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How Robots are Taking Over

I thought the board might want to discuss the following article and its implications for our economy. Here's the first paragraph and the
"In September 2013, about a year before Nicholas Carr published The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, his chastening meditation on the human future, a pair of Oxford researchers issued a report predicting that nearly half of all jobs in the United States could be lost to machines within the next twenty years. The researchers, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, looked at seven hundred kinds of work and found that of those occupations, among the most susceptible to automation were loan officers, receptionists, paralegals, store clerks, taxi drivers, and security guards. Even computer programmers, the people writing the algorithms that are taking on these tasks, will not be immune. By Frey and Osborne’s calculations, there is about a 50 percent chance that programming, too, will be outsourced to machines within the next two decades."
What interests me most are the implications for those who believe both that unfettered free markets can solve all of our problems and that climate change is of human origin. The typical solution in market based economies to increases in technological productivity and the job loss that results is to create more demand for existing products or new ones, but how do you do that without increasing carbon emissions? Even if you don't agree with that premise, the article itself is fascinating and has many important implications to our economy and our future as a nation. It's worth a read.


  • beebee
    edited May 2015
    Thanks for the read.

    From my perspective, most humans are basically lazy (not fond of work) and often unwilling to follow instructions properly. Machines do not tire nor complain, yet need specific man made instructions and components to operate properly.

    On the topic of the environment, I believe a lack of regulation (rule of law and enforcement of those rules), not technology, is responsible for most of the man's impact on the environment. Technology can be carbon neutral if designed by man to be so.

    Well designed technological systems require a feed back loop. Only through man's desire and ability to complete the feed back loop (input, process, output, feedback) do systems improve. Technological systems need to help humans meet a higher standard of life, not merely a higher standard of living. These are not always evident until the feedback loop has presented itself. If we want better outcomes it is man's "new job" to focus on the feed back loop by redesigning, retesting, and reevaluating these systems.

    This article seems to pit a romantic yesterday against an uncertain tomorrow by making us fear today...sorry I don't buy it. I believe math, science and engineering matter more today than ever before. I also think these skills worries those who never picked up a hammer or used a t-square nor availing themselves to learn how to write code or program a sensor.
  • @Bee I agree humans are lazy, but you're not addressing the question the article raises; What happens to America when robotic technology replaces 50% of its jobs? If you can, say, produce twice as many refrigerators with half as many employees for the same cost thanks to robotic technology, the only way to maintain the same workforce is to get people to consume twice as many refrigerators or some other new product. Otherwise unemployment spikes. The problem is even if production can be carbon neutral with new technology, the required increase in demand to sustain the workforce as productivity increases from technology is not carbon neutral. We are addicted to consuming ever increasing quantities of goods to sustain our workforce. And that is not carbon neutral. In fact, the last time emissions dropped significantly was during the great 2008 recession when a lot of people lost their jobs.

  • @Lewis: We need to find you a full-time writing gig, preferably on another planet where there are no robots !
  • Ah, another charming comment from my good friend Ted. At least you're consistent. Did you even bother to read the article or is cutting and pasting the only thing you're capable of doing?
  • The article hits on what no one wants to talk about.

    When robots do everything - Who will be able to buy what they produce?
  • TedTed
    edited May 2015
    @MFO Members: This can't be our freelance writing guru Lewis, can it !
  • @Ted. I used to think you were an old man. But now with this latest comment I suspect you're 13 and living in your parents' basement. Congrats! You've reached a new level of maturity.
  • Not sure the jobs your referring to (assembly line work) will be tomorrow's high tech jobs. When it comes to this kind of production (washing machines), the more robots the better. Robotic manufacturing has turned a dirty, tedious, and sometimes dangerous job into a workplace even your daughter could love (clean, interesting, and safe).

    There are plenty of high tech manufacturing occupations for those individuals that have the skill set. Unfortunately, we prepare very few kids for these tech jobs today. Instead, we send them off to 4 years of post high school (I won't even call it college because many incoming freshman won't graduate). While there they accumulate debt and record the death of their brain cells on Facebook. Not such a great use of a human resource or technology.

    We've lowered the bar in this country pushing the virtues of excess consumerism. Its easy and profitable. Technology plays it's part in all of this, but it's not the cause.

    A doctor who buys a $100,000 scanner will want to use it every chance he or she gets to recoup its many instances adding unnecessary tests and costs to a patient's healthcare.

    NASA spent 1 million developing a pen that would work in space. The Russia still use a pencil.

    Finally, getting back to your concern about losing jobs to robots. Who's programming these robots? Who's repairing and maintaining these robots? Whose designing these robots?

    Jobs shift... from low tech to high tech.
  • @Bee The author isn't talking about just manufacturing jobs. He's talking about paralegals, computer programmers, sales clerks, driver, pilots,drug developers, human resource managers, you name it. Although he didn't mention it, given the subject of this board, you can also include financial planning, trading and money management, which can also be solved with an algorithm. And yes someone to a degree needs to manage the programming of these robots, but the whole idea of robotic technology from an executive's perspective is to eliminate labor and reduce labor costs. There will of course need to be a handful of senior engineers and programmers designing these machines, but the new jobs in no way will be able to replace the jobs lost without a dramatic increase in consumption and the carbon emissions that go with that.
  • @Louis: Don't make me angry !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • One possibility would be that the robots are owned by humans. You would be paid for the work your robot does.
  • @John. The robots are already owned by humans who get paid for their work. The problem is Jeff Bezos owns a lot more of them than you and I and he's using them to get rid of as many human employees as possible.
  • What is the purpose of this conversation? Seems to be somewhat one-sided. Is the OP looking for answers or just trolling for research for an article he is writing?

  • edited May 2015
    The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • @John. The purpose is to have a conversation. I'm not writing an article on this subject.
  • By the way, have any of the snarkier commentators bothered to read the hyperlinked article? It is actually interesting. That's the only reason I posted.
  • I did and your last comment substantiates my point.

    I'm out.
  • @John. Not a problem. Peace be with you.
  • The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • Hi Lewis, I can tell you why I don't care. If the purpose of life is survival of the species, solutions chosen that are adverse to survival will show man was never a viable species in the first place. If the purpose is not survival, then no one should care if only robots are oiled and fed. The automation morphed to robotic argument never really changes, does it? I don't mean to sound dismissive but on some level I wonder what people think the purpose of work is. If man can pursue creative endeavors and still share the products of labor, why not robots as laborers. The problem is not robots; it's stogy old men. The young figure out the next stage and wait for the old to get the ... out of the way.
  • I agree, Anna. The problem is stodgy old men. Amen to that.
  • Never late for work, no Vacations, no breaks, no raises, no benefits.....send me one!
    I'm hiring
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