SOCIETY & JOBLESSNESS
The power of computer-based technology has been accelerating for over 60 years, and its cost has been reducing. There is a breakeven point when the cost of automating some function is the same as the cost of the human labour that is required to do it. As technology reduces the cost of automation further, business will automate the function – and the value of the human labour involved is reduced to that of the automated cost.
Let’s consider a simple example, where a restaurant employs two dishwashers at $10/hour. If an automatic dishwasher can do the same dishwashing function at a cost of $12/hour, then the value of human dishwashing has dropped to $6/hour. Even ignoring the other costs associated with human labour (overtime, vacations, supervision, benefits) the owner of the restaurant can’t afford to pay more than $6.
As technology continues to reduce the value of human labor, most industrial and commercial jobs will be automated. The term ‘paid-joblessness’ is introduced because, even if there are no paid jobs, most people will want to spend their time productively. (Well, maybe not everyone!) Jobs will still exist, but the implication of being paid for the work will disappear, as most jobs will not involve payment of money. In effect, most workers will be volunteers. So the meaning of ‘a job’ will change.
Technology has been automating work functions for centuries, and yet the size of the workforce has continued to grow. The increase is primarily due to:
- Greater demand for the product or service because of population growth and the increased wealth of consumers.
- New technology may eliminate the need for some jobs, but the improved functionality has often resulted in increased employment implementing the new technology, even if it may be in a different geographic area. (For example, jobs lost involved in the manufacturing of tape cassettes in the mid-West of the USA were replaced by more jobs to manufacture CDs in California.)
- More products and services being offered by entrepreneurial activity.
- An increase in government involvement in regulating and taxing industries, and regulating the use of human resources.
So, while the demand for specific skills has changed, there has been a continuous increase in the overall number of jobs being offered. The question is ‘is this time different’? Are we moving to a society in which most jobs will have been automated? The content provided in this website suggests that it is. And it is caused by the confluence of factors, including:
- The internet provides immediate communication access (eliminating the need for intermediary jobs), and opening access to a world-wide employee market (which increases the competition for work, and so reduces its cost), while supplying entrepreneurs with software that eliminates the need to hire support staff. (This last benefit started with the arrival of computers, but has accelerated with the functionality of the internet.)
- Once an area has been automated, the increasing capability of AI and robotics will enable new work functionality (even functionality for new technology) to be automated immediately (eliminating the new technology adoption delay), while robots will be training other robots (as they have already started to do).
- Workers are working for more years as the expected (healthy) life span increases, which adds to the demand for work.
- In 2019, consumption and the overall economy are built on the shifting sands of low-cost money and considerable debt. In the U.S., almost 80% of all workers are living paycheck to paycheck, with less than $400 saved to pay an unexpected expense. Corporate credit ratings are being downgraded at an unprecedented rate, with US$4 trillions of bonds coming due in 2019-22. Some time in this period, we will come to the end of 60+ years of overall economic growth (with a few blips along the way), which will result in major job loss. When the economy cycle starts to recover, many of the jobs lost will be replaced by automation.
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REVIEW THESE INFORMATIVE ARTICLES - AND READ THOSE THAT INTEREST YOU
Will Your Job Still Exist In 2030? (2019-07 - National Public Radio)
A team of economists at the McKinsey Global Institute are forecasting what work in America will look like in 2030. The research finds automation widening the gap between urban and rural areas, and dramatically affecting people who didn’t go to college or finish high school. It projects some occupations poised for massive growth, but that almost 40% of U.S. jobs are in occupations that are likely to shrink — though not necessarily disappear.
Review of Carl Frey's book:'The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor and Power in the Age of Automation' (2019-07 - Singularity Hub)
The Swedish economic historian Carl Benedikt Frey’s new book ‘The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor and Power in the Age of Automation’ was written to dispel some of the hysteria raised by Michael Osborne and his 2013 research that up to 47 percent of American jobs were at risk of being automated by the mid-2030s. He suggests a more nuanced analysis of the research, and defines anti-tech backlash as the technology trap we should be trying to avoid.
The price we'd pay for $20 minimum wage (2019-07 - Jewish World Review)
You can force businesses to raise wages, but you can’t force them to keep workers. Many studies establish the correlation between higher minimum wages and lower available jobs – before considering the impact of technology.
AI will affect one in every five jobs in Asia, eliminating one in eight (2019-05 - MIT Technology Review)
AI will be a major growth driver for Asia in the coming decade. Most companies are expecting headcount to increase. AI will affect one in every five jobs in Asia—eliminating one in eight. AI will produce winner and loser countries, depending upon their economy.
The challenge of abundance: Boredom, meaning, and the struggle of mental freedom (2019-05 - Singularity Hub)
As technology continues to progress, the possibility of an abundant future seems more likely. If robots take all the jobs, basic income provides us livable welfare for doing nothing, and healthcare is a guarantee free of charge, then what is the point of our lives? As physical struggles disappear, the world will become a vibrant culture where individuals are striving to find inner peace and fulfillment, to build meaningful relationships, and to find themselves.
The wrong kind of AI? AI and the future of labor demand (2019-04 - MIT Technology Review)
AI is set to influence every aspect of our lives, not least the way production is organized. AI, as a technology platform, can automate tasks previously performed by labor or create new tasks and activities in which humans can be productively employed. Recent technological change has been biased towards automation, with insufficient focus on creating new tasks where labor can be productively employed. The consequences of this choice have been stagnating labor demand, declining labor share in national income, rising inequality and lower productivity growth. The current tendency is to develop AI in the direction of further automation, but this might mean missing out on the promise of the right kind of AI with better economic and social outcomes.
Three papers from influential economists cast doubt on the idea that there are beneficial aspects to workers from automation (2019-04 - ZDNet)
Two influential economists, Daron Acemoglu of MIT and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University, have written 3 papers that challenge the benefits of AI for workers. ‘Demographics and Automation’ argues that, as workers age from 21 to 55, robots are used increasingly to replace them. ‘Automation and New Tasks. How Technology Displaces and Reinstates Labor’ argues that automation hasn’t created a sufficient number of new tasks. ‘The Wrong Kind of AI? Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Labor Demand’ challenges those creating and utilizing AI, noting that “Recent technological change has been biased towards automation, with insufficient focus on creating new tasks where labor can be productively employed … The consequences of this choice have been stagnating labor demand, declining labor share in national income, rising inequality and lower productivity growth.”