back to article Robo-AI jobs doomsday may, er... not actually happen, say boffins

Today's technopanic about robots and AI, largely created by the media, may be overstated. New modelling published this week attempts to isolate the impact of industrial automation from other factors, and envisage what the economy might look like if the use of robots in industry increases, focusing on the impact on employment …

  1. Yesnomaybe

    I'm for the chop soon then...

    ...as my job mainly consists of taking the blame without arguing back. I should think a machine could do that.

    1. Toltec

      Re: I'm for the chop soon then...

      As you cannot hurt a machine's feelings it will not be as satisfying as blaming a person so I think your job is safe for now.

  2. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Trollface

    How about the jobs that those robots create ?

    Think of all the programming, assembly and maintenance required...

    Unless we start creating robots to create and maintain those other robots...

    Then its robots all the way down !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about the jobs that those robots create ?

      An awful lot of the work we do is in maintaining our fleshy selves so if robots could dispense with that part they'd have a lot more time to focus on their own assembly and maintenance.

      I am sure they will work this out for themselves in due course.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: How about the jobs that those robots create ?

      "Unless we start creating robots to create and maintain those other robots...

      Then its robots all the way down !"

      No, you route them into a loop. If Robot A can service Robot B and Robot B can service Robot A (or at some point in the chain, the robot or robots can circle back to service the first robot in the loop), then you solve the "Who Services the Service Robots?" with "One of the other Robots."

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: How about the jobs that those robots create ?

        "No, you route them into a loop. If Robot A can service Robot B and Robot B can service Robot A (or at some point in the chain, the robot or robots can circle back to service the first robot in the loop)"
        But if all these fembots are busy servicing each other, how do they find the time to service paying clients? Or am I missing something?

        Paris because there's no icon for Anita...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about the jobs that those robots create ?

      The issue is, for every programmer and maintainer, you've most likely lost a hundred or more manual workers.

    4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: How about the jobs that those robots create ?

      What you describe is exactly what Elon Musk is aiming for.

      Tesla will be the test bed for this. It is needed to make a colony on Mars viable (i.e. self sufficient) but the side effect will be to make tens of millions of workers redundant within 10 years.

      Prepare to spend your life jobless. Unless we have a new Luddite revolution.

      1. breakfast

        Re: How about the jobs that those robots create ?

        I'd just like to point out that not having a job is not a terrible situation if you have another way of deriving a living. At that point it's actually pretty sweet.

        I would love to be able to get by without needing to work. Finding ways to accommodate that across most of the population will be one of the big challenges of this century.

      2. Pedigree-Pete
        Mushroom

        Re: Luddite Revolution

        How about a Butlerian Jihad. PP

      3. tony2heads

        Re: How about the jobs that those robots create ?

        I think you mean a Butlerian Jihad.

    5. Ilsa Loving

      Re: How about the jobs that those robots create ?

      The problem is that its not 1 to 1. A fleet of robots may replace several dozen workers, but only need a few people to maintain. Furthermore, the displaced workers won't be the ones doing these maintenance jobs. So retraining becomes an issue... most likely one that has to be taken on by the laid off workers themselves or the gov't, because that costs money and the avg company will try to externalize everything they can.

  3. Professor Clifton Shallot

    Lift

    It was suggested the other day that the only job that has been completely automated out of existence in the USA is the elevator (sic) operator.

    Are there any others (septic or otherwise) that spring to mind?

    1. muddysteve

      Re: Lift

      "It was suggested the other day that the only job that has been completely automated out of existence in the USA is the elevator (sic) operator.

      Are there any others (septic or otherwise) that spring to mind?"

      Lighthouse keepers are pretty well gone.

    2. Dan 10

      Re: Lift

      A few years ago I would have said car washing, but those hand-wash outfits have made a comeback* due to being better than monster rolling brushes and easier than jet-washing it yourself.

      I went on a tour of the BBC, and was surprised to find no camera operators in the newsroom. The fairly routine (hence automate-able) pan/zoom etc on static studio occupants means that in an early-morning newsroom, the newsreader(s) are usually alone.

      *May soon be reversed due to Brexit and the non-indigenous accents of most of the guys working there

    3. Snivelling Wretch

      Re: Lift

      Telephone exchange operator?

    4. abedarts

      Re: Lift

      Typist... maybe just displaced.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It all depends on your definition of robot and automation.

    You may be better of saying technology.

    For example, self service tills. They are not automated, they are not robots, but here yo have a technology replacing jobs. Not many, but a "few"

    Printing, you used to have typesetters, negative makers, plate makers, ink mixers....not it's often straight to press.

    The biggest risk is not robots per say, but the chip, chip, chip effect of minor changes becoming one big change.

    1. Cris E

      Right: over the past hundred years farming jobs didn't go away, but one or two guys can do the work of dozens. With ratios like that, the idea of farm hand as a separate job from farm manager has all but evaporated.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        "over the past hundred years farming jobs didn't go away, but one or two guys can do the work of dozens. With ratios like that, the idea of farm hand as a separate job from farm manager has all but evaporated."
        The percentage of the population involved in farming has declined from over 50% to around 1%. And there's a shortage of farmhands. My neighbour (apple orchardist and beef cattle) told me he's selling up. Neither of his sons are interested in taking over.

    2. DropBear Silver badge
      Joke

      "...the chip, chip, chip effect of minor changes becoming one big change."

      Absolutely, and that's why this is where I draw the line and make my stand. It's "per se".

  5. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Inverting the pyramid

    As the actual "producing stuff" gets more automated and therefore cheaper, companies will be able - maybe even required - to employ more layers of managers, supervisors and other clerical roles. We have seen this ever since the 1960s: as mass-production improved, the cost of manufacture dropped, the cost of transportation was reduced and goods got cheaper, into the bargain.

    Yet, in order to have a market to sell those goods into, it is necessary to have a large number of employed, well-paid, individuals to actually buy the stuff: consumers. Without them, it doesn't matter how cheap, well-made or innovative something is.

    Even 20+ years ago when I worked for a large multinational as a consultant, The overriding element of that company was the number of unproductive administrative staff they employed. I had calculated that from my hourly rate - of which, being an employee I saw very little, they were employing 6 other people, simply based on what they charged for me; at the sharp end - the guy who actually had billables.

    And so it will be in the future. When all the productive, revenue earning, work is done by machines companies will still employ the same number of people. But instead of stamping out widgets, selling shiny products to the gullible or explaining to a client why a database table with 1200 VARCHAR columns won't access very fast (will update even slower), will be a nightmare to maintain and probably isn't even what they want - all those employees will while away their days in meetings discussing exactly which shade of brown their packaging boxes should be and whether the risk-assessment for moving the company logo 2mm to the left on the letterhead should be out-sourced or done in-house.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Inverting the pyramid

      For most companies, human employees are something they'd want to get rid of, even if cash costs of automation were a bit higher.

      Automation can give less quality variations, doesn't chuck sick days, doesn't go on strike, doesn't get all emotionally "needy" from time to time, doesn't need entire departments to administer and pay it, doesn't embezzle, doesn't need rest breaks, washrooms, canteens, pensions, doesn't need a parking space, doesn't switch company every few years taking all its tacit knowledge and skills with it, doesn't need training in safe lifting or competition law for oiks, etc

      The only companies who wouldn't want to automate away their staff to the greatest possible extent are those where human interaction with customers or product is part of the proposition, so things like front of house hospitality, or where "hand made" is key to the offer.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Inverting the pyramid

        And as for having people with the money to pay for your goods, the robot masters can simply cater to each other.

      2. quxinot

        Re: Inverting the pyramid

        >Automation can give less quality variations, doesn't chuck sick days, doesn't go on strike, doesn't get all emotionally "needy" from time to time, doesn't need entire departments to administer and pay it, doesn't embezzle, doesn't need rest breaks, washrooms, canteens, pensions, doesn't need a parking space, doesn't switch company every few years taking all its tacit knowledge and skills with it, doesn't need training in safe lifting or competition law for oiks, etc<

        You do realize that you just said machines don't need service, and don't break....

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Inverting the pyramid

          Not perfectly, but it still seriously reduces manpower. Instead of a line of workers, you have one or two line supervisors, and when things breaks, you bring in an on-call contractor only as and when needed.

    2. Cris E

      Re: Inverting the pyramid

      Maybe. Much of what managers do is herd people through reviews, assignments and scheduling. Take that work away and you can essentially kill off that whole role and go with directors, project managers and the reduced staff necessary for decision support and marketing.

  6. Bob Rocket

    Displaced not redundant

    Robots will do the same tasks that a human used to do only cheaper and quicker, those humans are freed from that production line to work on either a new/different (as yet) non robot production line or do something different entirely.

    The displaced humans may get the same or less pay than before the robots arrived but it doesn't matter because products produced by robots are cheaper for the end consumer.

    The cost of a mini in 1960 was about 1/5th of a house

    The cost of the equivalent today is about 1/22nd (and it is more reliable and cheaper to run)

    Most people still have jobs and more people own cars and TVs than at any point in history despite both automation and negligible above inflation pay rises.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Displaced not redundant

      Probllem there is that the cost of living hasn't fallen as quickly as the average wage, plus inflation affects the cost of living harder than the average wage. End result, cheaper goods are STILL out of reach for people locked into pittance jobs that pay EVEN LESS.

      1. Bob Rocket

        Re: Displaced not redundant

        Charles 9,

        that's not true though, most people have double glazing, central heating, kitchens full of gadgets they never use, 3 TVs, mobile phones for everyone, tablets, games consoles, fridge freezers, dishwashers even.

        Food is cheaper now than it has ever been, more people eat out more of the time, even on minimum wage life has never been better in this (or any other non-war torn) country.

        The number of cars on the road has doubled since the 1980's

        In 1970 about 65% of households had a washing machine, now virtually every household has one.

        The cost of housing hasn't fallen though, this is due to lack of permissions to build and the lack of automation in the building process (these together add up to restrictive practises and keep the price high).

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Displaced not redundant

          "Food is cheaper now than it has ever been, more people eat out more of the time, even on minimum wage life has never been better in this (or any other non-war torn) country."

          Care to back that up? Sure, some things are cheaper, but they're the small fry on the average budget. Plus we're currently in the middle of a soft spot in fuel prices. If we took numbers post-Katrina when fuel prices were 50-100% higher, that changes the outlook.

          http://www.mybudget360.com/cost-of-living-compare-1975-2015-inflation-price-changes-history/

          1. Bob Rocket

            Re: Displaced not redundant

            In the 1950's UK households spent around 40% of their income on food and only 8% owned a fridge. By the mid-80's housholds were spending only 20% of their income on food and by 2005 this had dropped to 10%

            https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/597666/FF75Timeline-09mar17.pdf

        2. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          Re: Displaced not redundant

          @Bob Rocket

          Choose life.

          Choose a job.

          Choose a career.

          Choose a family,

          Choose a fucking big television

          Choose washing machines, cars,

          Compact disc players, and electrical tin openers.

          Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance.

          Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments.

          Choose a starter home.

          Choose your friends.

          Choose leisure wear and matching luggage.

          Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase

          In a range of fucking fabrics.

          Choose DIY and wondering who you are on a Sunday morning.

          Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing

          Sprit-crushing game shows

          Stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth.

          Choose rotting away at the end of it all,

          Pishing you last in a miserable home

          Nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish,

          Fucked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself.

          Choose your future. Choose life.

          1. Bob Rocket

            Re: Displaced not redundant

            The percentage of people taking drugs for pleasure (except tobacco) has remained remarkably stable despite price/legality/other distraction fluctuations.

        3. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: Displaced not redundant

          "that's not true though, most people have double glazing, central heating, kitchens full of gadgets they never use, 3 TVs, mobile phones for everyone, tablets, games consoles, fridge freezers, dishwashers even."
          Had a tenant whose rent was subsidised by the government, therefore low income. Moved out after 12 months and left behind two full skips of tat.
          "The cost of housing hasn't fallen though, this is due to lack of permissions to build and the lack of automation in the building process (these together add up to restrictive practises and keep the price high)."
          Here in Oz and probably UKLand as well, the high cost of housing is more due to high cost of land. The cost of land is maintained by Planning Schemes designed to do just that because that's what keeps the land taxes and rates bringing in the moolah for more government.

        4. Tim Seventh

          Re: Displaced not redundant

          Some most people have double glazing, central heating, kitchens full of gadgets they never use, 3 TVs, mobile phones for everyone, tablets, games consoles, fridge freezers, dishwashers even.

          If you can't get that right, you're haven't seen the full bell curve in the world. There are plenty, actually more than plenty, of people who don't have 3 TVs, mobile phones, tablets, games consoles, and dishwashers.

          In fact, have you even tried to trace back who made all your gadgets? Have you thought about where the factories are? Look at the factories workers life style, look at the truck delivery guy salary, look at the crap those people eat to get on with their days.

          If you think those people get anyway close to what you enjoy, then you really need to go out for a walk to the downtown area and meet a few new friends living on the edge.

          Back to topic, the problem is not that technology continues to chip out the bottom of the triangle, but it could chip too much of the bottom of the triangle too quick. The great depression that somehow led to WWII was an example of that. The economic no longer needed a surplus of workers due to demand changes and suddenly 25% unemployment.

          With unemployment, people buy less, leading to company selling less, leading to working employee paid less, leading to employee buying less, until to a point nothing works the way it was.

          The developing of AI, advance machine learning or just one complex script could very much chip out a lot of workers for a job by removing the demand for the workers. Currently, it is already happening but at a feasible rate. We are just plain 'lucky' that no company has the will to complete their ultimate AI research no one asked for.

          Because if they did and if they sold it at an unfeasible low price, it is back to great depression v2. Except this times, it will be very hard to recover. This is especially when most humans today don't use even close to 20% of their brain capacity, meaning they are likely to stay unemployed rather than to improve toward a better job.

          We are not scared of robots taking over our specialized job, we are scared that the robots take over too many of other people's job, pulling us and the whole economy with them.

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            @ Tim Seventh (was Re: Displaced not redundant)

            It may not have occurred to you, but the wealth whereof we squeak is concentrated where there's maximum automation/cheap energy. I would suggest that if we assist the third world to achieve similar levels of automation/cheap energy, they will no longer be so badly off. Of course The Green Blob is vehemently opposed to this happening.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

              1. Toltec

                Re: @ Tim Seventh (was Displaced not redundant)

                "Ask Hans Rosling. Even though he's dead."

                I've watched some of his presentations, as one of the few people that get get air time that are not all doom and gloom he is a real loss.

      2. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Displaced not redundant

        "Probllem there is that the cost of living hasn't fallen as quickly as the average wage, plus inflation affects the cost of living harder than the average wage. End result, cheaper goods are STILL out of reach for people locked into pittance jobs that pay EVEN LESS."
        Er... when I were a lad, the poor were poorer. Working class today have a standard of living only achieved by the middle class in the 1950s.

    2. Cris E

      Re: Displaced not redundant

      The thing is, as cheap as robots are getting it's still a capital outlay that has to be justified by the operational cost over time. And as more and more people are unemployed the cost of labor will fall until it reaches whatever passes for minimum wage. You shouldn't buy robots if meat is cheaper over the long run unless there's a quality improvement or some other justification for it, and some work is low margin enough that the cost of automation will never be covered.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Displaced not redundant

        That can only apply if the cost of living is really, really LOW (say, Third World low). Otherwise, it increasingly becomes a case of living wage or no wage. People who work two jobs deprive more people of work, exacerbating the issue. Meanwhile, like with horses, there are upkeep issues with human labor, plus you need multiple laborers to cover the 24-hour day, inconsistencies, etc. It's not like the Sprawl where people are born and raised in the company and are thus totally loyal to it, etc.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Displaced not redundant

      What I do not get is the obvious next set of jobs/revolution: space exploration. Start sending people out in the universe as there will be PLENTY of work for them. Think of people on Mars and ALL of the new jobs that would be there just waiting for them. Robots cannot do everything a human can do, plus it also ensures our survival as a species as the sun gets warmer.

    4. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Displaced not redundant

      "The cost of a mini in 1960 was about 1/5th of a house

      The cost of the equivalent today is about 1/22nd (and it is more reliable and cheaper to run)"

      I take it then the new ones don't have Lucas electrics...

    5. HieronymusBloggs Silver badge

      Re: Displaced not redundant

      "The cost of a mini in 1960 was about 1/5th of a house"

      House prices have inflated at a much higher rate than other things, so aren't the best standard for comparison. In 1970 an average house in the UK cost around a year's pay. Now it's more like 10 years.

  7. Rich 11 Silver badge

    ("the voice of robotics in the world")

    Anyone else hear that phrase in Stephen Hawking's voice while reading it?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Evil Auditor Silver badge
    Holmes

    "Today's technopanic about robots and AI may be overstated"

    see icon.

  9. Daedalus Silver badge

    Where's Fred Pohl when you need him?

    The fraction of people who can understand and produce/fix all this automation is small. You have no idea how vastly tinily mind-bogglingly small it is. So what we get in the future is a world of glitchy automatons, even worse than the situation inside most companies that rely on software.

    Get ready, world. Here comes that woodpecker.

    1. Cris E

      Re: Where's Fred Pohl when you need him?

      Not too different from multi-function printers today: standard maintenance in the field, component swaps for some repairs, full unit replacements for anything complex, and rely on the network for configuration, monitoring and upgrades. The hard stuff, programming and design, stays centrally located and minimized. It'll be a mess for a while, but it's been done before and will be again.

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Where's Fred Pohl when you need him?

      I'd wager there are also a LOT fewer people who can repair a broken TV set than say, fifty years ago. The only problem is, there does not seem to be any need for them these days. Maintenance is a redundant concept when reasonable MTBF is coupled with dumping-level availability & price of replacements. Not that I particularly approve of that philosophy, but it is what we already have even today.

      1. Daedalus Silver badge

        Re: Where's Fred Pohl when you need him?

        I was referring mostly to crap software and firmware. The sort of thing increasingly in evidence in bad websites, horribly dangerous in-car user interfaces, "smart" appliances that do the same old thing in new dumb ways, applications that ignore all the time-tested rules for managing user input, phone voice systems that give you the runaround etc. etc.

        And don't forget all those wonderful "live data" systems that need somebody somewhere accurately entering the correct information minute by minute. Even if you run a store inventory system off the bar code scanners at the checkout, you still have many many issues that need careful attention.

        The amount of software in our lives is increasing, dare I misuse the word, exponentially. The size of the population that can produce, update, and deliver that software is not growing as fast.

  10. Mage Silver badge
    Boffin

    Rechristened

    "neural nets helped speech recognition make big gain"

    Citation?

    I've not noticed much change in voice recognition QUALITY in last 15 years.

    " but all it had were 20-year-old techniques."

    Actually thirty year old techniques. It's still all there is, except faster (more powerful CPU / GPU adds zero AI, only speed) and with bigger databases.

    " to harness neural networks (now rechristened as the much sexier "deep learning") on narrow demo-friendly challenges such as image recognition and text processing,"

    Perhaps because they are nothing like biological neural networks. It's a data flow design based algorithm approach (invented in early 1980s) well suited to multiple cores (first popular on Transputers) and distributed systems.

    Though curiously I can't find a grammar checker or spelling checker much better that I had on CP/M and DOS 1987 to 1991.

    Google translate is a LESS advanced idea than translation in 1990s as at its "heart" it uses a Rosetta stone brute force approach. They started with EU texts. Not by improved parsing and grammar models.

    Industrialisation and automation dates back to the end of the 18th C. with powered programmable looms. CPUs and programs have replaced 1960s relays and ladder logic. It's been incremental over the last 50 years in electronics assembly.

    Most AI is hype, marketing and Humpty Dumpty "Words mean what I want them to mean". It's brittle with the unexpected as it's ultimately human curated rules, data and complex human written programs.

    We have no idea why in some respects a crow is smarter than a chimp. Why Corvids, budgies, elephants, chimps (only sign), dolphins, starlings and parrots can learn vocabulary as symbols for real things and can't do language.

    We have no satisfactory definition of exactly what Intelligence is, which seriously hampers program design. We are no closer to General machine intelligence than 60 years ago. All progress in AI has been by innovating a machine solution based on brute force and bigger data sets (to reduce the run time brute force needed, e.g. previous chess matches). Redefinition of marketing terms from database, Expert System, AI, Neural Network, deep learning.

    Yes machines replace human jobs, not new and arguably you should look at 1837 to 2017, not just since 1997. It's slowed a lot.

    1. Cris E

      Re: Rechristened

      Well, sure, facts: go ahead and be that way. But you can't deny the almost laughable amount of computing power that can be brought to bear on the most trivial of tasks these days. Just as the widespread availability of cheap high speed networks changed the world, this will remove barriers to all sorts of tasks that were more or less solved but not implemented because of cost or complexity.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Rechristened

      This.

      Have one on me.

  11. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
    Terminator

    I, for one,

    welcome our new robot overlords.

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: I, for one,

      Before going to give them a hug I reckon it would be prudent to listen in just to make sure they aren't muttering "exterminate"...

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    The Future ... but Not as You Will Know IT

    Today's technopanic about robots and AI, largely created by the media, may be overstated.

    Howdy, Andrew,

    You might like to realise the technopanic about robots and AI is misstated rather than understated, and that which lurks to disrupt everything fundamentally in the future is way beyond any possibility of regular conventional control, for it requires the sharing of greater intelligence mainstream which the mainstream intelligence services are either totally unaware of, or reluctant to admit to knowing and sharing because of the evil light which it will unavoidably puts them, and their support financial systems admins, in.

    Such then leaves the field free and fertile for alternative sources and special forces. And I Kid U Not for such is a novel field of Great Game Play which pay bounties and rewards beyond price, and that make it a very attractive and most unusual market and proprietary intellectual property trading space.

    1. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: The Future ... but Not as You Will Know IT

      I wonder what my guild will pay me for tanking aMfM.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Wishful Thinking is a Dream State in a Dream AI State? :-)

        I wonder what my guild will pay me for tanking aMfM. .... Alistair

        "tanking", Alistair? What is that? Would you dare care share and reveal exactly what that proposes you would be able to do for remote third parties?

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            Re: Wishful Thinking is a Dream State in a Dream AI State? :-) @Symon

            Oh, is that all that it is, Symon. Thanks for the interpretation/explanation.

            It never ceases to amaze and please me, the number of folk who have no idea about what is going on all around them, with them being completely unprepared and totally unable to do anything effective against its dogged progress.

            Buy hey, such is only natural in these new fundamentally changed and radically changing virtual reality times with novel cyber spaces for rapid stealthy exploitation of both heavenly bodies/immaculate systems and ignorant masses alike.

            And yesterday’s US Senate Intelligence Committee hearing with testimony from witnesses on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its capabilities to influence elections in other Western democracies …… https://www.c-span.org/video/?426227-1/senate-intelligence-panel-warned-russians-play-sides&live= …… is proof positive in reactive deed, indeed, if any be needed on that fact in the raging seas of foaming and forming media fiction.

            IT’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and becoming ever stranger ….. and if they truth be really told ….. You aint seen nothing yet. :-)

            Here’s some smoke for that toke …… Bachman Turner Overdrive

  13. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    The tail is wagging the dog

    The idea that we need to create enough work to keep the available labour pool occupied is exactly the wrong way to think. Work is not a desirable activity (if it were, it would be called "leisure" or "a hobby" rather than "work"). Being able to reduce the amount of work that is needed to be carried out by a given society should be something to celebrate. The reason it is considered desirable to increase or maintain the total amount of work carried out by a given population so there is enough for every member of that population to work 35 or so hours per week for most of their adult life is due to the way our particular economic system has been designed, not because it is either necessary or desirable.

    Design a different economic system and we will be able to do the sensible thing and concentrate on reducing the total amount of work humans need to carry out rather than stifling progress and inventing work in order to satisfy an unnecessary artificial system. Becoming unemployed should be a desirable goal, not something to be avoided.

    1. Bob Rocket

      Re: The tail is wagging the dog

      You can have the day off when all human demand has been satisfied, until then there will always be someone willing to pay someone else to do the bits they can't/won't do for themselves.

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: The tail is wagging the dog

      Well yes but that would assume that the machine's owners would have to voluntarily give back at least a teeny-weeny bit of the value the machine generates to the fresh leisure-time millionaire it just replaced (assuming everything didn't just suddenly become free). For example, by paying enough taxes to cover all that stuff taxes tend to cover right now plus a decent wage for every non-working non-robot-owner, just to stay at home. Hell, frost, pigs, wings, etc...

  14. Officer Dibble
    Facepalm

    "We're in the business of making better drivers". How you could read that and see it as confirmation that Waymo doesn't exist to build self-driving cars (and instead support your weird point about co-pilots) is beyond me. The "better driver" in that business model is the AI. Not the human with an AI co-pilot.

    Not that I'm any fan of the prospect, mind.

  15. Bucky 2

    In order to be worried, I'd have to believe that there is an entire class of human beings who are so worthless, that they would be easily replaced by robots. Then the middle class would become the lower class, and the lower class would become -- what -- homeless, I guess.

    That would make me a snob and a misanthrope.

  16. martinusher Silver badge

    Its not the tin men you have to worry about

    It doesn't make much sense to employ a humanoid robot for jobs humans can do -- humans are cheap to source, self-replicating, self-maintaining and generally much better at being people than machines are. Where people are in danger are in two areas. One is tasks which require precise, repeatable, operations. The machine gets the job because its better at doing it than a human. The other is automation of tasks that require knowledge that's mostly learned rather than understood. Office automation is an obvious one, but the number and scope of administrative tasks that can be automated is huge, along with things like routine medical and legal tasks, So I do expect jobs carnage with legions of office workers joining the armies of redundant blue collar workers, creating a large pool of low cost humanoids for menial tasks that cannot justify developing machines for that purpose.

    Its all very dystopian.

  17. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Terminator

    Perhaps Andrew Orlowski has been killed by a drone, and the article was written by an AI to keep us calm while the takeover progresses?

  18. Long John Brass Silver badge

    Jesus^H^H^H^H^H Hal-9000 is my co-pilot

    I've been thinking of getting a roomba style bot to vacuum

    Already have Automatic washing machine & Dryer, A Microwave, etc...

    Currently tinkering with a 3d printer and would like to get my sticky fingers on a CNC machine, A LASER cutter would be nice too; Tell me again why robots are bad?

    I love driving; But I HATE commuting, a self drive car would be a bloody god-send

    The more I can automate my life the happier I am

  19. jonfr

    That's what they sad about the PC

    This is the same thing they sad about the PC at the time (1977).

    "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.

    Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), in a talk given to a 1977 World Future Society meeting in Boston. This is widely quoted but Olsen claims it is taken out of context, that he was not referring to personal computers but to a household computer that would control the home.

    Reference: "Ken Olsen", Snopes, includes bibliography."

    https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Incorrect_predictions

  20. IGnatius T Foobar

    Balance?

    It would seem that if automation is capable of driving down the demand for human workers, it will also drive down wages, in which case it will often make economic sense to hire humans. Not the best possible outcome, but not the worst, either. On the other hand, Jeff Bezos is trying very hard to create a world in which he is the only one who has a job. I hope he dies.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Re: Balance?

      At which point you have a massive economic downturn because only a privileged few can now afford to consume the products of all that cheap labour.

  21. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

    Largely created by the s/media/left as a justification for increased interference/

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