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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: 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.

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    My rights don't end where your fear begins.
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  • (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.