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The Robots-Taking-the-Jobs Industry

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The Robots-Taking-the-Jobs Industry

Unread postby Zarquon » Mon 04 Mar 2019, 21:48:46

Since the meme of robots and AI destroying our jobs is so pervasive that even inevitably on this forum it's pretty much taken for gospel, I thought this piece might be of interest

http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/th ... s-industry

"...The endless scare stories of robots taking all the jobs, or the threat of automation, fit this model. While this is a recurring theme in major media outlets, it basically makes zero sense.

Replacing human labor with technology is a very old story. It’s called “productivity growth.” We’ve been seeing it pretty much as long as we have had a capitalist economy. In fact, this is what allows for sustained improvements in living standards. If we had not seen massive productivity growth in agriculture, then the bulk of the country would still be working on farms. Otherwise, we would be going hungry.

However, thanks to a massive improvement in technology, less than 2 percent of our workforce is now employed in agriculture. And, we can still export large amounts of food.

If the robots taking our jobs industry were around a hundred years ago, it would be warning about gas-powered tractors eliminating the need for farm labor. We would be hearing serious sounding discussion on our radio shows (we will steal radios from the 1919 future) with leading experts warning about how pretty soon there would be no work for anyone. They would tell us we have to prepare for this dark future by fundamentally reorganizing society.

Okay, that story is about as wrong as could possibly be the case, but if anyone buys the robots taking our jobs line, then they better try to figure out why this time is different. After all, what difference does it make if a worker loses their job to a big tractor or they lose their job to a robot?

The basic story of robots taking our jobs is one of a massive increase in productivity growth. Instead of people driving taxis and trucks, stocking store shelves, and working checkout counters, all this work and more will be dealt with by robots. There are three problems with this story:

It has not been happening;

No one involved in designing policy expects it to happen;

It would likely mean more rapid wage growth and improved living standards if it did happen.

On the first point, instead of accelerating to new highs, the rate of productivity growth has actually been very slow in recent years. We did have a period of strong productivity growth from 1995 to 2005 when the average annual rate was just under 3.0 percent. However, this period of strong growth ended abruptly in 2006 for reasons that are not well understood.

Since 2006, productivity growth has fallen to less than a 1.3 percent annual rate. While some (including me) had hoped that a tighter labor market would lead to a pickup in productivity growth, to date we are still not seeing it. Over the last two years, productivity growth has averaged less than 1.2 percent.[1] Long and short, there is absolutely zero evidence that we are seeing any mass displacement by robots, automation, or anything else.
[...]
We could look at other projections from places like the OECD and I.M.F. and other organizations, but they all show pretty much the same story. None of them show the massive uptick in productivity growth that would be associated with the robots taking all the jobs.

This doesn’t mean such an upturn is impossible after all these organizations all missed the slowdown that began in 2006 and for that matter the upturn that began in 1995. So their track record in projecting trends in productivity has not been great, but anyone arguing the robots-taking-all-the-jobs-story should realize that they are going against the consensus in the economics profession.

The last point is that if the robots did start taking more jobs, so what? We had almost 3.0 percent productivity growth from 1995 to 2005 and in the much longer post World War II Golden age from 1947 to 1973. These were periods of relatively low unemployment and strong wage growth.
..."

The entire piece is a bit longer but worth reading. And I think the basic argument is pretty strong: if the highly productive machines are suddenly eating our jobs, then where's the evidence? And since machines have replaced human labor for centuries now, why aren't we all unemployed?
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Re: The Robots-Taking-the-Jobs Industry

Unread postby Zarquon » Mon 04 Mar 2019, 21:56:56

http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/wa ... rojections

"The failure of economics reporters in major news outlets to make simple logical connections is truly astounding. The Washington Post gave us another great example of this failure in a piece on robots replacing workers in a Chinese warehouse.

The gist of this story is that this warehouse, which only has four workers overseeing dozens of robots, could be the wave of the future. At one point the piece tells us that the consulting firm McKinsey projects that almost one-third of jobs could be replaced by automation by 2030.

While this is presented as something ominous, this replacement of workers by technology is known as "productivity growth." The loss of one-third of all jobs in 12 years would translate into productivity growth of just over 3.0 percent annually. This is roughly the pace of productivity growth we saw in the long Golden Age from 1947 to 1973, a period of low unemployment and rapid wage growth.
..."
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Re: The Robots-Taking-the-Jobs Industry

Unread postby Yonnipun » Tue 05 Mar 2019, 06:16:04

It is inevitable. Young people today do not want to sacrifice their life and health doing some mindless bluecollar job breathing in toxic fuels and dust. They rather stay on NEET. Specially young man who can not get a girlfriend because the days of "beta provider" are over a long time ago. Those who are still bluepilled are workslaving but eventually their dreams - getting a girfriend and having a family - are shattered and they will wake up. The solution is either to bring in immigrants from poor countries who are very satisfied with the minimum wage and have a family to support in their poor country or automation.
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Re: The Robots-Taking-the-Jobs Industry

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Tue 05 Mar 2019, 14:34:00

I think Zarquon makes a good point, overall.

My main concern is that robots are doing some amazing things, re articles I've read, and that I DO believe that an awful lot of menial jobs will be replaced in the next decade, and especially three. Just looking at human cashiers is one example of what technology can do to a class of jobs.

If education doesn't prepare people for serious, non-menial jobs, or jobs in durable trades (like, say plumbers or electricians, who actually know what they're doing), I think it will be VERY hard on the "do you want fries with that?" class of workers. Also, the big left wing push for an artifically high minimum wage, regardless of the costs of living in an area, only greatly incentivizes the speed of getting such robots in place. ($15 an hour MW might make sense in high cost cities -- it does NOT in cheap rural areas).

So I think it's a mixed bag but that Zarquon is absolutely right that it won't devastate the economy overall -- but it sure might hurt a class of workers very badly, if they're unable or unwilling to adapt their skill set.
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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Re: The Robots-Taking-the-Jobs Industry

Unread postby Sys1 » Tue 05 Mar 2019, 14:54:44

What is new nowadays is that machines are taking jobs but are not increasing production.
They juste replace workers.
It's why we can not compare with the past.
For example, with agriculture automation, not only did we replace jobs, but we increased by 10, 100 and more the production. The result was cheap food while new jobs were massively created in towns.

Today, we don't create new jobs for all those "obsolete" people getting out of industry and services,
because there's not really something new to make. What could they do? Nothing. They are useless.
Only the guys having the capital to hold and build machines will become richer while all others will get poorer.
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Re: The Robots-Taking-the-Jobs Industry

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Tue 05 Mar 2019, 19:19:17

We cannot compare with the past because we have different expectations. Technology does that. I can remember my Mother telling my Father that he was welcome to watch TV in the basement if he got the plastic cabinet TV, instead of the walnut console she wanted because it would match the other wood in the living room. Both TVs were 21" B&W models, large by the standards of the time. But WHO holds out for a flatscreen with nice wood nowadays?

Likewise phones were once heavy molded Bakelite plastic things that were connected to wires. About the only thing that is the same is a monthly charge, paid by you to them.

Wooden looms powered by water wheels once put weavers out of work. Affordable cars caused millions of no-longer-needed horses to be slaughtered for dog food. Milkmen delivered fresh milk by the quart to your doorstep daily.

One generation cannot be compared to another unless you compare the same product or service, used the same way, and account for the change in value of the money.
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Re: The Robots-Taking-the-Jobs Industry

Unread postby evilgenius » Wed 06 Mar 2019, 20:00:08

There's a difference between robots and artificial intelligence. Robots can only do what they are programmed to do. AI doesn't have that limitation. That's why it threatens so many jobs so quickly. It will replace driving and fast food working both, as well as financial investment positions. Those "robots" will be able to do what only people could do up until now, reason enough to do those repetitive tasks when the parameters within which they function may even change. If you are looking for the place where it won't, look no further than the internet. People are already carving out places where they can value add in ways that only human beings can, where it comes to inflaming people's emotions and getting them to spend money. Machines are part of that, but they will never be the largest part. They can only help a person project themselves upon a group. They won't be able to shake it like the Kardashians. Nor will they be very good at managing groups of people to come to a central focus, when it means they have to inspire them rather than scare them into it. They can't be because our current form of AI is not self aware. It's only good at picking up on trends and predicting based upon past behavior. It doesn't know how to be unpredictable. It hasn't got emotions.
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Re: The Robots-Taking-the-Jobs Industry

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Wed 06 Mar 2019, 20:41:31

We beat this topic to death: https://peakoil.com/forums/post1408735.html#p1408735

and page 4/5 of here: https://peakoil.com/forums/peak-japan-population-shrinks-by-a-million-census-confirms-t72353.html

In brief, you are talking about expert systems. That is not AI. In fact, computers have abilities that humans do not and it's not intelligence. Just as humans have unique abilities that machines never will.

I've been in the computer biz 41 years and I'm just not worried about this. If you have a white/blue collar job that a computer can do, expect to lose it. Expect to get re-trained twice or more in your career. Either that, or be unemployed. The reason this happens is technological change. They call it WORK, not PLAY - meaning that they are gonna pay you for doing what they need, not what you want.
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