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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: 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.

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  • (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