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Robots and Jobs: What happens when the work gets automated?



After many years of predicting futurists and philosophers, the lived reality of technology that replaces human labor has been an integral part of the computer since the cotton gin, the assembly line, and more recently the computer.

Wenns with these representations, but the conversation about robots and work is increasingly mated with the debate over eliminating growing income inequality – a key issue in the democratic presidency of 2020.

The workplace is changing. How should Americans handle it?

"There is no easy answer," said Stuart Russell, a computer scientist at UC Berkeley, associate professor of neurological surgery at UC San Francisco and author of an upcoming book, "Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control. "But in the long term, almost all current jobs will be eliminated, so we need quite radical policy changes to prepare for a very different future economy."

In his book, Russell writes: "A fast-paced image is that of an economy in which far fewer people work because work is unnecessary."

This is either a very scary or a tantalizing prospect, depending on whether and how much you (and / or society) think people need to work and how society will put a price on human labor.

There will be less work in manufacturing, less work in call centers, less work driving lorries and more work in health care as well as in home care and construction. This automation will occupy the workforce. There are many of them. And they indicate that anything from a moderate displacement to a total overhaul of the workforce with varying alert levels is possible.

One of the reports from the McKinsey Global Institute provides an overview of how vulnerable various automation jobs are and notes that hundreds of millions of people worldwide need to find new jobs or learn new skills. Learning new skills can be more difficult than it sounds, as CNN has noted in automakers for example in Lordstown, Ohio.

More robots mean more inequality.

Almost everyone who has seriously considered it said that more automation is likely to lead to more inequality.

It is undeniable that companies have become increasingly productive, but the wages of the workers could not keep up.

"Our analysis shows that the largest employment growth rates in the United States and other advanced economies will be in jobs that are currently at the peak of wages distribution," McKinsey said. "Some low-paid occupations, such as nursing assistants and teaching assistants, will also increase, while a broad range of middle-income occupations will experience the largest decline in employment."

"The probable challenge for the future is to tackle increasing inequality and ensure adequate (re) education, especially for the low-skilled," says a report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

A Democratic presidential candidate ̵

1; Andrew Yang, the insurgent non-politician – built his campaign to solve this problem. Yang blames job automation more for the decline of the US manufacturing industry than for outsourcing to China and draws a direct line between the shrinking manufacturing industry and the rise of Donald Trump. "We need to wake people up," Yang recently told The Atlantic. "This is the reality why Donald Trump is our president today because we've already blown up millions of American jobs and people feel they've lost a way forward."

If automation takes over jobs, should all people get a government paycheck?

Yang's answer to the problem is to give everyone in the US, regardless of their needs, an income – he calls it a "Freedom Dividend" – of $ 1,000 a month. It would eliminate economic and racial inequality and leave people to work that adds value to the community.

It's not a new idea. Congress and President Richard Nixon almost adopted such a proposal in the early 1970s as part of the war on poverty. But now, after decades in which the GOP distances itself from social programs, the idea of ​​a universal basic income seems about as good as the new "Terminator" movie (yes, they make another) coming out this year.

"Ninety-four percent of new jobs created in the US are gig, temporary or contractor jobs, and we still act as if it were the '70s that say," They will work for a … " Business, you will receive benefits, you will be able to retire even though we have completely expelled all retirement benefits, but somehow you will retire, it will work, "said Yang in this Atlantic interview. "Young people look up and say," That does not seem to work. "And we say," Oh, it's all right. "It's not all right, we have to grow up." [19659002] He explicitly points out that truck driving is a job that is crucial to today's US economy, but could and could be fully automated in the near future. The automation of truck traffic protects the environment, saves money and promotes productivity. But it does not help the truck drivers.

On the other hand, although truck driving is honorable work, it may not be the life goal of many people. In this way, robots would accept jobs that people may not want, unless they have to do what they are doing right now.

"If you accept these circumstances, that we are fighting technologies that cause marginal costs close to zero, then you have to say" OK "quickly, how will we start to value our time, what does a 21st century economy look like? that it serves our interests and not the capital efficiency machine? "he says. And so he and many liberal economists and capitalists like Elon Musk come up with the idea of ​​a basic income.

Yang argued in front of a CNN Town Hall this year that it is not enough for people to organize themselves as trade unionists to protect jobs.

"I do not think we have the time to re-staff the workforce in this way," he said. "We should start by distributing values ​​directly to the Americans."

The creation of a population that can live on a basic income without work would change the way society works in its entirety.

"For some, UBI is a version of paradise For others, it is a confession of failure – a claim that most people will not have any economic value to contribute to society," Russell writes. "They can be fed and housed mostly by machines, but are otherwise left to their own devices."

Yang focuses more on the immediate threat that he sees as automation for American jobs. And politicians are not honest about it because they are too optimistic.

"You are a politician, your incentives are to say we can do this, we can do that, we can do the other and then society falls apart in the meantime."

What to do with our time?

Not everyone believes society would fall apart, and there were in fact serious concerns about what people do when they are productive In an important article from 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes wrote that people are in would have to deal with their free time for future generations.

For those who sweat for their daily bread-time, it is a longed-for sweetheart – until they get it, "he wrote, adding later that" man is confronted with his real, his constant problem – like his freedom of the press can use economic worries, how to occupy the spare time, the science and compound interest w w for him it is important to live wisely and pleasantly.

Rather than tackling the problem of leisure, automation can often lead to unforeseen problems.The cotton gin made it impossible for slaves in the South of America to remove seeds from cotton, but it also led to an explosion of slavery, As cotton could be produced more easily.

And while it makes life easier for individual workers, management The transition from one type of economy to the next (farmer to manufacturer, information specialist, and now beyond) has been an important long-term reality for the company American workers.

Is the pace of change different this time?

No one has thought more about it than the unions, AFL-CIO secretary and treasurer Liz Shuler agrees with Yang that automation is one of represents the greatest challenges for us as a country and does not receive the attention that they But she is not yet worried about dystopia.

"Fear tactics are a bit extreme," she said in an interview, arguing that reports of tens of millions of American jobs lost by 2030 are likely to be overrated.

"Every time there has been a technological change in this country, there have been these doomsday scenarios," she said in an interview.

It was already a problem in the 1950s, Shuler pointed out. "You testified before the congress of Walter Reuther (the then President of United Auto Workers) how automation would change the work, and people made these wild predictions that there would be massive unemployment when you bring robots into car factories would, "she said.
By the way, Reuther's testimony is really interesting to read. Listen. "The revolutionary change brought about by automation is the tendency to keep the worker completely out of direct machine operation," he said. He argued that the unions did not oppose the automation but demanded more help from the companies and the government for the workers who had to deal with a changing workplace.

"What happened in the end is what they call negotiated approval," Shuler said, "where the unions went to the table and said," Okay, we understand this technology is coming, but how are we going to Coping with change? "How can we ensure that workers benefit and make the company more efficient and successful?"

Yang counters this argument by stating that automation has been accelerated, making it harder for workers, employers and the government, to adapt. "Unlike previous waves of automation, new jobs this time will not appear fast enough in sufficient numbers to make up for this," he said on his website.

Somewhere in the middle we'll end up

Shuler said American workers today need to talk more urgently about the future of work.

"We all have a choice," she said. "Do we want technology to benefit working people and our country as a result, or do we want to follow a bleak, dystopian view that work goes on and people have nothing to do." and we are only going to work essentially on the whims of a bunch of robots? "

Somewhere in the middle, she argued, we will land.

" We will work with technology as it evolves. There will be new work. We want to ensure that working people can move fairly, fairly and responsibly, and we can only do that when working people have a seat at the table.

The Long-term Future

Shuler has an interest in the workers and their rights these days, but Russell writes that the automation of labor will become more tangible in the long term, his overall attitude to work and to that,

"We need to radically rethink our education system and our scientific enterprise in order to pay more attention to the human being than to the physical world," he writes. "It sounds strange to say that luck should be a technical discipline, but that seems to be the inevitable conclusion. "

In other words, we need to find out how we can be happy with the robots and the automation because they come.


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