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Thread: AI threat to jobs

  1. #1
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    AI threat to jobs

    You read all kinds of articles on automation and AI replacing the workforce. I just wonder, if more and more AI is used to replace the bluecollar and whitecollar workforce, we are losing jobs, more and more people are out of work, then who is left to buy the products being manufactured?

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    There's plenty of jobs that either can't be automated, or would be too expensive to automate. The buying public at present is still pretty well populated. Cheap labor in developing nations is still the major economic driver for western job loss. I won't get into details because it'll turn into politics; But people still do the jobs, just different people, in places where they get paid less.
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    And usually when something comes along that replaces manual labor, that in itself becomes an industry that provides jobs. When machines started to do work done by people, for creating those machines you need engineers, factory workers, assemblers, software engineers, operators etc.
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    yes there will be huge swathes of people on the dole....maybe the products will be cheap enough to buy on the dole.

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    Many years ago, when I was a chemical plant operator, we started up a new unit that had electronic instrumentation instead of pneumatic. (I said "many years.") We joked that one day the electronic instruments would be able to run the unit and we wouldn't be necessary. One fellow said we were wrong, we'd always be necessary. "Who do you think would be sweeping up the control room?"
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    I see the reduction of the need for human labor as ultimately a good thing in the end. It might temporarily look like a bad thing if we don't adjust fast enough, but the actual source of the problem won't be the automation itself; it will be the incompatibility between that and the pre-automation policies we failed to change.

    Less need to be at work means more free time for anything else, which makes people happier & healthier. But what about the "less money" part? There is already evidence that we could reduce the hours worked per week and the weeks worked per year without affecting productivity, which means we could still make the same money per week/year. As machines gradually take over more and more of our work, we would just need to gradually keep tuning downward the standard amount of work that people are expected to do in a given amount of time. Instead of some people working too much and others not at all, we could have everybody working just a little bit less, and then still a little bit less, and then still a little bit less. Whether the end result is no work at all or just some amount we would find amazingly small today, there's no shortage of money in the system to pay people with because the machines are keeping up the same level of productivity as before anyway; we'd essentially be paying humans for work done by machines because machines don't need money. We already have political & economic theories & movements based on the idea of letting people have money even if they don't work, or additional money on top of what they get from working. Just crank those ideas up as more and more of the work is getting done without us anyway, and we'll all be living like... people in the present who already don't need to work either.

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    This has already happened. A few centuries ago, in many countries, employment in agriculture was more than 80%, or even more than 90%, of the population. Now, due to mechanisation and other efficiency improvements, agricultural employment is less than 5% in many countries. As a result, well over 90% of the population is now unemployed, the small percentage of people still working in agriculture can't sell their products, since no one can afford them, and standards of living are vastly lower than they were in 1700.

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    I used to know a dubious character who worked in a boiler room (illegal call center). His job was to direct marks to the correct area and he was paid by number of calls transferred, not quality. I am pretty sure his job is now automated.

    One of the interesting things about this guy was that he felt he felt that he was taking advantage of/ripping off the boss by directing calls so fast, accuracy was not even a consideration. If a call was directed wrong, they would come back to him and he'd get paid again. That was his intention anyway.
    Last edited by Solfe; 2016-Jul-29 at 03:30 PM.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raursch View Post
    This has already happened. A few centuries ago, in many countries, employment in agriculture was more than 80%, or even more than 90%, of the population. Now, due to mechanisation and other efficiency improvements, agricultural employment is less than 5% in many countries. As a result, well over 90% of the population is now unemployed, the small percentage of people still working in agriculture can't sell their products, since no one can afford them, and standards of living are vastly lower than they were in 1700.
    If this is true, they're some seriously stupid people. Why don't they just go back to how they used to do things?

    I call bull.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    If this is true, they're some seriously stupid people.
    Not at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    Why don't they just go back to how they used to do things?
    Because even though it is collectively optimal to do so, it is not optimal for any individual farmer to be less efficient and increase their costs. Each individual farmer would bear 100% of the cost of their own decrease in efficiency, but the overall benefit would be spread out over everyone.

    This is the same reason cartels are so hard to maintain. Overall, the cartel members are better off if they maintain discipline, but individually, each participant has an incentive to cheat.

    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    I call bull.
    So you think modern societies are actually better off than subsistence farming societies in which humans tilled the soil with their own muscle, or using animals? People will believe anything, won't they.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raursch View Post
    Because even though it is collectively optimal to do so, it is not optimal for any individual farmer to be less efficient and increase their costs. Each individual farmer would bear 100% of the cost of their own decrease in efficiency, but the overall benefit would be spread out over everyone.
    Why don't the "90% unemployed" that can't afford to buy their food from the struggling industrial farmers go back to manual farming? They'd have enough to eat, and they'd be employed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Raursch View Post
    So you think modern societies are actually better off than subsistence farming societies in which humans tilled the soil with their own muscle, or using animals?
    Sure.

    How often do you hear about people starving to death from famines in places that have mechanized agriculture?

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    Leg, meet puller.
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    When driverless trucks get here--look out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Leg, meet puller.
    Poe's law, man, Poe's law.

    I stopped being able to reliably tell the difference between legitimate flakes and jokers on the internet years ago. Reality's not much better lately; it's getting more absurd than The Onion at times.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    You read all kinds of articles on automation and AI replacing the workforce. I just wonder, if more and more AI is used to replace the bluecollar and whitecollar workforce, we are losing jobs, more and more people are out of work, then who is left to buy the products being manufactured?
    I kind of suspect that the first jobs lost to AI won't be jobs requiring hands; they'll be the sort of jobs performed by futures traders.
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    everyone will have to play golf 10hours/day...

    Really, I see humans as fixers of problems, it is a human raison detre, with fewer problems, we either find new problems, or we will create them....so maybe global robotic wars will be then new reason to live.
    Last edited by WaxRubiks; 2016-Jul-30 at 04:34 AM.

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    I can foresee a day in which automation will replace jobs to the scale some people fear, but I doubt it will come soon, with anything like the ubiquity that would have a serious impact on the overall job market - in my industry (and similar) at least.

    Case in point; and I've been grinning about this for over a week: we have 3 presses in our plant, an old one, a modern one, and a top-of-the-line ultra-sophisticated one-operator German computer-controlled "Almost-thinks-for-itself" monstrosity. This thing's a brilliant piece of equipment, certainly. Highly advanced, it can make decisions for itself, offer print profiles, make suggestions regarding density, etc. Its operators hate it; they prefer to actually work the colour rather than touching "Yes/No" on the control panel. Turns out the thing got caught, and for a very simple problem.
    Here's the way it works: paperboard goes in one end, runs through the press and into a Delivery where it forms piles of completed work. As the sheets land, the delivery lift slowly lowers to form the pile. It knows when to move when the pile height breaks a sensor beam. Pretty simple.

    Except...

    It just so happened that a little over week ago, the sensor failed on the ultra-modern press. It fails on our press all the time - it's old and slips. The moment one of us sees that the pile is high without moving, we clean the sensor off and adjust it so the pile lowers properly. The ultra-modern press is a 'one-operator' press, and its operator didn't have time to stand around, he was doing other things. Which means he didn't see when the sensor failed.
    We heard the BOOOMM!! right across the plant as the pile rose into the path of 15 80-lb. gripper bars moving at well over 100km/h. Blew the nose right off the front end of the press; shredded the chains, blasted half the IR system into tin foil, etc.

    It was truly glorious to behold.

    Best estimate is $150,000 in repairs and Big Bergie is down for at least a month. And you just KNOW we've been making the point to management - quite joyfully, I might add - that if they'd kept a full crew on that machine as we'd been demanding rather than trying to save money on wages, they wouldn't be paying at least twenty times as much as they were trying to save.

    The upshot is that while modernization and AI can take Human jobs, it won't be soon - at least until said machinery is so sophisticated it can not only control and respond - machinery does that well already - but guess and infer; something technicians do well.
    Last edited by NorthernDevo; 2016-Jul-30 at 05:03 AM.
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    This is an interesting issue. I worked for a company that refused to use "chat" as a means of customer support as they felt it "delocalized" the consumer experience. It was believed that consumers would think these people were outsourced to India or some place. The same company operates a call center in every major market so that consumers feel that they are talking to someone locally. For example, they have US and Canadian call centers 70 miles from each other.

    On several occasions, we'd have meetings that required US staff to go to Canada or other way around and were able to redirect the calls. Canadian agents spoke to Canadians while in the US or US staff taking US calls while sitting in Canada.

    When they finally got chat capabilities, they simply retrained call agents to use chat. Over time, they reduced staff not due to any one technology, but because efficiency went way up. What is odd is the smallest local call centers are resistant to down staffing because they don't have as much overhead.

    One goofy scenario I've seen is a US agent fielding a consumer call from India. Instead of actually taking action, they arranged for a staff member in India to call the consumer back because that works better. How weird is that?
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim View Post
    Many years ago, when I was a chemical plant operator, we started up a new unit that had electronic instrumentation instead of pneumatic. (I said "many years.") We joked that one day the electronic instruments would be able to run the unit and we wouldn't be necessary. One fellow said we were wrong, we'd always be necessary. "Who do you think would be sweeping up the control room?"
    Roomba?

    :/

    In the late 70s I read an OMNI article about designs for a fully automated McDonalds Generic Fast Food Hamburger Restaurant. A group of college students designed simple robots and devices to do everything except bag the resulting foods, which would require a human presence; though I'm sure a clever engineer could easily think their way around that problem.

    So there goes the major service industry that the unemployed can traditionally fall back on. I guess learning to fix the robots is the only remaining option.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raursch View Post
    This has already happened. A few centuries ago, in many countries, employment in agriculture was more than 80%, or even more than 90%, of the population. Now, due to mechanisation and other efficiency improvements, agricultural employment is less than 5% in many countries. As a result, well over 90% of the population is now unemployed, the small percentage of people still working in agriculture can't sell their products, since no one can afford them, and standards of living are vastly lower than they were in 1700.
    I love this post! Even though I'm sometimes a bit of a luddite.

    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Roomba?

    :/
    Aah, but who gets to empty the tiny dust basket? We've got a Roomba. Sometimes it's less work just to use the regular vacuum. Especially when "Rosie" keeps ingesting cat toys.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by publiusr View Post
    When driverless trucks get here--look out.
    Will that mean I'll be run off the road more frequently than I already am?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raursch View Post
    This has already happened. A few centuries ago, in many countries, employment in agriculture was more than 80%, or even more than 90%, of the population. Now, due to mechanisation and other efficiency improvements, agricultural employment is less than 5% in many countries. As a result, well over 90% of the population is now unemployed, the small percentage of people still working in agriculture can't sell their products, since no one can afford them, and standards of living are vastly lower than they were in 1700.
    90% of which population?

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Will that mean I'll be run off the road more frequently than I already am?
    Yes, but the robocars will do it politely as they have no middle fingers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    Aah, but who gets to empty the tiny dust basket? We've got a Roomba. Sometimes it's less work just to use the regular vacuum. Especially when "Rosie" keeps ingesting cat toys.
    Roomba emptiers are the telephone sanitizers of the future.
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    Quote Originally Posted by grapes View Post
    90% of which population?
    Your sarcasm detector may need a tuneup.
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    Robot trucks will have a security guard on them, I would think, or a lot of stuff will go missing, in the middle of the countryside.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frog march View Post
    Robot trucks will have a security guard on them, I would think, or a lot of stuff will go missing, in the middle of the countryside.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frog march View Post
    yes there will be huge swathes of people on the dole....maybe the products will be cheap enough to buy on the dole.
    Can't comment without politics....

    What will happen if we ever have a society where work isn't necessary? Super-rich using the unemployed masses for spare parts? Gladiatorial contests? Servile laborers employed as status symbols?
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Can't comment without politics....

    What will happen if we ever have a society where work isn't necessary? Super-rich using the unemployed masses for spare parts? Gladiatorial contests? Servile laborers employed as status symbols?
    Why would the laborers labor and be servile if they don't need money?
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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