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When technology automates most of the population out of jobs will many starve and fall in poverty?

 
 
bm1234
 
Reply Fri 2 Dec, 2016 08:39 pm
Many economists say in the next 30 years or so automation will put billions of us out of work and make most of the population unemployed. It's also said that current governments are not equipped or functioning to deal with all these unemployed people. So all I can see....which is giving me extreme panic attacks...is a world where the rich live in a paradise and only a few thousand lower class people get decent lives to aid the rich in few tasks they need. Letting most of us starve and not deal with is the easiest solution and I'm terrified.
 
Kolyo
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Dec, 2016 08:46 pm
If people are smart they will not allow this to happen.

So the question is, are people smart?
bm1234
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Dec, 2016 10:56 pm
@Kolyo,
How are they supposed to stop them?
Kolyo
 
  3  
Reply Fri 2 Dec, 2016 11:11 pm
@bm1234,
With a guaranteed basic income for the armies of the unemployed.

Here's the thing: we aren't headed for a food shortage. We're heading for a world where a million people will be able to easily to feed 8 billion so that everyone can live like a prince.

If we were smart we would just spread the wealth. But we have a 16th century attitude towards work, which says that if you don't work you don't eat.

I've been telling a joke for about 5 years, although it bombs every time.

How many Americans does it take to change a light bulb?

40: one to screw it in, and 39 to sit around starving because the first guy is disgusted with them for not finding a role in the process.
0 Replies
 
Kolyo
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Dec, 2016 11:14 pm
@bm1234,
bm1234 wrote:

How are they supposed to stop them?


Here's what YOU can do now. Save every dime you have.
0 Replies
 
TomTomBinks
 
  3  
Reply Fri 2 Dec, 2016 11:33 pm
@bm1234,
Every technological innovation caused people to lose their jobs. And then new jobs were created by that same innovation.
nimh
 
  3  
Reply Fri 2 Dec, 2016 11:48 pm
@TomTomBinks,
And more and more of those jobs seem to be the economic equivalent of occupational therapy...

http://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/
TomTomBinks
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Dec, 2016 11:58 pm
@nimh,
The link doesn't seem to work.
roger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Dec, 2016 12:02 am
@TomTomBinks,
Sho' nuff don't.
TomTomBinks
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Dec, 2016 12:14 am
@roger,
Prolly some cheese-eaters messin' wid it!
0 Replies
 
Kolyo
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Dec, 2016 12:16 am
@TomTomBinks,
TomTomBinks wrote:

Every technological innovation caused people to lose their jobs. And then new jobs were created by that same innovation.


I closed my eyes on Monday night, but I didn't die, and Tuesday morning I woke up. I've fallen asleep 10,000 times since the moment of my birth, and I haven't died yet. What do you want to bet I never will? Those doom-sayers keep telling me there's this thing called death out there. Scaremongers! I know from experience it will never happen.
0 Replies
 
Kolyo
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Dec, 2016 12:27 am
@nimh,
nimh wrote:

And more and more of those jobs seem to be the economic equivalent of occupational therapy...

http://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/


Here's how technological innovation has "created" many of those bullshit jobs, IMO.
(The link doesn't work for me either.)

The bullshit jobs were always there to be done, but there was no one who would do them for the $7/hr that employers were willing to pay, not when laborers were building cars at $20/hr.

There will always be "jobs" for everyone. But what the low-end jobs are worth to those paying the salaries will continue to fall.

Someone who dog-sits for a living is considerably more expendable than an auto mechanic.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Dec, 2016 01:26 am
Quote:

ON THE PHENOMENON OF BULLSHIT JOBS
August 17, 2013

Ever had the feeling that your job might be made up? That the world would keep on turning if you weren’t doing that thing you do 9-5? Anthropology professor and best selling author David Graeber explored the phenomenon of bullshit jobs for our recent summer issue – everyone who’s employed should read carefully…

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber.

In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that technology would have advanced sufficiently by century’s end that countries like Great Britain or the United States would achieve a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.

Why did Keynes’ promised utopia – still being eagerly awaited in the ‘60s – never materialise? The standard line today is that he didn’t figure in the massive increase in consumerism. Given the choice between less hours and more toys and pleasures, we’ve collectively chosen the latter. This presents a nice morality tale, but even a moment’s reflection shows it can’t really be true. Yes, we have witnessed the creation of an endless variety of new jobs and industries since the ‘20s, but very few have anything to do with the production and distribution of sushi, iPhones, or fancy sneakers.

So what are these new jobs, precisely? A recent report comparing employment in the US between 1910 and 2000 gives us a clear picture (and I note, one pretty much exactly echoed in the UK). Over the course of the last century, the number of workers employed as domestic servants, in industry, and in the farm sector has collapsed dramatically. At the same time, “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers” tripled, growing “from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment.” In other words, productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be).

But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the “service” sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza deliverymen) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.

These are what I propose to call “bullshit jobs.”

It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working. And here, precisely, lies the mystery. In capitalism, this is exactly what is not supposed to happen. Sure, in the old inefficient socialist states like the Soviet Union, where employment was considered both a right and a sacred duty, the system made up as many jobs as they had to (this is why in Soviet department stores it took three clerks to sell a piece of meat). But, of course, this is the very sort of problem market competition is supposed to fix. According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.

While corporations may engage in ruthless downsizing, the layoffs and speed-ups invariably fall on that class of people who are actually making, moving, fixing and maintaining things; through some strange alchemy no one can quite explain, the number of salaried paper-pushers ultimately seems to expand, and more and more employees find themselves, not unlike Soviet workers actually, working 40 or even 50 hour weeks on paper, but effectively working 15 hours just as Keynes predicted, since the rest of their time is spent organising or attending motivational seminars, updating their facebook profiles or downloading TV box-sets.

The answer clearly isn’t economic: it’s moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the ‘60s). And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them.

Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don’t like and are not especially good at. Say they were hired because they were excellent cabinet-makers, and then discover they are expected to spend a great deal of their time frying fish. Neither does the task really need to be done – at least, there’s only a very limited number of fish that need to be fried. Yet somehow, they all become so obsessed with resentment at the thought that some of their co-workers might be spending more time making cabinets, and not doing their fair share of the fish-frying responsibilities, that before long there’s endless piles of useless badly cooked fish piling up all over the workshop and it’s all that anyone really does.

I think this is actually a pretty accurate description of the moral dynamics of our own economy.

*

Now, I realise any such argument is going to run into immediate objections: “who are you to say what jobs are really ‘necessary’? What’s necessary anyway? You’re an anthropology professor, what’s the ‘need’ for that?” (And indeed a lot of tabloid readers would take the existence of my job as the very definition of wasteful social expenditure.) And on one level, this is obviously true. There can be no objective measure of social value.

I would not presume to tell someone who is convinced they are making a meaningful contribution to the world that, really, they are not. But what about those people who are themselves convinced their jobs are meaningless? Not long ago I got back in touch with a school friend who I hadn’t seen since I was 12. I was amazed to discover that in the interim, he had become first a poet, then the front man in an indie rock band. I’d heard some of his songs on the radio having no idea the singer was someone I actually knew. He was obviously brilliant, innovative, and his work had unquestionably brightened and improved the lives of people all over the world. Yet, after a couple of unsuccessful albums, he’d lost his contract, and plagued with debts and a newborn daughter, ended up, as he put it, “taking the default choice of so many directionless folk: law school.” Now he’s a corporate lawyer working in a prominent New York firm. He was the first to admit that his job was utterly meaningless, contributed nothing to the world, and, in his own estimation, should not really exist.

There’s a lot of questions one could ask here, starting with, what does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.) But even more, it shows that most people in these jobs are ultimately aware of it. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a corporate lawyer who didn’t think their job was bullshit. The same goes for almost all the new industries outlined above. There is a whole class of salaried professionals that, should you meet them at parties and admit that you do something that might be considered interesting (an anthropologist, for example), will want to avoid even discussing their line of work entirely. Give them a few drinks, and they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their job really is.

This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well.

Even more perverse, there seems to be a broad sense that this is the way things should be. This is one of the secret strengths of right-wing populism. You can see it when tabloids whip up resentment against tube workers for paralysing London during contract disputes: the very fact that tube workers can paralyse London shows that their work is actually necessary, but this seems to be precisely what annoys people. It’s even clearer in the US, where Republicans have had remarkable success mobilizing resentment against school teachers, or auto workers (and not, significantly, against the school administrators or auto industry managers who actually cause the problems) for their supposedly bloated wages and benefits. It’s as if they are being told “but you get to teach children! Or make cars! You get to have real jobs! And on top of that you have the nerve to also expect middle-class pensions and health care?”

If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the – universally reviled – unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.

David Graeber is a Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics. His most recent book, The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement, is published by Spiegel & Grau.
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Dec, 2016 01:40 am
@nimh,
There was a fairly sensible rebuttal to some of that in a post on The Economist, but the conclusion wasn't really all *that* different:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2013/08/labour-markets-0

Quote:
Labour markets: On "bullshit jobs"

Aug 21st 2013, 12:59 BY R.A.

ANTHROPOLOGIST David Graeber has written an amusing essay on the nature of work in a modern economy, which seems to involve lots of people doing meaningless tasks they hate:

Quote:
In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshalled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.


It is not the case, he writes, that people have to keep working to produce the consumer goods for which the rich world hungers. Outrageously, meaningless employment—in what he calls "bullshit jobs"—is concentrated in “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers”:

Quote:
In other words, productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be).

But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the “service” sector as of the administrative sector...


Why in the world would firms spend extraordinary amounts of money employing people to do worthless tasks (especially when they've shown themselves to be exceedingly good at not employing people to do worthless tasks)? Says Mr Graeber:

Quote:
The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the ‘60s).


I am immediately bursting with questions. Such as, should we conclude that protesters around the world—in Brazil, India, North Africa, Turkey—are in fact too happy? How does the ruling class co-ordinate all this hiring, and if much of the economy's employment is useless in the first place why not just keep them on during recessions?

But there is actually an important point here. The place to start is to recognise that, romance aside, many of the industrial jobs that have been automated away were incredibly tedious and unpleasant for those doing them. The development of assembly line processes contributed to rising worker wages in part because of increased productivity...but also because employers were tired of training workers only to lose them once they realised they'd be affixing Tab A to Frame B, repeatedly, all day long.

Employers had to retain such workers—had to pay them a wage sufficient to keep them on the job despite its dreadful tedium—because the machines of the era lacked the manual dexterity to complete the required tasks, and so a line of human machines was the only way to make the highly productive assembly-line system work. As technology evolved, however, automating routine tasks became ever easier. And the high wages needed to compensate labourers for the soul-crushing repetitiveness of their work gave employers every incentive to automate routine tasks as soon as it was technically feasible.

Perhaps you see where this is going.

As technology has improved, it has become ever easier to dispense with human labour in mechanical processes. There are still jobs where a very high level of physical dexterity and task flexibility is needed—in construction, for example, or janitorial work—and people continue to do those jobs. But it is not surprising that employment growth has shifted elsewhere. And administrative jobs are the modern equivalent of the industrial line worker.

Over the past century the world economy has grown increasingly complex. The goods being provided are more complex; the supply chains used to build them are more complex; the systems to market, sell and distribute them are more complex; the means to finance it all is more complex; and so on. This complexity is what makes us rich. But it is an enormous pain to manage. I'd say that one way to manage it all would be through teams of generalists—craftsman managers who mind the system from the design stage right through to the customer service calls—but there is no way such complexity would be economically workable in that world (just as cheap, ubiquitous automobiles would have been impossible in a world where teams of generalist mechanics produced cars one at a time).

No, the efficient way to do things is to break businesses up into many different kinds of tasks, allowing for a very high level of specialisation. And so you end up with the clerical equivalent of repeatedly affixing Tab A to Frame B: shuffling papers, management of the minutiae of supply chains, and so on. Disaggregation may make it look meaningless, since many workers end up doing things incredibly far removed from the end points of the process; the days when the iron ore goes in one door and the car rolls out the other are over. But the idea is the same.

One question is why today's workers aren't rewarded with high wages for their suffering. And one possible answer is that, well, they are. Real wages for today's clerical workers are far higher than they were for manufacturing workers a century ago, and the work, for all its tedium, probably isn't nearly as unpleasant. Administrative workers get to sit down in climate-controlled offices, tweeting and playing fantasy football on their desktop when time allows. If firms had to pay more to get a body in the deskchair, they would.

Technology continues to improve, however. Just as robots became ever better at various manual tasks over the past century—and were therefore able to replace human labour in a growing array of jobs, beginning with the most routine—computer control systems are able to handle ever more of the work done by human administrative workers. Jobs from truck driver to legal aid to medical diagnostician to customer service technician will soon be threatened by machines. Starting with the most routine tasks. Human labour will not be eliminated entirely from these sectors. Jobs that require a particularly high level of task flexibility, or creativity, or empathy may continue to employ people (for a while). Yet most office jobs will eventually go the way of the dodo.

And at that point advanced economies may find it necessary to address what is really the central complaint in Mr Graeber's essay. The issue is not that jobs used to have meaning and now they don't; most jobs in most periods have undoubtedly been staffed by people who would prefer to be doing something else. The issue is that too little of the recent gains from technological advance and economic growth have gone toward giving people the time and resources to enjoy their lives outside work. Early in the industrial era real wages soared and hours worked declined. In the past generation, by contrast, real wages have grown slowly and workweeks haven't grown shorter.

The development of large-scale technological unemployment or underemployment, however, would force rich societies to revisit a system that primarily allocates purchasing power via earned wages. And that, in turn, could allow households to get by or even thrive while working many fewer hours than is now typically the case—albeit through a pretty hefty level of income redistribution. They would then be free to write poetry or tutor disadvantaged children, though we shouldn't be surprised if most use their new leisure to spend more time with a beloved video game.

We can't be certain that the robots are coming for all our jobs. Disemployment in administrative jobs could create new, and perhaps highly remunerative, work in sectors or occupations we can't yet anticipate. If we're lucky, that work will be engaging and meaningful. Yet there is a decent chance that "bullshit" administrative jobs are merely a halfway house between "bullshit" industrial jobs and no jobs at all. Not because of the conniving of rich interests, but because machines inevitably outmatch humans at handling bullshit without complaining.
0 Replies
 
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Dec, 2016 01:42 am
@nimh,
Excellent article nimble. But I'all have to read it again more carefully in the morning. It's about quarter to two in the morning here, and my brain is at half speed.

I'll be back.
0 Replies
 
saab
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Dec, 2016 05:44 am
Good articles - thanks
0 Replies
 
TomTomBinks
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Dec, 2016 09:28 am
@nimh,
WOW!
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  3  
Reply Sat 3 Dec, 2016 11:23 pm
@TomTomBinks,
There's a potential job right there! Find a solution to make links that doesn't work to work.
Also, even automation needs somebody to make sure it continues to work.
TomTomBinks
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Dec, 2016 11:31 pm
@cicerone imposter,
This is all new to me. I never thought about any of this before and it will take time to research and digest it. Fascinating idea.
0 Replies
 
 

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