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1 freetoken  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 12:14:32am

Maybe he needs to read some Asimov?

Anyway, I think the point underlying all of this is that what we ought to care about are people, and since the advent of civilization humans have been compensated for their labor. If humans are no longer needed for labor, they will not get compensation for such, and thus will have nothing really to trade with those (few) who have most of the wealth (goods).

2 Destro  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 12:44:16am

re: #1 freetoken

Maybe he needs to read some Asimov?

Anyway, I think the point underlying all of this is that what we ought to care about are people, and since the advent of civilization humans have been compensated for their labor. If humans are no longer needed for labor, they will not get compensation for such, and thus will have nothing really to trade with those (few) who have most of the wealth (goods).

If you only need a few humans to design a component or provide services then either the human population shrinks or we become a Star Trek like socialist collective (in a society with replicators and cheap energy you don't need to work).

3 dragonath  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 2:18:56am

re: #2 Destro

Which is pretty much what is happening in Japan. Drives the economists nuts though. I remember a particularly dopey graph published in the Financial Times that showed the Japanese population falling to zero in 100 years.

lol

4 aagcobb  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 4:16:19am

Reading Krugan's article, the point isn't so much that he hates robots as that compensation of labor is dropping relative to capital. The return of manufacturing to the U.S. isn't going to bring back lots of high paying factory jobs for blue collar workers. Instead we have lots of low paying service jobs. In order for these working people to enjoy dignified lives, we have to find ways to improve their compensation, such as increasing the minimum wage, or taxing those you own assets and are being incredibly well-compensated to provide government services and assistance to make up the difference. The challenge is to make it possible for the broad base of the population to be able to afford all the stuff our technology can produce.

5 Mich-again  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 5:57:42am

Yeah but.. robotics can actually decrease capital investment. Case in point, automotive painting. Manual sprayers require longer spray booths, more ventilation equipment, more chilling capacity, I could go on.

The enemy of economic growth is wasted consumption of limited resources. The resources that are conserved by integrating robotics into processes reduces the market prices and frees up resources for other more beneficial uses.

If the object is rising incomes and higher standards of living then using robotics to replace a variety of human tasks is actually a good thing in the big picture, for labor, for management, for the environment, and for economic growth.

6 Dark_Falcon  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 5:58:30am

re: #3 dragonath

Which is pretty much what is happening in Japan. Drives the economists nuts though. I remember a particularly dopey graph published in the Financial Times that showed the Japanese population falling to zero in 100 years.

lol

Japan's population is falling, and fairly swiftly too. It's already below "lowest-low" fertility (1.3). So don't laugh, because Japan is hosed.

7 Decatur Deb  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 6:04:22am

Here's an Atlantic article about the factory where I worked my way through school. It is recovering jobs from China. We had Jack Welch, a total SOB for GE VP, and a genius of an IUE union president named Kennedy. He saw the inevitability of automation and adjusted to it. In the early 70s we had 20,000 workers. Now it's bouncing back from a low of 2,000.

[Link: www.theatlantic.com...]

8 Dark_Falcon  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 6:07:36am

re: #4 aagcobb

Reading Krugan's article, the point isn't so much that he hates robots as that compensation of labor is dropping relative to capital. The return of manufacturing to the U.S. isn't going to bring back lots of high paying factory jobs for blue collar workers. Instead we have lots of low paying service jobs. In order for these working people to enjoy dignified lives, we have to find ways to improve their compensation, such as increasing the minimum wage, or taxing those you own assets and are being incredibly well-compensated to provide government services and assistance to make up the difference. The challenge is to make it possible for the broad base of the population to be able to afford all the stuff our technology can produce.

To take what Mich just said in #5 and apply it to your post: For some task its simply not rational for a manufacturer to use more manual techniques. In Mich's example of car painting, paying car painters higher wages while they use equipment that costs more is insane from a business standpoint. Advances in production sometimes simply end up leaving some people as losers. Such people can be given retraining, or in worse cases help finding another job and some aid till they do, but what you should not do is to try to save jobs that have become unproductive. Doing that only results in that industry becoming inefficient and dependent on outside intervention.

9 Dark_Falcon  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 6:09:41am

There's another reason for insourcing too: The US federal and state governments (for all their problems) are far more honest and predictable than the Chinese government is.

10 Decatur Deb  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 6:10:57am

re: #9 Dark_Falcon

There's another reason for insourcing too: The US federal and state governments (for all their problems) are far more honest and predictable than the Chinese government is.

At least they tend to stay bought.

11 Decatur Deb  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 6:17:00am

At some point we will realize that the 30-hour workweek solves an awful lot of economic, cultural, and social-justice problems. Ultimately humans might need to put in a few hours a week of drudge labor and spend the rest of their time doing human things. Unlimited fusion power would help.

12 Dark_Falcon  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 6:24:14am

re: #10 Decatur Deb

At least they tend to stay bought.

And they can be lobbied openly. That last may seem like a minus to some, but it really is a good thing when business leaders can make their case to politicians without having to fear having their engineers arrested because their factory's plan to expand fell afoul of some princeling's power play (and that has happened in China).

13 Romantic Heretic  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 8:10:08am

re: #9 Dark_Falcon

There's another reason for insourcing too: The US federal and state governments (for all their problems) are far more honest and predictable than the Chinese government is.

Perhaps. but graft is always cheaper than taxes.

14 Romantic Heretic  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 8:12:44am

The biggest problem with robots in manufacturing is that our system is built around being paid for you labour. "If you don't work, you don't eat," as the catechism goes.

So, if robots take over the work, how do people eat?

15 Mich-again  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 9:12:41am

Robots are beginning to take over the military too

16 Locker  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 9:41:58am

Robots are tools... just a complicated shovel. Tools always replace a manual process and whoever provides that "manual process" has always been fearful. The reality is, the tool inevitably leads to more opportunity and innovation.

Program baby program!

17 Stoatly  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 9:53:53am

re: #13 Romantic Heretic

Perhaps. but graft is always cheaper than taxes.

Only in the short term, the costs of graft aren't as obvious but they mount up.

If you've ever done business in a country with a tradition of graft you'll be reminded of Serpico wondering why his fellow cops eat in a shit-hole diner - they eat there for free in return for turning a blind eye to hygiene violations. He'd rather pay the going rate and eat somewhere that complied with food regs

18 sauceruney  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 9:59:04am

Robots require a commitment on the side of the manufacturer, to safety, to properly training operators, and to realizing that just because it's a "robot" that it doesn't work like magic. I do not see this happening at all, and I work in a position to know.

19 aagcobb  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 10:44:24am

re: #8 Dark_Falcon

To take what Mich just said in #5 and apply it to your post: For some task its simply not rational for a manufacturer to use more manual techniques. In Mich's example of car painting, paying car painters higher wages while they use equipment that costs more is insane from a business standpoint. Advances in production sometimes simply end up leaving some people as losers. Such people can be given retraining, or in worse cases help finding another job and some aid till they do, but what you should not do is to try to save jobs that have become unproductive. Doing that only results in that industry becoming inefficient and dependent on outside intervention.

I agree. There are lots of jobs that require creativity or the human touch that aren't going to become automated. But a lot of those jobs aren't well compensated and can't support a middle class lifestyle, so we have to figure out policies to correct the growing imbalance between the return on capital and the return on labor.

20 Romantic Heretic  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 10:45:25am

re: #17 Stoatly

Only in the short term, the costs of graft aren't as obvious but they mount up.

If you've ever done business in a country with a tradition of graft you'll be reminded of Serpico wondering why his fellow cops eat in a shit-hole diner - they eat there for free in return for turning a blind eye to hygiene violations. He'd rather pay the going rate and eat somewhere that complied with food regs

Unfortunately, very few people in business take the long view.

re: #18 sauceruney

I remember too well from my programming days the disappointment on various business owners and managers faces when they discovered that computers weren't going to replace their employees. In their minds computers were like genies: Nearly all powerful and chained to their master's will.

21 Political Atheist  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 11:24:11am

re: #20 Romantic Heretic

When was that? Those guys may have had some unreasonable expectations. Your work was severely under appreciated.
The old days-
Image: 04c498b1e3d9f3f0a073b4385b4b8aa7.jpeg

I work in a downtown district full of buildings that were built circa 1900-1925. They had whole rooms for clerical work that all now happen on a mangers (or two) computer with accounting software. Now those rooms are full of showroom or shop space. But the clerical force is a tiny fraction of what is was in the past. Back then we had people to type your memo from dictation. Now we do that for ourselves.

When they get remodeled you can see some of the old infrastructure. Holes in the floor with brass caps in rows across the room. One for each desk. That was where the then very fat phone cable came up. Those desks back in the day had the old pull the handle calculating machines and fountain pens.

Still perhaps about as many employees as before in the building, but not clerical. More sales or shop workers. I have pictures of the family biz when grandfather ran it. Desks and desks of clerks and secretaries. My family has spent four generations making careers downtown. Lots of stories and photographs. So much change!

22 watching you tiny alien kittens are  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 2:38:30pm
Why does Paul Krugman hate robots?

Because robots are soulless killing machines, don't you watch the movies?

///

23 jvic  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 5:08:58pm

Notwithstanding everything, I prefer life with today's technology to life 10, 20, 30,... years ago.

Although his optimism has been scathed by time, Keynes makes more sense to me than Krugman does.

24 cinesimon  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 5:48:44pm

"according to his old Economics textbooks"
Hang on, you say that you agree with him mostly, yet in that one whimsical piece of nonsense, show that you really know nothing of his work.

25 cinesimon  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 6:00:25pm

As someone who has been involved in automated machinery for 25 years, from my experience - and everything I have read with regards to CONTEMPORARY economics(not "old Economics textbooks") - shows tha yes, there is more employment in China, Taiwan, parts of Germany and Italy(even Brazil!) - but those jobs do not even remotely account for what the automation cuts out.
Not to mention that most of the jobs gained are in places where labor is not valued.
In a way, this is moot. Increased automation will not slow down because it cuts down on employment. It's the main reason why such machinery makes gains every year.
But that does not men we should not be aware of it, as Krugman is. It's a part of the real world that we must take into account. People need jobs. Factories are less and less large scale employers. That means some other form of mass employment needs to be figured out.
But by burying our heads in the sand and pretend that his argument is old and irrelevant, is silly.

26 Kdizzle  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 6:39:43pm
The higher quality levels reduce rework and warranty costs and the reduced utilities consumption brings lower market prices for commodities from which all businesses and consumers will benefit.

Yes but where will these future consumers earn the income to buy these state of the art robotically mass produced products?

Will we all sell car insurance or deliver pizza's for a living?

Because I can guarantee the profits(which will be near 70 to 100 percent with the faze out of the human workforce is complete) will not be going to these now unemployed workers.

The people that will own the means of production to these products will never allow that to happen short of revolution.

I don't really think that the socio-economical and political implications of full automation of production in a Oligarchical Capitalist Democracy with the minimal level of social safety net we have in this country have been fully realized.

Historically a middle class like the one that came out of the post-war era in the West is a statistical anomaly. And its seems to me that full automation will finally "fix" this anomaly for good.

Can I be wrong about this?

Maybe I am just biasing my opinion with the present political climate we have today where its seems very obvious that most of America's white middle class population is repulsed by the idea that they are going to be an impotent political force in fifty years so they are lashing out nihilistically against this in the voting booth. And maybe a more diverse population in the future will be much more open to an expansion of the safety net. Distributing these profits in a more humane fashion that what the current environment would allow for.

But I just can let myself come to think that human civilization's default position isn't Aristocratic after all and the future will is simply a reversion to the mean.

27 Mich-again  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 8:06:30pm

re: #24 cinesimon

"according to his old Economics textbooks"
Hang on, you say that you agree with him mostly, yet in that one whimsical piece of nonsense, show that you really know nothing of his work.

Well I stated by pointing out that I have agreed with his analysis every time but point taken, that phrase wasn't very eloquently worded.

But I definitely think the notion that capital-biased technological change is a bad thing for workers is old world thinking.

28 Mich-again  Sun, Dec 9, 2012 8:16:19pm

re: #25 cinesimon

People need jobs. Factories are less and less large scale employers. That means some other form of mass employment needs to be figured out.

So what is the answer? You can't put the genie back in the bottle. Factories that don't automate processes won't survive when their global competition has automated them. And on the other hand if everyone automates everything and there are no jobs left, than all those robots won't have anything to build because there won't be any customers out there with money to spend. So that is a real concern when you take it to the extreme.

This isn't a simple question. I'm glad to have spurred some healthy disagreements. That is how rational people eventually figure things out.


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