back to article AI and robots? Will someone think of the jobs, says HPE CEO Whitman

Cynics might say Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman is on thin ice when discussing job preservation in the era of AI and robotics given her own track record, but that was the thrust of her speech at Davos. Business tycoons and global politicos swooped on the the highest town in Europe this week to attend the World …

  1. MrT

    Get back in line, Meg...

    ... this sounds like just another rehash 'me too' sort of blurt. My backside is aching just imagining having to sit through that seminar...

  2. Your alien overlord - fear me

    “up to business and academia to manage the transition”. No, I'd prefer a duely elected government to decide what's going to be legal in the future.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Neither

      Just tax it.

      In reality, disruption at that level has a financial side to it. Yeah, you are putting 10M on the job market, each of them proudly carrying his freshly printed pink slip. This means that the someone (usually the government) needs to find the social security funds to feed them, clothe them, house them and retrain the ones that can and want to be retrained.

      So he academia and the business do not need to figure out anything. Your product will make 10M people unemployed? That's fine, we are sorry, but it will have to get some excise duty attached to it so we can actually care for these people for the next decade.

  3. confused and dazed

    Forgetting the hypocrisy fro a moment. She is correct - we need paying jobs for people to do ....

    1. Ralph B

      Do we though?

      > we need paying jobs for people to do ....

      Do we though? Should humans really doing jobs that can be done by a machine? Isn't there something better, more creative, more human, that the humans could do? Or are you saying that the humans need to be kept occupied in some unnecessary employment to keep them off the streets? To keep them out of trouble?

      Be a bit more positive. We survived the industrial revolution, with increased wealth, health and wellbeing. I suspect we'll survive the information revolution too. Even if we're just being kept as pets by the machines.

      1. S4qFBxkFFg

        Re: Do we though?

        Ralph B:

        Agreed. Employment (looking at the timescale of humanity's existence) may just be an aberration that lasted from the invention of agriculture until the invention of general-purpose robots.

        As long as there is demand for stuff to be done by humans, there will be employment - I'm increasingly sceptical that this demand will always exist.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Do we though?

        > we need paying jobs for people to do ....

        I bet when AI is replacing doctors and lawyers rather than call center workers we will see some government reaction

      3. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Do we though?

        Isn't there something better, more creative, more human, that the humans could do? Or are you saying that the humans need to be kept occupied in some unnecessary employment to keep them off the streets? To keep them out of trouble?

        Flame on, but yeah, most people do. Most people I've met in life are nosy, trouble making busy bodies and giving them more time to pursue, what many a philosopher and not my humble self, has pointed out is mankind's most pursued activity, not minding their own business, is not my idea of enlightened living.

  4. Lotaresco

    Not so fast...

    This is news that's relatively long in the tooth. Both HP and CSC have been keen to ditch puny humans and replace them with robots. They want to do away with unskilled jobs and replace them with software or hardware robots where possible. They were talking this up about two years ago and promising organisations processing payroll, insurance etc that they could replace their data entry and form processing operations with robots.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Not so fast...

      Do you think they gave these people Autonomy?

  5. Potemkine Silver badge

    People don't need jobs...

    ... they just need money.

    Tax robots, use tax to pay an universal basic income, and tada! Everybody is happy (shalala)

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: People don't need jobs...

      you forgot the 'joke' tag

      people don't need a 'universal basic income'. We'd just be universally MISERABLE.

      The basic problem is that, for menial jobs, people are TOO EXPENSIVE. Robots are cheaper.

      There used to be rooms full of people adding numbers in banks. They were called "calculators". Not so much any more. Would YOU want THAT job? I wouldn't!

      As the minimum wage is LEGISLATIVELY increased, and "benefits" MANDATED, companies discover that it's TOO EXPENSIVE to hire people to do 'certain jobs'. The only alternative, if the job can't be shipped to a place where it's "affordable" again, is to have a ROBOT do the work.

      And teenagers can't find work, because it's TOO EXPENSIVE to hire an inexperienced person to do ANYTHING any more, including BURGER FLIPPING.

      A job that COSTS MORE than it is worth will NO LONGER EXIST. If it COSTS LESS to build a robot to do something, that's what will happen.

      Feelings and political pontification won't change economic REALITY.

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: People don't need jobs...

        If it were jobs rather than money that was important, then why do we buy washing machines for the home? After all, they do us out of a job (of hand-washing clothes). Same goes for a power-mower - we should surely be using a scythe - IF it is really the job rather than the salary that is important.

        The idea of paying someone for the work done by the machine that replaced him/her is not at all daft. Imagine if you travelled back in time and took on a job of copy-typist. But you used a modern office copier instead of a typewriter. Why shouldn't you be paid the same as if you had spent hours typing out the documents instead of doing the same task in a few minutes? Yu could do a bit more than expected of a normal day's work and pay for the consumables with your "overtime" pay.

        On the contrary, it's the situation where the company directors have effectively pocketed the salaries of the labour force they have replaced with machines that is wrong.

      2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: People don't need jobs...

        @bombastic bob:

        Your shtick has become tedious. Please stop.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: People don't need jobs...

          "Your shtick has become tedious. Please stop."

          you're welcome. *kiss*

          1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: People don't need jobs...

            Given your usual tone, shouldn't that be, "YOUR WELCOME!"

            1. bombastic bob Silver badge
              Devil

              Re: People don't need jobs...

              "Given your usual tone"

              WOW - I've got FANS!

        2. Naselus

          Re: People don't need jobs...

          'become'? that suggests it wasn't to begin with...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: People don't need jobs...

        "The basic problem is that, for menial jobs, people are TOO EXPENSIVE. Robots are cheaper."

        Speaking of TOO EXPENSIVE, perhaps they would save more money by replacing the CEO with a robot. Then the company would be saving millions with just one person replaced.

        While one side of me says congrats if they can negotiate a salary package worth millions, the other side of me says how much bloody money does one need to live more than comfortably. The amount that some CEOs are reported as receiving just seems totally obscene to me.

        After all, a robot can make simple decisions like replace n jobs with robots in order to save the company money, and they won't even want stock options to do it!!!

        1. herman Silver badge

          Re: People don't need jobs...

          You don't need a robot to make powerpoint slides. A Bash script will do.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "The company is now almost unrecognisable to the one she inherited, with the PC and print businesses spun out, Enterprise Services spun out in a deal with another caring corp CSC, and the Software division spun out to Micro Focus."

    Given that she now has much less to manage, surely she should be taking much less pay.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      So what DOES HP make these days?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        People redundant, and a fairly middling quality of bullshit, on the basis of the article.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "So what DOES HP make these days?"

        Press statements.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        HPE is pretty much down to making servers only, but I like the other responses.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meg's Vision (As I see it)

    Is that HP is just HER and the BOD.

    Everyone else have been spun off or replaced by Robots.

    Remember "HP Innovate". They seem to be on track to become the first workerless company.

    I say this as someone who worked for HP (pre Carly) and Tandem/Compaq before that.

  8. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    This is what we pay CEO's the big bucks for?

    [RANT] She's just noticed this? And it's making waves in the news cycle because she's saying it? Where has she been for the last 10 years? Probably too busy investing in tax havens to notice that the working guys lives are turning to shite [/RANT]

  9. Naselus

    She's not the only one

    Half the attendees at Davos this year appear to be people who are heavily engaged in automating the shit out of their vast holdings and firing thousands upon thousands of employees, making speeches about how terrible it is that everyone is going to be out of a job because of AI.

    It's like a conference on how to prevent bullying being hosted by Nelson from the Simpsons while he's literally in the process of beating someone up.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still laughing at the title of this article...

    ... Meg's strategy around employment at HP hasn't been to automate at all, it's been to replace highly paid, highly skilled workers with their lower paid, lower skilled equivalents in "best shore" locations.

    Or as I saw in my team, replace highly paid, highly skilled workers with nothing. Our area was considered a target for WFR because we weren't "revenue generating" (we stood up stuff for customers once they'd paid for it amusingly). We ended up with four times the work spread over a team half the size because they'd laid off the equivalent teams in the other areas of our country that did the same work, leaving us as the only group holding responsibility for it.

    I would have loved it if she had the commitment and resolve to see through a radical reshaping of the company, it's middle management and it's processes, she could have made HP an absolute powerhouse. Instead she chose self-amputation. She's playing the old game of margin protection rather than automation and disruption. That isn't the strategy of a forward-thinking technologist. "The New Style of IT" it isn't.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Still laughing at the title of this article...

      it's been to replace highly paid, highly skilled workers with their lower paid, lower skilled equivalents in "best shore" locations.

      Be fair. This has been HP's action since both Hewlett and Packard retired. It was even worse when they choked on the Compaq buyout.

  11. Kimo

    We just need to require that robots receive a salary, have an AI that includes a desire to own artisinal products, and a requirement that they all have a direct connection to Etsy.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Unhappy

      "We just need to require that robots receive a salary"

      More gummint mandates. yeah, THAT will fix it! *shudder*

      </sarcsm>

  12. thomas k
    Unhappy

    If robots take all the jobs ...

    ... there won't be anyone for Meg to fire.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We need to save human jobs from the machines" said Meg.

    She then went on to say "I need your clothes your boots and your motorcycle" before asking if anyone had a "phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range".

    I believe she is widely known in HPE as The Terminator.

    1. John 104

      @AC

      "Hey, just what you see here, pal."

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Meg is just following the HP tradition in place since Hewlett and Packard retired.

  14. The Boojum

    AI must have advanced a lot further than we knew if she's afraid for C-Suite jobs.

    1. EarthDog

      Most managers these days are spreadsheet monkeys. Easily replaced by AI

  15. Donkey Molestor X

    don't you believe it

    a universal income robot utopia isn't in our cards. when has humanity ever planned? when has humanity ever restrained itself? nope, everybody is going to have a job in the future: hacking other people's computers and preventing their computers from being hacked by everybody else. the future will be Hobbes promised war of all against all. nature, red in tooth and claw, in bit and byte :)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meg in Davos - why?

    HP used to be an engineering company. Steve Wozniak wouldn't recognise the place. I'm subcontracting to part of the company that develops software. Morale is rock bottom. Thank fuck I'm not a member of staff!

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Meg in Davos - why?

      " I'm subcontracting to part of the company that develops software."

      foot in the door, eh? would it jeopardize your status to suggest to them that shipping new PCs with Win-10-nic on them isn't helping their bottom line? And they should ship LINUX machines instead? And that if THEY do it, others will too, and the software development will follow?

      just a thought...

      1. Naselus

        Re: Meg in Davos - why?

        "would it jeopardize your status to suggest to them that shipping new PCs with Win-10-nic on them isn't helping their bottom line? And they should ship LINUX machines instead?"

        It probably would jeopardize his status, yes, since suggesting they switch to selling an operating system almost no-one wants on a client machine and causing sales to drop through the floor is generally not a great way to get a promotion.

        Get it through your head that enterprise (where the big money is) is not interested in re-teaching it's entire workforce to use Linux, and IT managers are not interested in buying an OS that requires them to re-hire or re-train desktop support on 50% more money. Enterprise DOES want Linux-based servers... which is why HP has already been selling them for a decade.

    2. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Meg in Davos - why?

      What does Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak have to do with HPE?

      1. Strahd Ivarius

        Re: Meg in Davos - why?

        He was working there before founding Apple

  17. Enigman
    Big Brother

    Get ready to live in a brown box so the rich don't have to see you

    For a most depressing take on how it's likely to pan out with AI and robotics have a read of Manna by Marshall Brain.

    http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm

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