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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, @09:30PM

    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.