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posted by janrinok on Sunday December 21 2014, @07:47PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the robbie-the-robot-is-winning dept.

Claire Cain Miller writes at the NYT that economists long argued that, just as buggy-makers gave way to car factories, technology used to create as many jobs as it destroyed. But now there is deep uncertainty about whether the pattern will continue, as two trends are interacting. First, artificial intelligence has become vastly more sophisticated in a short time, with machines now able to learn, not just follow programmed instructions, and to respond to human language and movement. At the same time, the American work force has gained skills at a slower rate than in the past — and at a slower rate than in many other countries. Self-driving vehicles are an example of the crosscurrents. Autonomous cars could put truck and taxi drivers out of work — or they could enable drivers to be more productive during the time they used to spend driving, which could earn them more money. But for the happier outcome to happen, the drivers would need the skills to do new types of jobs.

When the University of Chicago asked a panel of leading economists about automation, 76 percent agreed that it had not historically decreased employment. But when asked about the more recent past, they were less sanguine. About 33 percent said technology was a central reason that median wages had been stagnant over the past decade, 20 percent said it was not and 29 percent were unsure. Perhaps the most worrisome development is how poorly the job market is already functioning for many workers. More than 16 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960s; 30 percent of women in this age group are not working, up from 25 percent in the late 1990s. For those who are working, wage growth has been weak, while corporate profits have surged. “We’re going to enter a world in which there’s more wealth and less need to work,” says Erik Brynjolfsson. “That should be good news. But if we just put it on autopilot, there’s no guarantee this will work out.”

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The Vanishing American Male Worker 142 comments

Binyamin Appelbaum writes at the NYT that the share of prime-age men — those 25 to 54 years old — who are not working has more than tripled since the late 1960s, to 16 percent as many men have decided that low-wage work will not improve their lives, in part because deep changes in American society have made it easier for them to live without working. These changes include the availability of federal disability benefits; the decline of marriage, which means fewer men provide for children; and the rise of the Internet, which has reduced the isolation of unemployment. Technology has made unemployment less lonely says Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University, who argues that the Internet allows men to entertain themselves and find friends and sexual partners at a much lower cost than did previous generations. Perhaps most important, it has become harder for men to find higher-paying jobs as foreign competition and technological advances have eliminated many of the jobs open to high school graduates. The trend was pushed to new heights by the last recession, with 20 percent of prime-age men not working in 2009 before partly receding. But the recovery is unlikely to be complete. "Like turtles flipped onto their backs, many people who stop working struggle to get back on their feet," writes Appelbaum. "Some people take years to return to the work force, and others never do "

A study published in October by scholars at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies estimated that 37 percent of the decline in male employment since 1979 can be explained by this retreat from marriage and fatherhood (PDF). “When the legal, entry-level economy isn’t providing a wage that allows someone a convincing and realistic option to become an adult — to go out and get married and form a household — it demoralizes them and shunts them into illegal economies,” says Philippe Bourgois, an anthropologist who has studied the lives of young men in urban areas. “It’s not a choice that has made them happy. They would much rather be adults in a respectful job that pays them and promises them benefits.”

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  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Sunday December 21 2014, @08:09PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 21 2014, @08:09PM (#128108)

    technology used to create as many jobs as it destroyed

    Was that ever really believed or was it just propaganda / political speech material? It just sounds so unlikely.

    Maybe its a coastie thing. I think it would be hard for anyone in, perhaps, Detroit, born after WWII to believe anything like that based on evidence. On the other hand in coastie land like silicon valley or NYC they never had mfgr jobs anyway so peculiar beliefs wouldn't be challenged...

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @08:44PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @08:44PM (#128117)

      NYC was actually a manufacturing powerhouse for the US at one time.

      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Sunday December 21 2014, @09:03PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 21 2014, @09:03PM (#128120)

        Truth, AC, but for the past half century or so its mostly trust fund babies and financial criminals, and their extensive (expensive?) support structure. So that's why I put in the date qualifier.

        NYC is old so its been everything at one time or another. It was old when most cities in the country were first settled... I've visited for HOPE conferences at the hotel penn and its a very interesting city for a short period of time, but I was also extremely happy to leave and return home. Its almost exactly like downtown Chicago but somewhat lower standard of living due to everything being more expensive / smaller / not as good / overcrowded.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @09:06PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @09:06PM (#128121)

      Jobs is not the purpose of having an economy, aggregate output is. And income inequality is not a technological problem it's a social one partly created by corrupt government (ie: the same type of corruption responsible for 95+ year copy protection lengths and public domain theft through retroactive extensions).

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by VLM on Sunday December 21 2014, @09:31PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 21 2014, @09:31PM (#128130)

        Historically, AC, countries that don't prioritize jobs over output, end up with a "workers of the world unite" moment or "let them eat cake" moment or "krystalnacht moment" and then priorities are rapidly realigned. Not necessarily dramatically improved for everyone, of course, because the former leadership tends to misplace their heads, and historically most revolutions eat their young.

        There is some truth to the argument that massive income inequality is "normal". After all, technological skill is highly unequal, skills in general are highly specialized. Surely psychopathic greed would naturally tend to accumulate all the money, without any .gov intervention one way or the other. Athletic skill is "naturally" highly unequal. In fact I'm having trouble thinking of a skill or ability that tends to be physically equal across humanity that's useful or exchangeable in a marketplace, other than uneducated manual grunt labor. Maybe being cannon fodder although that probably fits under grunt labor category. Although I'm not disagreeing with AC that the current .gov is insanely corrupt or that the corruption is screwing up the overall economy.

        Fundamentally, you have an economy that only has space for, say, 10 active players and 90 associate players, in a 400 person game , no matter how "great" the management metric numbers can be gamed for the 10 active players, there's gonna be massive unrest sooner or later. You got 300 players kicked out of the game and 90 who don't get much say, it sucks but the game board is gonna get flipped or someones gonna ragequit and then the 10 who are still in the game are going to pretend to be all WTF and confused.

        • (Score: 2) by mhajicek on Monday December 22 2014, @02:20AM

          by mhajicek (51) on Monday December 22 2014, @02:20AM (#128204)

          That brings something to mind. Historically, if you had no salable abilities or were socially unfit (criminal history) you could turn to the military as an employer of last resort. You had a decent chance of dying if there were a war on, but you also had a decent chance of not dying and could at least send some money home to the wife and kids. Now days the military is much pickier about their soldiers and even the job title of "canon fodder" is being automated. Where will those otherwise unemployable people go, and what will they do?

      • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Sunday December 21 2014, @10:06PM

        Income inequality is not a social problem, it is justice.

        --
        My rights don't end where your fear begins.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @10:15PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @10:15PM (#128141)

          There's nothing wrong with a little income inequality, but a lot of income inequality is not optimal.

          • (Score: 1, Offtopic) by The Mighty Buzzard on Sunday December 21 2014, @10:30PM

            Almost a fair point except it's never been shown to harm anything. The belief that it is wrong is purely envy-driven. Now if you want to talk about corruption that's another thing entirely but simply making absurd amounts of money harms nobody except possibly a business paying you those absurd amounts.

            --
            My rights don't end where your fear begins.
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @11:00PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @11:00PM (#128148)

              > Almost a fair point except it's never been shown to harm anything.

              Argument from ignorance. Knowing you, debate is pointless, but Piketty knows a fuckton more about economics than you and he's got a lot of data to back up his opinions. The best you've got is ignorance and mood affiliation.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @01:29AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @01:29AM (#128191)

              The belief that it is wrong is purely envy-driven. Now if you want to talk about corruption that's another thing entirely

              That is even less insightful than saying, "Jumping off a building is completely safe, but if you want to talk about hitting the ground, that's another thing entirely."

              • (Score: 1) by The Mighty Buzzard on Monday December 22 2014, @02:43AM

                No. Income inequality has nothing to do with corruption. It is quite possible to get extremely wealthy while treating your customers, employees, and shareholders well. That you don't acknowledge this possibility is down entirely to your sad, false, and narrow view of the world and how things work.

                --
                My rights don't end where your fear begins.
                • (Score: 2) by sjames on Monday December 22 2014, @05:40AM

                  by sjames (2882) on Monday December 22 2014, @05:40AM (#128235) Journal

                  It is also possible for a coin at rest on the table to suddenly hop into the air and land balanced on it's edge. We don't discuss that often because in practice it doesn't happen.

                  • (Score: 1, Troll) by The Mighty Buzzard on Monday December 22 2014, @12:47PM

                    See, that right there tells me you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Get out in the world and see what actually goes on instead of listening to what your pinko, commie friends tell each other in their little echo chamber. The world is a big place and it is not entirely, or even mostly, populated by assholes.

                    --
                    My rights don't end where your fear begins.
                    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @10:47PM

                      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @10:47PM (#128512)

                      Commie pinko echo chamber?

                      Well, if you're ever going to admit that your views are ideological rather than rational, I guess that's going to be it.

                      For instance,

                      The world is a big place and it is not entirely, or even mostly, populated by assholes.

                      My last 7 employers have engaged in wage theft, and these range from shelf-stacking to news media and IT. The latest refuses to pay for public holidays, as mandated by the law, and has threatened to fire me if I do anything about it. They pay minimum wage, not because there are a lot of people with my skills (6 years in the field that has a little over two dozen similarly skilled employees in my city of 120,000) but because that's the minimum they could get away with - and we have forced unpaid overtime every day. There's a list of about a dozen employment crimes these guys commit on a weekly basis, including unpaid meal breaks not to be taken, and formal warnings for taking 10 minute breaks. They pay me less than unemployment. When I earn more than than unemployment, it's because the CEO forgot to dock me a few hours wages simply because it suits him.

                      Then there was my last employer, who had me working for less than minimum wage by mandating 10-20 hours of overtime every week, plus 5 hours every third Saturday. Unpaid meal breaks were worked through. You'd be asked questions about various things ("Know any software that can print to PDF?") and if you answered truthfully you were screamed at for costing the business a sale. Job sheets were fudged, with extra hours of labor added, prepaid items (ink cartridges, small computer components) were sold to other customers (that's theft as they were owned by someone else).

                      The employer before that had us stacking unrestrained boxes up to the ceiling (in breach of fire safety laws). We labelled these with our names, so if they fell and injured someone they would know who did it and blame them. The labels also served as a way to keep us from going to the authorities, because they would hold us responsible for them being stacked illegally and fine us directly, but if we didn't stack them that way, we would be dismissed. Include in this the time that two of us had to get a 30kg box from the floor to the top of an 8 foot tall shelf. I injured myself on that, and they denied that it happened because if the admitted it, they were liable for large fines.

                      This is par for the course. Unemployment is slightly higher here than elsewhere, and the extreme right wing government we have decided that, if you're getting any kind of governmental assistance, any job is better than no job so you agree to take the job.

                      This gives the employers immense power - they can offer any conditions and terms they like, because if you refuse to take the job or get fired, you get no assistance. It's damned hard to live on nothing for a few months, when you get paid so little that you need government assistance to get by.

                      That's the world you claim doesn't exist.

                      That's the world the majority of us live in.

                      • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Monday December 22 2014, @11:03PM

                        That's the world you claim doesn't exist.

                        I never claimed there weren't assholes, just that they are not the majority.

                        That's the world the majority of us live in.

                        No, it's not. You just refuse to acknowledge anything that contradicts your chosen narrative.

                        --
                        My rights don't end where your fear begins.
            • (Score: 1) by Synonymous Homonym on Monday December 22 2014, @10:30AM

              by Synonymous Homonym (4857) on Monday December 22 2014, @10:30AM (#128267) Homepage

              Almost a fair point except it's never been shown to harm anything. The belief that it is wrong is purely envy-driven.

              There is no shame in being rich per se, and there is nothing wrong with being justly rewarded for one's work.

              This is not what the income inequality discussed here is about.
              It is about the majority of people not being able to justly reward you for your work.
              And that does harm the hardest workers most.

              Now show me your envy.

              • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Monday December 22 2014, @12:41PM

                Still envy, just wearing a pair of Groucho glasses. There is no percentage or ratio that is "just", there is only what you are worth to your employer or customers. Now if there were no choice between employers like there is too often no choice between suppliers (monopolies are bad, m'kay) this might be a legitimate issue. Fact of the matter is though there are such a wide range of jobs with different rates of pay that taking a job for shit pay is entirely on you. Alternatively you can always do like I did and create your own job out of nothing but seeing a need and deciding to get paid, well, for filling it.

                --
                My rights don't end where your fear begins.
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @07:17PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @07:17PM (#128432)

              At the extreme, bad enough poverty leads to revolutions. See the Arab Spring for a recent example. One of the major causes was rising food prices. If the inequality is so extreme that there's a lot of people at the bottom who can't afford food, then you get violence.

        • (Score: 1) by zugedneb on Sunday December 21 2014, @10:16PM

          by zugedneb (4556) on Sunday December 21 2014, @10:16PM (#128142)

          and justice is applied applied philosophy - there are many variants =)

          --
          old saying: "a troll is a window into the soul of humanity" + also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Ajax
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @10:53PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @10:53PM (#128147)

      > I think it would be hard for anyone in, perhaps, Detroit, born after WWII to believe anything like that based on evidence.

      My impression is that the rust belt is due to job exporting, not job obsolescence.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @09:30PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21 2014, @09:30PM (#128129)

    Just imagine of the Chinese, Indian etc workers as the first wave of robots. They didn't create that many jobs for the US lower end workers.

    And Foxconn are planning to replacing more and more of their Chinese workers with robots.

    So what will the Chinese do? Remember a software developer outsourced his own job to a Chinese _company_ for less than 20% of his salary AND was considered the best developer in the building: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/01/16/169528579/outsourced-employee-sends-own-job-to-china-surfs-web [npr.org]

    Robots might create more jobs, but those jobs will not be for expensive US workers.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by VLM on Sunday December 21 2014, @10:02PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 21 2014, @10:02PM (#128137)

      So what will the Chinese do?

      They'll outsource to Africa. Not even kidding, serious. Big geopolitical move for China to expand into Africa. If the last century was the American century, and the turn of the century era was the Asian decades, this century is going to be the African century plus or minus CIA controlled political unrest, ebola, stuff like that. Economic growth would lead to some more political stability. And the Asians don't have quite the cultural imperial memories that they'd have if white euros tried to expand into Africa. So its practically a forgone conclusion. On the other hand, look how "successful" (note the quotes) the white euros were at imperializing Africa.... If our best minds failed for decades/centuries, do they realistically have any better chance?

      Tons of resource, tons of people, reasonable short shipping distances, tons of easily manipulable young people, hungry for any economic activity..

      It'll be interesting to see what happens politically and culturally when China "goes Japan" and enters its 2-3 decade long recession.

      Heck it will be interesting to see what happens to Japan, are they ever getting out of their decades long great depression? Never? Ever?

      • (Score: 1) by tftp on Sunday December 21 2014, @11:03PM

        by tftp (806) on Sunday December 21 2014, @11:03PM (#128149) Homepage

        On the other hand, look how "successful" (note the quotes) the white euros were at imperializing Africa.... If our best minds failed for decades/centuries, do they realistically have any better chance?

        White Europeans never tried to replace Africans with their own kind. China can do that. Just as an example: Mozambique is a 35th largest country, but its population is only 24 million. Namibia is a 34th largest country, but its population is a mere two million.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @10:38AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @10:38AM (#128271)

          White Europeans never tried to replace Africans with their own kind.

          Didn't they?

          • (Score: 1) by tftp on Monday December 22 2014, @08:08PM

            by tftp (806) on Monday December 22 2014, @08:08PM (#128450) Homepage

            Didn't they?

            There were attempts made to transplant a few European people, like in South Africa and Rhodesia. However the newcomers did not replace the locals with themselves. Locals were still around, and that resulted in revolts that ended up with what we have today.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Sunday December 21 2014, @09:42PM

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Sunday December 21 2014, @09:42PM (#128131) Homepage Journal

    That the US all by itself has a shortage of 500,000 tech workers right now, with a shortage of 1,000,000 by 2020.

    I don't believe it.

    However I do believe that hiring managers have trouble finding the staff that they need. I just don't believe it's due to a shortage; rather I feel it is due to the prevalance of "staffing firms" that require a hefty commission for, uh, "placing" a candidate. The "going rate" is 30% of a perm employee's first-year salary, payable after they've been on the job for three months, or 30% of the hourly pay of a contractor, due every time a payroll is issued.

    It can be a great deal more: someone reported on alt.computer.consultants.moderated that he billed his agency $30.00 per hour in the late nineties, whereas his agency billed their client for his work at $90.00!

    In return for their, uh, "service", as found by a recent study, recruiters "read" the average engineer's resume for but SIX SECONDS! Consider that a regular manager - not a recruiter - will "read" a resume for thirty seconds. So at a cost of thirty grand or so, you can hire a headhunter to put in one-fifth the effort you would.

    My contribution to fixing that problem is:

    • Local Jobs, Local Candidates: The Global Computer Employer Index [warplife.com]

      My site links to each employer's own job board. That is, I don't list any currently-open positions, rather the companies I link to, list their own open positions.

      Not every company will currently be hiring. Apply anyway, as most open positions are never advertised; rather they hire from the pile of resumes they already have on-hand when a position opens up.

      While I've been focussing on the US, that's only because that's where I know how to find the jobs. I have many, many companies in other countries that I'll be adding soon, also lots more remote work. I take specific requests; if you're looking for work, let me know where you want to work and I'll find some potential employers there.

      If you'd like me to list your company, please email your company's homepage URL to mdcrawford@gmail.com [mailto]

      THERE IS NO CHARGE FOR THIS SERVICE, NOR WILL THERE EVER BE.

  • (Score: 1) by Buck Feta on Monday December 22 2014, @12:44AM

    by Buck Feta (958) on Monday December 22 2014, @12:44AM (#128180) Journal

    There will continue to be more "robots" and the jobs they can do will be more complicated as the years pass. Thus it will be important to figure out something for people to do all day long. That can be something productive and wonderful, or something trite and useless. Either way we'll have to adapt to change, because it's unlikely to reverse itself.

    --
    - fractious political commentary goes here -
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @06:52AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @06:52AM (#128240)

    (armed) revolution appear to be likely possible outcomes to this socioeconomic dilemma.

    The OCCUPY [wikipedia.org] movements proved that the 99%ers at the bottom of the socioeconomic foodchain are ...as mad as hell, and [they're] not going to take [it] anymore! [wikipedia.org]

    The race to the bottom is coming to an end on this planet and the 'end game' WILL LIKELY NOT BE PRETTY due to the greed and corruption of the 1%ers at the top of the socioeconomic foodchain/pyramid.... :P

    • (Score: 2) by emg on Monday December 22 2014, @08:58PM

      by emg (3464) on Monday December 22 2014, @08:58PM (#128473)

      The Occupy movement proved it's easy to get a few smelly hippies to make trouble.

      But we already knew that.

      Back in the real world, it's not the 1% who've made out like bandits thanks to government bailouts and cheap credit, it's the 0.01% at the very top, who control who gets the government jobs that funnel money to them.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @08:51AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @08:51AM (#128256)

    Because previously, if you could swing a hammer, you could do so against a new material. Now however, you need to "up skill" if you want to stay valuable...

  • (Score: 1) by WillAdams on Monday December 22 2014, @01:40PM

    by WillAdams (1424) on Monday December 22 2014, @01:40PM (#128310)

    Marshall Brain's "Manna", freely available online:

    http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm [marshallbrain.com]

    Wages as a share of GDP has been on the decline since 1972 --- the problem is, while everyone wants to be paid well for their work and resources, everyone also wants their 401K to perform well, and we're not doing a good job of managing non-renewables or renewables (10 calories of petro chemical energy for every 1 calorie of food energy from modern industrial farming practices).

    Unfortunately, economists seem to be disconnected from the real world: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/04/economist-meets-physicist/ [ucsd.edu]

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @10:00PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22 2014, @10:00PM (#128498)

    ...and wrote it down in her (infamous) book

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCUM_Manifesto [wikipedia.org]

    I've read through some of it in an online copy I found and came across this:

    Money, Marriage and Prostitution, Work and Prevention of an Automated Society: There is no human reason for money or for anyone to work more than two or three hours a week at the very most. All non-creative jobs (practically all jobs now being done) could have been automated long ago, and in a moneyless society everyone can have as much of the best of everything as she wants. But there are non-human, male reasons for wanting to maintain the money system:

    [...]

    5. Provide the male with a goal. Incapable of enjoying the moment, the male needs something to look forward to, and money provides him with an eternal, never-ending goal: Just think of what you could do with 80 trillion dollars -- invest it! And in three years time you'd have 300 trillion dollars!!!

    -- The S.C.U.M. Manifesto http://www.womynkind.org/scum.htm [womynkind.org]

    I have no idea if she made the 80 trillion dollars number up but it is 'close enough' to the 85 trillion dollar global GDP in 2012 cited at

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_world_product [wikipedia.org]

    at the time of this post

    The 'automated, moneyless society' she mentioned reminded me of this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Venus_Project [wikipedia.org]

    But businesses today REALLY want this:

    http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm [marshallbrain.com]

    in order to cut labor costs to the bone and boost profits to their shareholders.

    ...Then in 1968, Valerie shot Andy Warhol and Mario_Amaya -- 'missing' Warhol's manager Fred Hughes when her gun jammed and died years later in 1988 but she secured a spot for herself in history for good or for ill....

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Warhol [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Amaya [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerie_Solanas [wikipedia.org]