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Will Robots Give Jobs or Take Them Away?

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: ROBOTIC SYSTEMS AND JOBS
Ann R. Thryft   8/22/2014 12:31:45 PM
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bobjengr brings up some interesting points about both robotic precision and experienced workers. They are both addressed in at least one of the studies we'll look at in Part Two of this blog.

Debera Harward
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Re: ROBOTIC SYSTEMS AND JOBS
Debera Harward   8/17/2014 5:34:48 AM
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Bobjengr exactly this is what i meant no matter how muuch we want but it is not always possible to accomodate the experienced employees of the organisation in any department when we are moving our organisation towards Robotization.

bobjengr
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ROBOTIC SYSTEMS AND JOBS
bobjengr   8/16/2014 9:02:40 AM
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You are absolutely correct Debera.  When I presented the layout for the work cell and indicated three (3) positions could be eliminated there was push-back from two individuals.  They were really conflicted.  Let me emphasize, this was a fairly small company and most of the employees were long-term.   One within this proposed cell had been with the company the entire life of the company. He was one of the first employees hired.  Another point, the company was and is profitable.  The purpose of the cell was to increase throughput but most importantly, improve quality.  (I might also mention the process was "laying down" a bead of RTV onto a stainless steel substrate.)  The robotic system, with fixturing, could do that with much more precision than a human holding a gun, AND much quicker.  The company did a great service, in my opinion, by holding on to experience and moving them into other positions.  This, as you mention, is not always the case.  

Ed V
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Gov response to labor dislocation
Ed V   8/14/2014 1:50:17 PM
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My concern is that government policy appropriate for a recession driven by the collapse of a financial bubble is counter-productive during recovery from a recession driven by a step change in the use of software, robots, and AI, instead of we the pesky humans. Tightening of credit and regulations may put Wall Street on firmer footing, but works against business expansion, actually slowing job creation and the eventual recovery. Safety net policies matter, too. For example, shortening the duration of unemployment insurance coverage in a "normal" recovery where demand for workers at a lower wage is still fairly strong, pushes people grudgingly into those lower wage jobs and, at the end of the day, is likely a good thing, hastening the replacement of government relief by earned income. However, when the software, robots, and AI, have replaced most of the those lower wage jobs, then shortening unemployment insurance coverage deepens the recession and forces people to either give up and leave the workforce in large numbers (as we have seen), or flee to other support programs, such as disability coverage (as we have seen). I fully expect the use of automation to continue to increase, thus exacerbating the situation. Oh joy.

Debera Harward
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Re: ROBOTS AND JOBS
Debera Harward   8/14/2014 3:46:37 AM
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@bobjengr that is really nice that your organisation used the importance of Robots as well and accomodatd the important professinals in some other department . No doubt this is  a very smart approach but the fact is organisations cant accomodate every employee of the organisation . They will have to take some critical decisions .

Mr. Wirtel
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Re: Large scale labor dislocations?
Mr. Wirtel   8/13/2014 8:21:15 PM
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@Ed V: Of course your analysis is correct. Anyone who thinks automation and robots do not cost jobs has their head in the sand. The unemployment figures are skewed because so many people have dropped out of the labor force and they are no longer considered unemployed. There are also many more people like me who just got tired of running in place financially, checked the calendar and realized that I was an old man and could retire. Fortunately I was vested in a couple small pensions before every business turned the future over to a 401K.

  While working I was in the tooling end of manufacturing so robots only forced us to be more accurate and consistant as the robot could not move its "HAND" to compensate for a discrepancy like Ed could when he was the welder. The robot never needed a bathroom break, could work through lunch and did not slow down as the day went on. Ed did all those things, but he also had a big smile and a hardy laugh and always said hi to me. The robot did not do any of those things.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Large scale labor dislocations?
Ann R. Thryft   8/12/2014 6:07:39 PM
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Ed V, thanks for tackling a difficult and complex set of subjects in your thoughtful comments. It's tough to say something meaningful about all this in the chat format, but I think you did. I've had similar thoughts about the 2008-2009 "crash" and the profit numbers compared to the employment numbers are revealing. The effect of automated software and artificial intelligence replacing human thought processes is much less visible than big clanking machines in a factory, but writing software, and other types of knowledge worker functions we tend to think of as robot-proof, aren't. You're by no means off the deep end, but right on the money, according to at least two of the (now) three reports we'll look at next time. Stay tuned for Part Two--I'm trying to get it written to post next week.

Ed V
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Large scale labor dislocations?
Ed V   8/12/2014 3:23:41 PM
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I think we are in the midst of a large scale labor dislocation caused by automation of business functions. Robots are still the minor part of this, most visible in warehousing. Expect robots and AI will become the cause of the next major labor dislocation. Unlike the first waves of automation in farming and later in factories, simple availability of the innovation that replaces workers, today, does not seem to directly cause widespread dislocation. Software and communication innovations have lightened the load on existing office workers, but employers seem unwilling to rethink how to do their business with fewer office workers unless forced by circumstances. I speculate that nobody likes to tamper with a profitable smooth running organization, and a reduction in headcount reduces a middle manager's power. So, the ability to do more with fewer gets incorporated, but causes only minor unemployment until a triggering event in the economy forces the issue on all businesses at the same time. I assert that the 2008-2009 financial crash was such a triggering event, and caused a large labor dislocation due to businesses reorganizing to use existing tools to run with far fewer employees. The lost jobs are gone forever because the functions were replaced by better software and communications and the corresponding new business methods. The evidence is in the BLS numbers: The 2009 numbers show that Corprate Profit as a percentage of GDP skyrocketed without a corresponding increase in employment. The persistence of this new profit/labor ratio proves that this was not just working down existing inventories. The slow nearly linear jobs growth is exactly what one would expect if jobs growth were due to business expansion rather than restaffing existing departments. Can't wait for the next round (sigh) that will likely be knowledge workers and other highly trained/paid staff replaced by a combination of robots and AI. Ann, have I gone off the deep end (as my wife has opined), or does some of this make sense? 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: ROBOTS AND JOBS
Ann R. Thryft   8/1/2014 1:05:20 PM
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bobjengr, thanks for telling us about your experience with robots eliminating jobs and your company replacing them. I'm really glad to hear about that and I agree that companies should act similarly. But many don't. And the choice was with your company, not with the individuals. Also, robots are starting to encroach on thinking jobs, as we will discuss in the Part Two of this story. Stay tuned.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Darwin
Ann R. Thryft   8/1/2014 1:00:19 PM
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Thinking_J, thanks for clarifying what you meant and for your thorough and thoughtful comments. My comments were in direct response to what you said -- "We cannot stop automation in it's many forms any more than we can stop evolution." -- so I don't think there was any "reading into." That statement says that automation is as inevitable as evolution.
Your clarification uses an example that compares automation to the tide -- a natural and inevitable phenomenon -- which appears to mean the same thing you said before.
I agree we should try to understand why automation is happening. The big question is whether we agree on how to do that, on what constitutes data, on what constitutes an accurate and/or thorough analysis of the data, and on what to make of all that.
Have there been sustained periods of time where new tech has been introduced then retracted or removed? Yes, absolutely: the removals have been due primarily to war and/or conquest. At other times and places, some in modern times, technology has been rejected by groups of people, and still is by lots of people in the US.
I choose not to own a dishwasher because of the chemicals, volumes of water, and energy it uses, and because it's not cost-effective. I can do a better job by hand. That's true for lots of people in Santa Cruz County. Many of us here make similar choices to not buy other types of tech and to eat differently. This is not untypical of several areas in Northern California.
The example of my town's choosing to unincorporate was not meant to be an example of discarding tech or automation: it was an example of people's ability to choose, as a group, to make a major change in how they live. The body politic, as you point out.



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