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  #101  
Old 01-25-2013, 11:36 AM
Bill Door Bill Door is offline
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Originally Posted by CutterJohn View Post
I don't think so.

The population stabilizes because a child is a huge burden. Gotta take care of the kid, feed it, cloth it, pay for its school, take time off work when its sick, etc. Its not like when we were on a farm, and that kid was essentially a slave laborer, working without pay.

Kids are a net liability today rather than a bonus.


Now when we're all on the dole because of the robot revolution, the kids are neither a benefit nor a liability, so I'd expect that the average number of births would go up.
Have you even met a child? I mean, I love my children and all, but what a demonstration of marginal utility. I wouldn't sell one of my two kids for a million dollars, but I wouldn't give you a nickel for another one.
  #102  
Old 07-11-2013, 09:28 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Originally Posted by Mijin View Post
If automation were a significant problem, why has unemployment continued to bounce around the 5% mark for the last century despite huge industrialization of engineering?
I'm not sure past results are a good predictor of future performance, here. Have you seen this graph?
  #103  
Old 07-11-2013, 09:47 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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I found this comment on a blog post and thought it was very insightful:

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We’re already heading towards a far greater proportion of the population in rich countries living off of state-supported pensions, as part of the aging of our population. Assuming that the Demographic Transition hitting Mexico and the rest of Latin American continues, then in 30-40 years time we could have a far smaller segment of the population actually working, since far more people will be old and retired (and I don’t think the political support will be there to drastically cut Social Security, for example).
That would be an odd economy. You’d have some highly productive, possibly low-employment sectors that heavily utilize automation and other machinery. They would generate some knock-on employment from people selling services to the remaining workers for those companies, but more importantly they’d serve as an important source of tax revenue to fuel Social Security. That large body of old people would then be a source of demand and employment for health care-related services, and those people would in term generate additional employment from the services and goods they use, and so forth.
As I stated in my reply, it may be that the looming mass of Boomers receiving old-age entitlements will save us economically rather than doom us as is so often stated or implied. Maybe what will end up happening is that instead of raising the retirement age, it will slowly be lowered!
  #104  
Old 07-11-2013, 11:25 AM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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Originally Posted by Mijin View Post
One misconception that people have is that automating a job has the net effect of decreasing available jobs by 1.

In fact, employment is basically unlimited. As long as anyone's life is not perfect, there is a job for a human to do. Automating a process makes us more efficient at that process and frees human labour to do one of the jobs that machines can't currently do.

The reason that there are any unemployed is due to a number of factors such as people not being trained in areas that the economy needs, market failures in matching people to roles, and a proportion of the population being unemployable due to general or mental health issues (and yes other factors, but I think those are the main 3).

If automation were a significant problem, why has unemployment continued to bounce around the 5% mark for the last century despite huge industrialization of engineering?

Finally, just to finish out the rant, the scenario of a few rich people making machines while the rest of us live destitute makes no sense at all, economically speaking. If no-one can afford what the machines make then much of the economy would tick on as it currently does.
The reality is that many people's lives have already been made materially better by this kind of industrialization and will continue to be. (Though of course it may well be the case that income disparity may increase, particularly in low-tax countries).
Your whole post is a just-so story. The crash of 2008 proves that the people at the top have no self-control where amassing wealth is concerned. And human history shows that the people at the top have no concern about the people at the bottom. These factors, combined with our computer-assisted ability to automate just about everything, points to a potentially dire outcome for practically all of us. It's democratic socialism or death for us all, baby.
  #105  
Old 07-11-2013, 12:04 PM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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Originally Posted by Evil Captor View Post
Your whole post is a just-so story.
I disagree, I think it had plenty of tangible information including the cite showing that, despite a long-term trend of automation, long-term employment levels have remained the same.

Quote:
The crash of 2008 proves that the people at the top have no self-control where amassing wealth is concerned. And human history shows that the people at the top have no concern about the people at the bottom. These factors, combined with our computer-assisted ability to automate just about everything, points to a potentially dire outcome for practically all of us. It's democratic socialism or death for us all, baby.
I'm typing this right now from within China. The credit crunch may be all we can think about in the West, but a far more significant story has been an incredible rise out of poverty: the last 2 decades have seen more people pulled out of poverty than ever before, and China has been at the forefront of that.

I'm old enough to remember a time when chinese manufacturing was only ever mentioned in pitying tones; that it was all about the west exploiting the east. Nobody talks like that now. And how did china do it? Largely by retreating from socialism, and moving towards free-market principles, "baby".

The talk nowadays is of the chinese "stealing" western jobs, and "exploiting" Africa, all based on a similar ignorance of economics. There is no finite number of jobs in the world, nor finite amount of money.

Last edited by Mijin; 07-11-2013 at 12:06 PM.
  #106  
Old 07-12-2013, 06:00 AM
blindboyard blindboyard is offline
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Originally Posted by Mijin View Post
I disagree, I think it had plenty of tangible information including the cite showing that, despite a long-term trend of automation, long-term employment levels have remained the same.
UNemployment levels. People are kept out of those figures by other means. Ever more people go to university, and amass debt with not much to show for it. Ever more people go to prison. Every more people live on pensions and other hand-outs. All those people are unemployed, but they're not "unemployed" and don't show up as such on statistics.
  #107  
Old 07-12-2013, 06:25 AM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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Originally Posted by blindboyard View Post
UNemployment levels. People are kept out of those figures by other means. Ever more people go to university, and amass debt with not much to show for it. Ever more people go to prison. Every more people live on pensions and other hand-outs. All those people are unemployed, but they're not "unemployed" and don't show up as such on statistics.
Before I respond, I want to make sure we're on the same page:

Are you saying that; due largely to automation, real unemployment has increased significantly, but official figures hide this (deliberately or otherwise), by not including pensioners, students etc in the unemployment figures? And by "real" unemployment we mean people who want to work, but cannot get a job.

Is that your position?
  #108  
Old 03-20-2014, 08:16 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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We're getting closer:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechcons...-to-the-future

And on the debate just upthread about whether "long term employment levels" have remained constant, a look at this graph shows a clear downward trend over the past few years. Note too that most of that decline has taken place after the Great Recession was over, and during a period in which the unemployment rate has itself been falling.
  #109  
Old 03-20-2014, 09:18 AM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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Google is seeing the future, and that it is better to be the one who builds the robots rather than be the one who is displaced by the robots.

Look, long term, robots may lead to a future in which human beings are freed from having to labor to earn a living, perhaps resulting in an explosion of creativity and human happiness. But I worry about the transitional phase, especially in a world where most of the wealth is concentrated in the hands of powerful oligarchies that don't give a shit about the rest of society. Only well-grounded social democracies are likely to make that transition with minimal human suffering. And "well-grounded social democracy" is NOT a term I would use to describe the U.S. right now.
  #110  
Old 03-20-2014, 10:02 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Originally Posted by Evil Captor View Post
Google is seeing the future, and that it is better to be the one who builds the robots rather than be the one who is displaced by the robots.
Yet ultimately it should become relatively worthless to be the company that builds the robots as well. Being the 22nd century's best quarterback, or winning the 137th season of The Voice, will likely be more lucrative (to the extent that wealth is important by then--which, as I said upthread, will mostly revolve around who gets to live in the best locations and eat at the best restaurants, get good seats for the hottest ticket on Broadway, etc.).

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Only well-grounded social democracies are likely to make that transition with minimal human suffering. And "well-grounded social democracy" is NOT a term I would use to describe the U.S. right now.
Oh, I hear ya. That's the basis of the uncertainty expressed in the last two paragraphs of my OP. But I am cautiously optimistic, as I think we are headed in the right direction politically. Gerrymandering and the tenacity of old white voters in off-year elections is keeping the Tea Party crowd in the mix for now. But they are so very much against the tide. Where is the wave of replacement voters ready to sweep in to buttress their movement twenty years from now? I don't see Millennials and Latinos voting the Koch brothers' way, no matter how much money they throw at the political system.

There was a backlash against Great Society "welfare liberalism" in the '70s and '80s to be sure. But that was before there was sufficient automation to pad the safety net and really allow for an economic system in which a large percentage of the population can be out of the labour force without really impinging on the hard-working "silent majority". There will of course continue to be people who will get hopping mad and insist that this is just what is happening; but as long as the overall standard of living keeps going up for the average person, those who wave their copies of The Fountainhead and bellyache about "makers vs. takers" are not going to carry the day. And as the automation process continues apace, they will look sillier and sillier, until they sound first like gold bugs, then just come across as quaint curiosities like the Amish.
  #111  
Old 03-20-2014, 12:02 PM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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Originally Posted by SlackerInc View Post
And on the debate just upthread about whether "long term employment levels" have remained constant, a look at this graph shows a clear downward trend over the past few years. Note too that most of that decline has taken place after the Great Recession was over, and during a period in which the unemployment rate has itself been falling.
First of all this graph shows a small decline over a much smaller timeframe than the graph I previously linked -- an order of magnitude smaller.
And in fact I didn't go back far enough as most estimates of US unemployment from 1850 to 1900 also show it bouncing around the 6% mark, like the 20th century. If automation puts people out of jobs, period, how could there have been such mechanization in that time, and no enduring change to unemployment levels?

Secondly, on this distinction between unemployment and employment levels -- the latter figure is much more misleading. Just because someone is in education does not mean they cannot get a job, for example. I myself, at the age of 30, used my own savings to study for a year and retrain in another industry, though I could have continued in my current job, which I hated.
If increases in higher education is a smokescreen for increasing poverty levels then...we should also see stats of increasing poverty levels. We don't.
  #112  
Old 03-20-2014, 12:16 PM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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I think we may be talking past each other here. I'm not saying, like the Luddites, "oh noes, all this mechanisation is destroying jobs and leaving the poor workers desperate to find jobs but unable to do so". No no, not at all. I would fully expect that unemployment rate to stay pretty steady, even as the labour force participation rate continues to drop, down into the 50s, 40s, and who knows how far down. At the same time, the safety net will be increased, the overall wealth of society will rise, standards of living will go up even for all those people not in the workforce.

IOW people will be perfectly content not to be in the labour force and will not tell government surveyers that they are "unemployed", nor will they beat the pavement looking for work or send out their CVs. (I can imagine a lot of them doing some little craft or the occasional odd job to call themselves "self employed" for social reasons, without earning significant income from their "businesses".) This state of affairs will cause a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of "bootstrap" conservatives, but everyone else will just go on with their lives and ignore them.

BTW, if you look at statistics for male participation in the labour force, the trend is more stark as it is not hidden by the increase in female participation in the wake of the women's movement.

Last edited by SlackerInc; 03-20-2014 at 12:19 PM. Reason: typo
  #113  
Old 04-26-2014, 09:49 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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In the past couple days I have come across two news stories that are uncannily resonant with this discussion. Someone in this thread posted a link to an online story or novel that was not terribly well written in a literary sense, but which had some very interesting futurism notions in it. The most innovative, and seemingly unique, element was that it predicted the "rise of the robots" would not initially happen with robots at all--but with software that would tell humans how to do their jobs down to a ultra-micromanaging level.

This first story from NPR, about how UPS electronically monitors everything from the amount of distance a driver backs up, to how long it takes them to unlock a door, and a zillion other little elements of their work, is eerily reminiscent of that scenario:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/...ers-every-move

Another issue we have been discussing is what happens when things that were formerly scarce become essentially free, or at least very cheap and plentiful. This New York Times piece about the future of diamonds and Picasso paintings in an era of increasingly sophisticated 3-D printers comes to a similar conclusion as I have: that real estate in an attractive location will be the status symbols of the future, to a much greater extent even than now.

Last edited by SlackerInc; 04-26-2014 at 09:50 AM. Reason: Typo
  #114  
Old 04-26-2014, 11:31 AM
Wesley Clark Wesley Clark is offline
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Originally Posted by SlackerInc View Post
Let's leave aside for the moment all the dystopian visions of doom from an automated future (The Machine Stops, The Terminator, The Matrix, etc.), not because they couldn't happen but because I have another question in mind.

When we look around us and see ATMs, Roombas, GPS operated farm combines, iPhone's Siri, etc., it's not so hard to imagine that if we were to jump forward a few more decades or a century, we could find ourselves in a time where the vast majority of drudge work (from janitorial services, to construction and agriculture, to cooking and waiting tables at a restaurant, to manufacturing everything including the manufacturing robots themselves) is done by "robots". Not C-3PO or R2D2, but computer-guided machinery of one sort or another. Perhaps there will be a few humans needed to guide things (almost like George Jetson, pushing buttons), plus of course artistic and creative vocations like political punditry or ballet; but the stuff that maintains people's basic Maslow hierarchy needs (shelter, food, etc.) will be taken care of without human labour, as will additional layers of luxury.

Further, this level of automation should mean that no one is wretchedly poor, that everyone will be able to live in at least reasonable comfort without having to "work for a living". Right? Again, maybe those who do "extra" could have additional reward for doing so, but if robots can do all the stuff I described, and assuming population is under reasonable control, no one should want for the basics.

So here's my question: what does the transition to this state of affairs look like? Before we get to the point where people say "duh, this is obviously stupid to make people work for paychecks and pay for everything", it strikes me that capitalist tech entrepeneurs will try to enrich themselves by taking over sectors of the economy that used to require human labour. After all, when washers and dryers and dishwashers were invented, they weren't just passed out to families with a benevolent wish that housewives liberate themselves from drudgery. They were (and are) sold at a profit, just like those automatic GPS-driven farm combines.

So when the janitorial robots become cheaper than hiring people, janitors and hotel housekeepers will be thrown out of work. Same thing for taxi drivers when automated cars are perfected. And so on and so forth. At what point then, and in what way, does it cross a rubicon from creating mass unemployment (which is bad) to obviating the need for employment at drudgery (which is good)? Will the robot-making companies find themselves increasingly with fewer and fewer customers because no one will have a job? Will governments just take over, Tea Partiers be damned? Or will it somehow happen organically without great turmoil? I can see the end result, but that transition is a muddle. Whaddaya think?
I haven't read the entire thread, but the idea that robots will only take over menial jobs is a fallacy. Robots are becoming better and better at cognition, reading, comprehension, language, etc. Robots will be vastly superior to humans at skilled tasks like art, medicine, law, etc. in a few decades. There is pretty much nothing a human can do that a robot won't be able to do better within our lifetime (or if not in that timeframe, probably within the century). That includes things like interpreting emotions, being a good listener, being a physician, creating art (or determining what art you'd enjoy) etc. Robots will not only be smarter than us, they will have better social and artistic skills.

Bill Joy was right when he said the future doesn't need us.

http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.html

The idea of robots doing the menial work while we humans do the artistic, touchy feely and intellectual work is never going to happen. The robots will be vastly superior to those things too.

The Watson machine from IBM is rapidly becoming an expert clinician.

http://www.businessinsider.com/ibms-...e-world-2014-4

As far as a post scarcity society, a major problem with that is that we may run out of natural resources before we can achieve that. That will take some adjusting to. There is also the fact that the robots will be earned by the capital class, and unless there is mass redistribution of wealth nobody will have the money (since jobs will be eliminated) to buy the products.

Here is a book worth reading.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Lights-Tun.../dp/1448659817

It talks about a period of upset when mass unemployment and concentrated capital causes social unrest. He prescribes a mandatory wage redistribution for everyone.
  #115  
Old 04-26-2014, 03:40 PM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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I own and have read that book. I strongly suggest though that you read through the thread and then weigh in. There's a lot of great stuff in those three pages.
  #116  
Old 04-28-2014, 04:16 PM
Kinthalis Kinthalis is offline
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Could this be why no alien civilizations have stopped by to say hello?

It's not so much that the problem of interstellar travel is intractable, but rather that all other civilizations eventually become too fat and lazy to be arsed?
  #117  
Old 04-28-2014, 04:25 PM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Ha, like in Wall-E? I like it.
  #118  
Old 04-28-2014, 05:19 PM
TheSeaOtter TheSeaOtter is offline
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Originally Posted by Kinthalis View Post
Could this be why no alien civilizations have stopped by to say hello?

It's not so much that the problem of interstellar travel is intractable, but rather that all other civilizations eventually become too fat and lazy to be arsed?
I dunno, I think at the very least we'd set the robots to the task of exploring the universe, too. They're actually much better suited to it than we are in some ways - they don't mind G-forces, are less susceptible to radiation, don't need food or air, and they don't get bored during journeys between stars.
  #119  
Old 07-12-2014, 09:31 PM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Today my wife called tech support because our Internet was acting up. Throughout the entire call, she never spoke to a live human, but she did interact with a kind of rudimentary AI, who was convincing enough that although my wife knew it was a computer (Turing test!), still referred to with third person female pronouns when describing it to me. This 'bot asked some questions (when my wife replied that yes, there were lights illuminated on the modem, the 'bot responded "Hmmm..." before going on to the next step), tested the connection, and gave directions to my wife on what steps to take. Then "she" tested the connection again, and found that "her" advice had worked, asked my wife if she needed help with anything else, and then wished her a nice day. Pretty much the same as tech support from that company has done in the past, except that those people are now out of a job.
  #120  
Old 07-12-2014, 09:37 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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They're definitely getting better! I was fooled, just a couple days ago, by a cold caller who was a robot, not a man. He even engaged in the "Hello?" "Hello?" "Hello?" dance that happens these days with a poor initial connection. Finally he asked something cogent, like, "Are you interested in furthering your education." I was silent for a while, trying to think of a polite way to say no, and he took my silence as definitive...and hung up.

Artificial discourtesy!
  #121  
Old 07-14-2014, 05:23 AM
Onyerbike Onyerbike is offline
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Onward, to glory.

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Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek
It's not technology that's holding us back at this point.

There needs to be some sort of drastic social change for anything like the above to happen.
Bolding for the most succinct and well typed statement made by anyone, ever. More and more this kind of irony will grate on the masses who see and use employment beating technology every day.

Is it possible we are in the transitional phase already?
  #122  
Old 07-14-2014, 06:18 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Originally Posted by Onyerbike View Post
Is it possible we are in the transitional phase already?
I guess it depends on how you define it; but when you see the size of the labour force shrink like it has the past few years, combined with increased corporate profits and the kind of automation I described just upthread (automating even a "knowledge worker" type job, in IT/customer service), I don't see how one can avoid the conclusion that at the least, we are in a transitional phase, whether or not it is the transitional phase.
  #123  
Old 07-14-2014, 07:44 AM
Onyerbike Onyerbike is offline
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Yeah that was probably a better way of putting it. A transition, not the. Currently it feels like we have invented the ashphalt part, now we need to turn that into highways. I must say though if 15 years ago somebody gave me (somehow) a working Siri circa 2014 I would have grovelled at the feet of the robot gods then and there. Maybe.

The painful thing is it will be hard for people to let go of the old wisdom that more jobs = more prosperity, even when it becomes obvious on paper that it is no longer so.
  #124  
Old 07-14-2014, 08:23 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Ain't that the truth.

And yeah, Siri kicks ass, but in a few years will look embarrassingly crude.

That was something (one of the many things) I really loved about the movie Her (very mild spoilers follow). The Siri-type OS he interacts with at the beginning of the movie is very smooth, definitely much more so than Siri. But then later when he gets the "OS1" that is marketed as the "world's first truly intelligent OS", she lets him know he got an email from someone and out of habit, he says "Read email" like he used to say to his old OS (or "play melancholy song", etc.). She, slightly miffed, mocks him by responding in an exaggerated "robotic" voice, "OK-I-will-read-email-now", and he apologises and switches to "what's it say?".
  #125  
Old 07-14-2014, 10:46 AM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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Originally Posted by SlackerInc View Post
I guess it depends on how you define it; but when you see the size of the labour force shrink like it has the past few years, combined with increased corporate profits and the kind of automation I described just upthread (automating even a "knowledge worker" type job, in IT/customer service), I don't see how one can avoid the conclusion that at the least, we are in a transitional phase, whether or not it is the transitional phase.
Rest assured, my friends. Libertarians and conservatives will just point to the Industrial Revolution, when the human race went from being 90 percent agrarian workers to less than ten percent agrarian workers, but said workers were able to find new jobs in the cities running the new machines.

They seem to have forgotten ENTIRELY about the huge social disruptions and human misery that were involved. Many workers were paid wages so low they literally starved to death while employed -- because that's the free market for ya! This looks to be much worse, because as robots and computer intelligences become more sophisticated, the RANGE of jobs they can do will increase. So even if new jobs are created, robots and computers will be able to do THEM better as well. That was not an issue in the Industrial Revolution. Our conservative and libertarian friends seem to have entirely overlooked this trifling little difference. Because they don't want to see it.
  #126  
Old 07-14-2014, 10:48 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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And fundamentally they have internalised the Protestant work ethic, and believe you are just not a decent, worthwhile human being if you aren't working hard.
  #127  
Old 07-15-2014, 04:08 AM
Onyerbike Onyerbike is offline
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That is a thing that will need to fall by the wayside if we are ever to advance beyond the current era. I notice a brother of mine, who is a fair bit older (creeping up on his 40's) and who very much has internalized that ethic, even if he is not protestant. Six days a week, 10 hours minimum with plenty of overtime. What time he has spare he uses to excise whatever healthy male aggression is left over - lifting weights or cycling etc. And he wonders why he cannot keep a lady partner around for very long. Its a specific complaint more than a few of his lady friends have had, that he works too hard or is never around. It always ends the same way.

In my own generation, though, I can see the cracks appearing in this kind of thinking. It is not so much "work harder" as it is "work smarter". People are slowly realising that humans have obligations to themselves not fulfilled by employment. A bit of time to stop and smell the roses kinda thing, I guess.
  #128  
Old 07-15-2014, 06:02 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Yeah, the millennials really do seem to have brought a much better perspective, though it leads the older generations to gripe about them even more than the average "kids today" talk.
  #129  
Old 07-15-2014, 01:36 PM
callander callander is offline
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Hello All

a lot going on on this thread and not sure where to start and as i am dyslexic i will work my way backwards. You bring up automated cars and the like. For certain of the world military which may already enjoys this, saving lives currently and people with mobility issues ( that can afford it) I think that will be a serious upgrade in the state of the human condition in the future.

I do ask myself though with regards to the general public when they have full access to this tech who will be liable, in the car accident?
  #130  
Old 07-16-2014, 05:08 AM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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For certain of the world military which may already enjoys this, saving lives currently and people with mobility issues ( that can afford it) I think that will be a serious upgrade in the state of the human condition in the future.
Yep. I love driving, but even I think there's a great advantage in being able to use my journey time to read, or watch TV or whatever. And the drive home while intoxicated is the "killer app".

Quote:
I do ask myself though with regards to the general public when they have full access to this tech who will be liable, in the car accident?
Yeah, this is widely acknowledged as one of the biggest hurdles to this technology catching on. I'm sure it will be a pain in the ass while manual and automated cars routinely share the same roads and different countries / states are bound to have a different take on things.

But, since an automated car has to gather a hell of a lot of data anyway, they should trivially have "black box" functionality. Meaning, in the event of a collision they have stored data on exactly what the car did and why, videos of the road (or at least, stored sensor data that you can reconstruct into a video later), data on the car's current state etc.
It should be possible to work out who or what was at fault. That will certainly help simplify the legal issues.

ETA: Welcome to the Dope!

Last edited by Mijin; 07-16-2014 at 05:11 AM.
  #131  
Old 07-16-2014, 11:29 AM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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I do ask myself though with regards to the general public when they have full access to this tech who will be liable, in the car accident?
Liability in car accidents will become a MUCH less important issue because car accidents will become much, much rarer. There will be no drunk drivers. There will be no drivers who are in dire need of sleep. There will be no road rage. This may be the most important benefit of driverless cars.
  #132  
Old 07-16-2014, 02:05 PM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Yeah, I would expect fatalities especially to drop to the level we see in air travel, if not lower. When they do happen it will most likely be from some kind of equipment failure rather than "driver error".
  #133  
Old 07-17-2014, 12:39 AM
callander callander is offline
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Hi Mijin,

Thanks for the welcome, much appreciated. Seems like there are a few interesting characters here, hope to enjoy myself and be less ignorant, sounds doable.

You and several others have made some astute observations and comments.

The black box would be an interesting aspect.

I understood the OP to be asking about transition, which I think we have been in for a while now. I suppose I think that how we introduce and implement legislation is a factor.

I don't think that economic models and principals will be changing any time soon.
  #134  
Old 07-17-2014, 12:50 AM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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Originally Posted by callander View Post
I understood the OP to be asking about transition, which I think we have been in for a while now. I suppose I think that how we introduce and implement legislation is a factor.

I don't think that economic models and principals will be changing any time soon.
I don't either, I think the economic models and cultural attitudes, especially among the wealthy and powerful, will lag considerably behind the need for them to change, resulting in much unnecessary human misery.
  #135  
Old 07-17-2014, 01:14 AM
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Hi Evil Captor,

pleasure to meet you.

Interesting comment about the reduction in accidents. I was going with door number 2, that initially car accidents would increase, as the roads will have to accomadate both humans and the AC. Some people are unpredictable and aggressive, and may not realize the other car is automated
  #136  
Old 08-09-2014, 06:08 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Pew has produced an extensive report on this subject after interviewing a number of experts. They are divided nearly equally on whether the automation/AI revolution will or will not eliminate more jobs than it creates by 2025. (I think their time frame is a bit short, as at least one of their experts noted.) One of the interesting points there is how little automation is talked about in terms of people choosing what job field to enter, and the example of X-ray technician is given as a field that was once solidly needed and well-paying, but is likely to go the way of the linotype operator.

Interesting responses to this Pew report in:
Slate
NYT
The Atlantic

Tangentially: in the process of reading these, I found an interesting tweet from Elon Musk:

Quote:
Hope we're not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable
I think it's probable too, but somehow I expect that digital superintelligence to be kind and gentle, like that shown in the excellent movie Her. I don't see anything to fear there, except I suppose a little dent in our pride. But very few of us get to be Nobel Prize winners as is, or titans of industry. So we are already used to being the hoi polloi while the bigshots run things.
  #137  
Old 08-09-2014, 02:05 PM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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The Pew report was interesting, in that almost half of those interviewed thought that automation was gong to be an overall hindrance to human employment, and hence, the human economy. Especially in light of a very perceptive comment by one of the readers of the Atlantic article in the cite: "An important point to keep in mind is the people surveyed have a strong incentive to place technological progress in a positive light. Their own living depends on it."

So half of the people in technology related industries think that automation is going to be a major problem for, if not destroy, the US economy, even though thinking so is not in their own best interests.

I'd say the handwriting is on the wall, folks. We need a new paradigm for how we distribute wealth, and we need it badly. And the conservatives/libertarians who are the majority among the One Percenters are not going to find any such paradigms attractive, because the old paradigms sure have worked for them.

Last edited by Evil Captor; 08-09-2014 at 02:08 PM.
  #138  
Old 08-09-2014, 05:06 PM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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The Pew report was interesting, in that almost half of those interviewed thought that automation was gong to be an overall hindrance to human employment, and hence, the human economy.
Your "hence" doesn't follow. Saying that something may increase unemployment is not the same thing as saying the economy will suffer.

Indeed, it's difficult to conceive of a scenario where automation could harm an economy; if a robot's productivity is lower than a human's, why use it?

As I've said upthread though, just because a machine puts someone out of doing some job, doesn't mean the net result is the number of jobs goes down by one. If that were the case, unemployment would have reached 100% long ago.
  #139  
Old 08-09-2014, 06:11 PM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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I would say you both made logical leaps that are unwarranted. True, that "hence" is not necessarily right--it really depends on what policymakers do, as one of the experts noted in the Pew report. But I was taken aback by this statement:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mijin View Post
Indeed, it's difficult to conceive of a scenario where automation could harm an economy; if a robot's productivity is lower than a human's, why use it?
You seem to be asserting that the only relevant measure of the health of an economy is total productivity, regardless of how capital is distributed. I understand that not everyone sees the economy in as Keynesian a way as I do; but this seems so far the other way to be incredibly radical and completely unsupportable.

I understand you are arguing in a subsequent paragraph that employment will not drop significantly in tandem with automation (although I do wonder how you explain the continued decreases we have seen in a workforce participation). But I am really taking issue specifically with the part I quoted, in which you seem to say that it doesn't matter even if there is mass unemployment. I think it could lead to a healthy economy, if there is enough government intervention to assure a guaranteed minimum income for everyone. But to say that as long as per capita GDP goes up, the economy is healthy regardless of whether such interventionary steps are taken...I just don't understand how you can defend such a position.
  #140  
Old 08-09-2014, 06:27 PM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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Your "hence" doesn't follow. Saying that something may increase unemployment is not the same thing as saying the economy will suffer.
Well, good point. For the One Percenters the economy has been going gangbusters throughout the 2000s, even after that little hiccough we call The Great Recession. Even for the average guy, it's been ... The Great Recession. I personally long for the day when there's no relationship at all between the economy and unemployment, because that will almost certainly mean we're living n post-scarcity society. I suspect we are halfway there already ... only 60 percent of Americans work. But I don't think the lot of the bulk of the 40 percent who don't work is all that peachy-keen.

Quote:
Indeed, it's difficult to conceive of a scenario where automation could harm an economy; if a robot's productivity is lower than a human's, why use it?
So, you're assuming that when a human laborer is replaced by a robot, the wealth the robot creates will go to the laborer? Interesting notion! Tell me more!

Quote:
As I've said upthread though, just because a machine puts someone out of doing some job, doesn't mean the net result is the number of jobs goes down by one. If that were the case, unemployment would have reached 100% long ago.
Ah, I think I see what you're driving at. You're one of those who think that the threat posed by robotic and intelligent system automation is no different than any other kind of technological displacement. If that is your line of reasoning, I think you are wrong. The thing that makes intelligent systems and robots different is that, as they become more advanced and widespread, the RANGE of jobs they can do will increase. It's true that machinery took out more and more jobs as the Industrial Revolution took hold, but they never had human cognition, or anything like it. They typically couldn't be programmed to do multiple tasks. But just as soon as the robotics people manage to get expert system that can mimic the human ability to see things and manipulate them the way humans do, virtually every job in the labor area and many in the service sector are gonna go bye-bye.

Now many who are not alarmed by this prospect say that humans will develop new jobs to make up for it. But it's always very pie in the sky optimism, just a dumb assumption that because this has occurred in the past that it will occur in the future, even though there are very specific reasons why it won't, as I've stated. So if you want me to buy into your assumption, maybe you can fill in some details, eh? Are we all gonna be doing crafts on Etsy.com or what?

Last edited by Evil Captor; 08-09-2014 at 06:28 PM.
  #141  
Old 08-09-2014, 06:58 PM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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If you believe at all in demand-side economics (and again, I really have trouble understanding how anyone could not), then this is a potential threat at least in the medium-term for the 1% as well. If the number of consumers who can buy their products drops significantly, they are going to have a problem. I say medium-term, because in the long term, automation may get so advanced that as described upthread, as long as they have access to the sun and basic raw materials, the owners of the means of production may be able to construct themselves an arbitrarily cushy lifestyle without need of consumers.

But it's very difficult to imagine that they will use that ability to make themselves oases of confort while the masses starve and riot. At that point, it seems very likely that either governments will open factories of their own to provide for the people, or the technology may be so cheap and ubiquitous that everyone can have a little factory in their home (which also constructs their home).

So it's in the near and medium term where things could go a lot of different ways, depending, again, on who holds sway in the policymaking world. Captor, I think you are right on to see threats to blue-collar and service sector jobs; but I think you failed to note the potential for AI to encroach into white collar areas traditionally thought of as part of the "knowledge sector". I mentioned upthread how jobs like x-ray technician are becoming obsolete; that can apply even to further up the educational foodchain, where law clerks and even some types of attorneys may become unneeded. (Trial lawyers will probably hold on for quite a long time.) These adjustments may be the most painful and disruptive in some ways, as they will affect people who invested more time and educational debt into getting where they are--and the loss of their pride of place in the upper middle-class may be harder to accept than for service workers to adjust to the elimination of their McJobs.

I'm sure glad my wife, who just entered the working world three years ago, is a second grade special ed teacher. I think that job will remain pretty steadily needed to be filled by humans for the foreseeable future. (One of the links I posted recently stated that women's jobs like nursing, social work, and teaching will be less threatened by automation. Thus we could see a continued acceleration of the "End of Men" phenomenon.)

Last edited by SlackerInc; 08-09-2014 at 07:00 PM. Reason: Typo
  #142  
Old 08-09-2014, 09:45 PM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Still perusing various nooks and crannies of the Pew report. This is a point we would do well to keep in mind:

Quote:
David Clark, a senior research scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, noted that AI is already a part of daily life for many users: “AI methods and techniques are already part of the ordinary landscape. The problem with the term ‘AI’ is that it is constantly redefined to describe things we don’t yet know how to do well with computers. Things like speech recognition (like Siri), image recognition (face recognition in consumer cameras), and the like used to be hard AI problems.
Similarly, it's quite possible this could happen with jobs. Someone frozen now and thawed in a couple hundred years might find some of the "jobs" and "careers" of that time completely ludicrous, esoteric make-work.
  #143  
Old 08-10-2014, 01:12 AM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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Originally Posted by SlackerInc
You seem to be asserting that the only relevant measure of the health of an economy is total productivity, regardless of how capital is distributed.
It was just a slip actually. I meant something like it's hard to see how automation could negatively affect economic growth. Of course I agree that the distribution of wealth is very important too.

Quote:
(although I do wonder how you explain the continued decreases we have seen in a workforce participation)
We've gone through this earlier in the thread, but I don't think "workforce participation" is such a useful measure here because there are lots of reasons for a person not working for a while, some bad some good.
Sticking with unemployment figures, and taking the US as an example, they've wobbled around the same mark for a century, indeed estimates for 1850-1900 also show a similar unemployment rate, despite the vast changes that have happened in that time.
  #144  
Old 08-10-2014, 01:18 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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It was just a slip actually. I meant something like it's hard to see how automation could negatively affect economic growth. Of course I agree that the distribution of wealth is very important too.
Okay, good.

I hate to say the unemployment rate is misleading, because it's something Republicans are always saying, but it kind of is. We could get to a point where only ten percent of the population is in the workforce, and still have the same unemployment rate if people keep dropping out of the workforce and don't really try to get back in. If we get a guaranteed minimum income, as I and some others are advocating, you can guarantee the unemployment rate will drop substantially.
  #145  
Old 08-10-2014, 01:32 AM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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Originally Posted by Evil Captor View Post
Well, good point. For the One Percenters the economy has been going gangbusters throughout the 2000s, even after that little hiccough we call The Great Recession. Even for the average guy, it's been ... The Great Recession. I personally long for the day when there's no relationship at all between the economy and unemployment, because that will almost certainly mean we're living n post-scarcity society. I suspect we are halfway there already ... only 60 percent of Americans work. But I don't think the lot of the bulk of the 40 percent who don't work is all that peachy-keen.
Well it depends on government policy. Several developed countries already have a de facto living allowance, where you can claim unemployment benefits indefinitely. I recall at least one country (Netherlands?) that did want to go the whole hog and call it a living allowance but eventually retreated due to political fallout.

But one thing is clear; a scenario where most people are out of work and can't afford at least the standard of living we have today doesn't make sense.

Imagine we're all in tattered rags because we have no job and can't afford (robot-made) clothes. Well then how about I learn to make shoes and you learn to make shirts and we trade with each other? IOW the fewer people that can afford what robots produce, the less disruptive they will be to the existing economy.
  #146  
Old 08-10-2014, 01:42 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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Your point is well taken, but I do think it's fair to point out that the indigent (in the industrialized world) are more helpless in many ways than the poor people of bygone eras.
  #147  
Old 08-10-2014, 02:15 AM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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If we get a guaranteed minimum income, as I and some others are advocating, you can guarantee the unemployment rate will drop substantially.
...which would be a good thing, and that just shows another reason why workforce participation is misleading.

Quote:
Your point is well taken, but I do think it's fair to point out that the indigent (in the industrialized world) are more helpless in many ways than the poor people of bygone eras.
I have to call cite on that one.

My impression is that for most societies, for most of history, if you were born into a poor family you'd almost certainly be poor yourself, having spent your formative years working instead of receiving an education.

And if we're talking all of the industrialized world, well, much of the industrialized world actually has pretty good social mobility. You can't look at america and assume everywhere is like that.

Last edited by Mijin; 08-10-2014 at 02:15 AM.
  #148  
Old 08-10-2014, 03:53 AM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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I have to call cite on that one.

My impression is that for most societies, for most of history, if you were born into a poor family you'd almost certainly be poor yourself, having spent your formative years working instead of receiving an education.

And if we're talking all of the industrialized world, well, much of the industrialized world actually has pretty good social mobility. You can't look at america and assume everywhere is like that.
But I'm not primarily talking about social mobility. I was responding to the idea that if indigent people were shut out of the economy, with no social safety net, they could make clothes and shoes and trade them to each other. My impression (and I'm not sure I can provide the kind of cite you want) is that desperately poor people 75 or 100 years ago were more resourceful about making do with very little. In the countryside, they might gather or grow food, or go hunting for rabbits or squirrels. They could build at least a shack, and gather firewood to stay warm. In the city, they might collect scrap metal or rags and sell them. In either place, the women could make or mend the family's clothes.

Conservatives will read this and think that sounds like the good old days. I don't agree at all. I'm glad for the advances in social safety nets that allow people not to live a desperate, hardscrabble, hand to mouth existence. But it seems to me that there's no denying that in the industrialized world, everyone's softer in terms of basic survival skills--including hedge fund managers. When that is combined with a lack of marketable job skills, and you live in a world where a long gap on your resume is fatal to your employment chances, that makes the people on the bottom rung pretty helpless.
  #149  
Old 08-10-2014, 06:52 AM
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I realize the question of whether modern-day poor people are "helpless" is pretty tangential to the topic of this thread, so I started a new thread on that topic.
  #150  
Old 08-10-2014, 10:54 PM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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Originally Posted by Mijin View Post
Well it depends on government policy. Several developed countries already have a de facto living allowance, where you can claim unemployment benefits indefinitely. I recall at least one country (Netherlands?) that did want to go the whole hog and call it a living allowance but eventually retreated due to political fallout.

But one thing is clear; a scenario where most people are out of work and can't afford at least the standard of living we have today doesn't make sense.
I agree, it does not make sense, but can any observer of our current political and social climate argue that we are making sense, or moving in any direction but toward the nonsensical? And my fear is the the conservative and libertarian ideologies which are very popular among the One Percent could easily lead to massive human tragedies. The power of the wealthy is in the ascendancy to such an extent that many people would say America is becoming a democracy in name only, ruled in fact by wealthy corporate oligarchs. Libertarian and conservative principles of independence and self-reliance are all very fine, but when 90 percent or more of the populace is unemployable/unnecessary in a fully automated world, things are going to get nasty fast under such principles.

Quote:
Imagine we're all in tattered rags because we have no job and can't afford (robot-made) clothes. Well then how about I learn to make shoes and you learn to make shirts and we trade with each other? IOW the fewer people that can afford what robots produce, the less disruptive they will be to the existing economy.
This does not look like a positive outcome to me. The bulk of the US population reduced to subsistence farming and handcrafting in a world where the wealthy own all the land and almost all of the goods? I agree that people will help each other if they can't get work, but I suspect there will be a lot or rioting and fighting going on before we all turn into post-scarcity Ma and Pa Waltons.
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