Automation and Jobs

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SeekingAPolitic...
Automation and Jobs

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    I put up a thread a couple weeks back about manufacturing being sent to cheaper locations.  That is really side show to what automation is doing and the potential job loss through technology advancement.  I looked at this issue for more a decade as I had an earlier experience with automation and job loss.  My experience from my earlier days in the job force has stayed with me to this this day. 

    I spent about six years of my career in computers, network admin, and programming.  In the my first job I had some spare time and I learned a computer language that already dated at that point but it was used in my work place.  So I took some initiative created a program that would save a lot time in the work flow process.  I did not realize at that the time but I had programmed away 2 part times jobs.  One of these individuals was reassigned to a different part of work place and the other was let go.  I truly felt conflicted, somebody loss their job because my efforts but I was damned proud of my achievement. I talked to my boss and he was not exactly helpful.  He told he had probably programmed away 50 jobs through his career and don’t worry about it.  I did a lot of thinking and decided I was going continue on because honestly this was progress in my mind.  I was no master programmer and my initial skill was minimal because I did not really real have any formal training in programming. That was about 15 years ago, programming has been opened to the masses(it has become much easier).  The potential for job loss has increased many fold through programming.   

     When I say the following is not hype, automation will impact every sector in the economy.  Its simple economics.  Imagine a graph with 2 variables 1 is the price of a robot, algorithm, etc which is sloping down representing the price of automation 2 is the price of labour with is going up.  As soon as they cross your job can automated away.  And quite frankly it will because if the capitalist decides not to take advantage of the savings some other capitalist will and drive other out of business.  This is not moral story of a greedy owner. This the story of a capitalist system that has certain incentives that are built in that those that do not seek to maximum returns will perish.

     Maybe this industrial revolution will proceed like others before it.   Maybe more jobs will be created to replace the ones lost.  It happened in history. But people are underestimating the number of jobs that technology will replace.  In the past human labour was replaced animal power and industrial power.  But now automation is going to drive out a large part what the human brain does.  Once we moved from physical labour we could be happy to know that our brains could not be replaced.  But that is coming in our lifetime and it will be most important issue to how we organize our societies in the future.   

      Let me propose a question to rabble readers.  Can capitalism survive a situation where the means of production are concentrated in the hands of those with capital.  And a situation where the average workers wage labour can be substituted cheaply by automation in various forms.  I have included one article that will disrupt labour power in a big way.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/17/self-driving-trucks-i...

 

montrealer58 montrealer58's picture

Self-driving trucks represent an attack on the population who earn their living driving. It could be as high as 1/6 of jobs. 

With all the people thrown out of work by automation, who will be there to buy what the remaining capitalists produce?

Rev Pesky

Nothing wrong with automation. How many deadly dull, or dangerous, jobs can be done by machines that never get tired or bored? What's wrong with a 4 hour work day, or a 3 day work week? Nothing at all that I can see.

The problem isn't in the automation. the problem is in the distribution of the returns.

SeekingAPolitic...

The problem isn't in the automation. the problem is in the distribution of the returns.

 

Totally agree with the with your views of automation.  But "The problem isn't in the automation. the problem is in the distribution of the returns." is a easy to say.  I created this post discuss moving from point A (Now) to point B(a world dominated by automation).  The move from point A to B will be challenging and I don't see how capitialism coexist with point B.  I want to know if rabblers have any ideas on how we will move from A to B.  I have my ideas but i wonder how others see this playing out.   

wage zombie

It is a tricky situation, because as automation substantially lowers the value of labour, there goes our bargaining power.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

Rev Pesky wrote:
The problem isn't in the automation. the problem is in the distribution of the returns.

What is chosen to be automated is also a problem of democracy... and it will never be democratically decided  as long as we live under the current system. Surrendering automation as a subject for the bosses only is wrong-headed for us non-bosses.

eta: the Trotskyist author of an article about The Economist's recent warning about "too much" capitalism noted ...

Quote:
The advent of new, revolutionary technologies only intensifies the drive to corporate profit as companies must operate at even larger scales to be profitable. From the standpoint of capital, war and economic nationalism abroad and repression at home become the only means of preserving and expanding profit.

So, I don' t think it makes sense to be indifferent to the technology of automation and only pay attention to distribution.

WSWS - Economist warns, etc.

 

bekayne

montrealer58 wrote:

Self-driving trucks represent an attack on the population who earn their living driving.

It's an attack on everybody using the same road. What could possibly go wrong?

wage zombie

Humans have set pretty low bars.  Self-driving cars will be demonstrably safer.  And even if someone trusts their own driving over the cars, they'll trust the car's driving over everybody else's.

Self-driving cars don't get tired, don't get intoxicated, don't get emotionally preoccupied.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

And the humans will be freed up to send and receive texts, or update their Facebook status, which it seems like lots of drivers want to do anyway.

Rev Pesky

wage zombie wrote:

Humans have set pretty low bars.  Self-driving cars will be demonstrably safer.  And even if someone trusts their own driving over the cars, they'll trust the car's driving over everybody else's.

Self-driving cars don't get tired, don't get intoxicated, don't get emotionally preoccupied.

I'll just point out that self-driving cars will only work where there are no human driven cars. There's a reason air space is tightly regulated.

Ask yourself this question: Will automated cars, if driving among human operated vehicles, use the rules of the road, or the actual conditions? If they use actual conditions, and are speeding as a result, who will pay the fine when they go through a radar trap?

The problem isn't that automated cars are inherently unsafe. The problem is the human operated vehicles that sometimes do some pretty strange things. 

milo204

There's an interesting talk w Ray Kurzweil (legendary synth maker, google planning guy) where he details that not so far off in the future, thinking and self repairing/replicating computers will be 100% autonomous and will do pretty much every job a person now does. 

It's the TERMINATOR come to life as far as i'm concerned. 

 

Sean in Ottawa

Rev Pesky wrote:

The problem isn't in the automation. the problem is in the distribution of the returns.

This is very much the point and on a couple of levels.

First, the point about it devaluing labour. I understand why this was said bu I disagree. In fact it amplifies labour and increases the value of it. The problem is the political economy has allowed this.

Humans have less work becuase we ahve machines to do much of it. This was predicted a century ago. A the time it was assumed that we would be able to do our work in significantly less time -- the idea of a three day work week was floated as a byproduct of technology.

This woudl mean that people should be able to get a living wage from 21 hours. We don't even pay a living wage as a minimum to those earning 35-40 hours.

The reduced labour requirements, instead of providing a lift for workers giving them more leasure time, it has reduced jobs and inflated profits. It threatens more of the same. Work should have been reduced according to labous savings but instead consumerism has increased for some and unemployment for others.

An answer to technology which makes us more efficient would be a $25/hour minimum wage and a 30 hour maximum work week (overtime thereafter). If you think about this -- we would have greater employment, a healthier economy.

Technology has meant that we have less work but the benefits of this are hoarded by the employers who save from the machines rather than the workers.

If you look at minimum wage once you factor in cost of living it has gone down by about 25% since 1975. Think about that. Consider the whiny companies complaining about their minimum wage labour costs. The consumer idex that sets prices has gone up more than labour. And that labour is more efficient due to better automation and machines.

Set minimum wage at $25/hour and a fulltime workweek standard at 30hours -- $750/ week or $39000 year. Sounds expensive but that money will circulate through the economy.

 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

How do non-capitalist countries divvy up the spoils of automation?

It might be a good selling point for them, if everyone really does work a 20 hour week in those countries, with the rest being "me time".  But is that the case?

SeekingAPolitic...

Sean in Ottawa wrote:

Rev Pesky wrote:

The problem isn't in the automation. the problem is in the distribution of the returns.

This is very much the point and on a couple of levels.

First, the point about it devaluing labour. I understand why this was said bu I disagree. In fact it amplifies labour and increases the value of it. The problem is the political economy has allowed this.

Humans have less work becuase we ahve machines to do much of it. This was predicted a century ago. A the time it was assumed that we would be able to do our work in significantly less time -- the idea of a three day work week was floated as a byproduct of technology.

This woudl mean that people should be able to get a living wage from 21 hours. We don't even pay a living wage as a minimum to those earning 35-40 hours.

The reduced labour requirements, instead of providing a lift for workers giving them more leasure time, it has reduced jobs and inflated profits. It threatens more of the same. Work should have been reduced according to labous savings but instead consumerism has increased for some and unemployment for others.

An answer to technology which makes us more efficient would be a $25/hour minimum wage and a 30 hour maximum work week (overtime thereafter). If you think about this -- we would have greater employment, a healthier economy.

Technology has meant that we have less work but the benefits of this are hoarded by the employers who save from the machines rather than the workers.

If you look at minimum wage once you factor in cost of living it has gone down by about 25% since 1975. Think about that. Consider the whiny companies complaining about their minimum wage labour costs. The consumer idex that sets prices has gone up more than labour. And that labour is more efficient due to better automation and machines.

Set minimum wage at $25/hour and a fulltime workweek standard at 30hours -- $750/ week or $39000 year. Sounds expensive but that money will circulate through the economy.

 

 

I think your proposals go in the right direction, if you want to keep capitialism going then it comes down to one simple idea.

 

"Capital must voluntarily/or statue allow labour to get a greater share of the income for capitialism to survive"

That is a simple statement but the implications are massive.  We are so influenced by USA politics and myths our path will be long one.  I listened to an interesting pod cast with a couple right wingers.  The gentlemen being interviewed was thinking about this idea and he had suggestions as to how we will make this journey.  The reply was by the host was that it sound like socialism but the speaker assured the host that it was still capitalism.  The stuff he was advocating was no longer capitalism, but clear he did not want to mention that it had roots in socialism.  Personaly when I talked to people and just mention the word capitalism people are already thinking I just said something radical.  If people are not even willing to listen to the word, we have long way to go.

I have had liberals, progressives, and conservatives defend capitialism in various forms.  They have all good defences of capitalism but however brillant their arguments were they all missed the glaring problem with their arguments.  We have a political system were an individual gets one vote no matter how poor or rich they are.  I know this naive becasue money can sway voters but the potential for radical change is ever present. And this where all these agruments for capitalism fall apart.  All these smart ideas dont really mention political reaction as a factor.  We are seeings this US and Europe, brexit for example. 

Lets look at the US election with the election of Hillary people think that those pesky individuals that have a problem with the status quo will be some how silenced when she wins.  I want dispell a myth which credits Bernie and Trump as being political gods that some have created a situation were people flock to them.  There is a river of discontent that flows in the US, no organized party wanted to tap because it could endanger the status quo.  So Benrie and Trump had a message to address the these individuals.  The fuel was already their but B/T decided to start the fire.  In canda we are not their yet, but the after the conclusion of the housing bubble people will be looking  for answers and populism  will have its day in Canada too. 

A system that does not produce the goods is doomed tp failure.

 

Rev Pesky

Mr. Magoo wrote:

How do non-capitalist countries divvy up the spoils of automation?

It might be a good selling point for them, if everyone really does work a 20 hour week in those countries, with the rest being "me time".  But is that the case?

What does that have to do with whether automation is good or bad? As I said, the problem isn't automation, it is the distribution of the results. I didn't specify the type of economy.

One of the things that automation does is decrease the price of the finished product. So, to a certain extent, more people have access to that product simply because it's cheaper. So, to the extent it exists, one could consider that part of the distribution of the 'benefit'.

I understand why people are opposed to automation. In this economy, if you lose your job, you're going to have a hard time feeding, clothing, and housing yourself and your family. But that is not the fault of the automation.

 

Sean in Ottawa

Rev Pesky wrote:

Mr. Magoo wrote:

How do non-capitalist countries divvy up the spoils of automation?

It might be a good selling point for them, if everyone really does work a 20 hour week in those countries, with the rest being "me time".  But is that the case?

What does that have to do with whether automation is good or bad? As I said, the problem isn't automation, it is the distribution of the results. I didn't specify the type of economy.

One of the things that automation does is decrease the price of the finished product. So, to a certain extent, more people have access to that product simply because it's cheaper. So, to the extent it exists, one could consider that part of the distribution of the 'benefit'.

I understand why people are opposed to automation. In this economy, if you lose your job, you're going to have a hard time feeding, clothing, and housing yourself and your family. But that is not the fault of the automation.

 

I agree with this and regarding technology in general.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

I was prompted to ask by this:

Quote:
Technology has meant that we have less work but the benefits of this are hoarded by the employers who save from the machines rather than the workers.

 

wage zombie

Rev Pesky wrote:

I understand why people are opposed to automation. In this economy, if you lose your job, you're going to have a hard time feeding, clothing, and housing yourself and your family. But that is not the fault of the automation.

Is there any sizable number of people who are opposed to automation?

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Probably not since the followers of Ned Ludd.

Sadly, "Luddite" has come to mean anyone not rushing to embrace or understand fancy new technologies, but the real Luddites were simply protesting having their livelihoods replaced by automated looms and such.