Author Topic: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?  (Read 25217 times)

gillamnstr

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Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« on: September 07, 2014, 02:48:24 PM »
Hi all!

I've been hearing (and seeing examples) about this a lot. Just last week I came back from Mexico, went through customs in Dallas and saw that the customs agents (except for a few) were all replaced my machines. I'm 37, my 'stache is approaching 100K, nowhere near retirement though. Though we're doing the right things, I'm a bit freaked out by widescale unemployment which seems pretty unavoidable in the next 20-ish years and the implications it could have on a lot of people if we get to an unemployment rate of 30-40%. Especially if my fiancÚ and I have a baby.

Does anyone else have thoughts on this? I've exhausted talking to my friends about it, who all don't believe this is a thing and think I'm nuts.



http://www.wired.com/2014/08/when-robots-take-all-the-work-whatll-be-left-for-us-to-do/

Travis

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2014, 03:41:52 PM »
We've been replacing humans with machines since the water wheel.  People have been worried about mass unemployment due to industrialization/mass production/automation for centuries and we've found other things to do that generate income.

mozar

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2014, 03:48:08 PM »
I think about this as well. On a micro level it is best to keep educating yourself and be flexible. In my job I see that it is becoming more automated and I figure I have about ten years before I am automated out, or things have just changed so much my skills are irrelevant. How much mileage you have is dependent on your career. because of your age I would be more worried about age discrimination that starts happening around 40.

On the macro level the people who struggle and least able to adapt are always the least educated. Jobs keep changing and being automated/outsourced so I don't believe the "this time it's different" rhetoric. The media trots that out about once every five years it seems. You want to know the actual thing that causes unemployment? Government policy. Look up repeal of the Glass-Steagall act as well as regulation of "liar loans".
Why hasn't Canada experienced a recession like the US? Govt. policy. Why is the Detroit unemployment rate 16.4%? Decades of government corruption and mismanagement. So get yourself to a state with good fiscal management and stay put. That will insulate you more than worrying about some robots.

Ambergris

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2014, 08:59:02 PM »
Just in case you haven't seen it yet, here is my contribution to help fuel your paranoia: Humans Need Not Apply

Now that's a very interesting video.

My question about it is, if technology replaces the jobs of 45% of the population, and there are no further "human" jobs to replace them, where do the "increasing profits" for the automated industries come from?

This is Henry Ford's problem. In order to have an economy, you have to pay people money to do or make things so that they can buy things. Otherwise there's no point in making the things. Because there is no one to buy all the things.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2014, 09:39:54 PM by Ambergris »

theadvicist

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2014, 03:47:01 AM »
Everyone had the same fears over the mechanisation of farming. In 1900 weren't 60% of Americans employed in agriculture? And now it's 1%? (I'm sure I heard / read that somewhere). We just find other things to do - no-one imagined anyone would be designing iphones or iphones apps back then, but it keeps a lot of people busy now.

TheNorwegianGuy

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2014, 04:10:56 AM »
Instead of uneployment rates of 40%, wouldnt it be great if just instead everybody could work less, half of what they used to and enjoy life instead? Robots will make the things we need cheaper and faster, thus we need to use less money and less time on producing the things we need... (Kind of an utopia idea, but it would be awesome). I reality though, this would probably not work due to the greedy human nature.... But it is nice to see that more and more (especially among the young people) is starting to realize how unnatural and crazy the society is built, where we use almost all our time (our only true resource) to produce things we dont really need in order to get a paycheck to buy these things we dont really need or have the time to use, because we use our time to produce them and earn money to buy them....

wtjbatman

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2014, 05:35:55 AM »
I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

pom

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2014, 08:38:45 AM »
Instead of uneployment rates of 40%, wouldnt it be great if just instead everybody could work less, half of what they used to and enjoy life instead? Robots will make the things we need cheaper and faster, thus we need to use less money and less time on producing the things we need... (Kind of an utopia idea, but it would be awesome).

I might be overoptimistic but I think that this is what is coming for those of us that can curb the need for "stuff". Some of us, lets call them mustachians, will work for a few years to accumulate capital and finance robots that can do the work for them, then they will be able to just enjoy a life of leisure while the robot toils away and earns them money. That is basically what owning shares is, each share is sort of a robot that earns you dividends.

gimp

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2014, 12:39:10 PM »
Quote
Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?

Huge can of worms. Arguments through feeling, not statistics, economics, history, reason. Avoid the issue, educate your kids better so they can adapt to rapidly changing technological landscapes, and use tools instead of being made obsolete by them.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2014, 03:50:29 PM »
We've been replacing humans with machines since the water wheel.  People have been worried about mass unemployment due to industrialization/mass production/automation for centuries and we've found other things to do that generate income.
This.  A thousand times this.  You'd think that in the last 200 years since the Luddites we would have learned our lesson.

Automation reduces costs for goods.  Some people lose their jobs, but everyone else now has more cash to spend.  They spend it on other stuff (or more of the same stuff) and those who lost their jobs can find new ones (assuming they can adapt).  In the end, there's little impact on employment, but everyone has more stuff :)

EricL

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2014, 04:06:46 PM »
We've been replacing humans with machines since the water wheel.  People have been worried about mass unemployment due to industrialization/mass production/automation for centuries and we've found other things to do that generate income.
This.  A thousand times this.  You'd think that in the last 200 years since the Luddites we would have learned our lesson.

Automation reduces costs for goods.  Some people lose their jobs, but everyone else now has more cash to spend.  They spend it on other stuff (or more of the same stuff) and those who lost their jobs can find new ones (assuming they can adapt).  In the end, there's little impact on employment, but everyone has more stuff :)

I agree replacement by robots is a bit overblown. But if robots replace the workforce they wont be able to earn the money to buy all the crap the robots make. Unless the ogliarchs that own the robot factories want to give the products away for free or nearly free.  And even so you may generate a situation similar to Kurt Vonnegut's book Player Piano. 

chucklesmcgee

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2014, 04:13:48 PM »
We've been replacing humans with machines since the water wheel.  People have been worried about mass unemployment due to industrialization/mass production/automation for centuries and we've found other things to do that generate income.
This.  A thousand times this.  You'd think that in the last 200 years since the Luddites we would have learned our lesson.

"In the past technological advancements haven't caused mass unemployment therefore technological advancements can never cause mass unemployment" is faulty reasoning. There's no magic law that says an economy will always create new jobs for people displaced by technology equal to the ones lost. Some people could be unable to adapt and find new work. As we build more and more sophisticated machines, we'll reach a point where a robot can match all of the basic and menial tasks carried out by humans at a cost far less than a human would work for. Do you think that if I were to create a $100k fry-cooking, burger-flipping, order taking robot that ALL the ~4 million fast food workers would inevitably be able to find new work?

Jack

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2014, 04:14:50 PM »
All I know is that I want to own the robots.

boarder42

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2014, 04:22:09 PM »
its my job to replace humans with automated equipment.  i design and install control systems in factories to automate lines.  guess what if that line isnt getting automated or i cant find a way to reduce the cost to produce it in the states... ITS GOING TO BE OUTSOURCED... so pick your poison.  our society is advancing at the rate it is bc of technology... so either get on board and help learn and improve or continue to dwell on something that you have the power to change.   if your job can be done by a machine ... build the dang machine that can do it and start selling them... the progression away from manual labor is what keeps the world working.  having machines helps us to grow our technology. 

Flip side go by a small patch of land in the middle of know where and become self sufficient .. kinda like the amish do ... and dont use any technology just your hands...


i usually say dont worry about what you cant control... but guess what you're worrying about something you CAN control ...

Beric01

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2014, 05:24:00 PM »
We've been replacing humans with machines since the water wheel.  People have been worried about mass unemployment due to industrialization/mass production/automation for centuries and we've found other things to do that generate income.
This.  A thousand times this.  You'd think that in the last 200 years since the Luddites we would have learned our lesson.

"In the past technological advancements haven't caused mass unemployment therefore technological advancements can never cause mass unemployment" is faulty reasoning. There's no magic law that says an economy will always create new jobs for people displaced by technology equal to the ones lost. Some people could be unable to adapt and find new work. As we build more and more sophisticated machines, we'll reach a point where a robot can match all of the basic and menial tasks carried out by humans at a cost far less than a human would work for. Do you think that if I were to create a $100k fry-cooking, burger-flipping, order taking robot that ALL the ~4 million fast food workers would inevitably be able to find new work?

Well said. This argument is pretty weak.

When we create an android that can do everything a human can (and I have no reason to think we won't someday), why should humans continue to need to be employed?

I think this might happen even within my own lifetime. I want to have reached FIRE by then so it won't affect me. :-)

chasesfish

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #15 on: September 08, 2014, 05:47:07 PM »
http://www.despair.com/adaptation.html

Can't help but think of this

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #16 on: September 08, 2014, 09:15:51 PM »
"In the past technological advancements haven't caused mass unemployment therefore technological advancements can never cause mass unemployment" is faulty reasoning. There's no magic law that says an economy will always create new jobs for people displaced by technology equal to the ones lost. Some people could be unable to adapt and find new work. As we build more and more sophisticated machines, we'll reach a point where a robot can match all of the basic and menial tasks carried out by humans at a cost far less than a human would work for. Do you think that if I were to create a $100k fry-cooking, burger-flipping, order taking robot that ALL the ~4 million fast food workers would inevitably be able to find new work?
Sure, it's technically possible that someday robots could replace workers for everything.  But we have several hundred years of history (if not several thousand) of precisely the opposite happening, and the laws of economics actually *prohibit* such an occurrence.  Take the argument to its end point--robots do everything, people can't earn money.  At that point, nobody has any money to spend on the things the robots make.  Somewhere along that continuum is a natural point of balance.

The nice thing is that such changes are rarely sudden and drastic.  Usually, they take a fair bit of time, allowing the market to adjust.

Beric01

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2014, 09:31:51 PM »
"In the past technological advancements haven't caused mass unemployment therefore technological advancements can never cause mass unemployment" is faulty reasoning. There's no magic law that says an economy will always create new jobs for people displaced by technology equal to the ones lost. Some people could be unable to adapt and find new work. As we build more and more sophisticated machines, we'll reach a point where a robot can match all of the basic and menial tasks carried out by humans at a cost far less than a human would work for. Do you think that if I were to create a $100k fry-cooking, burger-flipping, order taking robot that ALL the ~4 million fast food workers would inevitably be able to find new work?
Take the argument to its end point--robots do everything, people can't earn money.  At that point, nobody has any money to spend on the things the robots make.  Somewhere along that continuum is a natural point of balance.

What about the people who own the robots? They want to buy things. This probably becomes a society where the 0.0000001% who own the robots pay taxes to support the 99.999999%.

That or the more likely outcome - there just becomes no more need for money.

boarder42

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #18 on: September 08, 2014, 10:09:32 PM »
Correct a completely socialist society where there is no need to work BC everything is at your disposal and you get to do whatever you want within the laws.

pom

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #19 on: September 09, 2014, 03:41:06 AM »
Correct a completely socialist society where there is no need to work BC everything is at your disposal and you get to do whatever you want within the laws.

You assume that good would be distributed equally which it does not have to be. Could be that the minimum needed to survive is distributed to everyone and there is another distribution formula for the rest of goods produced. My guess, and we are talking science fiction here, is that different people will own a different share of the robots production. There will be poor people, middle class and rich people just like now.

As for me, I need to make sure that I own 1 / 7,2 billonth of the robots and the same for my wife so at least we get an average share of the production.

Alex321

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #20 on: September 09, 2014, 05:37:09 AM »
We've been replacing humans with machines since the water wheel.  People have been worried about mass unemployment due to industrialization/mass production/automation for centuries and we've found other things to do that generate income.
This.  A thousand times this.  You'd think that in the last 200 years since the Luddites we would have learned our lesson.

"In the past technological advancements haven't caused mass unemployment therefore technological advancements can never cause mass unemployment" is faulty reasoning. There's no magic law that says an economy will always create new jobs for people displaced by technology equal to the ones lost. Some people could be unable to adapt and find new work. As we build more and more sophisticated machines, we'll reach a point where a robot can match all of the basic and menial tasks carried out by humans at a cost far less than a human would work for. Do you think that if I were to create a $100k fry-cooking, burger-flipping, order taking robot that ALL the ~4 million fast food workers would inevitably be able to find new work?

You're a little confused on the process when you say "There's no magic law that says an economy will always create new jobs for people displaced by technology." The economy does not create new jobs at all. The excess productivity that is enabled by the new technology allows for expanding demand, and that new demand creates new jobs. Always has.

LibrarIan

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #21 on: September 09, 2014, 06:30:07 AM »
Do you think that if I were to create a $100k fry-cooking, burger-flipping, order taking robot that ALL the ~4 million fast food workers would inevitably be able to find new work?

This happened and will soon be hitting fast food workers hard I'm sure: http://www.businessinsider.com/momentum-machines-burger-robot-2014-8

This is a topic I'm very interested in. For some deeper-level discussion on this issue I highly suggest checking out:

- Will Work For Free (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SuGRgdJA_c). It's kind of long, but it basically goes through every sector of work our society offers and explains how, in due time, most or all the workers per sector can and probably will be replaced by robots/automation.

- The Lights in the Tunnel by Martin Ford (http://www.amazon.com/Lights-Tunnel-Automation-Accelerating-Technology/dp/1448659817/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410265443&sr=1-1&keywords=the+lights+in+the+tunnel). Check your local library or inter-library loan service to get it. It's by a computer scientist who has worked in the field a while who shares the doomsday sentiment.


When this topic is brought up, I often see the line "[Some driving force] has always created jobs in the past, therefore it will in the future." This does little to assuage fears because past trends don't always equal future ones. My opinion is that we've reached a new era, so to speak, in the automation/robot realm. The speed at which things advance and the breadth of tasks computers can perform surpass anything we've ever had in the past. When we replaced all those fast food workers with a robot, what occurred simultaneously to make new jobs for them to apply for? I do still think new jobs are bound to be created, but I think the rate of job creation for humans will be incredibly low compared to robot/automation implementation that we will indeed see mass-scale unemployment and a larger impact on our economy and society. We definitely need to be preparing for this change sooner rather than later.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2014, 06:46:03 AM by LibrarIan »

PloddingInsight

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #22 on: September 09, 2014, 06:38:04 AM »
"In the past technological advancements haven't caused mass unemployment therefore technological advancements can never cause mass unemployment" is faulty reasoning. There's no magic law that says an economy will always create new jobs for people displaced by technology equal to the ones lost. Some people could be unable to adapt and find new work. As we build more and more sophisticated machines, we'll reach a point where a robot can match all of the basic and menial tasks carried out by humans at a cost far less than a human would work for. Do you think that if I were to create a $100k fry-cooking, burger-flipping, order taking robot that ALL the ~4 million fast food workers would inevitably be able to find new work?

If robots can create everything for 10% of what human workers cost, then all our consumables will be 90% cheaper and workers will be able to purchase everything they need on a salary that is only 10% of what they used to earn... which means they'll be competitive with the robots again.

It isn't magic, it's economics.  You're looking too hard at the dollar bills.  The money is just a system that allows us to trade our labor for things.  As long as our labor doesn't get less productive and the things don't get harder to make, we'll be all right.  And in fact robots will make humans more productive and things less costly.

matchewed

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #23 on: September 09, 2014, 06:43:48 AM »
"In the past technological advancements haven't caused mass unemployment therefore technological advancements can never cause mass unemployment" is faulty reasoning. There's no magic law that says an economy will always create new jobs for people displaced by technology equal to the ones lost. Some people could be unable to adapt and find new work. As we build more and more sophisticated machines, we'll reach a point where a robot can match all of the basic and menial tasks carried out by humans at a cost far less than a human would work for. Do you think that if I were to create a $100k fry-cooking, burger-flipping, order taking robot that ALL the ~4 million fast food workers would inevitably be able to find new work?

If robots can create everything for 10% of what human workers cost, then all our consumables will be 90% cheaper and workers will be able to purchase everything they need on a salary that is only 10% of what they used to earn... which means they'll be competitive with the robots again.

It isn't magic, it's economics.  You're looking too hard at the dollar bills.  The money is just a system that allows us to trade our labor for things.  As long as our labor doesn't get less productive and the things don't get harder to make, we'll be all right.  And in fact robots will make humans more productive and things less costly.

But only with the assumption that people still are workers. There is a possibility that automation could replace a very large percentage of the workforce (through either software machines or hardware). It is cold comfort to those that don't have jobs that things are cheaper due to automation. Or to put it simply consumables being cheaper doesn't matter if you're not one of those few workers left. Why would cheaper goods suddenly make a human who needs all the things an employee needs more hire-able than a piece of software or hardware?

PloddingInsight

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #24 on: September 09, 2014, 06:59:05 AM »
But only with the assumption that people still are workers. There is a possibility that automation could replace a very large percentage of the workforce (through either software machines or hardware). It is cold comfort to those that don't have jobs that things are cheaper due to automation. Or to put it simply consumables being cheaper doesn't matter if you're not one of those few workers left. Why would cheaper goods suddenly make a human who needs all the things an employee needs more hire-able than a piece of software or hardware?

Because the human can work for less than it costs to buy & operate the machine.

LibrarIan

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #25 on: September 09, 2014, 07:08:52 AM »
Why would cheaper goods suddenly make a human who needs all the things an employee needs more hire-able than a piece of software or hardware?

Because the human can work for less than it costs to buy & operate the machine.

And then all that human hiring due to cheap objects would increase costs of business, which would lead to humans getting laid off after they're automated again which leads to cheap objects which leads to humans getting hired due to cheap objects which increases the cost of business which leads to humans getting laid off after they're automated again which leads to...

PloddingInsight

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #26 on: September 09, 2014, 07:15:43 AM »
Why would cheaper goods suddenly make a human who needs all the things an employee needs more hire-able than a piece of software or hardware?

Because the human can work for less than it costs to buy & operate the machine.

And then all that human hiring due to cheap objects would increase costs of business, which would lead to humans getting laid off after they're automated again which leads to cheap objects which leads to humans getting hired due to cheap objects which increases the cost of business which leads to humans getting laid off after they're automated again which leads to...

Why can't the humans just work alongside the machines?

LibrarIan

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #27 on: September 09, 2014, 07:20:47 AM »
Why can't the humans just work alongside the machines?

Quite simply because we're too expensive. We need sleep, insurance, healthcare, breaks, etc. Businesses need to account for human error, distraction and other factors. Absolutely none of these things apply to machines.

PloddingInsight

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #28 on: September 09, 2014, 07:45:25 AM »
I'm going to repeat myself because I don't think this is sinking in.

Money isn't real.  Money just facilitates trading.  If you have a job you are trading your work for the goods you want to buy with your wages.  You can leave money out of it -- you are trading labor for goods.  Money just greases the machine, makes it all work smoothly.

If you're going to speculate about how things would look in an economy that is radically different from ours, then you should probably ignore money and look at what is being traded.

Do robots make a laborer less productive, in absolute terms?  No.  The value (ignore the price!) of a laborer's work is just as high in the presence of robots.  A robot who mows lawns doesn't make a lawn mowed by a human any less desirable.  It's still a mowed lawn.

Do robots make goods more dear?  Again, no.  If robots get good at producing things, the GDP goes up and there are more consumable products to go around, which means, if you are a seller of goods, you're willing to trade those goods for less.

So if our labor is still just as good (probably better) and the things we want to trade our labor are more plentiful (and therefore less dear to sellers) then clearly we can continue to trade our labor for those goods.

If you think you can contradict this by appealing to current dollar prices of labor and goods, such as saying humans can't compete (which appeals to current wage levels,) I think you're just missing the point.  (Sort of.  The things that could really screw us up are a constant minimum wage in an era of falling prices and and increasingly onerous regulation of innovative small business and self-employment.  But absent a really big screw-up by government, my prediction is that we'll all be just fine in the long run.)  (Yes there will be painful disruption.  As usual.)

matchewed

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #29 on: September 09, 2014, 07:51:18 AM »
Once the machine is bought the cost is done other than maintenance. If the cost to maintain is cheaper than labor there is no cycle.

But our labor isn't good or better than what automation can provide. We're inefficient, we make mistakes, we get tired, we want vacations...etc. This isn't a simple replace labor with labor scenario. This is replace labor with (nearly) pure efficiency. I'm not sure in a automation revolution whether human labor would get cheap enough to warrant taking on those unknown risks we can generate through our inefficiencies. Mind you I think there will still be some opportunities but this is one area that my optimism gun falters a bit. I can see society restructuring, political and cultural adaptation may provide succor. To be clear for me I'm not worried. I do have larger questions about the future and don't think it's very sunshine and rainbows for large swaths of people. The major flaw I see in my "DOOOOOOOooooooooooom" reasoning is that if a large chunk of people are unemployed who gives a shit about this ultimate efficiency? Who would buy the products unless something like a guaranteed wage through the government occurred? Could a small percentage of the population maintaining employment be enough to support economies? Could that be a silver lining in all of it. Peak "growth" economy?

LibrarIan

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #30 on: September 09, 2014, 07:53:34 AM »
@PloddingInsight

So then remove money. We're still too "expensive." All the factors I identified above cost time or cause things to be done incorrectly, done again, etc. Machines still win. Why would I, as a shrewd futurist, want humans to bother making anything that a machine can do longer longer, better, faster? I wouldn't. Robots/machines/automation/computers win in pretty much every category whether there is money or not.

And let's face it, there is money right now and that doesn't really seem to be changing. I think considering human vs. machine cost is appropriate. And besides, if we did live in a money-less society, we probably wouldn't be producing huge quantities of fast food burgers, iPods, PCs, Xbox Ones, shirts... you name it. There would be less incentive to want these things if we developed a way for everyone to get what they needed without money. (Notice I didn't say no incentive.) I would wager that at this point we would have developed a more resource-based economy and would have less of a desire/means to consume.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2014, 07:59:39 AM by LibrarIan »

PloddingInsight

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #31 on: September 09, 2014, 07:58:13 AM »
I don't have time to do this comment justice, really, but I wanted to throw it out there.

Imagine what would happen if 80% of humans were out of work because they couldn't compete with the machines.

Short answer:  Since they're locked out of the (formerly) dominant currency, they would make stuff and barter with each other, creating an underground economy, which would shortly adopt a replacement currency in order to be more efficient.  People would grow food, build houses, perform services, etc etc, having no contact with the "real economy" that is now run by robots.

The underground economy might start out with a 1850s standard of living.  But given that all the know-how is freely available on the internet, how long would it take for it to progress to 1950?  2000?  2050?

LibrarIan

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #32 on: September 09, 2014, 08:02:41 AM »
I don't have time to do this comment justice, really, but I wanted to throw it out there.

Imagine what would happen if 80% of humans were out of work because they couldn't compete with the machines.

Short answer:  Since they're locked out of the (formerly) dominant currency, they would make stuff and barter with each other, creating an underground economy, which would shortly adopt a replacement currency in order to be more efficient.  People would grow food, build houses, perform services, etc etc, having no contact with the "real economy" that is now run by robots.

The underground economy might start out with a 1850s standard of living.  But given that all the know-how is freely available on the internet, how long would it take for it to progress to 1950?  2000?  2050?

Okay, so is your point that the cycle would happen again? This new underground economy ignores the "main" economy and advances toward 1950+ levels of technology/standard of living... so wouldn't internal economic competition win out and cause the same automated issues?

If 80% of the workforce did end up out of a job, I think we'd see pitchforks going for the upper tiers of society before we'd see organization like you're talking about. Not to mention that without such a vast quantity of people participating in the "main" economy, who is buying all the stuff to support the automation that is creating things? I think even those on top would start to fall.

matchewed

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #33 on: September 09, 2014, 08:04:25 AM »
I don't have time to do this comment justice, really, but I wanted to throw it out there.

Imagine what would happen if 80% of humans were out of work because they couldn't compete with the machines.

Short answer:  Since they're locked out of the (formerly) dominant currency, they would make stuff and barter with each other, creating an underground economy, which would shortly adopt a replacement currency in order to be more efficient.  People would grow food, build houses, perform services, etc etc, having no contact with the "real economy" that is now run by robots.

The underground economy might start out with a 1850s standard of living.  But given that all the know-how is freely available on the internet, how long would it take for it to progress to 1950?  2000?  2050?

So in your scenario you've justified part of my worry. It would establish a great divide between the haves (still employable) and the have nots (rendered obsolete via automation). The concern is not necessarily how the economic structures would form but more how government structures would treat class stratification. You'd have a very powerful upper class and a larger in size but less powerful low class. History does not show humans are kind to their low class in many respects...

PloddingInsight

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #34 on: September 09, 2014, 08:15:58 AM »
It's more of a thought experiment illustrating that people will be productive, regardless of what is going on with automation.

In reality, I don't think there would be such a severe separation.  I don't think 80% of people would be out of work.  They would be employed and enjoying a higher standard of living than if they struck out on their own.  Maybe part of the point is that striking out on your own and homesteading is always an option.  The fact that people don't do it shows they have better options available to them by remaining a part of the primary economy.

If that started to change, you'd probably have people reduced to bartering, but bartering with the primary economy more than one another.  Is a mowed lawn worth about the same as a sandwich?  If it is, an out of work person might trade you a mowed lawn for a sandwich.  No matter how cheaply the robots can make sandwiches and mow lawns, if the market values are equivalent, somebody will give a sandwich to the human being who offers to mow their lawn.

Faked you out!  It would be way easier to just mow the lawn for a penny and buy the sandwich for a penny, rather than go through a complicated bartering negotiation, huh?  Which brings us back to exactly my original point:  It doesn't matter how efficient the robots are.  They'll never make human labor less productive absolutely, therefore humans will still be able to trade their labor for the goods they want to buy.

LibrarIan

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #35 on: September 09, 2014, 08:28:15 AM »
Faked you out!  It would be way easier to just mow the lawn for a penny and buy the sandwich for a penny, rather than go through a complicated bartering negotiation, huh?  Which brings us back to exactly my original point:  It doesn't matter how efficient the robots are.  They'll never make human labor less productive absolutely, therefore humans will still be able to trade their labor for the goods they want to buy.

I don't know about you, but my lawn would be mowed by a lawn mowing robot. No need to give any amount of money or food to someone, no matter how willing or capable they are. I think this is crux of the issue. Sure, people are willing and able, but I as a business/resource owner would never bother using them when there's something better.

Travis

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #36 on: September 09, 2014, 08:42:22 AM »
Why would cheaper goods suddenly make a human who needs all the things an employee needs more hire-able than a piece of software or hardware?

Because the human can work for less than it costs to buy & operate the machine.

And then all that human hiring due to cheap objects would increase costs of business, which would lead to humans getting laid off after they're automated again which leads to cheap objects which leads to humans getting hired due to cheap objects which increases the cost of business which leads to humans getting laid off after they're automated again which leads to...

Your ad nauseum statement is exactly what people have been worried about with automation and mass production for nearly 300 years.  We constantly go through cycles of a human skill set being replaced by machines only to come out ahead finding some other productive thing to do.  It's always the end of the world, and this next time it really will be, swear it!  This Armageddon scenario of nothing but robots forgets one variable: an actual economy.  If everything is done by robots and nobody is employed, then who buys the products the robots create?  This nearly 100% unemployment situation isn't sustainable.  If robots overtook all human productivity then the dynamic between needs and exchange would radically change. 

Bakari

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #37 on: September 09, 2014, 08:46:04 AM »

They already have roomba for lawns.  If you can buy a 3D printed solar powered lawn roomba for the price of a sandwich once, and then have mowed lawns for a lifetime, why hire a person who will only do it once for the same cost?
If human labor were just as valuable as robot, why is the average blue-collar wage declining over time as factories replace people with automation?

Robots do definitely generate more wealth, as do all increases in efficiency, but greater efficiency does NOT necessarily benefit everyone.  In fact, that basically came to a full stop a couple decades ago, and technology advances is one of the largest reasons.  The other big one is political.  Under a free market, increases in efficiency are likely to benefit everyone.  But under capitalism, they only benefit investors, at the expense of labor.  US politics have been undermining the free market and supporting capitalism to an ever greater extent in recent years, with the predictable result that median income has flatlined while the top 0.1% has grown exponentially:
http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2014/04/free-market-vs-capitalism-current-state.html

In theory, having robots do almost everything, and having humans do just those few things that robots couldn't possibly do (not sure what those things are, but lets assume there are some), could mean that every human has a 1 hour work week and a 10 years working career, and they earn an inflation adjusted $1000 per hour for the work that they do.  The economy would be able to support it.
But as long as the politics and laws are as they are now, we're more likely to have 97% unemployment, and 3% private security forces.


We actually went over this in the forums a few months ago: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/robots-and-their-impact-on-the-future/

LibrarIan

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #38 on: September 09, 2014, 08:49:54 AM »
Bakari wins.

Bakari

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #39 on: September 09, 2014, 08:51:05 AM »
Your ad nauseum statement is exactly what people have been worried about with automation and mass production for nearly 300 years.  We constantly go through cycles of a human skill set being replaced by machines only to come out ahead finding some other productive thing to do.  It's always the end of the world, and this next time it really will be, swear it!  This Armageddon scenario of nothing but robots forgets one variable: an actual economy. 


For a lot of that time it was balanced by raising standards of living and expanding markets.  There isn't much places left for markets to expand into, and at least for the past half century in America, the standard of living has stopped increasing.


Quote
If everything is done by robots and nobody is employed, then who buys the products the robots create?  This nearly 100% unemployment situation isn't sustainable.  If robots overtook all human productivity then the dynamic between needs and exchange would radically change. 


Exactly!  It isn't sustainable, which is why its a problem that people are worried about.
The dynamic needs to radically change, but the question remains: in what way will it do so?
Do we let current trends lie and wait and see what happens, let change force itself?  That seems to be our strategy for over-population and climate-change.
Or do we think about it and talk about it publically and figure out ways to make the transition as painless and smooth as possible?
We'd have to give up a lot of our core values related to ownership and property and value and labor, and a lot of people would consider that basically as manifestation of evil. 

pom

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #40 on: September 09, 2014, 09:18:47 AM »
I am more in line with PloddingInsight.

I will take food as an easy example. Lets say we have one hundred million robots that can produce, cook and serve the same amount of food that is currently being eaten around the world so that nobody works in the food industry anymore. Who is going to eat it? You can assume that the 1% will eat a disproportionate amount and I will agree with you but at some point they explode won't they?

So how would your new world work regarding food?

PloddingInsight

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #41 on: September 09, 2014, 09:22:42 AM »
They already have roomba for lawns.  If you can buy a 3D printed solar powered lawn roomba for the price of a sandwich once, and then have mowed lawns for a lifetime, why hire a person who will only do it once for the same cost?

I'm not trying to assert that sandwiches will definitely cost the same as a mowed lawn in 2114.

Your objection quoted above is just saying that a sandwich is worth a lot more than a mowed lawn in the robotic future.  It's not clear to me why a self-contained hydroponics system with a built in 3D printer couldn't make sandwiches just as cheaply as the solar powered roomba could mow your lawn.  OK it sounds a bit less plausible to us in 2014, but the actual equivalence was never my point anyway.

Robots do definitely generate more wealth, as do all increases in efficiency, but greater efficiency does NOT necessarily benefit everyone.  In fact, that basically came to a full stop a couple decades ago, and technology advances is one of the largest reasons.

But I'm not claiming that the lower and middle classes will receive a standard of living increase proportional to their numbers.  I'm just saying that all other things being equal, the worst that will happen is that their wages will stay the same.  They won't be thrown into the poor house just because robots are creating a lot of goods very cheaply.  If anything they will be better off.

Under a free market, increases in efficiency are likely to benefit everyone.  But under capitalism, they only benefit investors, at the expense of labor.

Not sure what definitions you are using here.

In theory, having robots do almost everything, and having humans do just those few things that robots couldn't possibly do (not sure what those things are, but lets assume there are some), could mean that every human has a 1 hour work week and a 10 years working career, and they earn an inflation adjusted $1000 per hour for the work that they do.  The economy would be able to support it.

This is an interesting claim.  Aren't you assuming there's no more keeping up with the Joneses?  If the economy ever resembled what you described, most people would spend their $1000 and then spend a lot of their free time doing labor to increase their standard of living in order to show off or attract a mate, or whatever.  They'd either create something for themselves (like doing an addition to convert your house to a McMansion) or find some kind of freelance income to earn money for a nicer car, or nicer vacation, etc.  It doesn't matter that robots could do things more efficiently because once they spend their $1000 for the week, all they have left is their capacity to labor.  So they would labor.  They'd either try to sell their labor to other workers or else create things that they inherently value.  Any way you look at it, you get:

1) lots of robots making cheap things, plus:
2) lots of humans laboring in order to increase their consumption.

Another way to look at it is that 2014 technology could probably provide everyone with an 1850's level of consumption with only an hour or two of work a week.  But people would never just settle for that.  They work more in order to consume more.  It doesn't matter that their most basic needs are already met at very low costs.

LibrarIan

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #42 on: September 09, 2014, 10:08:35 AM »
@PloddingInsight

All that still doesn't address who is hiring these willing individuals to work. I know I wouldn't if my force of robots did everything already.

Alex321

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #43 on: September 09, 2014, 10:49:24 AM »
I think many of you are still missing the point. You're debating with lawnmowing as an example of "Why would someone continue to pay a human to mow his lawn when a robot can do it for less money."  You forget that it wasn't that long ago that even HAVING a lawn was considered an enormous indulgence and display of wealth for only the very richest people. Everyone else was too busy trying to cultivate a subsistence level of produce and meat to worry about tending an acre or two of useless, ornamental grass. But then the gasoline-powered tractor was developed, along with other technologies, and people panicked, just like many of you are now, and wondered what would ever happen to all those agricultural workers now that a tractor can do the work of a dozen or more men. Read Steinbeck, if you don't believe me.

Like I said before, with greater productivity, the need expanded.

And the question about food? Who is going to eat that much food? They'll explode? No, they'll just insist on an increasingly fancy and expensive diet. Otherwise we'd all be eating nothing but potatoes with an occasional turnip or something; certainly not fresh sea scallops shipped overnight halfway around the world.

Need expands in ways that we can't yet imagine. It has ever been thus.

PloddingInsight

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #44 on: September 09, 2014, 11:04:39 AM »
@PloddingInsight

All that still doesn't address who is hiring these willing individuals to work. I know I wouldn't if my force of robots did everything already.

If people are willing to work for as little as it costs to hire a robot to do the same job, then it's not a given that everyone with money to spend will buy robots instead of hiring people.

LibrarIan

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #45 on: September 09, 2014, 11:09:21 AM »
@PloddingInsight

All that still doesn't address who is hiring these willing individuals to work. I know I wouldn't if my force of robots did everything already.

If people are willing to work for as little as it costs to hire a robot to do the same job, then it's not a given that everyone with money to spend will buy robots instead of hiring people.

Maybe, but I sure wouldn't hire someone. My robot that's the same price doesn't sleep, eat, complain, want more, make mistakes or anything else humans do that I don't like.

Alex321

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #46 on: September 09, 2014, 11:24:56 AM »
Librarian - You say that you wouldn't hire a person for a job that a "robot" could do. Does this mean that you never pay to attend live theater or concerts (an HDTV and a Bose Wave Radio are a lot cheaper in the long run)? You don't patronize any bakeries or restaurants for handmade pastries or dinners, since you can get a commoditized version of the same thing from the robots at ConAgra or Kraft and whoever makes Stouffers meals?

You think this sounds ridiculous, and five people are ready to shout "Not the same thing at all, bad example, preservatives, LOCAL!, farm-to-table" and I'll simply respond "Exactly."

Maybe it's subjective evaluation, maybe it's snob appeal, often it's a little bit of both, but new needs always arise. See Water, bottled.

PloddingInsight

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #47 on: September 09, 2014, 11:38:09 AM »
Maybe, but I sure wouldn't hire someone. My robot that's the same price doesn't sleep, eat, complain, want more, make mistakes or anything else humans do that I don't like.

The robot revolution will come with the added benefit that wealthy introverts will find it easier to avoid all human contact.  You have expressed a preference for a product made by a robot over a product made by a human, even if the outcome is the same.  That's fine.  That's your preference.  Meanwhile more typical humans (not me certainly) are overpaying for coffee because somebody put a "fair trade" label on it.  To each his own.

matchewed

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #48 on: September 09, 2014, 11:42:15 AM »
Maybe, but I sure wouldn't hire someone. My robot that's the same price doesn't sleep, eat, complain, want more, make mistakes or anything else humans do that I don't like.

The robot revolution will come with the added benefit that wealthy introverts will find it easier to avoid all human contact.  You have expressed a preference for a product made by a robot over a product made by a human, even if the outcome is the same.  That's fine.  That's your preference.  Meanwhile more typical humans (not me certainly) are overpaying for coffee because somebody put a "fair trade" label on it.  To each his own.

But I think that's where one of the disconnects occurs. You keep saying the outcome is the same. Our point is that it is not. The robot doesn't make mistakes. While there would in theory always be a market for niche items or services made by humans it wouldn't be a large enough share of the greater market to make a difference.

PloddingInsight

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Re: Any thoughts on the "robots displacing human workers" issue?
« Reply #49 on: September 09, 2014, 11:53:25 AM »
But I think that's where one of the disconnects occurs. You keep saying the outcome is the same. Our point is that it is not. The robot doesn't make mistakes. While there would in theory always be a market for niche items or services made by humans it wouldn't be a large enough share of the greater market to make a difference.
I don't think it's likely that consumers will regard robots as hassle-free.  They will break down.  They will have bugs.  They will do exactly what you say but not what you actually had in mind, etc etc.  But even assuming you're correct that robots never make a mistake, why shouldn't humans just occupy the very many industries where the quality of the product can be inspected before the purchase?  (To say nothing of offering a quality guarantee like many companies do today.)

Think of it another way:  if something goes wrong, do you want there to be a human being that you can hold responsible for the error?  Or do you want to have to debug a complex machine that you own yourself?