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posted by janrinok on Sunday December 21 2014, @07:47PM   Printer-friendly
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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  • (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?

      --
      The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
  • (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