age when they can't work so they don't feel the need to drop a ton of kids in lieu of retirement. Above all don't abandon anyone. Even if they make stupid decisions time and again. Everybody
      • The rich don't want to do it because they don't want to share.

        Either it is different in America, or you have not met many of them.

        The rich don't realise that its hard for others to make money, cos its easy for them. They are quite happy to pay the poor to do what they (the rich) want.

        "What is the problem" they say "I am happy to pay these guys to do what I want. Why don't they just take the money and be happy?" (Tr: "let them eat cake").

    • by w3woody ( 44457 )

      Remember: whatever happens, whenever anything changes there are always winners and always losers. It doesn't mean we should do nothing, however: doing nothing is a choice with its own array of winners and losers. Remember: millions and millions of low-paid, low skilled jobs were lost in the shift from an agrarian to a manufacturing economy.

      What matters is how it affects the overall population as an aggregate. To decide not to act because you're afraid automation will drive lower-paid workers out of the mark

  • Great idea! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @06:53PM (#53815153)
    As soon as you can guarantee Basic Income and health coverage for everyone i'd be happy to let a robot take my day job while i go do more interesting stuff instead! However until that happens robots taking over all the jobs would be a disaster.

    (I don't care one way or the other if the healthcare is single payer or not, as long as i'm guaranteed coverage at an affordable price, regardless of preexisting conditions.)
  • by ffkom ( 3519199 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @06:59PM (#53815201)
    ... think again: The vast majority of elderly people do not have the monetary resources to acquire some "robot care taker".
    All those robot fantasies are based on the illusion that somehow, once there are enough robots around, people will magically start to share their wealth with others in need. It has been proven time and again that this does not happen. Not even with much more basic things like food/shelter/healthcare.
    The more likely situation will be that a few robots will aide some rich elderly people, while a lot of armed robots will be in charge of putting down any rebellion from the have-nots.
    • Nowadays they can't afford it. But in 50 or 100 years? Less if it is popular and useful.

      Like a new medical technique, it is as expensive as shit when it comes out. The alternative isn't lower costs -- it is fewer inventions.

      • by ffkom ( 3519199 )
        I haven't seen the expenses for healthcare decrease anywhere, regardless of technological advances.

        Of course nobody can predict what will be in 50 or 100 years, but it is also quite possible that by then it might already have become commonplace to euthanize people who cannot cater for themselves anymore.
    • You might like my own comment: []
    • The elderly need robots to take care of them and robots need their medication to live []. It's a win-win.
  • Every time I walk into a Subway sandwich shop, I see a few jobs that SHOULD be taken over by robots. I want SMARTER sandwich makers. I want FASTER sandwich makers, and I want MORE SANITARY sandwich makers.

    But mostly I want FASTER sandwich makers.
  • by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @08:16PM (#53815751) Journal
    In the long-term view of things, that's what I worry the most about, on behalf of humanity in general. In some places in the world (not going to name any names) human life is already seems to be considered virtually worthless. I see a possible future where an aging population is just 'thrown away' like so much garbage, nobody caring whether or not they starve to death or die of disease, because while young, able-bodied people will be a dime-a-dozen because of automation, elderly people, who are not capable of doing much work, will be considered to be a liability to be liquidated. Do you really think anyone wants to live in a world like that? Sadly in some ways we're already there, the elderly are not honored or taken care of, they're dumped into 'homes' that treat them worse than animals, keeping them alive, but quiet, so they continue to get paid for their 'services' to them. Really, seriously, honestly, some of you seem to think that there's going to be some sort of utopia created by all this automation and robotics and fake 'AI', but the reality is already all around us, and it's just going to get worse when people are made more and more obsolete by a corporate world that has no reason to care about people, only profits, and many governments that are not much better, more interested in their GDP than the welfare of old people. When the entire world is run by money, who is going to advocate for these people? Don't act like you don't care, either, because no one is exempt from aging, and saying you'll just kill yourself when you get too old is a lie.
    • The value of something varies with it's scarcity. 7 billion people make it so none of us are worth much at all.

      • Tell that to someone whose life is treated like it's worth nothing and see what sort of response you get. This is the sort of stuff that wars are started over. How can we truly call ourselves 'civilized beings' if we don't value lives? Functionally speaking it's no different than racism: if someone can marginalize, devalue, or even as far as demonize any one demographic, then someone can marginalize, devalue, and demonize anyone. Someone saying "You're OLD and USELESS so we don't care what happens to you" i
  • "We'll be clean when their work is done. We'll be eternally free, yes and eternally young." -- IGY, Donald Fagen
  • by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @09:59PM (#53816313)
    Both for skilled and unskilled labor in the US the demand has always been enormous. Yet the people and most of the companies can not pay a decent wage to workers. If we have any delusions about supply and demand let's confront a bit of reality. Just how do we excuse not paying lofty wages to laborers when the demand is so enormous. For almost all of us we would perish faster without migrant farm workers than we would if we had no doctors, lawyers or accountants. But the people that labor on our crops almost live in slavery and they die young from that labor as well. We have a total failure of economic justice in America. And it is not new. It has always been that way.
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @11:24PM (#53816665)

    We need to Start to cut down full time and remove job based health insurance But still keep some form of worker comp (contractors covered as well if an IRS like test to set if they really are independent contractors) (yes higher risk jobs like tower climbing have been dumped on low paid independent contractors with deadlines that make safety get pushed to the side) and lack of safety gear.

  • by Rande ( 255599 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2017 @06:27AM (#53817651) Homepage

    No one has mentioned this solution yet?

    When I'm old, senile and can't even wipe my own ass, I want to have the option to check out a little early.
    Maybe watching a peaceful video as I drift off to everlasting sleep.
    Win for me, win for the rest of society that I won't be a burden on any more.

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury