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Forum Post: The Rise of the Machines

Posted 11 years ago on Dec. 3, 2011, 1:20 p.m. EST by Rico (3027)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

The Rise of the Machines

Foxconn, China's largest manufacturing city just announced they plan to automate using robots built by robots, and IBM is selling the Jeopardy winning Watson technology to Indian firms that provide telephone support. Thus, even those who took our jobs by rights of their slave labor are losing them to the ultimate slave labor; computers and robotics.

The rise of the machines has impacted more than manufacturing alone. In my workplace, we once had a drafting department: replaced by CAD. We once had a publications department: replaced by Word and Power Point. We had a secretary for every 5 engineers to answer phones and type memos: replaced by computer operators and Word. The toll collectors on the Texas tollways have been replaced by cameras and pass-tags. My local grocery store now mans only two check-out lanes and people line up behind eight self-check lanes. The ticket counters at the airport are now manned by one or two people at best supporting 20 or more check-in machines. We shop at Amazon with a click, and they're now installing robotic warehouse systems to turn those clicks directly into shipments. Waiters ( http://youtu.be/b79pwb6Wlsc ), cooks ( http://youtu.be/TafjlVxghwE ), and receptionists ( http://youtu.be/g1SADcP5g1o ) are on the way out as well.

The examples above are only the beginning. Anyone who thinks we aren't in for a huge change in the definition of 'labor' hasn't seen Honda's Asimo robot ( http://youtu.be/zul8ACjZI18 ). In the end, the robots won't look like Asimo, they'll look more like humans ( http://youtu.be/zIuF5DcsbKU ), and they'll be much more expressive ( http://youtu.be/IhVu2hxm07E ).

The rise of the machines starting in the mid 80's also corresponds nicely to the separation between wages and productivity ( see http://tinyurl.com/cryxn3e ). I believe the slave labor provided by the machines is also responsible for some of the income disparity we're seeing; These slaves can be bought outright (with a tax credit to boot), they work for food alone in the form of electricity, and the capitalists reap the profits from their labor. How do humans who get sick, require social security, medicare, unemployment payments, etc. compete with these slaves ?

The rise of the machines represents a socio-economic tsunami that will wash over society destroying many of our cherished ideals. We can slow the rise of the machines by insisting on human service (per OWS consumer guidelines at http://bit.ly/DoYourBit ), but this only buys us time to think and devise longer term solutions.

The idea of wages derived from manual labor is dying. We can either attune ourselves to a socialist society in which slave labor is taxed and 'wages' redistributed to all, or we can try to find some way to allow the 99% to share in the rewards enjoyed by the capitalists. I don't like socialism.

One way to get workers a share of the capitalist's return on slave labor would be to mandate all employees automatically receive some number of shares in their company. The capital being used to replace workers is attracted based on the performance of the workers, so it seems fair that should receive a portion of the profits generated by the slaves. All evidence indicates employee stock ownership is good for companies, so I see little harm in this.

Read Vonnegut's 1952 'Player Piano' ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Player_Piano ) as well as 'Race Against the Machine' by Brynjolfsson and McAfee ( http://tinyurl.com/7452qy3 ) then ...

Brace Yourself for the Rise of the Machines.

P.S. You can help slow the rise and help fix unemployment by following the OWS consumer guidelines compiled from these forums and hosted at http://bit.ly/DoYourBit where they are widely accessible and shareable via social media. There are no adds, I make no profit, and I have no agenda other than to help America fix what ails her. Please spread the http://bit.ly/DoYourBit link as far and wide as possible using e-mail, twitter, face-book, etc. We need millions on board if we are change the face of Corporate America !

P.P.S I wonder if Pres. Obama has folks reading our forums. See some of his comments from his Dec 6 speech in Kansas at http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2011/12/06/obama_now_blames_the_internet_for_job_losses.html .



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[-] 4 points by rbe (687) 11 years ago


Robots are finally capturing our jobs, argue Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

[-] 4 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

That's AWESOME ! I still give original credit to Vonnegut who predicted it all back in 1952, but your link is even better. I'll go stick it up in the main post as well. Thanks !

[-] 4 points by rbe (687) 11 years ago

No problem! Glad you liked it.

[-] 2 points by April (3196) 11 years ago

This was really interesting. But I have a hard time with blaming things on machines and productivity, which effectively increases capacity.

"We believe that if men have the talent to invent new machines that put men out of work, they have the talent to put those men back to work." ~John F. Kennedy

I like the quote from this article - "If technology is indeed speeding up, more of that benefit must be returned to those it affects, especially in the form of investment in human capital."

I've always felt that ultimately it is innovation (not like the CDO kind created by Wall Street!) that creates jobs. Investing in education will lead to innovation and the next big thing.

[-] 4 points by Puzzlin (2898) 11 years ago

At the very time many, such as libertarians are becoming stingy and selfish, we are entering an age where no one on this earth will have to starve to death. Laborious work that most despise will be done by machines as is already occurring. Yes, we will have to adapt, but that's nothing new, we've been adapting for centuries to big changes. This is life and humans adapt very well, it's embedded in our nature. We do it constantly!

Yes, there's a big paradigm shift as there has always been in history. But we don't have to fear it. But we need to act responsibly and maybe, just maybe grow some compassion for others instead being so self centered.

[-] 4 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Yep. The ultimate objective of man is not to make widgets we don't need at the lowest possible 'sticker price.' That's the Capitalist view. Most of us are employed doing things that don't need to be done simply to make us feel 'productive.' That's why 'consumer mood' matters so much. Most of our economy is driven by the production and consumption of things we don't need; 'mood' doesn't affect purchase of food, electricity, etc. Given all this, is our right to buy a gadget we don't need at the lowest possible sticker price really more important than the well being of our fellow man? Surely not. I hope not.

[-] 4 points by Puzzlin (2898) 11 years ago

Excellent Post Rico,

I never know what you may say. But you make me think and that's a very big thing in this world of ideas. I do ponder so much about what's happening in the world. It really did lead me into my career and my sense of wonder only increased.

Anyway, as you know, there are many true breakthroughs coming down the pike that will rattle most folks out their nice little cushy cocoons and for us we will feel that invigoration when great things happen because we have technology along with the expertise that can achieve amazing things.

On a side note, the rover Curiosity was just launched and will land on Mars on August 6, 2012. This is kind of crap that just propels me. The damn thing weights a ton and will have a laser beam on it so it can determine the physical composition of Mars to the nth degree. Anyway, very cool stuff, unfortunately this is the last interplanetary mission for a while. Nasa has been cut to the core.

This is one thing I'm thinking about. We need a new mission. Those Apollo days were very heady, and the space shuttle was always going which kept the faith. I lived on the space coast, and every time that puppy went up we would watch. (I missed the apollo 11 shot, saturn rocket) I was there in 86 on that cold Florida day when it didn't go. Layoffs followed, luckily I made it through. I always remember the night launch was magical (there weren't many), absolutely magical. I was 30 miles downrange from a night launch. It was a crystal clear night. It lit up everywhere around where I was just as it starting up, a yellowish light, almost like super candle light, it was the wildest daylight at night time I ever experienced. Wow!! I watched drop into the horizon as it begun orbit. It looked like a star setting on the horizon. Unbelieveable!!!

The point, we need to embrace technology but also we need to very responsible about it. It is our future. We're not going back to the dark ages!


[-] 4 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Oh, you gotta know I'm a fan of technology, I just don't think waiting a little longer or paying a little more for a product is that high a price to pay so many of my fellow citizens can enjoy what I think FDR called the 'dignity of work.'

I saw the story about Curiosity, and I was jazzed as well, but I felt a little bad (thanks to this whole freakin' OWS interaction), that we would spend so much to go there when we have so many unemployed. I then realized, "Hey, these are jobs too," and I felt better. I personally think we should establish a colony on Mars as soon as we can. We need a back-up in case a rough asteroid from outside the belt hits our planet !

[-] 2 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 11 years ago

This posting is nothing but techno phobia. You cannot stop the advance of technology, so you should learn to live with it. I doesn't make sense to ask someone to stand in a toll both for 8 hours a day if a machine can do it instead.

[-] 2 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

LOL ! I happen to be a senior engineer who does nothing but design such machines. I do not fear them, I create them. What I do fear is the impact these machines are having on what we once called our "service economy" where the last few jobs for folks with a high school education are employed. FOlks here in these very forums are the ones who woke me up to realize that we have many folks who will never move up the skill chain to become engineers ( or low enough to become managers ;o)

I accept we will retain robotics in manufacturing. I see no need for them in the "service economy"

[-] 3 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 11 years ago

The ones with only a high-school diploma can help shine the robots' metallic skin, or just pick up garbage. They'll always be a need for janitors. If we can create a machine that does a repetitious and tedious job instead of a human, then I'm all for it.

One way to create more jobs is to reduce the amount of working hours in a week. Canada recently went from 40 hours to 35 hours.

[-] 2 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

I absolutely agree with your last sentence. Absolutely.

[-] 1 points by Frizzle (520) 11 years ago

I don't think there will always be a need for janitors. There is no reason to assume that the job of janitors can't be automated.

The only role (terms of work) i see for humans in a fully automated society is that of creativity and decision making.

[-] 0 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 11 years ago

Likewise, there is no reason to believe that creativity and decision making could not be emulated by machines one day.

[-] 1 points by Frizzle (520) 11 years ago

Sure. But we probebly would like to keep doing that ourselfs:)

[-] 0 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 11 years ago

It doesn't mean we couldn't still be creative. It's not because a machine can do something that we suddenly cannot. Unless it's about winning like in chess, there will still be motivation to be creative. Even if a robot can compose music, it doesn't mean I won't want to do it also.

And, why would we want to do it ourselves? Because of ego? Because of mental masturbation? You need good reasons to be creative.

[-] 1 points by Frizzle (520) 11 years ago

Because it's fun.

[-] 0 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 11 years ago

That's a good reason; mental masturbation. There are no machines that will take this away from us.

[-] 1 points by ineptcongress (648) 11 years ago

almost any job can be outsourced to a machine in time, and that is somewhat scary. especially if you're young right now, you have no idea what to plan for in the future--what occupations will still rely on humans in 2061? Even IBM's Jeopardy-bot might take many jobs that require reasoning, critical thinking and analysis. the pace of development has accelerated to the point where a useful training/education now could be obsolete in 10 years.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

The part where you trip over the Luddite fallacy is the part where you assume that a company would hire fewer people with the advent of thinking computers, rather than using thinking computers to make their workforces more productive and profitable. If everybody in an engineering lab starts using Siri or Watson to instantly do complex math with Wolfram Alpha and research with Google, then is the lab going to start firing people?

For the foreseeable future, deciding what problems are worth solving will not be something that you will be able to automate with a machine. One result of this, is that the people who the Occupy movement hates are the people who will benefit the most. People who decide what problems are worth solving. People who set strategy, and make policy decisions. Executives. CEOs. More workers in the future will create value by deciding what problems are worth solving, than by doing menial labor. And so that's what we need to teach our children, and our job trainees, how to do.

[-] 1 points by ineptcongress (648) 11 years ago

interesting about the luddite fallacy. it seems to me the premise, that reducing cost will automatically drive up demand, would be true only to a certain extent, for demand is only so elastic...it is not infinitely so, as the theory seems to posit. the fallacy may itself be one.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

Reducing costs makes products available to broader markets, which increases demand. How many people had cell phones in the 80s? Only a few self-important rich people who used them as status symbols. But now Apple has become one of the biggest companies in our economy by selling affordable mobile devices to tens of millions of people. And Apple employs a lot of people as a result.

[-] 1 points by ineptcongress (648) 11 years ago

good point,,, but I am talking on a broad scale. Those auto workers, for example. They are not likely to get a job at Apple because of their experience mismatch. So they'll need to learn new skills (a point you made in another thread). And some may not be well suited for or capable of such a change. Plus, they may be relegated to the bottom of the ladder again, earning far less.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

Correct. Creative destruction is part of natural selection. Adaptable employees and fast predators benefit, and it sucks for people unwilling to learn and slow gazelles. I didn't make up the rules, that's just how our world works. Would it somehow make the world a better place to try to convince animals at the top of the food chain to stop eating animals at the bottom of the food chain? The auto worker's plight isn't hopeless, because people who are capable of learning to operate complex assembly-line equipment are trainable. Maybe it sucks for them to have to spend time learning new things, but that's just how the world works.

[-] 0 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 11 years ago

I don't really think so. AI has not advanced that much since its inception.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

Watson and Siri are both pretty huge advancements in user interfaces, whether or not they really qualify as "thinking". But what matters here is that Watson will only be a job-killer in the short term. In the long term, it will be a labor leveraging technology that will enable the creation of entire new industries, not just new jobs.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Interesting. I didn't realize he had spotted it as well. That can't be anything but good news. I wonder, however, whether he's taken it to it's logical conclusion. If he did, he'd see a need for change rather than just note it's happening.

[-] 2 points by rbe (687) 11 years ago

I'd bet that he has but he's scared that he would seem too radical if he mentions it. People are already bashing him for that comment lol. At least he's somewhat starting a conversation. I think when the word gets out, then most people would see that a change has to happen. I made a thread about this as well: http://occupywallst.org/forum/obama-mentions-automation-as-a-reason-for-job-loss

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Yep. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't have folks reading these forums. There's more and more of the messages being promoted here showing up in mainstream politics.

[-] 1 points by rbe (687) 11 years ago

I bet he does. Someone posted the other day that automation was talked about often down at Zuccotti. I live in NYC, but I never went down there. Wish I would have.

I think this is an issue that could bridge the gap between OWS and the people that oppose the movement. When people acknowledge that this is happening, then solutions will have to follow.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

The #1 priority should be to get the money out so we have our power back and can make the other changes. See http://occupywallst.org/forum/we-the-people-in-order-to-a-proposal/ and the heartening news at http://occupywallst.org/forum/rep-deutch-introduces-constitutional-amendment-to-/ .

The #2 priority is pretty simple. We just need folks to start voting their dollars better. See http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-power-of-the-people/ (the original post that inspired the consumer guidelines at http://bit.ly/DoYourBit .

Both #1 and #2 are non-partisan, and I know from interacting with my circle of conservative friends that they support both just as strongly as we do here.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

Thought you might like this.

"We hypothesize that recent computerization has substituted for low skill workers in performing routine tasks while complementing the abstract, creative, problem-solving, and coordination tasks performed by highly-educated workers. As the declining price of computer technology has driven down the wage paid to routine tasks, low skill workers have reallocated their labor supply to service occupations, which are difficult to automate because they rely heavily on dexterity, flexible interpersonal communication, and direct physical proximity. Our conceptual model shows that if the demand for these service outputs does not admit close substitutes, then substitution of information technology for routine tasks used in goods production can induce rising wages and employment in low skill service occupations."


[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Thanks, I appreciate links to scholarly materials rather than op-eds, blogs, and you-tube videos !

I haven't read the paper yet, but I am already a bit suspicious of the statement, "As the declining price of computer technology has driven down the wage paid to routine tasks, low skill workers have reallocated their labor supply to service occupations, which are difficult to automate because they rely heavily on dexterity, flexible interpersonal communication, and direct physical proximity."

I can't square the author's statement with our willingness to be served by machines: Tellers vs ATMs, self-check lanes, computerized operators, sales-clerks versus on-line shopping, etc. Waiters on on the way out as well (see http://youtu.be/b79pwb6Wlsc ). The cooks are about to go as well ( http://youtu.be/TafjlVxghwE ). Receptionists as well ( http://youtu.be/g1SADcP5g1o ).

The examples above are only the beginning. Anyone who thinks we aren't in for a socio-economic tsunami hasn't the view at http://youtu.be/zul8ACjZI18 . Of course they won't look like Asimo, they'll look more like humans ( http://youtu.be/zIuF5DcsbKU ) and they'll be much more expressive ( http://youtu.be/IhVu2hxm07E ).

I'm not saying we should stop all this, but we better slow down and think about where we're headed. On one side, we keep pushing for more and more benefits for us humans, and we're becoming very costly. On the other hand, engineers like myself are rapidly eliminating the need for humans. We need to think about all this.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

The loophole is in the phrase "if the demand for these service outputs does not admit close substitutes".

And I agree that this is worth thinking about, but I'm paying more attention to economists than truthiness when I think about it.

[-] 1 points by libertarianincle (312) from Cleveland, OH 11 years ago

I wonder if I could go back in time 120 years and read newspaper articles talking about how all the farming jobs are going to be replaced by machines.

It will happen, we will adjust. Agree with others that this should result in less working time per week.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Note my original post said it will happen, it just argued that we need to think about where we're headed. If we take this to it's logical conclusion, we will have a LOT of people working fewer hours (either unemployed or working shorter weeks as you suggest). Have you considered the ramifications of the solutions in terms of our society, competitiveness, and so forth ? If not, I'm only suggesting you start. As it stands, your language suggests you're part of the crowd that takes the position "Let whatever happens happen; we'll deal with it later." This isn't a wise strategy for dealing with a growing issue.

[-] 1 points by stuartchase (861) 11 years ago

The Revolution has a new theme song!



The Revolution starts here!

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

That was all very interesting, Rico. Some people treat Player Piano as a dystopian novel. But I see it as a blueprint for a post-modern career, that so far has been working out for me really well.

Not all societal changes are a bad thing. Nobody lamented the loss of the elevator operator, or the telephone switchboard operator. Those people simply had to learn new jobs. Those people can now contribute more to society than when they were doing mindless menial jobs, because of the productivity increases that come with automation.

Low-skill jobs are indeed being eliminated by automation. But what you didn't mention is that the automation trend also creates new high-skill jobs. The inventors, from Player Piano. Everybody has known for decades that jobs in technology, communications, and information would be in demand in the future, and now that the future is here it's true. There are far more technology jobs than there are technology workers. Automating low-skill jobs is complicated, and it creates "technical debt". To-do items for technical people. That equals jobs. The more complex our information society becomes, the more jobs will be available for people who are able to stay relevant by learning new skills. Society in very near future will be stratified not only by wealth and race, but also by education level and technical ability. Is that somehow a bad thing? Society was stratified more by physical ability before the Industrial Revolution, and now people can be more productive and they're judged more for their minds. I don't see how that's a bad thing.

The people who complain about the automation trend mostly are people who aren't able to keep up. Who aren't able to learn new technical skills and aren't as capable in an information-based society. But if the trend has created more jobs than can be filled, and it continues the trend toward a person's mind being more valuable to society than their physical labor, then I don't understand the value in reversing the trend toward more automation and higher productivity per capita.

[-] 2 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Please read the response above at http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-rise-of-the-machines/#comment-466443 . In that response, I debunk the mythical premise of "unlimited worker mobility" that underlies the belief these displaced workers will simply find other jobs.

Being in the 5% financially and in the top 0.1% of engineers in a Fortune 500 engineering firm, I tended to agree that elevating everyone up to these jobs was better than having them work at the lower skill jobs. My discussions with people here, however, convinced me that it is simply unrealistic to assume all these people are capable* of becoming engineers. Heck, we have a shortage** of them as it stands even in this economy !

Have you ever considered why 'consumer mood' is so important to our economy ? It's because much of our economy is driven by the production of goods and services people don't actually need; 'mood' doesn't affect our purchase of food and electricity, for example. Just spend a moment considering how many people you know that are actually doing something related to a product or service that is needed.

We, the western civilizations, have become so efficient at producing what is needed that we now employ millions primarily to keep them feeling 'productive'. In spite of this, we continue to acts though the ultimate purpose of Man is to create these products at the absolutely lowest possible price regardless of human social costs.

I do not believe our purpose is to become ever more efficient in making things we don't need, and I am willing to pay a little more and wait a little longer if it means the life of my fellow Man is improved.

[-] 1 points by JesseHeffran (3903) 11 years ago

I'd like to think that this forum is a blue print for displacing politicians. The rise of the machines may just be the cure to Plato's Republic. Who needs politicians when they seem to get it wrong more times than naught...

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

You're fighting against the tide if you think that you can somehow stop the trend toward greater productivity, or the automation trend. But I understand how some people enjoy fighting against the tide so I won't object, just pointing that out.

But don't you think that there was a shortage of qualified machine operators at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution? Don't you think that there were workers who had spent their entire lives hitching yokes onto animals who were not successful at re-training for factory jobs? Would civilization have been better off if a conservative movement had been successful at slowing the progression of the Industrial Revolution to protect those obsolete workers?

Our country has had decades to prepare for a future where intellectual property workers are in high demand. A future where computer programmers are more valuable to society than bank tellers. Our country failed to prepare for the paradigm shift, but other countries were more successful. If we attempt to reverse an irreversible trend after it has already begun, then who is going to convince people in Singapore and Hong Kong and Taiwan to do the same? If you don't manage to convince the entire world to reverse the irreversible trend, then you completely screw the American worker. Convincing Americans to hold back when other countries are surging forward doesn't seem to be very helpful in the long run. (Unless you live in Singapore.)

The way to help the American worker in the long run is not to try to fight against the rising tide. The way to help the American worker is to make Americans realize that learning new job skills is not optional. There is no way to avoid the uncomfortable reality that manual labor is less important now than technical ability. Pretending otherwise doesn't help anybody. Demanding a human bank teller will not reverse the trend.

I have put my money where my mouth is. You may remember me spending week after week in this forum repeating all of this stuff about how people need to learn new skills, offering jobs. I hired somebody who I met through this web site and I'm training him with bleeding-edge skills in cloud computing. I'm not just talking, I took a person from this site and taught him new skills, he's doing really well, and he now has a promising career ahead of him at the top of the food chain in the information economy. The way forward is more of that, not to pretend that we can succeed in the future without doing that.

[-] 1 points by ineptcongress (648) 11 years ago

well done in hiring, you should be proud!! I agree with a theme implicit in your comment, the educational system badly needs a revamp to educate people for this century. The system's complacency in responding to the tectonic shift that occurred in the world is completely unacceptable.

[-] 2 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

Yes I agree. In my humble opinion, the overall problem that led to the turbulence that triggered the outburst that is the Occupy movement is a fundamental disconnect between the labor needs of our economy and our job training, not wealth inequality. Wealth inequality has been the norm in the US since hundreds of years before the US existed. The structural unemployment that we're seeing today wasn't caused by that, it was cased because we had decades to train people for the jobs that we knew would be in high demand, and we failed.

Why do elementary school students still spend years learning to do arithmetic by hand instead of learning higher-order math, when we live in a world of ubiquitous computing? Our children will live in a world where they will have instant access to a handful of different devices at any given time that can do accurate division instantly, so why do we waste our children's time teaching them to do long division by hand when we could be teaching them what a derivative is? Or about Russell's paradox? Or about 2D convolution?

A child's mind is capable of understanding the principles of calculus, but instead of teaching them as early as possible the concepts and how/when to apply the concepts, we spoon-feed them problems that are mostly based on arithmetic and puzzle-solving, instead of teaching them how to decide what problems to solve. The key survival skill in the postmodern, information-based economy will be the ability to decide what problems to solve, when, and how. Not long division. When is the last time that anybody here did long division? Then why waste our children's time forcing them to learn how to do it?

Why squander that valuable time and rob that child of the skills that they will really need in a world when they can pull out a phone and ask Siri to look something up in Wolfram Alpha? The people who will succeed in the future will be people capable of high-level thinking, who can figure out what to ask Siri, in order to accomplish a strategic objective larger than diving two numbers.

At the university level, we do the same sort of thng. We put people through training that won't help them to succeed in our economy. Why are there so few people learning to program computers at universities, when that field has full unemployment now, and everybody knows that it will be in very high demand for at least decades? Why are there so many college students working toward degrees in cognitive psychology, when the is very little demand for graduates? Why are so many people competing for the same few jobs in marine biology when you can get a job instantly with a nursing degree and earn six figures in some areas as a starting salary? How could a university excuse itself for graduating more people who know all about political science than people who know how to build a web site?

[-] 1 points by ineptcongress (648) 11 years ago

I agree wholeheartedly, and I fear that the educational deficiencies will eventually lead to the demise of the united states if left unchanged. another area that should be taught in high school is business, finance, economics, accounting and investments. very few people receive this type of education, ever, so then they have to rely on a "financial adviser" who is usually not good at investing unless you have millions (at best), or is a crook selling them crappy mutual funds with 5% sales load upfront. people make so many financial decisions, and yet most don't have much knowledge. i've heard that such programs are commencing, but are elective.

i think the reason education does not change rapidly enough is sheer complacency, and not enough continuing ed. required for teachers. unfortunately, as you know from college, alot of those education majors liked the beach and wanted to get into it to get their summers off. they were not the hard charging, highly ambitious, fascinated by learning and taking on new challenges types. that's not to say they're bad, in fact i have many friends who teach, but it's just not endemic to the profession. maybe trimesters would solve that, or massive pay raises.

in addition, unions blockade many curriculum changes that would be beneficial to the students. try to cut the art teacher's hours to hire someone to teach technology or robotics... good luck.

It's gotta be hard to choose a major now, as the pace of change and development is accelerating (like your example of computer programmers)--one now needs to project: 1) what jobs will be outsourced and 2) what jobs will technology displace in the next 45 years? seems to me that no profession is exempt from the effects of either. even protected / licensed industries, such as law and medicine are being outsourced to india for the sake of profit. where does it end? nowhere, seemingly. maybe the government will revert to more protectionist policies, but they continue to beat the drum of "free trade yields the optimal economic benefits"--well, ask the programmers how they feel about it.

[-] 1 points by SGSling (104) 11 years ago

If you are living in singapore...kicks ass

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

I am not calling for a second luddite revolution. I believe automated factories are with us to stay, and I doubt many of us would support a return to hand-made cars, electronics, etc given the quality problems. What I am calling for is that we block the machines from the "service economy."

I applaud your efforts and acknowledge that many people can be retrained into new jobs. Not all will be able to retrain, however, and some simply do not have a technical bent (as I am sure you are aware). We have 13.9 million unemployed Americans, and we need to keep the "service economy" alive for those who cannot and will not transition to technical fields.

Can we agree on keeping the machines out of the "service economy" at least ?

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

Well, that depends on how you define "service industry", I guess. I'm the CTO at a company that provides a software automation for the service industry, so that's the perspective that I start from, in answering that. We automate menial tasks like tracking data and notifying people, but we don't even attempt to automate jobs where the point of the job is human interaction. Sales people, promoters, hosts, hostesses. But if customers demand automation from our services that make it possible for customers to skip past those people by accessing services directly, with web sites and mobile devices, then jobs do end up eliminated. Partly our fault, partly the customer's fault for preferring a web site over talking to a person. Why try to fight this trend? There is no way to stop it. You might as well try to hold back the rising tide. So then why would I call a phone number to talk to a human to place a Christmas present mail order to preserve a job, hoping that they don't screw it up, instead of placing the order myself with a web form? I have a feeling that your proposal might end up mainly benefiting phone operators in Mumbai more than Amaricans.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

How about computerized self-check lanes at the grocery stores ? How about the automated check-in machines at the airport ? Some restaurants are already deploying tablets on stands at each table to reduce the number of waiters needed. What about all those sales clerks in our brick-and-mortar stores being eliminated by click-to-ship via robotic fork lifts at Amazon.com ?

What are we going to do with all these people?

While it would be nice to believe that all the labor we're freeing up would sit at home pursuing self-actualization, the arts, etc, the simple fact is that we have have ample evidence few will do so. We will thus end up spending the "savings" we got via automation to pack a bunch of folks to Occupy Couches. History has show this is not good for human character or for society by extension. Heck, just browse these forums and look at how well people have put their increased leisure time to work educating themselves on the issues !

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

Did unemployment skyrocket when electronic switches replaced human telephone operators? Your fundamental assumption, that automation causes permanent, structural unemployment, is referred to by economists as the Luddite fallacy.

This is considered fallacious because, according to neoclassical economists, labour-saving technologies will increase output per worker and thus the production of goods, causing the costs of goods to decline and demand for goods to increase. As a result, the demand for workers to produce those goods will not decrease. Thus, the "fallacy" of the Luddites lay in their assumption that employers would keep production constant by employing a smaller albeit more productive workforce instead of allowing production to grow while keeping workforce size constant.[1] Economist Alex Tabarrok summarises the neoclassical presentation of the fallacy as such:

If the Luddite fallacy were true we would all be out of work because productivity has been increasing for two centuries.

[1] http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=8978

You and I both can agree that structural unemployment is a sad thing for the people on the wrong side of innovation. But you can't fight a megatrend with token gestures like paying extra to do business with a human bank teller or airport check-in clerk. So what's the point? Your basic premise contradicts common economics wisdom, and even if your premise were true, your strategy could never work.

Futile action is a bad thing because of the opportunity cost. You're in a position to do more good by helping people to get on the right side of innovation, than by financing menial jobs through your extra bank and airline fees. Your plan is about giving people fishes. You're in a position to teach people to fish.

I'm trying to invest at least as much time training my new employee in his new career as I spend talking to people on this web site, because one of those two things will amount to something good in the long run. I'll feel good when my new cloud computing expert gets his first job after working with me, knowing that he's on his way. I wouldn't feel the same feeling from paying extra to see a bank teller so that she can continue to sit around listening to FM radio and stuffing money into automated counting machines all day. That would feel more like tossing spare change to a homeless person.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

OK, so your position is that everyone who is displaced by a machine will happily move to another job, and you see no logical limit to the number of jobs people can move to, correct ? No matter how many jobs machines consume, there will always be more jobs that need to be done. Even as population continues to increase. Always more.

[-] 0 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

My position is that you could do more good by teaching some people to fish, than by attempting to convince millions of people to hand fishes to millions of other people.

The position of economists, in general, is that automation does not cause permanent, structural unemployment. The Luddite fallacy is not something that I invented.

In the startup company where I work, for example, we employ more non-engineers than engineers. We have people who spend all day interacting with web applications to communicate with customers, through customer support tracking systems, through social media, and through our industry-specific web application. In our case, the process of creative destruction eliminated a lot of office jobs for people who used spreadsheets apps to track data, but those people didn't remain unemployed, because now there are jobs that allow them to interact with people all day through the Internet, instead of menially copying and pasting records around from spreadsheet to spreadsheet, and manually sending email notifications to people. Those are better, higher-paying jobs than the old office clerk jobs that our technology replaces. And when our customers use our product to make their business more efficient by eliminating office clerk jobs, they tend to shift their resources to hiring more marketing people, because our customers want to be in the business of marketing, not managing data.

In a broader sense, bank tellers and grocery clerks and airport checkin staff might be on the wrong end of automation right now, just like telephone switchboard operators or traffic-signal cops were, decades ago. But at the same time, entirely new kinds of careers are becoming available that those people are perfectly qualified for already. If you're literate and you have the basic job skills of a bank teller, then you also probably qualify for a job working on social media. Not creating social media as an engineer, but simply doing job functions that involve social media. Promotion through Facebook, customer support through Twitter. Those are modern jobs that are similar in nature to the job of a bank teller, to illustrate one simple example that contradicts the Luddite fallacy.

[-] 2 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

You have no idea of the extent to which I mentor folks. I have several hundred people working on my various products, and I go out of my way to identify and mentor talent.

What I elect to do with my spare time is none of your business, and spending time in political discourse is considered by many to be a very responsible use of one's time. Our Democracy demands it.

Note you did not counter my assumption that you think there are simply an unlimited number of jobs, no matter how many we lose to the machines. Somehow we will always have more work for everyone at all times in the future. If you think this is true, then you don't understand systemics or "sustainable" systems.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

Your economic hypothesis doesn't agree with the historical observation that confirms the Luddity fallacy. For centuries, innovation has been making certain jobs obsolete as it created new ones. Yet that trend has not resulted in permanent structural unemployment.

Technical debt is increasing faster than workers are training to handle it. Moore's law packs more and more complexity (not just transistors, but overall complexity, including software and cloud complexity) into our pockets every year. All of that complexity equals jobs. As just one example that came up elsewhere on this page in regard to the Luddity fallacy, how many people are employed right now by the business of packing more complexity into our mobile phones? The market is in the hundreds of millions of units, and there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of hardware engineers, software engineers, test engineers, graphic designers, user interface designers, supply chain experts, packing designers, photography experts, videography experts, bookkeepers, retail employees, etc, employed by the demand created by that spiraling complexity.

IBM's Watson will eliminate some jobs. Probably jobs that are currently outsourced to call centers in India. That will free up resources that companies can use to hire people to do more useful things. Americans, if we're smart enough to prepare and train for those jobs. Watson will enable entire new industries, like companies that integrate the things that we care about (cars, thermostats, microwaves, computing clouds) into "intelligent" digital personal assistants like Siri. People will be employed by the companies that spring up in those entire new industries. Lamenting the loss of the telephone receptionist in Bangalore is short-sighted considering the people in California who could be employed by new companies in new industries that the US could dominate.

Increasing complexity goes hand in hand with increasing automation. And complexity equals jobs. Jobs that didn't exist before. Complexity is currently increasing geometrically, while the rate of people training for jobs related to that complexity is not. That's my response to your last paragraph where you keep clinging to the Luddite fallacy.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

It doesn't matter how often you repeat yourself, you are advocating an unsustainable system of economics. You clearly don't engage in systemic thinking very often, and you have yet to answer whether you think there is no limit to the system you advocate.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

Yes, I did answer that question, in more than one way. You seem to be referring to that as "repeating myself". Here were two different responses to that same question:

  1. Empirical, historical evidence supports that the Luddite fallacy really is a fallacy, or else we would all be unemployed right now.

  2. Job-creating technological complexity increases at an exponential rate and so far Moore's Law has proven sustainable, whereas jobs cannot be eliminated at exponential rates sustainably, which means that job creation from innovation will always outpace job elimination through creative destruction.

And I'm the CTO of a company, so your hypothesis about my systemic thinking skills might have missed the mark a little. Systemic thinking is my 100-hour-per-week job. But if we're going to turn this ad-hominem (my suggestion about teaching a man to fish was systemic thinking and it was not the ad-hominem attack that you seem to have interpreted it as) then I have to say that I'm a little surprised in you, for apparently having so little regard for the opinions of economists during conversations about economics.

[-] 1 points by Frizzle (520) 11 years ago

Yet nu-employment is rising. How do you explain that if enough new jobs are suppose to emerge? Theoretically we could invent jobs that do absolutely nothing just for the sake of keeping people at work. But what is the point?

Personally i see marketing as one of those useless jobs. Marketing is nothing more then convincing people to buy stuff they don't need.

[-] 0 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

Unemployment is falling, and we have full employment in some industries. Unemployment in the technology industry, not just for engineers but for the entire industry, is near four percent. For the technology industry to move forward, it needs not just engineers but also customer support staff, technical writers, graphic designers, field technicians, social media workers, account managers, software testers, and all kinds of other labor that can be done by people who are moving away from shrinking fields like bank teller or switchboard operator or elevator operator or milk delivery man.

Sales and marketing are human-interaction jobs that can be made more efficient in many ways, but you can never eliminate a good sales person. What automation does to sales and marketing is that it thins out the herd and gets rid of the poor performers. You can replace a mediocre sales person with a web form but you can't replace that guy who relentlessly pursues sales leads with any kind of technology. Our technology at my company in particular enables those people to be more effective.

[-] 1 points by Frizzle (520) 11 years ago

Maybe you could think it's falling if you look at short-term fluctuations at just the right times. But the trend is very clearly unemployment has been rising for years. And it will keep rising. There is really no point in fooling yourself thinking that that trend is suddenly going to stop any time soon.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago


Do you see a long-term, rising trend? I don't. I see a spike in 2008 that has been steadily falling since 2010.

You could say that unemployment has been a rising trend for years in certain industries. Some of those fields totally go away. Elevator operators, telephone switchboard operators, full-service gas station attendants, milk men, telegraph operators, blacksmiths, stagecoach shotgunners, cowboys, fighter pilots. But at the same time, new industries arise that create new jobs. Social media customer relations manager, cloud computing IT technician, pay-per-click advertising consultant, search engine optimization specialist. None of those are hard-core engineering jobs that are reserved only for insanely smart people. Anybody capable of learning to be a bank teller is capable of learning to work PPC ad campaigns for people, instead of shoving money into automatic counting machines for people. With the right training it's not that much more complicated. The reason that people think that these new fields are difficult and out of reach is that there is little formal training available for them, not because they're hard. So the only people working in the SEO service industry, or the PPC service industry, are bleeding-edge pioneers who weren't afraid of teaching themselves new things. But those new things become easier and easier every day as technology, and as our job-training resources, become more sophisticated.

As a concrete example, I found a guy on this very forum who was interested in learning new job skills, so I directed him to this (free) training resource: http://railsforzombies.org Making a web site with Ruby on Rails was pretty hard two or three years ago when it was all bleeding-edge and you had to teach yourself new skills against a moving target. Now there are resources available that bring all of it within reach of people who are far less experienced, and far less fearless. What took me 20 years of professional experience to be able to absorb is now accessible to somebody just coming into the industry, because the job-training resources are becoming more sophisticated along with the technology itself. That makes it easier for people to transition from old-school jobs to new-economy jobs. That won't solve unemployment until more people realize what they need to do for themselves and for their own careers, like my new employee did.

[-] 1 points by Frizzle (520) 11 years ago

Really, you don't see that chart as proof of what i was saying?

[-] 1 points by Frizzle (520) 11 years ago

The last time it was low was at 1970. Granted, it didn't go up very fast until 2001, but it did go up.

And yes, there are a few fields that do better. But not nearly enough to make up for the jobs that are/get lost.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 11 years ago

A long-term trend? No. I do not see a long-term, rising trend. I see a spike in 2008 that has been falling since 2010. And there is full employment in my particular industry, and in others. The problem in my industry is finding new talent. I spent weeks here among the people like you complaining about unemployment, offering a job. It took almost two months before anybody even applied. Everybody was so busy complaining about unemployment in industries where they feel comfortable, that they failed to recognize the potential in a guy offering free on-the-job training in a new industry where there is full employment. Well, not everybody, I hired one guy and he's doing great. But a lot of people are still here complaining about unemployment instead of learning new job skills.

[-] 1 points by genanmer (822) 11 years ago


Craftsmen => assembly line => outsourcing and CAD => CAM => CIM

[-] 1 points by pinker (586) 11 years ago

Holy fucking shit. Our iPhones, iPads and Macs that we replace every two years are going to be made by robots?

[-] 2 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Yep, so even the Chinese will be losing jobs to the machines. One part of me loves the irony, the other part sees the growing trend.

[-] 1 points by April (3196) 11 years ago

"We believe that if men have the talent to invent new machines that put men out of work, they have the talent to put those men back to work." ~John F. Kennedy

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

It's interesting he would have said that back in the 1960's ! I'll have to go research the context of his comment to see what prompted him to make that statement.

[-] 1 points by FreedomIsFree (340) 11 years ago

Good post. I'm going to post before I read the comments. What a forum like this promotes, so long as the gatekeeping, censorship and wading through the normal detritus an open forum tends to invite doesn't get them down, some exceptional minds rise like cream for those with a discernment for the good stuff.

You've mentioned you are a systems engineer. I don't know if this tracks with you at all, but R. Buckminster Fuller is one of my favorites.

If we worshiped global quality of life rather than global profit, corporations might not be evil, but I viscerally hate them because they diffuse, obscure or outright defy any sort of real accountability.

I love business, on the other hand, where real people have real skin in the game and a serious interest in mutually beneficial transactions. Studying networks and nature, I've learned that the most variety, redundancy, adaptivity and evolution does not come from complex systems that miraculously dispense something beautiful, but rather it is very simple rules that generate what appear to be incredibly complex creations that belie the simplicity of the generative functions. That was what I think Wolfram was talking about with his New Kind of Science.

Using cellular automata as an example, but I would consider the carbon atom, DNA, and the borg-like English language as good ones as well.

Anyway, aren't we supposed to have the technology by now where I can have my robot go to work for me, and bring me my paycheck when it's done, spending its idle time soaking up the sun and fetching me beers?

Instead, the most advanced robots we have are killers, in the hands of those who who have license to kill, and a psychopathic urge to do so.

I like your urge to figure out how to ensure that increases in productivity have a generalized benefit that is not extracted by the profit vampire.

My solution is simple. Kill the vampire. It's not really alive, anyway. Just a fictional Frankenstein corpse that has been unnaturally imbued with the stuff of life, like speech and standing in court.

These undead vampire corpses can create nothing of value that is not first given that value by a human being. Whether that be the ingenuity of her mind, or the sweat of his brow, until the demonic powers of these zombie corporations of the apocalypse are prevented from merchandising death as a legitimate business activity, we'll be worse off than the slave-bots, because at least they'll have jobs.

[-] 0 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

I personally like the corporate construct.

Imagine I come up with a great idea for the OWS Hemp Shoe Company. Unfortunately, I don't have enough money to start the business. I could go to the bankers and beg for a loan, but they would charge me a fat interest rate due to the risk of the venture, and I would owe them that money back no matter if my company succeeded or not. I would probably not start the company.

Dismayed, my OWS friends offer to help, but none of them have much money individually, and even if they did, I can't promise they'll get their money back. In a moment of epiphany, I realize I can promise each one a share of my company and a voice in how it's run in exchange for their contribution. We just created the corporation.

Later on, some OWS people need their money back. We could either buy back their shares outright or they could sell their shares to another OWS member who missed out on the initial opportunity but thinks we can grow even further and wants in. We just create the stock exchange.

Corporations are not in and of themselves a bad construct. They are actually a very effective way to raise capital at low cost to start up a business, and they let the average Joe participate in the formation and profits of a company. The vast majority of corporate stock is, in fact, held by average Joe's in their IRA and 401K accounts. A similar statement can be made in regards banks; they provide a useful service in moving money from those who have it to those who need it (we can form a corporation to buy a house or car), and they provide you a small gain on your idle money.

The problem with corporations and banks arises from size and our corrupt political system. We, their customers, have great power to shape how they behave, and we need to cast our dollar votes with as much thought as we cast our vote at the ballot box ( see http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-power-of-the-people/ ). We do need to regulate corporations and banks, and we can't do that as long as they are able to buy our politicians; we need them out of the political system ( see http://occupywallst.org/forum/we-the-people-in-order-to-a-proposal/ and http://occupywallst.org/forum/rep-deutch-introduces-constitutional-amendment-to-/ ).

[-] 1 points by FreedomIsFree (340) 11 years ago

No disagreement that they are useful, yet clearly extremely difficult to regulate, especially once they have exploded to massive, global scale. My primary problem with corporations is the degree to which certain parties within them seem to have license to do evil without suffering any personal consequences, especially criminal ones. Sure, we fine a bank for some millions for laundering hundreds of Billions in drug money, yet no one does any time for that, yet there is still no doubt such activities continue.

And regulations bear some resemblance to gun laws, for example, creating additional opportunities and profits for those who would try to game the system no matter what. Tax code also a prime example. With an army of smart enough tax attorneys, highly profitable corporations are able to pay little, no or negative income taxes, while simultaneously taking advantage of regulatory capture, no-bid contracts, and other government grants.

I know I'm preaching to the choir to some degree, but the thought that more of the same (regulation, taxes, etc.) will change anything for the big boys is a bit naive, and to the degree we expect government bureaucrats to solve this for us, the less our dollar votes end up counting, although I do not in any way wish to discourage that form of resistance to the multi-faceted tyranny of corporations, especially of the FIRE economy, which has taken over 40% of GDP, with no exports (other than inflation) to speak of.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

I agree. Corporations and banks are a two-edged sword. I suspect both need to be limited in size.

[-] 1 points by MonetizingDiscontent (1257) 11 years ago

scary post, it summons up images that could reduce humanity to a sub zero standard. we would live as crop-sharers.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Yep, and Vonnegut called it back in '52.

By the way, do me a favor and give the very top post a vote up... the 'woohoo' guy makes the classical arguments very succinctly, and I'd like those questions and my rebuttal to stay up at the top.

[-] 1 points by builderbeats (1) from San Francisco, CA 11 years ago

A piece of music i made titled Rise of the Machines is about the Resistance against robotic overthrow. It was used by Team Hype from Hawaii during World of Dance Competition 2011. See the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LX-Gi3P29c

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Wow ! That's an awesome piece of art... music, choreography, and dance included !

I have a lot of talent in engineering ( which is actually a from of creative self-expression ), but I have no artistic talent. I wish I did. You're blessed !

[-] 1 points by Idaltu (662) 11 years ago

I watched and reacted to this back in 1975 when the city of North Platte Nebraska replaced men on a garbage truck with auto lift trucks. Of course my reaction (letter to the editor etc.) fell on deaf ears. This was the type of job someone could do who had no skill at all, but he could make a living wage.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Yep, so now we 'saved' some money, and have another guy sitting at home collecting unemployment. This not only offends me from the perspective of my taxes, but also from the perspective of what FDR called "the dignity of work."

It's death by 1,000 cuts. We don't notice or pay much attention as each machine appears, but when I list all the jobs being lost and the trend (as I did in the post), most people say, "Wow! You're right ! I never noticed !"

Since you're a bit of an activist (few write their editor), I implore you to please spread the http://bit.ly/DoYourBit link as far and wide as you can via e-mail, facebook, twitter, etc. Visit the site and you'll see there are no ads, etc... just the OWS shopping guidelines (sans the OWS politics). The hit count on that page is growing, but we need more people on board if we are to make a difference !

[-] 1 points by Idaltu (662) 11 years ago

I joined: wrote my first blog post..you will not understand until I complete other posts.


[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

It's a little out there for me, but I'll wait to see the whole story.

By the way, the stat counters on Opera are rotten, so I use the tools at stat counter to see how many hits I'm getting and where they're from. Go to www.statcounter.com, sign up and create an account then ask it to make the HTML for you. You use a hidden stat counter, you will get something like:

Paste the code you are provided (not that above) at the end of your blog post. You can then go into statcounter and see all sorts of nifty stats about the visits to your site.

[-] 1 points by leavethecities (318) 11 years ago


[-] 1 points by henrycameron (34) 11 years ago

I've asked this question in another thread but let me repeat it in this one because in some ways it is related to engineering issues.

I wonder if anyone knows a good study about "types of jobs created and eliminated in today's economy." I ask this because I suspect that in addition to macroeconomic, financial and political issues, other factors concerning new production technologies and forms of consumption are distorting the evolution of employment. In my country, Argentina, the government is trying to promote a process of re-industrialization and regeneration of employment. However, this process is faced with problems of specialization of labor supply, especially among young people.

Simplifying this trend can say that there is an excess of candidates to work with computers and a shortage of young people who want to work with lathes or milling machines (although the salaries are good). I mean the machines necessary to prepare the initial tooling and not the production ones. In other words, those that involve the starting processes without which the mass production would not be possible, and for its non-repetitive character can not be replaced by automation or robotics. Moreover, the many years of industrial destruction caused by neoliberalism cut the chain of transfer of expertise in industrial skills and this is a very serious problem that, in my opinion, undermines the possibility of recuperation of industrial activity and employment. Thanks and sorry my poor English.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

First let me say you are blessed indeed to live in such a beautiful country as Argentina ! Buenos Aires is my favorite city of all those I have visited in the world. Your food ? Excelente ! Your Women ? Please pardon me when I say they are the most beautiful of all I have seen ! You are indeed a fortunate man.

We suffer a similar problem with our labor force in America, though it's a bit different (and worse, in my opinion) than yours. Few of our young people are interested in entering what we used to call the "Trades" or "Crafts" such as cabinet making, automotive repair, welding, etc. Our vocational training is terrible, and most of our youth either fall into the poorly paid/low skilled service economy (waiter, sales clerk, etc) or seek business degrees and want to be CEOs in a few years. We have a shortage of technical people. My post and the comments at http://occupywallst.org/forum/why-do-students-choose-poor-majors/ illustrate the problem.

I can't speak for all of America, but every company I know has transitioned to full CNC machining, laser welding, etc, so there is little demand for these skills outside of repair work (still a worthy yet unpopular profession). Our only strong growth areas remain in the technical fields, finance (go figure!), health care, and entertainment. It is starting to look like our automotive industry is recovering due to pent up demand, but there are, as you know, relatively few jobs out on the assembly line.

We also suffer a problem in transfer of skills. I am an engineer, and sometimes I wonder if we have forgotten how to actually do design work anywhere. What I call "Opinioneering" by which people go to meetings and debate opinion rather than evaluate options via analysis seems to be on the rise. It's not that the younger people don't have the skills, they received them in college, it's just easier to trade opinion rather than do the hard analytical work required for objective decision making. I see the same thing happening outside Engineering in the quality of discourse here in these forums; there are plenty of passionate opinions and ideas, but little of either are based in well informed reason or fact.

I was asked some time back by my company to man our booth at a job fair. In preparation, the personnel folks asked me if I had any prejudices regarding who I would employ. I responded, "Yes, I do. I prefer to hire people of Asian descent. They are raised with a strong emphasis on education and accomplishment, they work hard, and they are usually the people I most value on my teams." They looked confused then said, "Well, I suppose it's OK if you're biased in favor of a minority."

The only advice I can give you is to look to the Asians for answers right now rather than America. Under what I call the "cult of self esteem," we have too long told our children they are excellent without regard for actual performance, and we are paying the price today. President Obama was correct when he recently said we have become lazy. He was, of course, referring the the average. We do still have some truly excellent people, but they are in a diminishing minority.

Please don't take my statements as meaning America is lost forever. I am tremendously proud of all that we've done, and I think we have been and remain a force for good in the world on balance. We have just lost our way for while. We are remarkably resilient, however, and we respond very well to, and perhaps only to, crisis. That crisis is coming, and we will respond as we always do. America will recover, of that I am certain.

P.S. Your English is excellent, certainly far better than my Spanish !

[-] 1 points by henrycameron (34) 11 years ago

Thank you very much for your kind opening remarks. By the way ... from where are you in the United States?

Reading your answers and other posts on this and other threads, I see that there is a tendency to imagine a return to economic and social models of 50, which in my opinion is impossible. Crisis generate new paradigms to try to understand, or better yet, to try to plan and guide.

Please consider the question that I will do as honest and sincere and not a trick statement: Do you think that Western societies are prepared for no more Asian products and recover local production? This relates to what we talked about earlier in terms of distortions in the availability of skilled industrial workforce, cutting the transfer of expertise, loss of work culture, etc..

Beyond the answer, I believe that soon we will have to address this issue. From the east, are starting to arrive signs that their leaders are not happy with the results of forced industrialization. Jintao's recent recognition that poverty is also progressing in China leads me to think of future global changes to which we will have to adapt ourselves, and that this adaptation does not consist in a return to previous production models but in the emergence of new technological and consumption paradigms. New paradigms that as noted above, it is necessary to anticipate and try to drive them.

I too am an engineer and not just one of the youngest. Fittingly, I was always devoted to technology. I think the man boarded his technological fate not to avoid work but to do what his hands could not. Let me this metaphor: the Wright brothers did not invent the airplane for not walking, but to fly. These days I prefer to speak of "Knowledge". The word "technology" is too much attached to eliminate human work. I also try to imagine how it would be a new paradigm (one of those who must try to figure) that technical knowledge is no longer the instrument of production of goods but for the production of social inclusion. In other words, the purpose of technology is not, as you say, to fill the world of gadgets, but to give each person a place in life. Yes ... is it that this is naive. It goes without saying.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

I have two residences, one in California and another in Texas, and I tend to split my time equally between both.

Believe me, I am a huge fan of technology. All I'm arguing is that we keep it in it's proper place and think about where we're headed. See my responses above at http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-rise-of-the-machines/#comment-466239 .

Do not mistake my comments about Asians to mean I like or support the government or economic systems in China. I am enamored only of the way they parent and how it produces high quality members for my engineering teams. In one of my other comments here, I asked, "Are we really doing the people of China any favors by enticing them away from their farms to work in dank factories making consumer goods for the West under poor working conditions?" By this statement, I think you can see my interest in Civilization pausing for a moment to consider where it's headed.

I do not advocate perpetuation of the 1950's paradigm. In fact, if you have read some of my comments under other posts, you will find I dismiss the entire period of American prosperity from the mid 40's to the mid 70's as a fluke; that prosperity was largely the result of America emerging from WW II with previously unimaginable production capacity while the production capacity of the reset of the world lay in ruins. With virtually unlimited demand for American products needed to rebuild the world and no competition, we could afford high wages and taxes, and this fueled the strong middle class we remember so fondly. It was a fluke.

I can't say where Civilization is headed. I am too old. I can't see the future any better than my Grandmother, who grew up in a sod house on the Oklahoma plain, could predict or even fully comprehend what she was seeing on television when Niel Armstrong made his "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

What I can say is that we have become remarkably efficient at producing what people need, and most of us are now employed doing things that don't need to be done. This is why 'consumer mood' has such great impact on our economies; 'mood' does affect our decision to buy food, electricity, or gas, it only affects our decisions to buy things we can do without. Man is terribly busy making things he doesn't need.

Have you ever pondered how busy we are today in spite of all our advances ? When I compare the pace of my life and those near me to the life of my grandparents, it seems we are just as busy if not more in spite of all our labor saving devices and modern conveniences. My religious/spiritual side tells me we have converted our technological advances and efficiency in meeting our basic needs into further chaos and confusion rather than human peace, happiness, and fulfillment.

I sense that people are starting to see Civilization is on a futile path. We are seeing increased freedom in the political sphere as women gain rights and Democracy spreads, but we remain slaves to endless consumption of things we don't need at great expense to the planet as well as human peace, happiness, and fulfillment.

I believe the OWS movement represents an awakening to the fact Civilization's economic path needs correction. As usual, this awakening sprouts from our young who are biologically and circumstantially wired to question the decisions of their elders. There are a lot of crazy ideas and uninformed opinions in this movement, but the details don't matter; young people around the world are questioning the path we're on and forcing people to rethink the paradigm. That's all we really need.

The only real caution I have for the young is that they recognize the danger of abrupt and radical change. Civilization, society, and economic systems are like living breathing organisms that evolve over time as they adapt to survive. We cannot fully know the value of some of those adaptations any more than we fully understand the importance of some of the 'junk DNA' in the human genome. Imposing radical change to Civilization, society, and the economic systems is akin to Man, in his arrogance, tinkering with the human genome, and it can have catastrophic effects on all human life. Evolution, not Revolution, ensures more good is done than harm.

[-] 1 points by henrycameron (34) 11 years ago

Believe me please that I understood well that you were referring to the quality of Asians at the time to work seriously and not that you support the policies or the governments of that continent. My reference to China was intended to point out that perhaps in the future Occidental societies will have to face a reduction of the Chinese production pressure, wondering if we were able to resume industrial activity.

Your comments about American prosperity of the 50's are very revealing and acceptable. I do not think that has been treated exclusively of a stroke of luck but this is a secondary hue.

I also agree with you about the direction taken by the technological development is wrong and that this has much to do with the current economic chaos. That's why I try to imagine a new production concept in which the ultimate purpose of technology is social inclusion and not the elimination of labour or the production of gadgets.

By not living in USA I can not properly assess the scope that will have the OWS movement, but I put a lot of attention to this forum because, from time to time, I find in it valuable opinions about similar problems to those we have in my country.

[-] 1 points by WorkerAntLyn (254) 11 years ago

I feel that there are some areas where replacement by robots and computers is strictly human greed. Most people I talk to hate automatic voice systems, talk about the time you got full service at the gas station, and complain about the lack of service in many industries.

In your example you mentioned that there's no long publicity departments or secretaries at your work, and the lack of attendants at the airport - why? There's more to it than the use of technology, there's also the feeling that they can get one person to do the job of many.

If secretaries could write letters and file in an office, they can do it in a computer too. Self check out? People go there because they think it's faster - but sometimes I've gone down the line and found a cashier just standing there doing nothing. And I've checked out faster than the self-check outs! But other times the lines are long - but that's because there aren't enough cashiers. The companies say - eh, there's self check-out, three's enough people for this shift. At a local grocery store they've decided they no longer need baggers. It "cuts costs". Never mind that it made things go faster and provided extra jobs!

I feel that there's still a need for some of these jobs being cut. That some of these jobs are just as relevant today as they once were, but companies have scaled back for the shiny machines, and people have gotten used to both doing without as consumers and doing the work of two or more as employees.

I think the point with technology isn't to stop it's progress as much as choose it's direction. Yes, we're slowly reaching a point that we can have a computer or robot to do pretty much anything for us - but do we want to? Let's remember that sometimes it's better to do things for ourselves, and have that human interaction with a real person instead of a machine.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Exactly. I am optimistic we can learn the economic vote we cast with our dollars is worthy of the same consideration and thought we apply to our political votes. I have received numerous comments from my facebook circle to the tone of "I had never thought of that. You're right. I'm going to buy local and avoid do business with computers at every chance from now on." People simply haven't been thinking about the impact of their decisions, but once I point it out to them, they have been supportive whether liberal or conservative.

Please do read the consumer guidelines I compiled from these forums and hosted at http://bit.ly/DoYourBit where they are more accessible and shareable. Note I removed the 'OWS Politics' from them to make them more palatable to conservatives, but I still have "use cash, not debt/credit cards" in there (I just 'hid' those guidelines under the guise of employment ;o) If you like what you see, please forward the http://bit.ly/DoYourBit link as far and wide as possible; the hit counts indicate the message is spreading, but more seeds will help us get the message out wider and faster. Thanks !

[-] 1 points by JenLynn (692) 11 years ago

Funny how things go, we keep making improvements until they just about kill us as a society. Who knows maybe it's what we deserve? Maybe it's just what we need. Here is a sort of a tongue in cheek scenario. Population is increasing too much, machines take jobs, unemployed people starve, revolt, lots of death and destruction, finally after a major upheaval we end up with a population of about 5 or 10% of what it is now. Like Black Death for the 21st century. Maybe out of the ashes we can get something better.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

It all relates to our values and the "votes" we cast with our dollars using about as much thought as we cast our votes at the ballot box ( see http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-power-of-the-people/ ). People are buying into the capitalist notion that 'lower sticker pricer' is the supreme goal for all of mankind.

It's pathetic. Will people ever wake up ?

Also, please do spread the http://bit.ly/DoYourBit link to the OWS consumer guidelines. Based on hit-count, it's starting to spread, but it still needs more seeds if we are to get enough people on board to start making a difference !

[-] 1 points by whisper (212) 11 years ago

So is it your position that rather than producing goods at the lowest cost (and effort) possible as the supreme goal for all of mankind, it should be the supreme goal of mankind to support the largest population?

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Actually, I think the ultimate objective of Man on the planet is to enjoy the God given gift of human imperfection with full knowledge we will retain these experiences over our eternal life. That's just my opinion, of course. I do, by the way, think we need to control population.

[-] 1 points by whisper (212) 11 years ago

Control population by what means?

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Higher education seems to work pretty well. Freedom for women also works as well.

[-] 1 points by JenLynn (692) 11 years ago

"People are buying into the notion"? The've bought into it totally, have for god knows how long now. We're going to continue the way we're going at least for now, because there are still more people working then not and people just don't care. I'm only half joking when I think about a population destroying catastrophe, that's what it will take I think.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

I've actually had a good amount of success in convincing my wife and extended family to start thinking about the social cost of their buying decisions. Most now understand that their economic votes demand the same care as their political votes. As is often the case in such matters as ethics and values, they simply weren't thinking. They are awakened, and I think more will be as well once they open their eyes.

[-] 1 points by JenLynn (692) 11 years ago

American made is often looked at as overpriced and of poorer quality. I'm thinking particularly of cars. It's not just price. Toyotas, Hondas, have a better reputation then GM, or Ford. Even on the little things if they can't match price they should at least beet the competition in quality.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

As I have told my own children, cars are the second largest purchase people make, and they should buy the one that best meets their needs. I did encourage them to at least take a few American cars for a drive and research their reliability. If they can't find one they like, I asked them to please consider one that's at least assembled in the US. One bought foreign, the other bought US (Ford Fiestas and Fusions are world-class cars, and Ford didn't take a bail-out).

As for me, my next car will be a 100% USA designed and manufactured Tesla Model S. All electric, 300 mile range, 5 adults and 2 toddlers, 0-60 in under 6 seconds. I plan to tour the US in it and maintain a blog of my travels.

[-] 1 points by JenLynn (692) 11 years ago

People should evaluate all their purchases, but too often they take the easy way out and just listen to an ad. If that research shows that some group or union it trying to take advantage of me, I don't care what country they make the product in, I won't buy it.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Smart consumer... now if we could only make 100 million more !

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago

I believe this was an issue with the industrial revolution. It spawned a lot of great sci-fi. I think Marx was quite accurate in pointing out the loss of individual talent. With the rise of machines came a rise in mediocrity. It is the mediocrity that has been acceptable and to an extent foisted on us. We live in a fast paced environment. So, what we have is cleverly disguised as convenience. In fact, life has become one long conveyor belt. We pay more and more and get less and less in return and we have no say in the matter.

Thus far, I have heard people bemoan the fact that we "played a part" in our own demise. I don't necessarily buy that. I also hear of what we will have to give up. I don't necessarily buy that either. What is the threat?

you will be forced to give up mediocrity

Okie dokie.

Some people are going to have to share resources because individually they do not have enough. To an extent this already takes place with people that are at the lowest classes and in ways that most wouldn't recognize.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Yep. Remember in grade school when we we shown the 'rain cycle' ? The oceans and lakes evaporate, then rain falls on the mountains and flows through rivers back to the sea.

I refer to our current economy as the 'landfill cycle.' We pay people to dig up materials from the ground then pay others to hammer them into pretty trinkets we can put on our shelves until we tire of them and pay others to take them away and put them back in the ground.

It astonishes that people fail to see how many of us are employed doing things that don't need to be done. The reason 'consumer mood' has such great impact on our economy is because so much of it is driven by the consumption of things people don't need; 'consumer mood' doesn't make people stop buying food, electricity, etc.

In essence, we have become so efficient at making what is needed that the rest of us are just doing busy work. Regardless, people insist that their right to consume useless gadgets is somehow more important than feeding their neighbor. It's tragic.

I sometimes wish the first farmer, upon realizing he could grow more food than his family needed, had simply scaled back and spent time with his family. Instead, he kept producing and then demanded those receiving 'free food' do something to make his life easier in exchange. Dutifully, they produced the plow, and then fertilizer, and then combines, etc, each time pushing more people of their farms doing things further and further removed from life.

We'll never go back to the self sufficient family farm, but we certainly do need to become so efficient at making useless gadgets that we can't give our fellow man a hand up.

[-] 1 points by whisper (212) 11 years ago

Should the farmer "scale back production and spend more time with his family." or should he produce more and "give his fellow man a hand up."?

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

No need. If everyone had stayed on the farm producing only what their family needed, nobody would need a hand up. Alternatively, and my favorite, both men would have shared the work so they'd have more time to chase women.

[-] 1 points by cmt (1195) from Tolland, CT 11 years ago

That works until there is a bad harvest. Unless there is a surplus somewhere, and the stored up cash to buy it, the result is starvation. While subsistence farming can sound rather romantic, it's not a good way to live.

[-] 3 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Smart squirrels also have a safe little pile of acorns stashed away ;o)

I know subsistence farming isn't all that glamorous. On the other hand, have you ever watched the films of Amazon tribes who had never before seen modern man? They certainly suffer more disease, higher infant mortality, and their teeth are bad. How do I know their teeth were bad, because they smiled a lot. A lot more than most people I know. Happiness is not the absence of suffering.

An related and relevant question would be, "Are we really doing all those Chinese farmers a favor by luring them into the city to make manufactured goods?"

[-] 1 points by cmt (1195) from Tolland, CT 11 years ago

The industrial revolution was nasty for the workers, to understate it.

And we need to learn how to balance our material goods with the damage we are doing to our world. I don't pretend to have a brilliant and complete set of solutions up my sleeve.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

I don't have any either except to implore people to think about what future they're creating. Most people, regardless of their political affiliation, see the problem when it is put in front of their eyes and say, "Wow! You're right! I hadn't thought of that!"

Please spread the http://bit.ly/DoYourBit link as far and wide as possible via e-mail, face-book, twitter, etc. Visit the site and you'll see there are no ads or anything, I only put it out there to divorce it from OWS politics and make it more palatable to conservatives. We need millions on board if we are to make a difference, and you can help by simply forwarding, posting on face-book, etc.

[-] 1 points by cmt (1195) from Tolland, CT 11 years ago

Why does it transfer to http://my.opera.com/r0ds0pera/blog/2011/11/20/buy-american?

And why not just go there directly? Why do you have it going through http://bit.ly/DoYourBit?

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

If you check out www.bitly.com, you'll see that, in addition to shortening the URL (handy for Twitter), it allows you to collect stats on how many visits you've gotten and where they come from. This helps me figure out how effective I am in my efforts to spread the link. I can tell you, for example, that 63% of the hits on the guidelines are from these forums, 15% from facebook, 15% from e-mail, and the remainder from direct hits (someone cut and paste the link directly into their browser). I can also tell you that 88% of all traffic is from the USA. I can also tell the link has been shared on facebook 38 times, 'liked' on face-book 24 times, and tweeted 39 times (shares/tweets are the critical numbers indicating the message is being spread). Better yet, I can see these stats over the last hour, last day, week, etc.

This is all standard practice in trying to spread a message via social media. For example, I just posted the link onto the wall of a new friend on face-book, and I can see immediately that my action there produced 17 hits and a good number of shares. Sometime back, I posted the message on Lady Gaga's face-book wall and got a lot of hits, so I also routinely post it on the walls of other entertainers as well.

You don't have to go to http://my.opera.com/r0ds0pera/blog/2011/11/20/buy-american via the http://bit.ly/DoYourBit link. It just helps me understand which actions are effective and how well we're doing in getting the word out. Share either one.... I will still get general stats from Opera, they just won't be as detailed and useful in understanding how effective we are in spreading the word.

[-] 1 points by cmt (1195) from Tolland, CT 11 years ago

Thank you for filling me in on how this works. There's always something new to learn.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Ain't that the truth. I knew nothing about all this until someone I shared the link with asked me how effectively the message was spreading. I gave him the hit count from Opera, and he said, "Seriously ? You're joking right? That's all you know?" then showed me how to use all these tools and taught me strategies for spreading the word. It was quite the learning experience for this 55 year old guy !

[-] 1 points by whisper (212) 11 years ago

What about the fact that not everybody lives on arable land?

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Why don't you just make whatever point you're trying to make ?

[-] 1 points by whisper (212) 11 years ago

My point is that it is true that all men should sustain themselves. It is not true that they should necessarily be farmers. Trade allows those who are not farmers to acquire the goods they need to survive.

"Instead, he kept producing and then demanded those receiving 'free food' do something to make his life easier in exchange. Dutifully, they produced the plow, and then fertilizer, and then combines, etc..."

When you suggest that to demand something in return for his efforts is wrong, it is trade that you are attacking.

[-] 2 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

I see your point, and I made my point badly. All I was trying to say is that we all work so hard to produce so much more than we need that perhaps we'd better better off slowing down a bit. Have you noticed how busy we humans remain even to this day and in spite of the remarkable efficiencies we have attained in producing the necessities of life ? I find it odd, and I think perhaps we could all use a few less gadgets and a bit more time off to reflect and enjoy life. Perhaps a 30 hour work week someday ?

[-] 1 points by whisper (212) 11 years ago

I believe that we remain busy because it keeps our minds active. "Reflecting on life" would (if I understand your meaning correctly) achieve the same goal. The human mind wants to continue to work. It wants to do something. I think many of us focus on distractions from productive thought because we never learn logic. In fact, much of our state-run education is focused on memorizing facts rather than understanding concepts and the process by which those concepts are formed. This leads us to situations where if we do not immediately know what to do, we do not have a method of figuring it out. This then, leads us to seek routine, often a routine that someone else has devised. This results in the production of things which we do not need. We produce them simply to be doing something.

I think (and I hope I am not wrong) people are beginning to understand that they must be the ones to determine the standards by which they live. They are beginning to ask the question: "Is this right or wrong? By what standard should I judge it?" These questions and the answers to them can lead each and every one of us on a path which will result in the creation of a society of free human beings. That is my goal and I think it is yours too. I would hope that it would be everyone's.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Exactly. We're on the same page 100%

See my comment at http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-rise-of-the-machines/#comment-466721

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago

And this, is where we differ. To which class of society are you speaking when you say, buy little trinkets to put on a shelf or gadgets?

People buy clothes repeatedly, not so much for fashion, but because they are cheaply made. Designed not to last. People buy furniture repeatedly because it falls apart.

It is astonishing that we have allowed this to go on as long as we have. Fire the machines. They are not effective. Why do I have to pay x amount of money for a blouse that will fall apart? Why do I have to pay $80 for bookshelves that once you put together had better not be moved? Mass production in this way serves no one but those raking it in at the top.

Some people are reverting to a family farm and self-sufficiency. Look, now, no lie-I cannot sew. I took the required semester and kicked out a jacket in junior high. I butchered it to no end. It was a wreck. It was also tan and the sleeve was on upside down. More importantly my blood was on the insides of that stupid jacket. If I had been born a 150 years ago the headlines would read: Woman Commits Suicide By Needle Craft. Heaven forbid I should have to make a quilt. This is an area that I will never ever be able to excel in.

By the same token, you sure have a lot of people that are graduating from design and fashion colleges that are never going to be doing frivolous runway stuff. So, I have a need and they have a talent. The clothes may last a bit longer. See what I am saying? Not every change reverts us back to the dark ages.

What exactly do we lose? mind your p's and q's or you will lose your mediocrity

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

I think we agree. Planned obsolescence and the production of crap are both positive only when viewed from the perspective of the 'landfill cycle.'

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago


I am just tired of the attempts to shift responsibility back to the people. I'm not saying that you are doing that. Over the years, I have found that if the opposing side can rope the public into assuming responsibility then they do not have to assume any. It is one of those things that makes me crazy.

[-] 0 points by Spade2 (478) 11 years ago

Do you think they'll go terminator on our asses?

[-] 2 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

No, not anytime soon, however ....

The old test ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test ) for intelligence was just "passed" for all intents and purposes by IBM's Jeopardy champion, Watson. As for spirituality, let's play God for a moment...

Let them feel pain and pleasure so they will know when they have stepped wrongly and rightly. Let them defend themselves against harm. Let them feel love and affection so they will help one another. Let them not suffer from the perils of judgment so they may live without worry. They are like us, but not us, so cast them out to a home that provides them what they need. In fairness, let them choose to have knowledge of good and evil and make judgments soas to become as us if they desire. Let them know us as God and and give them Hope in eternal Life lest they despair.

Science fiction is fun isn't it? Fun, and sometimes a bit spooky.

[-] 0 points by Spade2 (478) 11 years ago

I was watching a history channel documentary about how our civilization would be destroyed and that was one of them, so you never know...

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Hopefully, I and everyone I know and love will be dead by then.

We are not ready to be God.


[-] 0 points by karenpoore (902) 11 years ago

What exactly is socialism? I would really like to know ...

[-] 0 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

I'm no expert, but I believe it is best summed up by the phrase "From each according to ability, to each according to need." In other words, those that can produce produce for all, and those that are needy get from those who can produce. It all sounds good, but it has failed every time when implemented in pure form (as has capitalism in my opinion). Relative to this particular post, I don't think it's smart to assume we will just let a zillion people sit at home collecting unemployment paid by taxes on engineers like me; I'd rather pay more and buy things from them so they have the 'dignity of work.'

[-] 0 points by karenpoore (902) 11 years ago

Thanks Rico! I have never really studied what Socialism was. I assumed I leaned that way because I have concern for all, but I see your point and I agree. What do you define as "needy" though? It would be nice if there was employment for all I think. Maybe instead of depending on others especially big business people could develop communal type skills to support themselves. This is all so complex.

[-] 1 points by Frizzle (520) 11 years ago

The idea of socialism is that the people own the means of production so that everybody benefits instead of a select few.

The word is very misunderstood by many because of all the propaganda against it. And over time it's lost it's true meaning and now it's just used by free-market and capitalist enthusiasts to downplay any suggestion that would threaten their preferred system.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Yes, it is very complex, and the problem won't go away in a communal society. We have all known people at work, for example, who strive to do as little as possible.

Your communal society, however, would deal with the needy more effectively than we do today. The people would know who was claiming to be needy simply to avoid contributing and would not help them, but they would help people that knew were simply victims of bad circumstances and just need a hand up.

"Welfare" run by government is what used to be "Charity" run by our communities way back when when we were a Christian nation. Note I'm not making any judgments using these words. Our Christian society helped the needy and simply would not tolerate the slackers. Once we let government do it, support payments became divorced from personal knowledge of who were needy and who were slackers. It all worked better when it was managed at the community level where people knew the folks they were supporting and the circumstances of their condition.

Yes, it is very complex.

We also all know that spoiling our children does not create good citizens. At the same time, we also have compassion for our children and don't want them to suffer. As a parent, we are constantly torn between doing what our heart wants to do for our children and doing what our mind tells us is good for them. Making decisions about what society "owes" folks is just as hard, perhaps harder because we lack personal knowledge of the people involved.

Almost all problems worth worrying about are complex, and folks who toss around simple answers are generally not worth listening to. If the answers were simple, we wouldn't have the problem !

[-] 0 points by karenpoore (902) 11 years ago

And people asks why the young are mad and ask what they want ...


[-] 0 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 11 years ago


I was wondering some time ago . . .


If humanity is in possession of something we may call


and if humanity creates something that is artificially intelligent;

something that can act, reason, and learn with autonomy,

is this creation also possessed of spirituality?


well. That's what I was wondering some time ago.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

You're leaping far ahead of the post, but I hear what you're saying.

The old test ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test ) for intelligence was just "passed" for all intents and purposes by IBM's Jeopardy champion, Watson. As for spirituality, let's play God for a moment...

Let them feel pain and pleasure so they will know when they have stepped wrongly and rightly. Let them defend themselves against harm. Let them feel love and affection so they will help one another. Let them not suffer from the perils of judgment so they may live without worry. They are like us, but not us, so cast them out to a home that provides them what they need. In fairness, let them choose to have knowledge of good and evil and make judgments soas to become as us if they desire. Let them know us as God and and give them Hope in eternal Life lest they despair.

Science fiction is fun isn't it? Fun, and sometimes a bit spooky.

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 11 years ago

that is a bit spooky

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

I just summarized my religious beliefs.

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 11 years ago

now that is spooky

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

I know. There's actually a bit more to my beliefs than that, but I do take literally the words of Genesis 3:5, "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil," and those of the Lord in Genesis 11:6, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them"

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 11 years ago

ok, well now it seems a bit . . . I dunno . . . less freakish

perhaps because it is sunday, and we are no longer incorporating science fiction, the rise of the machines, or the willful choice to see others suffer . . .

. . . all for their own benefit of course - tough love and all of that. I don't know -

I guess for a sunday morning service, you found what seems an apt citation:

"If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them"

Not that I've been in Church in a while . . .

Ah - yes - the rise of the Tower of Babel.

[-] 0 points by JohnMarsden (47) 11 years ago

I don't understand your logic. The robots are making are lives easier and we should stop scientific progress because jobs are becoming obsolete? Should we have stopped DVD players from being built because it put out the jobs of VCR repairmen? If we had a robot workforce like that guess what, we'd need trained people to fix these robots when they break down. Learning how to do this is hard though and the word of OWS has been gimmie stuff for free so i can see now your point.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

No, what I am saying is that the robots and computers are displacing so many workers that we are headed for a huge shift in our socio-economic structure.

The machines are working their way up the skills chain and consuming an ever increasing number of our jobs along the way. We can say "That's OK, we'll all become engineers designing products and new robots," but that's unrealistic as only a small portion of society is capable of engineering (I am one).

What do we do with all the labor being displaced by these machines ? Let them die in the streets ? Of course not. Thus, we are headed into a future where we have a very large number of people who are permanently unemployed and living off government subsidies. I don't think either of us like that future.

We all enjoy the low cost and quality of robotically made products, so perhaps we leave the manufacturing robots alone. We do not, however, need to eliminate all the jobs associated with brick-and-mortar retail by using the click-to-shipping-pallete of Amazon.com. Likewise, we can push "O" when a computer answers the phone and refuse to use computerized self check lanes.

I don't know about you, but I would rather deal with a person than a machine, especially compared to paying the person to stay at home on unemployment paid from my taxes.

P.S. My team routinely designs for better than 10,000 hour Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF). The failure rate has an obvious impact on cost of ownership, and it's one of the key specification reviewed in selecting one manufacturer's machine from another's. There aren't a lot of repair jobs.

[-] 1 points by necropaulis (491) 11 years ago

I've felt this way for a long time. Are machines easier?? Yep, but the human cost will be high. As more people are born and more machines made(by said machines) There will be a need for some kind of balance, but what side will lose in the end?? I'm not talking Terminators, that will never happen. Machines will never be able to compete with humans in wartime. We have qualities that can never be replicated. We are losing more and more services, like the phones and check outs that have been mentioned, but as we progress technologically, we are being set back humanly. Even Google's getting into that game with their automated car. If that were to take off, there go more people who may or may not have the skill to replace the job that this machine took. There are reasons why they have these jobs. Not everyone is programmed to take on the task of EE.

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Exactly. We spend all our time here talking about how to take back the POLITICAL power of the people ( see http://occupywallst.org/forum/we-the-people-in-order-to-a-proposal/ ), but none talking about how we use our ECONOMIC power to shape Corporate America ( see http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-power-of-the-people/ ).

Our relentless pursuit of the lowest sticker price and our willingness to be served by machines have huge social costs. We are a Democratic Capitalist society, and both our Democratic and Capitalist votes shape the world we live in. Both votes need to be cast with equal care.

[-] -3 points by JohnMarsden (47) 11 years ago

You are missing my point though which is that you want to hold back scientific progress just because people's jobs are being obsolete. If you really are an engineer you should be appalled by that logic because as a guy who studied computers engineering I can't support your logic. This is what happens with progress. People get lost in the dust. Humanity is supposed to persevere however and use this as a way of allocating resources to other projects and ideas. However, baby boomers and on have perverted this idea and we are suffering for that thanks to the self entitled twats over at OWS. Sorry buddy, I see your logic and hate to see people lose their jobs, but if the loss is due to progress and not corporate greed, than it is worth it.

[-] 2 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

I take it you prefer we either let the unemployed die on the streets or have them sit at home getting fat on unemployment checks paid for with ever increasing taxes on your income. As best I can tell, those are your choices. Do you have some other solution, or do you just plan to keep your head stuck where it is (in the sand ;o) ?

[-] -3 points by JohnMarsden (47) 11 years ago

Yes my plan is to allow technology to progress and for those people to get off their asses and find a new trade. The world is completely different now then it was 100 years ago and jobs that were needed then are obsolete now and people are doing just fine. You are just making excuses and pushing for entitlements which is the cancer that is killing this country. Wah wah wah work is hard and learning a tough trade is hard wah wah. Good job trying to label me as a psychopath wishing death on people that's a really mature accusation to make.

Also realize this, I've read reports that people actually can be cheaper than robots but thanks to corrupt unions butt fucking American companies and demanding everyone make 20$ + an hour for baby sitting an assembly line it's only natural that they found a way that is cheaper and that won't eventually stop working and go on strike for more entitlements. You guys are your own worst enemy I swear.

[-] 2 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

Before you toss me into a convenient box so you can dismiss me, you should know I am a member of the 5% and enjoy a good bit of wealth I have accumulated over a 30 year career as an Engineer.

I came here thinking just as you do. See my first post in these forums at http://occupywallst.org/forum/what-has-happened-to-us/ . As you keep interacting here as I have, you may change if you're willing to listen. What I have found is that my experience is somewhat unique and that my perspectives and understanding of the people here was distorted by the fact that all my associates are just like me. I met people different than my normal crowd here, and I listened to their arguments. I have changed my views in several areas as a result.

I suggest you actually try listening for a bit and try to understand that, buried in the midst of all the idiots, there are some here who make a good case. There are many people in the world who do not enjoy the intelligence, ability, or means to fight their way to success like I , or perhaps you, have been able to do.

I am unwilling to let people suffer simply so I can continue surrounding myself with gadgets and luxuries I really don't need. I'm not willing to give it all up, but I can afford to pay a bit more in taxes, wait a little longer in a line, and pay a little more for a product to help my fellow man.

I have come to understand the logic behind Bill Gates' and Warren Buffet's decision to be more generous with their wealth; it's called compassion and understanding.

[-] 1 points by alexrai (851) 11 years ago

It's really wonderful to hear you say that, thank you.

I'm not doing bad by most standards financially either, but there are a lot of people hurting in this world, and we should all be considering our own roles (whatever they might be) in making a better world for all.

[-] 0 points by JohnMarsden (47) 11 years ago

Give up all your wealth and then we will talk. Wealthy people who visit these OWS events like Michael Moore are some of the biggest hypocrites on the planet. You want your cake and to eat it too.

I will agree that there are some smart people there but they allowed the anarchists and other idiots in and also allowed this movement to be called the left wing tea party which is a big no no when you should be doing your best to support everyone. I hope the smart guys learned something and next time this happens that abolish those radical elements.

[-] 0 points by bigbangbilly (594) 11 years ago

How about mechanical replacement of soldiers?

[-] 1 points by Frizzle (520) 11 years ago

Like drone-planes? :p

[-] 1 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

That's a good yet complex topic that's a bit off-topic to the thread, but I'll summarize...

The use of precision munitions combined with robotic platforms is both good and bad. The good arises from our ability to very precisely destroy an oppressive regime's military facilities with very little collateral damage and minimal civilian deaths. The bad, of course, arises from the distancing of the decision to kill from human morals; Even when using human operated drones, the operator is removed from the carnage and death he creates, and that's not a good thing. If we are to kill, we should be immersed in blood and live the cries of agony up close lest killing become too easy.

[-] 1 points by bigbangbilly (594) 11 years ago

So what if both sides of a battle uses robots?

[-] 1 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

Bots, Drones & TechnoCyborg Mercenaries ?! Welcome to 'The Skynet-Matrix' !! Resistance Is Fertile !!!

respice ; adspice ; prospice ...

[-] 1 points by bigbangbilly (594) 11 years ago

Did you mean futile?

[-] 1 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

NO, 'bbb', emphatically no ! Within the context of all things 'Occupy' ; Resistance is FERTILE !!!

Happy Hols ;-)

[-] -2 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 11 years ago

Why not create jobs by getting ride of washing machines and televisions? If people had to wash their clothes by hand, some of them would rather save time and hire someone else to do it. Without TVs, the storytellers who used to go from village to village will be back in fashion. This will open up a lot of jobs. Instead of one actor talking to all Americans, you would need many many storytellers. Something to think about.

[-] 2 points by Rico (3027) 11 years ago

You are trying to project my argument to all machines in all settings. I do not suggest we discard all machines, and I said in the OP that this trend is inevitable; all we can do is buy some time so we can better prepare for the change we're bringing upon ourselves.

Has Man not always rushed forward into a new technology only to later find that perhaps he should have thought more before making the leap ? Light water reactors, DDT, Thalidomide, are but a few I can think of off the top of my head.

[-] 1 points by Thrasymaque (-2138) 11 years ago

I see your point. It makes sense. We should definitely study the effects of new technologies and test them properly before using them in practice. We should also plan for the transition better. I agree.