90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
When Machines Do The Work

What will be our jobs? Never mind outsourcing, it’s machines moving in on the workplace.

In this July 27, 2011 photo, assembly line worker Edward Houie moves a door into position for a 2012 Chevrolet Volt at the General Motors Hamtramck Assembly plant in Hamtramck, Mich. General Motors says its U.S. sales rose nearly 8 percent last month, led by fuel-efficient vehicles such as the Chevrolet Cruze car. (AP)

In this July 27, 2011 photo, assembly line worker Edward Houie moves a door into position for a 2012 Chevrolet Volt at the General Motors Hamtramck Assembly plant in Hamtramck, Mich. General Motors says its U.S. sales rose nearly 8 percent last month, led by fuel-efficient vehicles such as the Chevrolet Cruze car. (AP)

Ever since machines came on the scene, humans worried they would steal their jobs. They did. But humans adapted. Found other jobs. My guests today, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of MIT, say machines are now moving into the workplace at such a pace that humans can’t keep up.

Not even in many white collar settings, where subtle new machine intelligence is now challenging pedigreed human professionals. Plumbers, you’re going to be ok. But what about the rest of us?

This hour On Point: when machines do the work, how will humans make a living?

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Erik Brynjolfsson, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he is Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business. He’s also the co-author of Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy.

Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business in the MIT Sloan School of Management. He’s also the co-author of Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “A faltering economy explains much of the job shortage in America, but advancing technology has sharply magnified the effect, more so than is generally understood, according to two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”

The Atlantic “Although computers are encroaching into territory that used to be occupied by people alone, like advanced pattern recognition and complex communication, for now humans still hold the high ground in each of these areas.”

Mother Jones “A pair of MIT economists, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, have written a new book suggesting that computers are finally getting smart enough to do jobs that only people could do in the past. Nothing new there. But they’ve joined a (still small) but growing number of observers who are afraid that the jobs being displaced are being displaced for good:”

Playlist

CALM LIKE A BOMB RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Terry Tree Tree

    Several of the great Science Fiction (which has a habit of becoming Science Fact), have made projections about this issue, as far back as pre-WWII!    I cannot name them ALL here, nor, can I name ALL the authors, as I have not read all Science Fiction.  Many ramifications are hard to determine by yourself, but make good sense, when you are facing them.
         Man, and woman, WILL find something to do!  Constructive, destructive, art, science, exploration.

  • Frank

    I would like to suggest that you have Robert Neuwirth as a guest for a future show. Here are links to the blogs that he has set up relating to his two books …

    http://stealthofnations.blogspot.com/

    http://squattercity.blogspot.com/

  • Ellen Dibble

    Just looking at the surface of it, the money that a machine generates should support the workers who would have been running it, rather than increasing the emoluments to the owners of the means of production.  A solution to that would be to say that the People are the owners of the means of production, which would be the case in pure communism.
        Or say in a union, if the union bought the machinery, and the union members/people could sit around and chew tobacco and watch the machine work, the union could have the proceeds because they had bought the machine.  They could pay scientists and managers, an accountant, a lawyer, all that, but also a machine.
         Or say in Liberia, if a company buys up rights to put up megafarms where native people have been dwelling for millennia, maybe without “papers,” but with traditions that tie them to the land, it seems to me the company has to consider the people displaced part owners of the new enterprise.  
        Just as in the case of the machine shop if the workers displaced are the owners of the engine of their displacement, so in a developing country encountering a corporation, the social fabric can be strengthened, not weakened, by this rule of shared ownership.  Corporate displacement would not exist because anybody pushed off the land would be a part owner of the enterprise being established.  
        How else can we manage?  Is the objective to impoverish as many people, here and abroad, as possible, celebrating the plutocrats that innovation can create?  (Don’t worry, they’ll be so rich that safety nets will lift all boats, oh you on the high seas of life…)  
         Do we worship unconscionable wealth, or do we value the nurturing of the human spirit?  The human spirit should be able to thrive when there is less of the mind-numbing and body-wrecking work, and we can be like retirees, doing what we might have intended to do since homo sapiens began, i.e., spend more time with the family.  Maybe.

    • JustSayin

      I remember that when the UAW was at its peak of power, one of the concessions from the auto companies was that every robot was a union member and paid union dues.

      Maybe that has changed since bankruptcy…

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Ewww!  Ellen, Please!  Do I HAVE to chew tobbacco, just because I’m  a union member?  YUCK!!
          I HAD to do that!   I avoid tobbacco as much as I can!

          Your analysis is GREAT!!  I hope the people that make the decisions, will read it, and decide to keep their humanity!

      • Ellen Dibble

        Disqus generic email templateI thought I’d get a rise out of someone on that, on the tobacco. But I do wonder. For instance, I like to take public transportation because I can use the time to do busy-work that I would not be doing at my home office because of other priorities. And it perplexes me that Americans will live at locations that require many hours of sitting driving cars per week. What is that about? It’s bad for the environment, and it is time that could be productively used, or at least less consumptively. If there were time — well, we know that the regulators who were monitoring the banks before the collapse were apparently using their time to watch porn. So they say. I suppose some would say Americans would be cooking up trouble without exhausting and demanding responsibilities and commitments. Oh, really? Can we educate to prevent that? —– Original Message —–
        From: Disqus
        To: pppegp@verizon.net
        Sent: Wednesday, November 02, 2011 10:12 AM
        Subject: [on-point] Re: When Machines Do The Work

        Terry Tree Tree (unregistered) wrote, in response to Ellen Dibble:

        Ewww! Ellen, Please! Do I HAVE to chew tobbacco, just because I’m a union member? YUCK!! I HAD to do that! I avoid tobbacco as much as I can!

        Your analysis is GREAT!! I hope the people that make the decisions, will read it, and decide to keep their humanity!
        Link to comment

      • Ellen Dibble

        Disqus generic email templateI forgot to say, after commuting a couple of hours of consumptive down time in one gas guzzler or another, Americans then pay money to go to some gym or yoga or Pilates and spend time, say, walking in place, which could also be called consumptive downtime. Another generation wouldn’t waste precious human energy on such a thing. Isn’t there a trail that needs clearing? Or a river that needs a helping hand dredging? Human energy, it is needed. No, tobacco chewing would not be the best and highest use of human energy except maybe in the sense of chewing the fat, conspiring this or that. —– Original Message —–
        From: Disqus
        To: pppegp@verizon.net
        Sent: Wednesday, November 02, 2011 10:12 AM
        Subject: [on-point] Re: When Machines Do The Work

        Terry Tree Tree (unregistered) wrote, in response to Ellen Dibble:

        Ewww! Ellen, Please! Do I HAVE to chew tobbacco, just because I’m a union member? YUCK!! I HAD to do that! I avoid tobbacco as much as I can!

        Your analysis is GREAT!! I hope the people that make the decisions, will read it, and decide to keep their humanity!
        Link to comment

  • Frank TheUnderemployedProfessi

    This issue is a red herring used to mask our nation’s real economic problems.  The proponents of this notion that technological advance and innovation result in unemployment are trying to use it to distract the masses from blaming the real problem, which is Global Labor Arbitrage (foreign outsourcing, H-1B and L-1 visas, mass immigration).

    If, through technological advance or innovation, jobs in Fields X, Y, and Z are eliminated, the prices for goods X, Y, and Z should decrease, allowing consumers to spend more money on goods and services in Fields A, B, and C, resulting in new jobs in Fields A, B, and C.  There’s no shortage of demand for alternative goods or services that would make use of human effort.

    However, when millions of formerly middle class jobs are sent overseas, or when knowledge-based jobs are filled by foreigners on H-1B and L-1 visas, or when tens of millions of impoverished immigrants depress wages in low-wage and blue collar markets and displace Americans from their jobs at the same time that technological advance and innovation occur, it can seem as though technological advance and innovation is the problem.

    Our politicians and intellectuals would much rather blame technological advance and innovation for our nation’s economic problems than Global Labor Arbitrage.  Innovation and technological advance seem like forces that are outside of politicians’ control and who in their right mind would want to stop innovation and technological advance?  The politicians and the wealthy (who become even richer through Global Labor Arbitrage) are thus hoping that the sheeple blame technological advance and innovation for the state of our nation’s economy.

    • Anonymous

      Well said, robots are not yet the enemy. Politicians who are no better thena animatronic puppets of multinational corporate interests are.

    • Glad Im Getting Older

      knowledge-based jobs are also being outsourced. in my case five of them can be hired for one of me.

    • JustSayin

      In one of the Terminator movies the terminator said to Sarah Connor: “Come with me if you want to live.”

      Maybe that’s what we all have to do, adapt to automation if we want to live.

      …But then again it was Arnold Schwarzenegger who said that, so he might have been just planning another night on the town beyond the control of his overbearing wife.

  • AC

    well, well. this show is right up my alley! hopefully i’ll think of something new to say about the subject!!

    • Anonymous

      That is raising the bar for comments. 

      • AC

        ? should i take it off? it doesn’t look bad, but you never know around here….

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    The rise of the machine.

  • Anonymous

    I know a robotics engineer. He showed me a demo of a new product and when I asked him if he realized that he was putting people out of work, he replied, “No, I am employing people at better jobs!” When I replied, yes, but a many, many fewer people, he went silent.
     
    I can imagine in my lifetime that we will see poverty increase as automation eliminates the need for people to do almost any physical labor. Some may argue that they can be trained to do other jobs: I laugh ironically at this response as it indicates a complete lack of recognition that not all individuals can be trained to be subatomic physicists. Unlike robots of the future, people are flawed, unpredictable and inefficient. Remember Dubya’s education initiative of training plan for 21st century jobs? Even then no one was willing to acknowledge that it was a pathetic political gesture as US corporations had already begun aggressively outsourcing those jobs. When robots can do those jobs, how will the people doing them now be fed?
     
    In the past, we were able to adapt with the gradual improvements in technology and the relatively minor displacements in the workforce that they created. The pace of advancement in technology will, if it has not already, overtake the ability of humanity to adapt. With 7 billion people and counting, and the stress it places upon our systems, manmade and natural, we have a fundamental problem confronting us. What kind of future do we set the stage for: the conditions are already right for a world ruled by corporations as pictured in the movie Rollerball. Does it get even darker with human beings ceasing to have any value other than as herds of consumers?
     
    At what point will automation progress to the point where a Human Bill of Rights will have to be enacted?… we were pushed closer to that day sooner than I ever imagined when the Supreme court ruled that Corporations are persons and have the right of free speech without the limitations that apply to human beings. Now, with  Kiobel vs Royal Dutch Petroleum, the 2nd District Court ruling that corporations are not subject to Alien Torts and thus not libel for horrendous crimes and acts, that persons would otherwise be. Rollerball lives! I’ll place my bets on Energy!!!

    In the not too distant future I predict we’ll elect a president whose slogan is “Robots: Just say No”. :^)

    • JustSayin

      Automation would certainly erode China’s human powered slave state. Its an interesting problem.

      To compete with China the US should use automation. The big question: Is robotic manufacturing in the US cheaper than unregulated, lawless, totalitarian slavery?

      I’m guessing that until China’s next civil war… Self replicating herbaceous fueled human slavery is cheaper.

    • nj

      Whoa…

      [[ Unlike robots of the future, people are flawed,… ]]

      Why do we think robots will not be flawed?

      : : :  Cue HAL singing Daisy…  : : :

    • Terry Tree Tree

      TERRIBLE, the corruption, or senility of so much of the Court System!  Can’t tell a person from an inanimate, GREEDY object!
          Machines are one more enforcement device of those that want it ALL, knowing they have so little, or NO humanity!  They KNOW they are seriously flawed, and try to compensate with accumulating wealth and power!
          Those with NO human dignity trying to wrest human dignity from those that have it, instead of just developing it themselves in themselves! 
           They can try to steal it, but will NEVER possess it!

  • Jim Clark

    Take this to its ultimate conclusion and you get a rather Twilight Zone result. The whole system of wealth distribution breaks down because machines are not consumers. Who decides which people still have to work to maintain the machines and how the rest of us are fed. The beginnings of this world are showing up right now. The last time we had full employment we were in a bubble and spending more than we made.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    How about eliminating JOBS and let the machine do the work.

    There are SCI-FI Films when you humans can have free food,house,car etc etc. Life will be good. eradicate money and poverty.

    But we can’t because humans are greedy.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      What if there is life in other planets where aliens don’t work just explore the galaxies.They come to our planet surprise to see us working in fields and office buildings. They cannot understand our race that we have to work in order to survive.
       
      What happen with sharing they ask and then they left our planet for humans are just too violent to show their good intention toward us.
      Just one of my dreams.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

        Or my Twilight Zone dream.

      • cory.

        They clearly chose other than capitalism as their societal engine…

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

          What if they don’t practice capitalism or socialism. there world is totally different from us. where there is no struggle but only adventure and peace.

  • Anonymous

    Without caring forethought, real leadership and governance for the people, as jobs become even scarcer, the landscape that humanity surveys and struggles to survive upon may become barren. How do we prevent the overwhelming desolation and privation that befell the American Indians who were segregated on reservations? Confronted with such privation, profound depression, suicide, drug addiction and alcoholism become epidemic.
    One might argue that people need to take personal responsability and what befalls them is there own fault. I say snap out of it: one must address the facts on the ground. When fammine and privation strike, forces beyond the average individual prevail.

    Now is the time that politicians take personal responsability to fulfill thier oaths of office as stewards for the generations that succeed them to guard the future against such dark forces, intelligent, random or natural. Alas our politicians are as flawed, if not more, than mere mortals like ourselves.

    • Ellen Dibble

      So long as the politicians think the playing field is “jobs,” I think they miss the mark.  Americans are at their most elemental, in my opinion, when we are the most maverick.  Those who went out West did not go there for “jobs.”  Jobs are essentially an agreed-upon dependency, and we are seeing that “jobs” can be moved to the lowest bidder, overseas for instance.  But we are trained to think we need to provide our children college education, especially in technical/scientific fields, and that with that, they can feel entitled to full-time dependency until the age of 65 — dependency on the job that education prepared them for.  This is the “jobs-come-from-the-top-down” perspective.  I’m thinking of some of the Italians who came to my city 100 years ago.  I think they traded political uncertainty for fiscal uncertainty, being that the Depression was in full flower.  So the father trundled around a little cart selling fresh fruit and hot dogs, something like that.  The business has been established ever since, still run by the same family, with much more than a cart.  I don’t think the father would have come here to work for AT&T, just to ditch some of the encumbrances a hide-bound traditional culture might engender.  I don’t really know.  
           But “jobs” to me means corporate manipulation and centralization and warping of elections by the influence of centralized money and power.  All that.  In terms of the worth of a person, especially a person of true American grit, that does not reside in the job, that creation of the assembly line (an exaggeration, but anyway).  The worth of a person has to reprove itself.  Where is the proving ground?  Cape Canaveral?  Wall Street’s computers?  Alaska’s outback?

  • cory.

    Machines from above and impoverished hordes from below.  The American worker has no chance.

    On two recent occasions I’ve had discussions with grocery managers wondering why I was waiting fourth in line at a register run by a human, when an automated self check lane was available.  I explained that I don’t like them.  I like a little human contact, and 25 million Americans are currently unemployed.  One asked me what I will do when only self check lanes are available.  I told him that they can drag me kicking and screaming into the future, but I reserve the right to kick and scream.

    I don’t know, maybe I am jousting at windmills.  I just don’t like what they represent.  Why does automation have to be used against us and to make our lives worse?  Why are these technologies used to benefit the folks at the top alone?

    More and more I am led to believe that a popular revolution is the only recourse for 99% of us.

    • Kevin

      Yes, you’re very much tilting at windmills. You might as well stand at the edge of the beach and announce you don’t want the tide to come back in. You can kick and scream all you want–it’s gonna happen.

    • Ellen Dibble

      Locally, what I’ve heard is that some supermarket is closing down their self-service lane.  No one would use it, almost.
          We need to look at the issues getting in the way of the non-organized workforce (those without “jobs”) in getting their footing. I can tell you that the laws around us favor certain things, such as people who want to put their money into home mortgages, feeding those banks, and getting tax credits, rather than going out on your personal limb.  Without employment by the patriarchy, you are on your own with health insurance.  You may be paying $700 a month for health insurance, not counting deductibles and non-covered things.  You may be looking at life that begins at 65 when Medicare’s more reasonable rates kick in (paid for by you those first 40 years), begins in terms of when you can start saving for those last frail years.  You may be looking at weaseling your way around an economy that has an awful lot of financial muscle around doing things the old way, the far more costly and less efficient way, with whole systems of support and training around technologies that are past due.  We’ll buy you out, they say.  But you are an uppity rascal, so you plan to live to 100, and reshape your little corner along the way.   Universal health care would go a LONG way toward enabling people to create a Living for themselves, not Jobs.

      • Jeffe68

        Self service lanes at the supermarket is not a robot so I’m not sure why this is relevant to a job or a job loss. The scanners were not working properly and they most likely did not have anyone on staff who knew how to fix what ever was wrong with them.
        When I go to Home Depot I use the scanners all the time. They have someone on hand who knows how to trouble shoot in case of problems.

        A robot doing manufacturing is what this show is about.
        It’s been this way since the industrial revolution started.
        Remember the gin mill and the steam engine.
        Automation is not going away and robotics and computers are not going away. They still need people to run them, program them and maintain them. So this is an issue about education on the one hand and the reality that we live in a post-industrial age in which people are just not needed as they were in 1911 to make the economy grow. People are now expendable and not needed. That’s the reality.

        • Terry Tree Tree

          The show is about machines, which computers and scanners are part of, replacing humans, to do jobs.  Some auto-check outs are attended by one human to several machines!  One human in place of several! 
              People can CHOOSE to be expendable and not needed, or NOT!

    • Anonymous

      Meet, talk, think, organize and vote on November 6th 2012 to stop Skynet and take back America from their human proxies!

      I say this only partly in jest: the reality is that corporations have become machine-like as they discard employess like they are obsolete machines ;^)

    • Winston Smith

      I do agree with several of your comments (I hate the self-check out lines at grocery stores as well).  But the whole issue is a mixed bag.  If we don’t use machines, someone else will.  Our educational system certainly needs to train our people to function effectively with this technology.

      One question I have.  if all of this technology reduces the need for workers and cost of labor as a percentage of the total cost of a given product, why can’t we make TVs and other electronic products in the U.S. where we consume such large quantities of these products?

  • Anonymous

    So far robots are doing work that humans would rather not do.  Those are jobs that are either too dangerous, too tedious, too monotonous, and/or too remote.  But someday, robot based economy may allow all humans to live a leisurely life, what a time that would be!  But who is willing to pay -with hunger and with their jobs- the transition cost?  No one, which is why I see robot applications economically limited because if companies could make robots to replace all jobs, who would have the income to pay for such a thing?

  • pajpaj

     Let’s at least see American labor making these machines!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1816544 Dan Trindade

    This discussion over the increasing use of machines in America and the job loss such use causes is one of the strongest arguments I have heard to date for revamping, restructuring, and reinvesting in the American educational system from pre-k on up through post-grad. Those that say the shift to machines over humans in an increasing number of industries is inevitable are dead on. Now that industry has embraced mechanization there is no chance or event short of societal collapse that could make them go back to a human-centric workforce. If we as a nation have any hope of avoiding a future with even higher unemployment and an even greater stratification of wealth we must properly train our citizens so that they will be prepared for and capable of taking on the jobs of the 21st century and beyond.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    The GREEDY rich will try to use the machines to accumulate MORE POWER, so they can compensate for their lack of other human and humane characteristics!  They will spy on, and gang-up on any rich that have humanity in their soul, to keep ANYONE from interfering with their SELFISHNESS! 
         Mankind can chose to progress, or to regress to a form of kings and queens in control of the slaves or serfs!

  • Yar

    When machines don’t do the work.  The industrial revolution started with Ely Whitney and the cotton gin.  One would assume that this labor savings machine would raise the world out of poverty and improve quality of life for all.  By the 1950′s the combine became standard on US farms and replaced back breaking work harvesting cotton.  
    Today only about 30% of world cotton production is harvested by machines. Australia, Israel and the USA are the only countries where all cotton is picked by machines.70% of all cotton grown in the world is picked by hand.  It is very hard work, and the people who are picking cotton are living on very little maybe less than 2 dollars per day.  The next time you pull on a cotton sweater, or squeezed into a pair of blue jeans, think about the hands that picked the fiber for your luxury.  This is an example of how we exploit the world.

  • Jonathan

    Computers will soon be sentient and it won’t take long until they are simply the next step in evolution.  I’m hopeful that they will be benevolent to their predecessors.

    • cory.

      Hopefully more than we have been.

  • KathyB

    What about the energy consumption of all these robots?  Does that figure in the equation at all?

    • Jonathan

      Computers are incredibly more efficient in energy usage than humans.  However, we still have the ability to metabolize organic sources better.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Popular Science has done articles on the Army’s EATR robot research!  You might be amazed!

    • Dave in CT

      Another self-correcting part of the system at work here, while the hand-wringing goes overboard.

      As long as we stop printing money to allow us to pretend we can live beyond our means, we will live within our means just fine.

    • Dave in CT

      Another self-correcting part of the system at work here, while the hand-wringing goes overboard.

      As long as we stop printing money to allow us to pretend we can live beyond our means, we will live within our means just fine.

  • Gary

    Tom,

    I work for a company that builds robotic welding systems here in Iowa.  You have no idea how many times I have found myself questioning whther or not I am taking work away from REAL people with my designs.  That being said, I typically rationalize it as “There will always need to be an operator to run my robotic system.” Except, what about when the operator becomes a robot too? How long until the robots that I program can do it on their own?

  • Jim_frain

    I disagree with several of the guests analogies of robots taking over tasks of people. For instance ATMs and Check-Out counters have moved the Labor to the Consumer. For intance the Check out is now being done by the shopper not the computer. The ATM as well.

  • RChicago

    I thought this was the point of technology – to have machines doing more of the work and for the humans to have more free time. Of course there is the issue of money and how people will accumulate it. Maybe money will become an archaic concept eventually. 

  • Patrick

    One can imagine a utopia in which people no longer have to work, and have their needs met by the output of machinery and the productive class.  That’s a start, but you have to include incentives to control the population, and also to encourage people to pursue education and contribute to the advancement of science, technology and art.

    I think you could accomplish this by making the basket of state-supplied goods, while sufficient and humane, also basic, and limited to adequate shelter, nutrition, and effective health care.  Enhancements to these goods or additional goods could only be achieved by gaining employment or qualifying for incentive currency. 

    So, for population control, the social support package would provide incentive currency for using birth control and/or volunteering for sterilization.

    To encourage people to pursue education, the social support package should -not- include access to television, video games, alcohol, etc.  For the currency to purchase those simple pleasures and non-essentials, and anything further up the luxury spectrum, individuals must be required to achieve actual employment (or to be in the entourage of someone who can achieve actual employment), which would mean achieving a level of education and/or skill equivalent to the level at which human beings still add value to the economy.

    Looks good on paper – presuming that the path from social support to employment and personal independence is legitimate and appealing.  After all, the alternatives of theft and the black market would still exist.

    But, of course, the universal penetration of law enforcement, brought about by improvements in robotic vision, image recognition and voice recognition, infrared satellites, unmanned camera/microphone drones, etc, would probably make the criminal and black market options less appealing than they are presently.

    So there you are – recipe for a new world.  Maybe not one that everyone would want to live in, and maybe one that would be precluded, or immediately corrupted, by human tendencies, but one that would be arguably more humane, more fair, and more supportive of human initiative.

    Getting from here to there – well, evidence of effective welfare reform along these lines would be required, which would require some state or local government, or some foundation, to fund a pilot program.

    • http://abellia.myopenid.com/ Andrew

      This is an interesting recipe, but this sounds like a beneficent monarch is needed, kind of like in Leviathan.  I don’t suppose what people should and should not do with their resources.  Are video games worse than stamp collecting?  Should I be the one to decide?  Give people some money and call it good.  There are lots of non-monetary incentives that we can use to encourage a positive and altruistic society.

      • Patrick

        I agree with you.  But anything provided as part of the social safety net needs to be basic, cheap and sufficient, and not distracting from the (ever more difficult) task of educating dependent citizens to the point where they can be self-sufficient.

        Nothing wrong with video games or stamp collecting, but currency for these things should not be part of the social goods package.  If you want them, become financially independent and earn them.  The idea is that, freed from the stress of providing for basic needs, people are better able to grow and reach their actual, independent, productive potential.

        • Terry Tree Tree

          An interesting option!

  • Robert Pierce
  • Modavations

    Do you guys do anything but wring your hands.Your lives are spent in crisis,or pursuit of the next crisis.Quit worrying about your impoverished brothers.Open a business,become profitable,hire workers and Adam Smith’s invisible hand,will take care of the rest.

    • Andrew

      I don’t know- it seems lately that Smith’s invisible hand has been holding us down and asking “why are you hitting yourself?”

      • TFRX

        You’re asking the wrong person, someone who believes that “Capitalism can never fail, it can only be failed by people who aren’t manly enough.”

        (And, yes, from the right, calling a right-wing female “manly” is a complement. It’s a different kind of manliness than that ascribed to left-wing women.)

      • Modavations

        The middle class is 40% richer then they were 30 years ago.You have penis envy.Most rich guys are self made man.The Liberals are theTrust Fund babies

        • Ellen Dibble

          The Trust Fund babies I know are all Republicans.  The upper middle class seems to me to be doing fine, but have you taken a good look at the middle middle class?  If you are in a shelter, or public housing, you will have running water, heat, food, and a sense of being trapped.  Maybe a rat would do well with that, but red-blooded Americans will try this and that and pretty soon start populating another “trap” we have, which is the corrections system.  

          • Modavations

            mADAM….
            Jay Rockafeller(?)
            The Kennedy Clan.
            All my mates are self made men.I started with 10,000

          • Demotivations

            Modavations – Crime does pay.

          • Terry Tree Tree

            EVERY child raised in poverty has $10,000 to start business with?
                THAT is NOT self-made!!
                 Rockefeller fortune was made on monopolizing oil and mineral rights.
                 Kennedy fortune was built on illegal importing of booze during Prohibition!
                 Republican and Democrat, both semi-criminal or criminal!   Advocating crime?

          • TFRX

            Good statement, but at some point I hope you realize that no amount of “clean fill” (as you practice it) is gonna stabilize his Superfund site.

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – And your source for this data is…?  That’s right you don’t include citations in your plebeian statements.  My guess is there are 2 to 3 people working in every household now.  You are just an untrustworthy baby.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      How much jewelry and gem stones do you sell to manufacturing robots?

      • Modavations

        I have a line of Steel jwelery(Nuts and bolts)from Berlin.This is not levity.This style is called “Industrial”

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – This style is called, “suck up”.

        • Terry Tree Tree

          You sell them to manufacturing robots?  What percent of your trade?

    • cory.

      Revolutions truly are terrible things, but folks like you help make the medicine go down.

    • cory.

      What about those without good busineess sense, or those who aren’t possessed with the “entrepeneurial spirit”?  How about a decent living for those who work for the “supermen” like yourself?

      • Modavations

        I spent 4 years in Joburg and know Zulus and Xhosas ,that have business acumen.You embarrass your gender

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – You embarrass all genders

      • TFRX

        Now you’re just talking crazy to the Galt’s Gulchers.

    • Demotivations

      Modavations – Wring your hands, drama queen.  Adam Smith’s will find its way in your pocket soon.

  • Muriel

    About shorter workweeks and longer vacations, that would spread the diminishing amount of work among more people.  Machines eventually make production cheaper so people could still be paid as much.

    • cory.

      …or make production cheaper so less human labor costs are incurrd by ownership…

  • nj

    Not so fast…

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43687085/ns/business-retail/t/major-grocer-getting-rid-self-checkout-lanes/#.TrFP7-pikdU

    Major grocer getting rid of self-checkout lanes

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/26/big-y-self-checkout-machines_n_980886.html

    Big Y Replacing Supermarket Self-Checkout Machines…With Human Clerks

  • Ian

    The problem with the workforce not keeping up with technology is that the workforce is not changing how it should! Everyone wants experience and the older workforce is still dominating the landscape.

    Bring in the new blood!

    • cory.

      So an unemployed 50 year old with poor tech skills should just curl up and die?

    • Terry Tree Tree

      THEY want a 20 year-old with five Bachelor Degrees and fifteen years of experience, that doesn’t know the value of their work!

  • Modavations

    The same laments rend the ether, everytime humankind takes a great leap foward.Even though the buggy whip went the way of the Dodo,we survivedEven though the family farm bit the dust,we survived.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Again, I agree with you.  Sometimes we find common ground.

      • Modavations

        that’s twice.i smell a convert

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – The only thing you ever smell is your hand

        • Terry Tree Tree

          Dream!

    • cory.

      There is a substantial difference between surviving and thriving.  Also remember what investment professionals tell us, “past performance is not an indicator of future results”. 

      • Dave in CT

        Pessimism and a desire to try and control the future instead of letting it unfold.

    • Demotivations

      Modavations – What’s this we ‘white man’?

    • Terry Tree Tree

      You can still buy a buggy whip!  Show me a live Dodo!  Family farms still exist!   MOST have been gobbled up by corporations!

  • Muriel

    How about shorter workweeks and longer vacations, that would spread the diminishing amount of work among more people.  Machines eventually make production cheaper so people could still be paid as much.

    • Anonymous

      The owners will cut wages and benefits if work hours decrease.

      • TFRX

        But that’s one thing to not dismiss: If you ask someone with a decent job who’d gladly trade 20% of their paycheck for 20% fewer hours,  what would they be told in response?

        “Find another job.”

        In the US, the “mythical man month” doesn’t exist in full-time salaried employment. It hasn’t for years.

  • Ward Cheney

    I’m listening along, admittedly impatiently, wondering how soon I’ll hear a comment that drives me up a wall. It didn’t take long. I’ve been farming and growing food for over thirty years, and like and respect tools as much as the next person. Yet, suddenly, today’s commentators blaze right through, without challenge or question, that having somewhere around 2% of the population involved in agriculture is, inevitably, a good thing. Think again.

    • Ward Cheney

      I want to add this: I like the physical work. I look forward to it. It gives me immense pleasure. It keeps me in touch with the state of things . . . bugs, weather, the people I work with, irrigation, ripeness or lack thereof, fertility, beauty, nature . . . all that falls under what we call land and community. I end up wanting more time on the land, not less.

    • cory.

      Love your comment!

  • Michael Shapiro

    We tend to assume that people have needs and work produces goods and services to fulfill them.  If this were the whole story, increased machine productivity would lead to a decrease in the work week.  I would suggest that our economy has two kinds of work in it: one is producing goods and services, the other is competing for the productive fruits of the first.  Technology has intensified and increased the pace of that competition.  Not surprising that those of us with jobs are generally working longer hours.

  • Tina

    Only good for those with dividends and those brilliant enough to work in Silicon Valley.  And because it is good for that first group, they will NOT feel compelled to figure out what only humans can do.

    I say this because at-home moms did tons of work that is now delegated to day care centers and to the manufacturers of packaged pre-prepared foods, etc.  We still have not calculated the economic contribution of millions of at-home moms, except to extract that value 
    AWAY from them in the form of new services and products to be sold to almost all families now.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      When parents, moms or dads, are so involved in their job, trying to find a job, their own entertainment, worrying about the future, the children suffer!   They tend to go for drugs, trouble, alcohol, sex, and the other diversions that result from being ignored, or babysat, by tv, computer, or video games!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Maybe I’m the only one who is hard-wired to hand off all possible rote jobs to computers or other machines, but in my experience, the huge time savings that innovations have brought us in the last few decades have been vital — vital to economic survival for one thing.  If I needed about 20 times as much time or 100 times as much time to do my work, as would have been the case even in 1990, I’d be barely scratching by.  There are definitely things that machines can’t do.  I think we are hard-wired to zero in on those things and be glad to settle in on doing those things that can’t be farmed out to computers.  But there is a lot of adaptation by all.  

  • Julie Hussey, Charleston SC

    I think the increase of machines within our world will cause us to crave specialty products custom made by human craftsmen in much the same way we are now seeking food grown by small local farmers.   

  • Modavations

    Steve Jobs,Wozniak,Gates piddled around the garages of San Jose,smoking fatties and surfing Steamers.They put 100′s of thousands to work making $70,000.00 to $200,000.00 each.50 of their employees saved their money,came up with a good idea and started their own companies.They in turn put another kazillion to work and on and on

    • Demotivations

      Modavations – I’m hypothetically working in my garage to genetically engineer a Modavations virus. It will eliminate people like you, if it works, I’d be a ‘kazillionaire’ and the world would be a better place.  Amen.

  • dave

    We can beat the robots, and we can beat the monkeys,  But not if they get together..

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Warning!! WArning!!  Danger!  Danger!

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps the system will self correct. As humans become impoverished, no one will have any money to buy the products made by robots. perhaps then, the robots will get laid off.

  • Anonymous

    Your thinking of it all wrong. This is the future. We can use machines and artificial intelligence in the future to do all of the mundane and boring laborer jobs. Leaving Humans to be Humans! We will be able to pursue the things that interest us and the things that we love. This is where we transform from a monetary based economy to a resource based economy. See http://www.thevenusproject.com/ and http://blog.thezeitgeistmovement.com/.

    • Adam

      To back up the inevitable effects of technology on our society see this article:

      Hilarious and informative.

      http://www.cracked.com/article_18817_5-reasons-future-will-be-ruled-by-b.s..html

      It’s a matter of shifting our economy from more jobs and more money, to more freedom and more connection. We are social human beings and will continue to move forward even without the incentive of money.

      It’s time to get over the tyranny of jobs and move to the world of meaningful work.

    • cory.

      I hope you are right, but I think you are wrong.

  • Anonymous

    Marcuse would say that the machines in the workplace are a dialectic dilemma. The seed of our job destruction is also the seed which will produce the jobs of the future. As we are moving away from traditional manufacturing, we will see a rise in new technologies…maybe: http://michaelmaczesty.blogspot.com/2011/07/nanotechnology-is-going-to-change.html

    • Tina

      Then, as a society, while we are waiting for this “new rise” to come, we have to protect the people who, thru no fault of their own, are too undereducated, too afflicted by illness or injury, and/or too poor to organize their lives in such a way as to make them able to catch up with the skills of this new economy.  I am thinking of the 60-year old woman who stopped doing secretarial work when her elderly parents needed help, only to learn that her growing disorganization was from her undiagnosed Lyme Disease, making her unable to keep up with whatever Intro to Computers classes she may have tried.  I’m thinking of the 34-year old who had undiagnosed learning disabilities all the way thru school, but who, thru sheer hard work and maybe some cheating, was able to graduate from college.  Nevertheless, this individual’s ability to keep up with the brightest of the computer generation is marginal at best, and each five-year increment makes it more necessary for him to be able to achieve in that realm.  Of course, there are also the people with late-stage Parkinson’s, with cerebral palsy, etc., and those individuals living in the severe, generational poverty we have allowed to go unchecked within these United States.  I believe we need to help people in need have the basic income necessary for basic living expenses, including the monies needed for medical treatments and education.  Why can’t we envision a sustainably equitable society?  I believe that the concept of “incentives” is way off the mark:  children are supported by their parents (when possible), yet the children work hard.  They do not need incentives to make them go to school; most children start out with basic curiosity and with social needs that bring them together in the classroom.  Supported individuals would find the work they can do if they weren’t so busy, as they are now, just trying to stay alive and pay the bills.  

      • Terry Tree Tree

        The GREEDY rich won’t stand for ‘Entitlements’, even the ones that are insurance premiums, that were paid for!
            The ENTITLEMENTS of the GREEDY rich, and politicians are sacrosanct!! 
             ONE corporate welfare recipient gets enough ‘entitlement’, to help thousands survive!
            Just ONE term in Congress, with retirement and benefits for LIFE?
            Politicians set their OWN pay and benefits, yet WAIL about collective bargaining?

  • S.C. Listner

    Speaking of robots… since the economy fell of a cliff, eBay has a lot of unemployed robotic arms for sale.

  • Mr. Nola

    not to try and re-direct this topic but I think this topic fits with the OWS conversation. If we engage in a paradigm shift wherein the “wealth” (however you choose to define it) is shared more equitably among all, then possibilities become vast and likely unpredictable. When humanity is freed from survival necessities what will they do? Some are wrapped up in the outdated idea of the protestant work ethic, I doubt that we will become lazy anymore than the end of prohibition turned us all into alcholoics.

    • Tina

      We just have to work really hard to make  THIS VISION come true.  To do so, we must unseat the hyper- financial-Capitalists and their hold on our government(s).  

  • Andrew Farkas

    CORRECTION: You guest said “over 90% of us have work”. That is not true. “unemployment” is 9.1%- which means “of the people we are counting, 9.1% have no work at all, and have worked in the past 4 months.” The fact is that with underemployment, the number is closer to 20%, and if you count those who have been unemployed for longer than 4 months, it’s over 20%. So maybe he should have said, “less than 80% of our eligible workforce has work.”

    Cambridge, MA

    • Modavations

      3% WORK UNDER THE TABLE,OR A COMBINATION OF lEGIT JOB AND UNDER THE TABLE.

      • cory.

        Okay, 17% then (if my math is right).

        • Modavations

          That means 6%.You’re just hypothesizing with the other #’s

          • Demotivations

            Modavations – ‘Hypothesizing’?  Don’t you have a corner on that market?

      • Demotivations

        Modavations – If you type in capital letters does that mean you even know less than usual about the content of your reply to the commentator?

      • Terry Tree Tree

        ???

    • Modavations

      What % of Lefties are unemployed?What % of Republicans are unemployed

      • Demotivations

        Modavations – To real men, it does not matter who is unemployed, only that a growing percentage of our population can’t afford to be.

  • Jeannine

    What about farming?  Are robots taking over, or, should we look into becoming again an agricultural society
    Jeannine
    Newport, RI

  • Michiganjf

    Mass poverty and unemployment, political unrest… don’t these things affect corporate profitability as well?

    Automation may seem like a good business strategy in the short term… how about the long term?

    When will business wise up and start considering the long term?

    Henry Ford figured this out, over a hundred years ago.

    Yes, one company can’t compete in the short term against another company that automates, but does this mean we’re all ultimately doomed to the aforementioned “mass poverty and unemployment, political unrest?”

    • Michiganjf

      In the long term, in almost every way conceivable, Capitalism is proving to be a trudge to the bottom… obviously, Capitalism is a single step in the evolution of technology and human society which will ultimately have to be ditched in favor of sustainability and more stringent management of human ecology.

      The U.S., in current societal and political form, would utterly fail and collapse with a population like that of India or China… apparently, learning to live frugally and with scarcity, or not at all, will be the ultimate dynamic.

      Unfortunately, India and China are now trying their hardest to duplicate now anachronistic western society, and they will likely have to severely re-evaluate and regroup, or also face failure and collapse.

    • Dave in CT

      That’s right, and that is part of the self preservation of the system that will be at work if the hand wringing can stop long enough, and we clean up the crony aspect of our markets.

  • Maybelle

    The Houston police will be using drones to shoot or taze people.  Thanks Homeland Security… Machines doing the work of humans. 

  • Nate

    Machines and efficiencies reduce our need for workers. What could our society look like without work as its center? What do we do?

    • S.C. Listner

      what do we do? fight, war, etc..

  • Modavations

    Break the grip of the Teacher’s Unions,afford kids vouchers,get the schools competing and you get a better educated populace.A better educated populace is the key.Education is the key.On Brokaw,last night, he reported 34% of 4th graders read at proficiency.Break the Unions,save the kids!!!

    • Anonymous

      Vouchers are unconstitutional.  I don’t want my tax money going to subsidize religious institutions. 

      • Modavations

        The business of the Dem.Party is to keep poor people, poor.Americans will move your road blocks aside and as always,prevail.Real men don’t cry,we invent,we explore,we philosophize

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – Real men don’t stay where they are not wanted

        • Terry Tree Tree

          What have you invented, explored, roadblocks have you moved aside?

      • Modavations

        I have a client whose a muslim.His kids wear the headgear.His kids go to parochial sdhool.You’re as bad as a rascist.

        • Anonymous

          People can believe whatever nonsense they want.  I don’t want to pay for it.  What fine school taught you to mix up who’s/whose and spell? 

          • Modavations

            Newto North to BC.

          • Demotivations

             Modavations – High grades, huh?

        • Terry Tree Tree

          Child-molesting and child-abusing priests, on a HUGE scale!  That worked so well for religion-based schooling!

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – I have a chicken. It lays eggs. You are a clod.

      • TFRX

        And they’re the 6% solution. With no checks and balances. And run for profit by (nominally) non-profits. And they are prone to cherry-pick the best students.

        Yep, that’s somebody’s idea of the cureall.

        • Modavations

          The problem with the left is they always want to dumb down.Their egalitarianism, is that we shouuld all be poor.Their equality is that we should all share illiteracy.My crew wants everyone to get rich,we demand high grades

          • TFRX

            You forgot to call me a “rascist” (sic) and accuse me of “locking up my chattel”.

            Meds out of balance?

          • Modavations

            You’re worse.You’re a rascist with a limp wrist

          • TFRX

            Project much?

          • Demotivations

            Modavations – You are limp.  That’s all.

          • Terry Tree Tree

            I took responsibility for the education of my children!  When the had lousy teachers, which  are also in private schools, (molesting priests are one example) I taught them what they needed to know!  When they had good teachers, I coasted mostly.  As a single, custodial parent, I got involved as much as I could.  My children are FAR more sucessful than I am.  THAT is my sucess! 
                I have talked to many people in my life, that went to private schools.  Several of them had similiar problems from that, as those of us from public schools!
                Until ALL the molesting and abusing priests and such, are in prison where they belong, from the Vatican turning over ALL pertinent information, private, religious schools are a FARCE!!

          • TFRX

            When it comes the general idea of taking responsibility for one’s kids’ education, there is a middle-right meme which overvalues (but certainly not with money) the effect of teachers. That states that a good teacher (the selfless hero) can overcome every obstacle the system has given them. The tumbledown buildings, the underfed kids? All that? They don’t need to go to the fine school in the burbs. They just need a “hero teacher”.

            For a system which is supposed to do the best for the most, hinging on “hero teachers” is bull.

            It will not be fought back against until the Jeopardy Teachers’ Tournament (which I hope becomes an annual even) starts awarding prizes like new textbooks and toilet paper, rather than money.

          • Modavations

            what % of pervert priests were democrats,as opposed to republicans

          • Demotivations

            Modavations – Ask the Vatican.  Your unoriginality bores us.  This is the third time in a month I’ve seen you post this reply.

          • Terry Tree Tree

            ALL the pervert priests were PERVERT PRIESTS!~!!!

          • Demotivations

            Modivations – You have no crew.  You could never inspire.  You could never be a leader.  You don’t know what a ‘high grade’ means.

    • Ward Cheney

      Break the television, computer screen, cell phone, save the kids.

      • Modavations

        Last night on Tom Brokaw, he reported 34% of 4th graders, read at proficiency.German Mongoloids(no offense meant)do better then our kids.Nuclear Families and parents that demand an educated kid, are wjhat counts.I have T.V.s running in 3 rooms simultaneously.

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – You can count to three? … no offense meant.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Several of the voucher schools have been exposed for fraud, non-educating, religious demogogary, having to use public school facilities, and a LOT of other problems. 
          Why don’t the proponents of these schools FUND them for about twenty years, so they can PROVE they work, providing 2/3 of the students from low-income, or crime neighborhoods?  That would improve the world, at their own expense, instead of expecting the working class to subsidize schooling for the children of the rich!
          In general, it’s hard to believe that voucher schools are less expensive than public schools, especially on a large scale!

      • Modavations

        So we must scrap school competition.The three last Speakers of the House in Ma.are in jail.Let’s scrap Hacks.

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – Let’s scrap idiotic reasoning, flyby sniping and ridiculous commentary.  Sorry, that would put you out of business.

        • Terry Tree Tree

          Where did I say scrap anything?  I just challenged the voucher-backers to PROVE the concept for ALL children.

    • Demotivations

      Modavations – Just run those schools like businesses…. that’s what no country is doing that is kicking our butt in education.  Break the unions and destroy the middle class – get a grip corporate fan boy. 

  • Jeff

    Be the guy who maintains those machines.

  • dwf

    The machines will not require human design help. They will design and build themselves.

    • Jeff

      No way.  Not anytime soon.  I’ve built a career on making machines do the jobs that they were designed to do.  Most take constant maintenance and re-programming.  There is a “class” of worker that understands the tech and makes it work.  That is where the american worker threatened by automation needs to land.

  • Modavations

    America produces 25% of everything madfe on the planet.We have the most massive of markets.When it’s up and running we only export about 8%.

    • Demotivations

      Modavations – Another foul ball comment without any purpose or reason except for maybe a brain trauma, mental disease or necessary ego massage.

  • Ellen Dibble

    The example Tom gave of the legal-eagle computer that did better in researching some case than a roomful of lawyers, I believe it.  When I’m transcribing cases, I have to check out exact quotes from cases all over the country and going back to the days of the Indians, and someone will have scanned it in and archived it, and I can see oh, guess what, that lawyer was being sloppy there and attributing ownership of that land in 1850 to a person with the same first name, but…  You can’t “search” a name in a scanned document right now.  But you can do a lot.  If there is a 2,000 page transcript, it can be right there on screen where you can create a word index in a second, or you can search for yourself.  And you can share that when it’s legal to.  Where it takes a LOT of human input is fitting everything together.  There is a LOT left.  I would rather be a lawyer who did not need to spend weeks thumbing through dusty documents.

  • Megan, Somerville, MA

    The conversation, up to this point, is assuming the inevitability of the robot takeover of the workforce.  Is there not a point at which we decide that jobs for human being are more important that increasing the corporate bottom line and concentrating even more wealth with the top 1%???

    • Chris B

      Not in this country.

    • Jeff

      There is a market for many things that used to be made by hand and are now made by automation.  But its a high-end niche.

    • Tina

      I say again, that, sadly, our Supreme Court said that the fiduciary responsiblity that corporations owe is owed to their shareholders, not to anyone else.   So misguided, if I have understood this correctly.  Perhaps a lawyer with knowledge of this decision will reply to my post.

  • Anonymous

    In the future we WILL NOT HAVE TO WORK!! I am apart of a group that is teaching this right now. It is hard to get it across because of the mainstream media, the corporatocracy, and the 1% that control everything and that profit and gain from things staying just the way they are.

    • Dave in CT

      Are you going to hook up an IV to corn syrup from the robot farms?

      Idle hands are the plaything of the devil.  I think there is some truth in that.

      We are still wired to be productive and nurturing/providing for ourselves/family.

      A disconnect between effort, commitment etc and our needs being met, would be a scary world I think.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      HOW?  WHY?

  • Bellecon2

    So what we envision is that the capitalists (owners of the machines and inventors) will capture more of the pie…… as you are saying right now.  Inequality…………

  • Webb Nichols

    Carbon Footprint. Carbon footprint. Carbon Footprint. The cost of shipping goods will increasingly require manufacturing to be at the point of distribution- China,India,Africa,Middle East, the places of the greatest untapped markets. And that is not in the USA.

    • Modavations

      The enterpreneur will invent machines ,to clear the air.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Stupid extra expense, and health risks!   Cleaner air, by use of cleaner production NOW , would be less risky, and less expensive!!
            Big Money insists on going the stupid way, for their short-term gains, at everyone else’s health expense!

        • Modavations

          “Scrubbers”.Carbon Sequestration.

          • Demotivations

            Modavations – That’s what we need a ‘chumscrubber’ for Modavations Sequestration

          • Terry Tree Tree

            Examples that prove my point!!
                Do wind-turbines NEED Scrubbers and Carbon Sequestration? 
                Do Solar Panels?  
                Do Solar Boilers?
                Do Hydro-electric Dams?
                Do Tidal Generators?
                Internal Combustion Engines ALL have batteries, do Electric Autos have Catalytic Convertors?  Smog Control?

      • Demotivations

        Modavations – All hail the inventor who can invent a machine to clean this website of Modavations

  • Anonymous

    It’s called Technological Unemployment. 

  • Ad_phipps

    The US has the opportunity to retake the lead by embracing the inevitable changes to the world work force.  Machines do the job with out breaks and the same way every time.  People make mistakes and drive up costs

  • Bellecon2

    and who will buy all this product?

    • Ad_phipps

      Its a concert but not as large of one as loosing the creative and high end jobs as well.  All of our jobs can be outsourced.  only some of them to machines.

  • Modavations

    I’ve cracked the code.The Lefties are pessimists, the righties optimists.Ronaldus Magnus was beloved around the world, because he knew how to laugh and it was infectious

    • Anonymous

      or realist v. delusional

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Equal Rights for minorities, Women’s Equality, Public Education for everyone, a Living Wage for productive work, Job Safety, so people don’t die for profit, is Pessimistic??
          Conservativism of GREED is optimistic??

      • Modavations

        When you afford the poor school vouchers, I’ll shut up.

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – I would fix the whole education system if it would get you to shut up.

        • Terry Tree Tree

          NOT likely that one thing would shut you up!! 
              Not that I really want to shut you up.  We sometimes agree on some things.
              I am a Volunteer Fire-Fighter, Volunteer Rescue Squad member, that has DONATED ten GALLONS of his blood to help his fellow man woman and child.  The sporadic employment that I get in construction, supports these expensive hobbies.  WHAT DO YOU DO?
               Yet, YOU challenge me to afford school vouchers, in addition to the taxes I pay for public schools?   You think I am a rich gem dealer?

    • Demotivations

      Modavations – You must believe in Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus too.

  • Dave in CT

    What’s the best way to have us all benefit from the labor/productivity gains by mechanization, without removing the market incentives that keep us from being entitlement loafs?

    Aside from energy challenges, the labor to feed, clothe and shelter us should be shrinking, so we should be able to all have those things, so what are we going to “work” at to keep us honest and productive.

    But how can we keep enough basic productive labor that keeps people connected to the “making a living” ethic/experience?

    • sean abbott

      This is the sort of cultural shift I’m talking about.  We have all been raised on the moral superiority of labor.  We need to shift to the moral superiority of creativity.  (Never mind that the “moral superiority of labor” sure seems to be a fiction spread to keep “the masses” in line.

  • Anonymous

    Money is the root of all evil. In this scientific, technological future there will be no need for money!

    • Modavations

      Profit is the mother of invention.Stop wringing your hands.I’m embarrassed

      • Demotivations

        Modavations – Profit might be your mother and I’m embarrassed for her.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Money is only one tool of power.
           I propose that LUST FOR POWER is the root of all evil, as a lot of evil things that happen, don’t involve money!  (rape, child-molesting, child-abuse, elder-abuse, spousal-abuse, and a LOT of others.
          Power, as anything else can be used for Good or Evil!! 
          Please think of, and name ANYTHING that cannot be used for Good OR Evil?

  • Liinda

    TEACHING  CHILDCARE

    It’s “women’s work” that will last: teaching, child care, medical care, CARING … but who do the tea party want to fire by cutting budgets?
    It’s more about living wages that machines … valuing work with people. The 99%  is groping toward a solution to this way of thinking.

  • Jvwalshmd

    A Question.
    It seems that there is a lot of alarmist talk about offshoring of manufacturing but it seems that the main reason for the decline in American mfg jobs is machines.  Until the crisis of 2008, the US share of global manufacturing was about 20% for decades even as global mfg went up.But the number of Americans employed in mfg went down.  It seems that for the most part it was not offshoring but automation.  So what is the fraction of the loss due to automation and the fraction due to offshoring?  Can your guests tell us?
    John V. Walsh, MD

    • Jeff

      A offshore factory uses little or no automation.  It’s just a big room full of little brown or yellow people doing almost everything by hand.  It’s a million times cheaper to hire 100 workers in China or India or Vietnam or wherever, than it is for that factory owner to buy one automating machine.  This is from personal experience, not hearsay.

  • Dallas Issirius

    Automation in the workforce cannot replace all jobs such as sales positions. However, in manufacturing automation should replace many position to keep us competitive on a global level. The workforce will ideally evolve by gaining new skills (e.g. technical skills to fix the “robots”) America’s public education system should change to embrace this evolution by having high schools integrate technical programs for kids not wanting to get a Bachelor’s degree. Some European countries have had this kind of thing for decades. Revamping our public education system is key, especially with the ever-growing cost of a college degree.

    • Jeff

      In fact, automation may be the ONLY way the US can (eventually) retain a profitable, fairly-paid labor and high production manufacturing base and also remain competitive with offshore factories using cheap labor with lower production.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Never been ‘robo-called’, by a MACHINE, for telemarketing sales?  Never seen an ATM, or vending machine?  Need I go on?

    • Terry Tree Tree

      The U.S.. has had Vocational-Technical schools for what, a century?

  • http://abellia.myopenid.com/ Andrew

    These guys don’t get it.  The benefit from automation is less work.  Please read Russell’s “In Praise of Idelness.”  It was true in the 30′s and it rings even more true today.

  • sean abbott

    The rising productivity of machines must be handled culturally.  We have an opportunity here.  If we assume that 10% of the leisure classes end up being curious enough people to create something new (think newton), we have a great opportunity to expand the leisure classes.  We should shift our cultural expectation of full time employment, reduce the work week, increase mandatory vacation, increase protections for “nearly full time” workers, and make a national effort to increase the availability of creative and inventive entertainment outlets, like maker labs, fab labs, artistic venues, and other places where human beings can do we do better than machines for the forseeable future:  create.

  • Steve Tiffany

    As a thought experiment, imagine a $1000 robot that can do ANY job a human can do.  We’d need an economic system that allows humans to make a living.  Capitalism would give all the benefits to the few who own the robot company stock, with everyone else left to grub for roots and berries.  Socialism would give us a demoralizing Welfare Planet. 

    The only system I’ve encountered that would work in that scenario is Non-Physical-Object Money, where people are paid based exclusively on the creation of net benefit for others.  It’s described in Larry K. Mason’s book “Invisible Hand,” available free at http://www.nonpom.org .

    • Tina

      wow!  sounds fascinating!  thanks for the link!  did you see my comment about the Potlatch cultures of the Northwest coast native americans?  The wealthiest person throws a party to give away all this wealthl!  (I admit I need to know more about that culture, but it may be rooted in this concept of “net benefit for others””!?!

  • Dave in CT

    We need to open the throttle for small scale entrepreneurship. 

    Lots of self-employed, independent contractors, or working for small businesses or the big ones if you like/are lucky.

    Seems it’s either that, or some socialistic model that will lead to dependency/entitlement and too much public debt.

    We always need to demand productivity from ourselves, and not let us drift into slothdom.

    • Anonymous

      With so much labor about to become obsolete, we need to start valuing sloth.  I’d be content to sit on my ass all day and let the robots do everything as long as I still got paid. 

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Many cannot!!

      • Dave in CT

        Sounds like the Soviet Union.

        • TFRX

          I refer you to “When the idle poor become the idle rich” by Yip Harburg.

          Sloth is okay if you’re wealthy enough, to a great swath of society.

          But if you’re poor and or unemployed nowadays you get rip-roaring pep rallies from the GOP calling you lazy and worthless, and why don’tchagetajobyoufikkingBUM?

          (That’s the proverbial “you”, not you literally, of course.)

          • Dave in CT

            glad I’m not defending that. Although it is ironic that many in this conversation talk of how mechanization should give us more leisure time, a good thing.  But if “rich” people achieve it, its bad.

            I’m sorry humanity has not figured out how to peacefully give everybody, everything they want, and to erase the human will/desire to succeed at things.

          • TFRX

            I’m sorry you think that’s what people are calling for here.

            No, “if rich people achieve it it is bad”. One, rich people get a pass for things which society considers social ills when poor people do them. Two, rich people like to tell everyone that they work harder and therefore deserve everything they get.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Some GREEDY rich Republicans answer ‘Let them die!’

      • Modavations

        Give me a name.If you’d give the poor,school vouchers ,the mortality rates would tumble

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – You are a laugh riot. Maybe give the poor some food and health care, then the mortality rates would get more in line.

  • Yar

    A society can’t survive if too many people are left out.  It has never been a worse time to buy a losing lottery ticket, but there are more lotteries now so it is a great time to win. The statement your guest made on talented entrepreneurs is only looking at winners.  We have many more losers than winners.

    • Heaviest Cat

      Yar, you make a good point. It remibnds me of the economic elites of this country who really don’t need the rest of us. What Bill Moyers and Noam Chomsky among others call the “Plutonomy”.

      • Modavations

        Boy, there’s a couple of unbiased types.I liked Mickey!!!Moyers,when he worked for LBJ, was in charge of outing Homosexual political opponents.When confronted,he started crying and said he was embarrassed to tell his kids

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – Unbiased, just like you

    • Keith Z

      You are right. Automation will be relentless and will leave most people behind. We will need to reform our system

      Also see this very interesting PBS TV Show (you can watch online).Will Robots Take Our Jobs?http://www.ideasinactiontv.com…And check out the book mentioned on the show (free pdf available)

      “The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future”http://www.thelightsinthetunne…

      This book is much more ambitious and tries to offer some real solutions.

  • David Golumbia

    we have no democratic means to ask the basic question: “what SHOULD we do with technology?” technologies are running absolutely out of control, but almost no citizens of our society can conceptualize the matter as it is.

    look at high-frequency trading, in which the stock market has literally been replaced by an automated Skynet of tremendous complexity, but which is so far beyond the understanding of most people that they simply deny its existence. Read Jim McTague, especially Crapshhoot Investing–there is no human stock market anymore, and the robot one may at any movement decide to take the markets down. The number of human beings employed per dollar traded is unbelievably low–there is no guarantee humans will be needed at all in the very near future, in one of the largest, most lucrative, and most skill-intensive human labor markets.

    THERE IS NO CURRENT MECHANISM IN PLACE TO INSURE THAT ADEQUATE MEANINGFUL WORK FOR HUMAN BEINGS CONTINUES TO EXIST.

    We have no discussion, even yet, of how to manage a society in which we have eliminated one of our most fundamental human values, or how to manage the amount of meaningful work that exists.

    And an absolute free market does not value human work, so there is nothing at all to prevent its elimination in favor of capital.

    It is happening all around us, yet we see almost no discussion of the problem, even on this program which in some way gets very close to it.

    • Jeff

      I would argue that there is now and always will be an abundance of “meaningful” work.  The problem is that such work does not pay a living wage in this country.  

      Now if you define meaningful work as a well-defined job position that already exists and that pays as much as it did in the past, that’s where things are changing fast.

      • Dave in CT

        It depends if you look at cable TV, iphones, data plans, digital phones, internet, fast computers, flatscreen tv’s, 2000+ sq ft homes 2 cars, etc etc etc as a human right.

        Those luxuries have nothing to do with a “living wage”.

        • Jeff

          True.  If you get right down to it, a “living wage” is a relative term.  What I mean’t was to be paid enough to make “meaningful” jobs attractive to more people.

    • cory.

      Great post!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Mark Binder, calling in, the story teller who says the iPhone App tells stories, but bad ones:  Why not tell his stories and sell them to the iPhone Apps.  I wanted to create children’s stories for those apps, and it took about two months for that to be Disneyfied, and it looked like you needed a studio and a background in creating interactive and highly sophisticated computer games in order to be part of that scene.  
        So — I was very interested.  I thought story-telling had become “corporate,” because it required too much technology to do it via app.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      GO FOR IT, LADY!!!  Disney CANNOT be all the market!  Some will buy your app, and how many depends on your ability, and the work of mouth you get.
         Why not try?   Little to lose!   How much to gain?

  • Anonymous

    The comment that “The U.S manufactures more now than ever”, although true is misleading.  In 1990 manufacturing was 22% of the U.S. economy, it has now shrunk to 11%. Manufacturing employment remained stable in the 1990s even with productivity at 3.5% as manufacturing output grew. Since 2000 manufacturing employment has shrunk by 4 million with the same 3.5% productivity. The point is that the U.S. has chosen to outsource or otherwise de-industrialize and to grow in other arenas like financial services.

  • Dave in CT

    We can’t/shouldn’t remove ownership.  Only the owners of things value them and want to improve them, and see them through.

    No ownership is an old, failed pipe dream.

    Be an owner. You are an owner, of you, your ideas, your efforts, skills etc.

    Nothing to fear in ownership. Its natural. Be a mogul if you want to try, or keep it small.

    • JustSayin

      GWB’s ownership society.

      The bottom 95% sure got owned! 

      • cory.

        TeeHee!!

      • Dave in CT

        I think it was Fannie and the Community Reinvestment act, that put ownership idea on steroids, leading to predictable failure.

        Who made that happen?  Finance elite of both parties?

        Why are you against people owning land?

        • TFRX

          The CRA led to it?

          You gotta get out more.

          • Dave in CT

            Let me be more specific. The bipartisan changes to the act made under Bill Clinton, your DNC hero.

            “On signing the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, President Clinton said that it, “establishes the principles that, as we expand the powers of banks, we will expand the reach of the [Community Reinvestment] Act”

            There’s your TeeHee!! moment. They sure did expand the reach, right up to our small intestines.

            “Legislative changes 1999. In 1999 the Congress enacted and President Clinton signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act. This law repealed the part of the Glass–Steagall Act that had prohibited a bank from offering a full range of investment, commercial banking, and insurance services since its enactment in 1933. A similar bill was introduced in 1998 by Senator Phil Gramm but it was unable to complete the legislative process into law. Resistance to enacting the 1998 bill, as well as the subsequent 1999 bill, centered around the legislation’s language which would expand the types of banking institutions of the time into other areas of service but would not be subject to CRA compliance in order to do so. The Senator also demanded full disclosure of any financial “deals” which community groups had with banks, accusing such groups of “extortion”.[56]In the fall of 1999, Senators Christopher Dodd and Charles E. Schumer prevented another impasse by securing a compromise between Sen. Gramm and the Clinton Administration by agreeing to amend the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (12 U.S.C. ch.16) to allow banks to merge or expand into other types of financial institutions. The new Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act’sFDIC related provisions, along with the addition of sub-section § 2903(c) directly to Title 12, insured any bank holding institution wishing to be re-designated as a financial holding institution by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System would also have to follow Community Reinvestment Act compliance guidelines before any merger or expansion could take effect.[57]At the same time the G-L-B Act’s changes to the Federal Deposit Insurance Act would now allow for bank expansions into new lines of business, non-affiliated groups entering into agreements with these bank or financial institutions would also have to be reported as outlined under the newly added section to Title 12, § 1831y. (CRA Sunshine Requirements), satisfying Sen. Gramm’s concerns.[58][59]In conjunction with the above Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act changes, smaller banks would be reviewed less frequently for CRA compliance by the addition of §2908. (Small Bank Regulatory Relief) directly to Chapter 30, (the existing CRA laws), itself. The 1999 Act also mandated two studies to be conducted in connection with the “Community Reinvestment Act”:[60]the first report by the Federal Reserve, to be delivered to Congress by March 15, 2000, is a comprehensive study of CRA to focus on default and delinquency rates, and the profitability of loans made in connection with CRA;[61]the second report to be conducted by the Treasury Department over the next two years, is intended to determine the impact of the Act on the provision of services to low- and moderate-income neighborhoods and people, as intended by CRA.[62]On signing the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, President Clinton said that it, “establishes the principles that, as we expand the powers of banks, we will expand the reach of the [Community Reinvestment] Act”.[63]“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Reinvestment_Act#Legislative_changes_1999

  • Modavations

    If we would ban the Social Worker type,this world would be a lot better off.You guys make a business out of misery

    • cory.

      That’s right, let’s eliminate more decent paying jobs…

    • Terry Tree Tree

      You want to go back to the days of owing your soul to the company store, paid by company script, Pinkerton hired-guns to enforce wage-slavery, and NO worker safety?  You call that optimism? 

    • Demotivations

      Modavations – You make it your business to give people your misery

  • AC

    please discuss the variable of population. Or was that covered? i’ve been in and out of the office….

  • Brad

    The show is continually referring to Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns when referring to the exponential growth of technology.  Moore’s Law is only a subset that contributes.

    The guests have only given a couple of examples of actual replacement and then discussing future theory.  I would like them to put their thoughts into a time frame.  For example, in their research is the real employment concern they are addressing happening in tens, hundreds or thousands of years into the future?

    And at the tipping point of major employment replacement in the population, have the guests looked into how society is changed by the surrounding technology?  …not just in the one aspect of replacing jobs.  Is there a balance?

  • Natalia

    The discussion reminded me of the speech by Tom Friedman in 2006 about the “jobs of the new middle”, which he proposed to be:

    Great collaborators

    Great leveragers of technology

    Great synthesizers

    Great localizers

    Passionate personalizers

    Green technology creators

    Great explainers

    Great adapters

    • Heaviest Cat

      Tom Friedman is an ovverrated apologist for America’s corporate empire spreading the misleading rheotric of “iiinnovation” adn technology as America’s Messiah

  • http://abellia.myopenid.com/ Andrew

    Finally Tom asks the right question.  The problem isn’t the machine.  The problem is the economic system.

    • Dave in CT

      How so?

      You work and are rewarded with the fruits of your labors.

      Not much of a system, just a free expression of reality.

      • Ed Siefker

        Unless there’s no work to be done, and no rewards to be had.  If the owners of the means of production don’t need your labor, how do you pay for the goods you need to survive?

        People aren’t entitled to a free ride, but they are entitled to a chance to pull their own weight.  Fewer and fewer people have that chance.

        • http://abellia.myopenid.com/ Andrew

          In some ways I don’t think that the “free riders” are a problem.  There will always be free riders.  It would be nice if everybody contributed, but there are enough who want to do the work to enable many to have a free ride.  This is what retirement is.  This is what compensated unemployment is.  This is what sick time is.  This  is what state-supported education is.

          One should also be honest and admit that much compensated work could go away tomorrow and the availability of necessary goods and services wouldn’t change.

          • Dave in CT

            Hopefully you are right about there being enough to support those “valid” free-riders.  But if we make the system encourage free-riding, or go around saying there is plenty for lots of people to free-ride, we will create a problem.

            There is nothing wrong or shameful in having a work ethic and personal responsibility/self-sufficiency ethic as a core part of our culture.

            I agree about the compensated work disappearing thing, but fear that if we don’e have a connection between working and having our needs met, we will have the problems Voltaire spoke to.

            There should be no shame in aspiring.

          • http://abellia.myopenid.com/ Andrew

            You’re right, there is nothing shameful about a work ethic.  But to a great extent, self-sufficiency went out the window long ago.  Some may choose to aspire.  Some may not.  There’s not problem with having those that do benefit from their labor, but it’s all a matter of degree.

          • Dave in CT

            “But to a great extent, self-sufficiency went out the window long ago.”

            I think that needs to be examined.  We sure print alot of money and run up alot of debt pretending it, and expecting things to come from somewhere far away from us, but I’m not sure we have escaped scarcity, or the psychological/existential need to be self-sufficient.

        • Dave in CT

          Work toward everyone having access to land and growing food. Ownership or community gardens.

          If people invested in land, instead of all the crap we consume, there might actually be a shot a people having a chance to work and enjoy the fruit of our labors.

          If you want to talk about everyone deserving a comfortable high-tech lifestyle, thats a different story.

          We need to get back to basics, precisely to give people that chance.

          If we were talking about land reforms or property revolution  that would be an interesting thing.

          But this country has given lots of people lots of opportunity to own a bit of land, or even make communes if they want.

          People have made other choices with their $.

          Consequences? Or do we need to think for them?

      • Heaviest Cat

        that’s a simplistic self-serving captialist myth Dave. Corporations love it.

        • Dave in CT

          Grow tomatoes. Eat them. Can some. Trade some with neighbor for venison steak.

          Loaf all summer, go hungry. Mythical.

          Why not work to put the corrupt bankers and their politician supporters behind bars first, see what effect that has, and then we’ll see about tearing down capitalism, and demanding that you make widgets for 6.5 hours a day.

      • Modavations

        Unless you’re Solyendra,or Sun Power,or Ge,or,or,or

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – Or, or, or ..duh?

    • Heaviest Cat

      Indeed, so why were there no critics on today’s show of the great god “free market”?

  • Ellen Dibble

    Since so much of the GDP seems to go into the pockets of ever fewer, if they want a calm not bomb underfoot, “they” (the plutocrats) might want to give everybody a social security receiving blanket at birth, a sort of downpayment on life, a portion to be available as long as they need it, and no longer.  Isn’t Libya doing that?  With oil wealth?  Or Alaska?  If there is so much money in some people’s pockets that they really don’t know how much they’re paying for a flu shot, I think the 99% at OWS can enlighten that 1% about how to invest in the People.

  • Tina

    I’ve been calling for an  Artisanship economy  over the Buy It Cheap Economy that we have, unfortunately, in terms of “value” as you guys are discussing it now, let me tell this sad story about a place where Artisanship tries to co-exist within the greater, larger Buy It Cheap Economy:  Rhode Island.  Some estimates suggest that there are more artists per capita in Ri than anywhere else in the US.  There are many gallery shows to go see; however, most of the artwork in the galleries and in studios never sells because the viewers are often the other artists who have NO MONEY because they can only get make-do jobs, often.  If Artisanship is to work, it has to follow a different model other than a co-existing model:  the Potlatch Culture of the traditional Northwest Coast Indians might be better.  The wealthiest tribal member would hold huge Potlatch parties where he would GIVE AWAY HIS WEALTH!  Have economists explored that culture in the context of OUR current predicament?  

    • Terry Tree Tree

      I challenged Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and other RICH, to use 1/4 of their wealth NOW to create jobs, instead of dedicating themselves to donate 1/2 of it to charity upon their death.
          This would eliminate the need for so much charity then, do more to HELP the economy, and their fellow human beings, and would be a good thing that they can see in their lifetime!
         I was NOT asking them to GIVE anything, except a chance for people to do better, and NOT be a parasite.

      • Modavations

        Bill G.was on T.V. the other day, saying W.Buffett(his tax the rich plan) is full of it

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – Another pointless meandering not responding to the comment at hand – kind of like a snake in the grass just looking for prey.

  • Bill

    Don’t machines cause the rate of profit to fall?

    • Jeff

      Over time, they increase profit.  There is a large up-front cost and an ongoing cost to maintain and upgrade, but once the equipment is paid off (assuming it isn’t already obsolete) the per-unit cost of manufacturing goes way down.  Down far enough for them to pay their workers a lot more!

  • Ehdoss

    As a society we fail to see computers and robots for what they are, tools and extensions of ourselves.

    Everyday I watch managers tackle white collar office problems with brute computing power then blame the workers when the project fails.  Computers cannot think, yet.  Right now bute force computing cannot replace my real job. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CVZOE4NECW2HABCDVEFZPIMDEU Nick

    Capital does not disappear.  It just moves around.  Therefore, when machines add effienticy, the capital goes to the profit.  As a result, share holders and people at the top gather most of the money. 

    • Dave in CT

      most or all?

      All is a problem. “Most”, or more likely, More, if not done corruptly, is just life.

  • Sam, Buffalo, NY

    You know what strikes me as absolutely bizarre.

    There are people who do not have electricity, unable to read and don’t even have basic needs taken care of, like shelter and food.

    Yet, here we are, talking about such advanced technology that would take care of producing basic needs for humans.

    If our world is already overpopulated, wouldn’t our world get even more overpopulated at that point?

    Would the divide between those who do not have and those who are able to hold on to this wave, grow even bigger with these tech advancements?

  • Zelman

    Again, thank you for this conversation. The world is certainly changing – these bright boys from MIT and Harvard get it – to an extent. The new toys are great, yet we are what we are. Scared animals, afraid of death. This tech will play itself out.If people don’t have a sense of what on god’s green earth we are doing here, does anyone have to explain??

  • Dave in CT

    Yes the Voltaire comments are critical.

    We don’t want to be free loading sloths. Not compatible with our physiology or psychology.

    • Anonymous

      We evolved to lounge around most of the day.  Hunter gatherers don’t put in many hours.  Agriculture changed that. 

      • Ellen Dibble

        I want to second that.  I think our sanity depends on having what might seem like “too much time,” during longish and maybe cold stretches, when we are motivated to draw bison on our cave walls, and think of better ways of hunting.

      • Dave in CT

        I’m all for that.  That’s not free lunch, that’s got your lunch, have a rest and enjoy.

        Sadly I don’t think we have the carrying capacity/population density reality to do that anymore for most.

        I eat wild blueberries, blackberries, hickory nuts, hazelnuts and mushrooms from around our house. Tempting to eat some deer and rabbits too.

  • TyroneJ

    A call for An “Artisanship economy” is like a call for the world to switch to only growing organic food. A great “rich white person” type of call, ignoring that the vast majority of the World’s 7 billion (mostly non-white) people would starve.

  • Anonymous

    Incented isn’t a word Tom!  The robot that replaces you would know that.

    • Modavations

      How pathetic.This isn’t a spelling Bee

      • Demotivations

        Modavations – Pathetic comment coming from such a master of decorum.

  • Tom

    I have been waiting for the inflection when machines would start to show up everywhere doing all kinds of jobs. I have been working with Gross National Happiness and we know that most workers would really like more time for their families and friends and doing volunteer work in their communities or around the world. So let’s reduce the expected work level. The New Economics Foundation in the UK did a study which suggested that about 21 hours/week was currently a good fit for the new economy. Several European countries already do 32 or other less than 40 hour weeks. Remember that 40 hours was won by Unions down from the 60 or 80 hours that the industrialists wanted to make us work. We can share the jobs and share the time and wages. We need to get free from job linked health care as that forces people to stick to a 40 hour job. To be sustainable in the future we need to realize that the best things in live aren’t things and reduce the drain on our limited physical resources. So this should allow us to get happier lives and still be highly productive. Yes, we need to share the wealth.
    Tom Barefoot
    GNHUSA.org

  • Modavations

    I can picture Democrats standing on the shore,watching Columbus sail into the sunset.The conversation would be like this.”He’s gonna die,he’ll fall right off the edge of the earth.You guys embarrass me

    • Jeffe68

      What?

    • Terry Tree Tree

      ???

    • Heaviest Cat

      NO They knew Columbus wouldn’t fall off the “edge of the earth” THey knew,he was going to slaughter natives and pull off a major gold heist much to GOP approval.

    • Demotivations

      Modavations – I could imagine you saying to Columbus – “By the time you get back, I’ll have already legally claimed all of the native lands for ourselves and I’ll round up all of the locals and turn them into slaves for the promise of a few morsels of food and a better life.”

  • Yar

    Retirement is trading work over time, if you don’t work you can’t retire.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Tell that to AARP, people can retire way earlier?  Oh, they would have a VAST voting bloc.

  • Reikidenise

    God bless your caller who thinks that more value will be placed on the human driven skills. As a theatrical costumer and milliner and University lecturer who works three jobs to make the rent, I hope this view of the future comes true, but I have been doing this for over 25 years and I am at the top of my game and I am writing a book, and still there is only a kind of quaint appreciation of my creative work. I don’t see where the value system in this country is going to make that kind of a turnabout

    • Jeff

      I hope you make $millions from your book.  

  • Dave in CT

    Corn Syrup IV’s Now! Stand up for your rights!

  • BHA in VT

    Have to be smoking something if you think you can work fewer hours and get paid the same. We’ve been going backwards in income and working more hours for it for a long time.

    Only the Execs who lay people off get paid more money for no more work.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      i THOUGHT i was the only one who know this problem.

      Execs complaint if employees don’t work so hard but is actually the other way around.

  • Modavations

    Tom,Adam Smith’s invisible hand will do the redistribution.You embarrass me

    • cory.

      It’s done such a great job so far…

    • nj

      You embarrass yourself just fine without any outside help.

    • Demotivations

      Modavations – Not possible, you need some humility to become embarrassed.

  • Bill

    This conversation needs a massive infusion of Marxist analysis – these questions have been discussed for over a hundred years. Work is how we evolved – under capitalism work has been corrupted, done for profit and not human needs.  These things need to be part of this conversation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1816544 Dan Trindade

    Did anyone see the movie Wall-E? What happens when we reach a point where we rely so much on machines that human creativity suffers and we become nothing more than over-stuffed, machine-reliant consumers?

  • Heaviest Cat

    I’m so over hearing the word”entrepeneurs” thrown around on “public” radio at the expense of any socialist or citizen advocate voices who might question the wisdom of leaving “innovation” and the solution to unemployment problems to “talented entrepeneurs”.When the nation’s wealth is conentrated in so few hands, why should we trust state-supported captialism to solve  and resolve issues concerning the average citizen? As Noam CHomsky shows in his book”Hopes and prospects” So -called”innovation” has usually come from government research then given over to the markets. So where arethe socialist voices on todays show?

  • Ed Siefker

    Increased efficiency is an unqualified good.  If the benefits of that increased production are not distributed fairly, that’s a problem with the economic system, not with the automation.

    Fortunately, we can change our economic system.   If they’re not careful, it might be capitalists who are automated out of existence.

  • E-guest

    All those jobs “that Americans won’t do” that are done by illegal immigrants–enforce those laws, require welfare-recipients to do those jobs.  Adjust one’s level of living to conform with reality.

    • TFRX

      All those jobs “that Americans won’t do” come with a wink-wink unstated sentence fragment: “At wages they’re being offered”.

      Not saying anything about anyone’s work ethic, just the mediascape in which these go without saying, then in a generation or so go without being cogitated.

    • TFRX

      Require welfare recipients to do those jobs?

      In Georgia they’re already making prisoners do those jobs.

      How about “hire welfare recipients to do those jobs”?

      Because migrant-level labor like that doesn’t really seem to jibe with the welfare recipient lifestyle. Most states make recipients search for full-time jobs, which (I don’t have to tell anyone) is a job in itself.

  • Pdennant

    All this has been covered well in various works of science-fiction.  My favorite is Issac Asimov’s “Caves of Steel” which describes a overpopulated planet Earth where humanoid robots (the ultimate machine) have been banned from the planet because they removed meaningful work from humans and left many in poverty.  

  • Dave in CT

    Cool show.

    Let’s not ruin it by arguing this is about Capitalism vs Communism.

    Work ethic, personal responsibility, rewards for efforts/commitments will always be with us, until the dictators take it from us.

    • Bill

      In the USA workers are disciplined by Capitalists, there is no democracy in the workplace where workers spend the most years of their lives. Capitalists are dictators they are more brutal than any totalitarian regime – they steal the profits created by their workers. Their can be no democracy in a society if there isn’t any in the work place – it is time for workers to democratize the workplace run it for their own needs. They need to expropriate the workplace and Capital and use it to run society democratically in the best interests of working people.

      Communism is the elimination of the privatisation of work.  Capitalism has been around for a tiny speck of time in the history of humans and work has been around since the dawn of humans without Capitalism we have always worked and always will. Communism is the natural state of human production is based on the history of our evolution - that is - the organization of production for human need and not profit.

      • Dave in CT

        Why aren’t there more successful communes?

        Grow your own food if you don’t like the man. It’s not easy. You might need some help.  What if your volunteers are lazy? You might offer some of the yield to good workers, and not “hire” the lazy ones.  

        But then you would be an evil dictator I guess. But try to support all the lazy volunteers and you will starve.

        • Ed Siefker

           500 years ago one could easily have asked “why aren’t there more successful representative democracies?”  Eventually there will be a revolution in economic thought on the scale of the Enlightenement, which ushered in the modern democratic republic.   Economics will be democratized for the same reasons that politics have been.  There’s no reason to believe that the modern capitalist republic is the ultimate form of society.

          • cory.

            We can only hope/dream.

          • Dave in CT

            You are still free to dream in America. 

          • Dave in CT

            Where I vote for my salary regardless of my work? Sign me up.

            I believe in a competitive free market economy, with an enforced Rule of Law preventing unfair play. Flat taxes for the vast majority. Then, at some level of annual wealth, say a million, we can debate and agree on, a progressively higher and higher tax rate.

            The flat tax proceeds fund a limited government that exists to defend the country from outside attack, and provide a basic safety net for the truly needy.

            The progressive tax money is then rebated, recycled, composted, directly back to the individuals of society, for them to continue to exercise their economic freedom and choices with.

            This both preserves a vast amount of liberty and economic freedom, as well as wealth building for those inclined, and provides a circuit breaker to prevent astronomical accumulations and the social resentment and damage that comes from obscene concentrations of resources.

            Why not?

            Communism is not going to fly here, and while we argue ad infinitum Capitalism vs. Communism, things will just get worse if we don’t do something about the elite and rule of law issues we have.

          • Ed Siefker

            And that’s all it is, a belief.  A truly free market is an idealized model, much like a frictionless surface in physics.  On the microeconomic scale, you occasionally get systems that behave as the ideal free market does.  This doesn’t happen in macroeconomics.  Money can always buy you disproportionate influence.  The simple fact is that money is power, and power should rightly reside in the hands of the people.

            I like your ideas though, I think you’re coming from the right place.  I wish it were that simple.  It just won’t last.  Maybe I’m missing something.  What actual safeguards do you envision that would keep owners of capital from having undue influence over the political process?

            And I do agree with your last paragraph.  I think we have more in common than either of us do with either major party.  Both parties serve only the elite.   But once we take down the elite, I want to ensure that we’re not just setting up the next elites. 

          • Dave in CT

            I don’t claim perfection in what I’m talking about, and we don’t refuse to build bridges or trains because the idealized models of physics are not realized.

            I agree we have alot in common, and likely want very similar things at the end of the day. As I think many do here. But this board is a good microcosm of our larger political culture, where partisan, knee jerk defense, is more important than figuring out principled and pragmatic political-economic reforms.

            There are alot of smart people here I think, and I liked to think this place would be a blacksmith’s shop of ideas in the wake of our crisis.  But the dogma and the suspicion of ill motives seems too great.

            As I have mentioned, if you take the recent Bill Black show and the Glenn Greenwald show, and listen to them and share them, and see how one of the biggest problems we have is that we have NO ACCOUNTABILITY and we have lost as a society an understanding and appreciation of what the Classical Rule of Law is, and how our elites have finagled their way out of it. 

            Simply recognizing clearly that core problem IMO would go a long way to FOCUSING in a broad way, the frustration and anger that is in people’s guts across the political spectrum in our country.

            The media, left and right, of course confuses the issue, as they are constituent/customer based and can never seek a common ground that makes their partisan rancor product obsolete.

            After trying to listen to many sides with an open mind for a while now (believe me, stepping out of the Progressive Democrat mold, that I naturally was drawn to as a PhD educated, environmental conservation and corporate skeptical-minded person, to explore and try and appreciate the libertarian, or even Tea Party view, while satisfying and productive, to me, is not easy to do in a forum like this; imagine doing it at the Thanksgiving table…)….  after making that effort, what I see as the problem is that the ideas of freedom and liberty are deeply rooted, and rightfully so. And just because people corrupt the system, or are simply scum of the earth, a large number of people are not going to trade it in for the “security” of well-meaning (maybe) central planning committee that they have to trust to do the right and wise things, instead of letting them decide locally.

            So the thing I came up with in the above post, with a largely liberty culture for the vast majority, and then, at large wealth income levels a progressive tax that rebates directly back to the people, helps to both:
            a) give people the economic freedom they want, and the opportunities for choosing, succeeding, failing etc, that all are really free expressions of human nature

            b) The Rebate, prevents the infinite accumulation of wealth/power and the class resentment that will ultimately come at some level.

            Using a flat/fair tax at the mortal level, gives people the fairness they seem to demand, and can fund the basic government of military defense, and Basic Safety Net that almost all people agree with.

            Giving the Rebate Progressive Tax $ directly back to the people, and NOT the Central Government, prevents the tendency of government to grow and increasingly try to micromanage our lives, for good, or ill intention, but usually ending badly (housing bubble) due the corruptibility of the people in government. That’s the small government argument. Its not about people wanting to be free to rape and pillage, its about not trusting government power any more than any other power.

            Individuals can spend, save, invest the money as they see fit; buy land to grow food, buy more TVs whatever. But it allows a bottom-up organic economy, not a top down, corrupt, Fed-fueled Keynesian, malinvestment, manufactured business cycle economy.

            Man that’s long.

        • Bill

          BTW all successful communes(in the Marxist sense) were crushed – Paris, Barcelona, etc. by reaction - the Russian Revolution was crushed by Capitalist/White military intervention and Stalinism. Your response in not serious and shows a lack of understanding of human history and economics.  I am sorry you have to live inside that framework, the world could be a very bewildering and unpleasant place for you.

          • Dave in CT

            I appreciate your concern, so please feel free to elaborate on the political-economic model you see being superior, acceptable to the majority, sustainable and not too coercive.

            thank you.

          • Dave in CT

            Also, as you seem to be a smart and serious thinking fellow, what do you disagree with in Nobel Laureate A.F. Hayek’s description of the Socialist Roots of Naziism?

            Not dismissing the nobel laureate, a contemporary of the situation, as some right wing or libertarian nut, as is done so often today because the “wrong” people cite his work, but instead responding specifically and rationally, would be appreciated.

            http://lamar.colostate.edu/~grjan/hayeknaziism.html

  • Kathryn Kaul-Goodman

    Tom – good job for note letting your guests off the hook.  Have these guys ever worked outside academia?  I’m an engineer who has worked in factories and has seen a lot of the points they’re discussing first hand.

    If pay isn’t so important, why don’t these guys donate their paychecks and we’ll see how long they continue to do their jobs.  I’ll keep my paycheck, thanks.

  • Rich

    Machines and software require workers to develope.  But the outsourcing of these jobs to cheaper off-shore laber is the problem with jobs.

    California took money from us gov but sent the manufacture of the bridge steal in China.

  • Vicki

    How do we create a good climate for entrepreneurs? Medicare for all. Government should provide health care so that new job creators are not strapped with the burden of providing health care insurance for their workers.

  • Wes, Cambridge, MA

    The goal of an economy should not be the private accumulation of wealth. The goal of an economy should be the horizontal distribution of wealth.

    There is no less work to do than there ever was. There is plenty of work to do. It just needs to be valued and paid for by those with the money. There is no less money in the world. The money exists. It is just in the hands of the few.

    Look at all of the problems in the world. Those problems need to be valued enough to pay for fixing them.

    • Dave in CT

      Just stop trying to moralize and tell people what to do with their economic decisions!

      Prevent fraud and corruption, but if people want to work their ass off within the rules and accumulate, fine.

      Horizontal distribution does not reflect the diversity of people and the choices and values they make and hold.

      Deal with it!

      Basic Safety net for sure, otherwise live and let live.

      As you say, there is still plenty to do, so there is no reason for people not to have basic work and compensation.

      We are wasting so much national breath on this crap. IMO

      • Anonymous

        Individual economic decisions have an impact on the rest of the world which pays the externalities.  One person’s economic freedom being the overall solution for everything is simplistic.   

        • Dave in CT

          The externalities should be reflected in prices, and in a more free market, would have more chance of being reflected. The higher prices decrease that activity.

          If an individual still wants to choose that, and pay the high price, fine, but most won’t and things will change.

          Central Management will never work and never be peaceful.

      • Ed Siefker

        If people working their asses off within the rules leads to wide spread unemployment, we need to change the rules to prevent that.  We do not exist to serve the economic system, the economic system exists to serve us and it can be changed.

        • Dave in CT

          Yes it can, You are right. Not by demanding communism, but by demanding the elite corporate class and their Washington enablers operate under the same Rule of Law as the rest of us.

          Too big to fail is not a free market phenomenon.

          Composting is a normal part of free markets. What we have is formaldehyde preservation of Crony Zombie institutions, where the wealth has been fixed.

          • Ed Siefker

            Money makes money faster than labor.  Automation only increases this disparity.  This simply isn’t sustainable, we have to do something to control this. 

            You’re right, too big to fail isn’t a free market phenomenon.  The problem is free markets don’t last long.  Someone always gets an advantage, and leverages that into greater advantage, and leverages that into even greater advantage.  Crony capitalism is an inevitable consequence of capitalism. 

            Governments exist to protect the weak from the strong, we should use them.  We have to use government to control business or business will control the government.  Governments are at least potentially democratic.

          • Dave in CT

            “Crony capitalism is an inevitable consequence of capitalism.  ”

            The temptation for that, to solidify and fix positions of success, may occur. So we identify the actions that aim to do that, and make them illegal, and not let our government do them either.

            That’s how the rule of law keeps human nature from spinning out of control.

            Free markets operate within a Rule of Law framework. The key is being sure this is Classical Rule of Law, not discretionary, loophole/favor-style Rule of Men.

            Laws that protect the free market, not laws that dictate market outcomes, preserve the most opportunity, dynamism and composting, that is necessary and natural.

          • Ed Siefker

            Earning through capital and not through labor IS what allows people to solidify and fix positions of power.  That’s what should be made illegal.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        MOST of the fraud, that does the most damage, is at the highest levels!! 
             CEOs have stolen $Millions or $Billions, and bankrupt the companies they were hired to LEAD into profitability!!  They rarely go to jail, and usually get another CEO job at another company to mis-lead!

        • Dave in CT

          Your exactly right, so I repeat, stop the fraud, collusion, corruption.

          See Black and Greenwald programs of recent weeks.

  • Rayage

    Once the robotics are in place, the 1% will eliminate the 99%. There will be no need to maintain the masses.

  • Anonymous

     Steve Jobs may be the greatest entrepreneur in history. Apple may be the most valuable and innovative company in the world. But its $85 Billion in revenue only supports 25000 engineers in California at $3.4 million per job. Even if you throw in the 25000 people in the low paid retail sector it brings you no where near the level needed to create jobs in the $100000-$200000 per worker range that we need.

  • Dan

    Start scaling back workload as machines do more work and fewer man hours are needed.  Require overtime for more than 35 hours.  This will force at least some of the money saved by machines to go toward hiring more workers since business will need 9 employees for the work that was done by 8 before.  Scale this as needed.

  • Dan Bianchini

    I’m surprised that no one has addressed the singularity. How will that factor in to jobs in this country? 

  • Karl from Boston

    We’ve talked here about the distinction between humans and machines and the importance of what is uniquely human.  We’re becoming closer and closer to a level of artificial intelligence where machines will be able to replicate what we now consider to be essentially human.  What happens after the point where our technology has allowed us to reverse engineer our humanness?

    • Ellen Dibble

      “Reverse engineer our humanness”?  Sorry…
          It seems to me that humans may have overrated the left-brain skills that go with reading and writing, in other words over the last about 2500 years, those being the skills that we are learning to turn over to robot “brains.”  It seems to me that the other skills of the brain remain to be plumbed, developed, defined.  We may have a latent human-ness that has been squelched by our emphasis on Greek logic and numerical analysis.  Education is still teaching people to be little computers, little robots.  It’s going out on a limb to teach children to tap their right brain, it seems to me.

    • E-guest

      When robots take over, we’ll live the life of ease–they will find and develop the resources to provide for us all!

  • Jeffe68

    As I listen to these chaps I find they are testing my patience, big time.
    What a load of complete rubbish. They have forgot to think about the amount of people who are out of work and how this is going to grow.

    • Modavations

      As I listen to you crying,my wrists go limp

      • TFRX

        From your regular stream of obsessive comments about their status, an objective observer may have to wonder what you mean when you say “go” limp.

      • Jeffe68

        What is wrong with you. As I read your comments I keep thinking what small pathetic little worm of a man you are.

        • Modavations

          Sticks and stones.How old are you?

          • Demotivations

            Modavations – Vile and infantile, that’s your modus operandi

      • Jeffe68

        I’m not crying. It’s my opinion cowpat.

      • Demotivations

        Modavations – With the way you constantly need to express your egotistical self, I bet you wrist isn’t the only thing that’s limp.

    • Anonymous

      The former workers can use all their new free time to crowd source the solutions. 

    • Modavations

      That 1st amendment is a B-tch.Tell the class why Free Speech is the very 1st of all the amendments.You know why the “right to bear arms”is the second amendment.It’s a safeguard against a Leftist Putsch.

      • Demotivations

        Modavations – Your humor is such a knockout with your one-two punchline-less delivery.

  • Marie

    Jobs. More: teachers, pre-school workers, care givers for the elderly who need help, actors & actresses performing plays that can be seen for free or at low cost, road pavers, bridge repairers, maintenance workers (how many schools are run down & in need of repair right now?), bus drivers (to improve public transportation), doctors in rural areas — the possibilities are endless. The focus should be on dividing the wealth (higher taxes, for example and heath care for all) so that the government can pay enough people decent wages and give benefits to folks who want to take these jobs. Many people, perhaps most people want to contribute to society. Right now those people cannot afford to make the contributions they would like to make.

  • Tally

    Home healthcare workers do not make much and do not get paid much because there is no barrier of entry. I doubt that any of the panelist will recommend these jobs to their kids.

  • BAS

    mineral and energy resources are essential to all this automation. no discussion of those as finite?

    • Modavations

      We’ll invent synthetics

      • Demotivations

        Modavations – The guru of the zero value reply.

  • Theresa

    Tom! You are on fire today!  I thank you for your sense of rage against the intellectual blah blah, and this is coming from one of those intellectuals.  The glib, ” crowd sourcing” (vomit), just does not cut it in the nature of the problem that they outline. 

  • Maybelle

    Just watched the funny movie “Sleeper” last night, Woody Allen’s 1973 look at the future. He was ahead of his time in realizing what was to come.

  • jill brody

    Why not revalue those things that we really need, like clean streets, clean bathrooms, plumbers, electricians, manual labor that reflects the actual wealth that exists in our society.  The idea that a college degree is the only ticket to making a good living devalues those things that are actually of value to us.  At the end of the show someone alluded to this low value we place on hard work.  That really has to change.

    • Dave in CT

      The market does value those things. Tradespeople, rightly, do quite well.

      We don’t face reality with our food production, in which we accept illegal immigration because we don’t want to get our fingernails dirty, but we can if we choose.

      Stop buying from big corporations as much as possible, consume less (i’m tying to convince, not legislate), think globally, act locally, live and let live.

      I just wish we had a limited government that had a basic safety net, protects us from outside invasion, and just lets us otherwise do the above.

  • Dadsmgb

    So what if:
    A machine ran the Greek financial system/government?

    • Dave in CT

      The socialist bureaucracy that provided what the people demanded without paying for it was/is a machine.  Just input “free lunch” into the machine, Voila! (don’t know Greek word for voila).

      • Ellen Dibble

        Eureka maybe?

      • Modavations

        most righteous

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – Now, if you could only get your replies down to one word that would be ‘righteous’

  • Dave in CT

    Where are the alternatives to what the guests were saying?

    All thats left is some stagnant socialism/communism model where the many mooch off the productive, or the state mandates work policies, if you are disagreeing with the guests and the Voltaire points.

  • Matt Curtis

    Great show, and Tom does a great job. But I do wish he could avoid constantly interrupting his guests, even if it is to interject valid questions and comments. Does anyone else want to hear more finished sentences from guests?

    • Pdennant

      Matt:

      Tom does a good job of cramming a lot of information into fifty (50) minutes.  That is one of the reasons so many people tune into the show.  If he had – say – three hours, he could do much more but, I’m sure a majority of the audience wouldn’t be able to devote that much time to it.  As with much of life, he has to make a compromise between the optimal and the doable.

  • Tina

    aha!  how about an automation tax that will be used to directly distribute the wealth?  i.e., before dividends can be siphoned off, this tax is applied and given directly to all the people who cannot get jobs because the jobs do not exist.  We COULD just decide to distribute all the world’s wealth equally between all people — that would represent a set of values.  Perhaps the idea of “incentive” is overdone; perhaps people just need a given amount of money to live.  Distributing the wealth probably would NOT stop people from doing something creative and/or productive, because most people would get pretty uncomfortable just sitting around all the time.  I like my idea:  let the generation of wealth float on a separate plane from the distribution of wealth — people would still be doing things out there, some of which might involve activities that finely break us free of this dead end.  

    • Max Stirner

      _Everything_ of which I heard that seemed worthwhile was done for love of and pride in knowledge and invention. 

      As a practical and interim matter, what if unions bought the machines that replaced their workers?

      • Jeff

        That’s an interesting idea.

        • Dave in CT

          Then they’d be evil owners. 

          • Jeff

            Exactly

          • Jeff

            But seriously, I could see that happening.  Smart unions partnering with ownership in that manner.  Opens up all kinds of possibilities.

  • devans0

      I have watched automation take over my workplace. My employer is in the midst of version 3.  The factory has through the decades from manual labor intensive to monitoring machine labor.  Productivity per employee has jumped 100 fold with a doubling of the labor force.

      In version 3, a Darwinian-like exponential growth of complexity has grown past the ability of the managers to maintain, replace, service these machines.  Workers are struggling to keep ahead of these issues, but are frankly have a better grasp of the issues involved.  Finding and educating workers is becoming our biggest challenge.  This process is merely a repeat of the “paperless office”, generating more paper than ever

      If you are looking for a long term career, learn to understand and work with machines. Investment winners will be the Apple-like designers that can succinctly reduce complexity to manageable proportions in a manufacturing sector.

    • Jeff

      Amen

  • Anonymous

    In relation to this topic, and this will be my last comment so don’t get your panties in a bunch, haha jk, everyone should just watch this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amIpK9CVtt8&feature=uploademail

  • Udokoellmann

    Isn’t it obvious? We need to make the machines!! Great jobs in engineering, computer science, manufacturing (with the help of machines, of course), provided we do not continue to neglect funding and developing the educational infrastructure as we do now. UTK

  • Pinhead Ghoul

    Taking a long view, say three centuries out from now, only 15 generations from today. Most of the discussion here is about the immediate future, within only one generation (20 years):

    The Sean Connery movie, Zardos, portrays a future in which humans are served by the machines, at least the lucky ones. They live isolatedi n a safe in an environment from the outliers, barbarians, primitives who are perpetually in conflict. Of course the story has other depths and eventual outcome.

    The original Terminator movie has such an excellent premise: that one day, Skynet which controls the weather favorably planet wide, suddenly becomes self-aware. This is an eventual possibility for a future supersized digital control system. Preferring it’s own survival and the prevention of humans hitting an off-switch, it does what a rational being would do. It tries to eliminate the humans.

    Don’t let the robots program the robots –  might avoid this, though not likely once digital intelligence moves to the next level beyond its current, primitive horse and buggy state.

    Limitation of resources as population passes a tipping point will cause much sooner disruption, scarcity of essentials, strife and starvation.

  • Max Stirner

    1.) You have a single, finite, life, with no time after.
    2.) Time is not replaceable, therefore spending it on anything about which you don’t care deeply is at heart a bad bargain.
    3.) All of us know this, and our inability to live this out is responsible for most of our pathologies, from racialism to religion to anger.
    4.) Unemployment is not the problem, it is the solution.

    And money is a symptom of laughably primitive technology…Gene Roddenberry was right.

  • J W Johnston

    Some other great sources of ideas beyond Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s excellent book:Bertrand Russell “In Praise of Idleness” (http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html)Douglas Rushkoff “Are jobs obsolete?” (http://edition.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/09/07/rushkoff.jobs.obsolete/index.html)Mohamad Tarifi “A Better System of Economics” (http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/4884)Martin Ford “The Lights in the Tunnel” (http://www.thelightsinthetunnel.com/)Marshall Brain “Robotic Freedom” (http://marshallbrain.com/robotic-freedom.htm)Jeremy Rifkin “The End of Work” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_Work)Louis Kelso “The Capitalist Manifesto” (http://www.kelsoinstitute.org/pdf/cm-entire.pdf)Robert Frank “Darwin, the Market Whiz” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/business/darwin-the-market-whiz.html?pagewanted=all)James Albus “People’s Capitalism” (http://www.peoplescapitalism.org/)Robert Anton Wilson “The RICH Economy” (http://www.whywork.org/rethinking/whywork/rawilson.html)

  • J W Johnston

    Sorry, links got cut off. Trying again… Bertrand Russell “In Praise of Idleness” (http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html) Douglas Rushkoff “Are jobs obsolete?” (http://edition.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/09/07/rushkoff.jobs.obsolete/index.html) Mohamad Tarifi “A Better System of Economics” (http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/4884) Martin Ford “The Lights in the Tunnel” (http://www.thelightsinthetunnel.com/) Marshall Brain “Robotic Freedom” (http://marshallbrain.com/robotic-freedom.htm) Jeremy Rifkin “The End of Work” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_Work) Louis Kelso “The Capitalist Manifesto” (http://www.kelsoinstitute.org/pdf/cm-entire.pdf) Robert Frank “Darwin, the Market Whiz” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/business/darwin-the-market-whiz.html?pagewanted=all) James Albus “People’s Capitalism” (http://www.peoplescapitalism.org/) Robert Anton Wilson “The RICH Economy” (http://www.whywork.org/rethinking/whywork/rawilson.html)

  • Michiganjf

    Mass poverty and unemployment, political unrest… don’t these things affect corporate profitability as well?Automation may seem like a good business strategy in the short term… how about the long term?

    Will business ever wise up and start considering the long term?Henry Ford figured out one key to private/public balance, over a hundred years ago, which the yuppie generation unfortunately ditched in favor of the “Me.”No, one company which doesn’t automate can’t compete in the short term against another company that automates, but does this mean we’re all ultimately doomed to the aforementioned “mass poverty and unemployment, political unrest?”

    In the long term, in almost every way conceivable, Capitalism is proving to be a trudge to the bottom… obviously, Capitalism is a single step in the evolution of technology and human society which will ultimately have to be ditched in favor of sustainability and more stringent management of human ecology.
     
    The U.S., in current societal and political form, would utterly fail and collapse with a population like that of India or China… apparently, learning to live frugally and with scarcity, or not at all, will be the ultimate dynamic.
     
    Unfortunately, India and China are now trying their hardest to duplicate now anachronistic western society, and they will likely have to severely re-evaluate and regroup, or also face failure and collapse.

    • Jeff

      When China and India get to the point where the majority their workers are more worldly wise, want their MTV, iphones, two cars and a boat, that’s when it will be their turn to see their jobs move to other, cheaper countries.  

      It will take awhile though.  Right now most of them live with a single light bulb, a dorm room fridge and share a small tv with their neighbors.  And they are sending most of their pay home to their family in the country, who still get their water from a community well.

      • Michiganjf

        there’s nothing like discontented masses who now have means and something to lose, as well as those who have nothing to lose and are now aware of “have and have not…”

        I’m of course referring to Asia’s newly emerging middle class and those who live in poverty beside them by the hundreds of millions.

      • Modavations

        They’ve got MTV and they’ve got CNN.

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – Wow, thanks for that technology update.

    • Modavations

      I am in Jaipur once a year.5 years ago there were elephnats,scooters,people sleeping on the streets.The Elephants are gone,the nature boys(sleepers) are gone,everyone’s got a car and the scooters are gone.Dehli is a traffic jam.You never see anyone begging,let alone starving.India was a backward hell hole, until they made a break from the Soviet’s Socialism.They are now laissez faire and are cooking.In my opinion you’re paternalistic and without a clue

      • Demotivations

        Modavations – Just as interesting as a travel slide show, another cut and paste post with further off topic redundancy.

      • Michiganjf

        Wow, India “made a break from the Soviet’s Socialism” 5 years ago and instantly became Shangri-La… you sure know a lot about India.

  • http://profiles.google.com/zptwords Zachary Terry

    Maybe the machines will be logical enough to see that the most overpaid and unnecessary jobs/expenses in any productive enterprise are its owner/manager/investors.

    Our civilization might have to let go of the idea that survival and general human happiness are things to be “earned.” Or at least least let go of the idea that the way to “earn” them is by pleasing a boss.

    Keywords: Singularity, post-scarcity

  • Leigh

    Just as robots are not going to buy cars, what happens if we do not deal in material goods as much but in virtual products like games, learning, social platforms,  the areas where we have seen entrepreneurs make their money recently.  If we move further away (maybe not completely) from the physical objects we use now towards virtual items based more on ideas won’t we also move further away from the robots?

  • Modavations

    Yesterday, Colorado voted for Prop.103.It would have raised the sale tax, to fund education.In the venacular of the average NPRer,they screamed NYET.When Ms.WWeingarten saw the results from Boulder,she fainted.

    • Modavations

      against

  • Modavations

    This morning Mayor Bloomberg was asked who caused the economic disaster.He said,don’t look at the banks,it was congress.It was CRA and Fannie.When Representative Frank was asked about this,he blubbered around a bit,then fainted

  • Modavations

    I hope you guys missed the 12:00 show with Professor Ginsberg.He said higher education was a farce.He recited the story about professors who were giving students C’s.The dean came around and said, you can’t do that.We’re Happy U!!!The NPR Hostett said,but,but,but,twittered nervously and fainted

  • roboruss

    I work repairing robots….so I’m all set for now

  • Bill

    I see the main problem is a new paradigm for distribution of goods to fill the needs of the many underemployed and meaningful use of time for the many who will not need to work. Capitalism will not solve this problem. 

    • Ed Siefker

      You nailed it!

  • GMG

    Like any species out of equilibrium, our geometric growth is coming up against environmental limits that will redefine our world, and our idea of what an economy is and how it works may change more radically than we can imagine from our frame of reference.  This discussion seems to take place within a model of the world that may be obsolete quickly, as physical reality (i.e., the “environment”) intrudes on our social systems.

  • Joe in Philly

    Brothers, “we can replace you with robots.” “Digital encroachment.” This goes far beyond manual labor my friends. Think about IBM’s Watson, its being used for medical diagnostics and to help insurance providers lower cost by, guess what, eliminating doctors. Ergo, no job is safe! Take cover, buy good agricultural land, start raising your own food, and take up arms. Civilization as we know it is under siege! 

    Seriously, the answer (as a society) is to add a value dimension, a societal cost, to business and political decisions. But, if we continue to play to the bottom line and let it drive policy, we are truly doomed!

  • Joannwd

    I enjoyed listening to this program.  I am the IT (Information Technology) manager at a human services non-profit.  I support a staff of program directors, social workers, and other service oriented professionals.  Throughout the discussion, I had a difficult time reconciling a future of automated jobs with my day to day reality of assisting staff with simple computer tasks.  As the only person in the agency tasked with technology, others depend on me for everything from procuring and setting up new computers, to changing passwords, retrieving emails, finding web-sites and a myriad of other tasks.  In short, they depend on my help to assist them in using available technology.  In turn, I rely on other professionals to assist me in planning for, procuring, and implementing the technologies most appropriate for our agency.  As our use of technology increases, so does the need for a variety of professionals to assist organizations and individuals in selecting and using the currently appropriate technology.  

  • Dave in CT

    If there is no employment, there will be no consumers for the 7 CEOs who run the world with robots.

    That’s the solution by the way, not the problem.

    What good would that do to the CEO who’s profit stream is now stopped?

    Although he might vote for something like government payments to individuals so they can keep consuming.

    As long as we don’t see the government as the source of our income, that shouldn’t be a problem, and self-preservation and competition will go on, as it always has, as long as we hold them accountable to fair rules of competition, and not allow them to prevent new small businesses to start through corrupt manipulation of regulatory agencies.

    We will never have a shortage of ideas and entrepreneurial spirit as long as their is a fair, free market.

    If instead we move more to government paying the people model, then yes, a monopolistic/plutocratic State Capitalism is possible. Sound familiar (Fed play money pumping up an illusory bubble of income for people to spend on an elite rigged industry like finance)?

  • Modavations

    Yesterday Colorado voted on Prop.103.They wanted to raise the sales tax to fund the schools.The peeps voted Nyet.When Ms.Weingarten saw the loopsided vote in Boulder, she fainted

    • Demotivations

      Modavations – After groaning, mentally fainting is what happens to people when they read your posts.

  • Modavations

    Professor Ginsberg on the 12;00 SHOW WAS discussing how pitiful today’s colleges are.He talked about professors who gave “C’”s.The dean called the Professors to the offiice and told them to cut it out.He said we are “Happy U”.The NPR moderator said,but,but,but,then fainted

    • Demotivations

      Modavations – Your off topic irreverence is irrelevant as usual.  

  • Modavations

    Mayor Bloomberg was asked who was responsible for the economic meltdown, this morning.He said it wasn’t the banks it was Congress.It was CRA and Janet Reno,Barney Frank,G.Bush,et al.When Barney Frank was question,he blubbered a bit,then fainted

    • Jeffe68

      So. Bloomberg would say that. He’s wrong however, but that does not matter to you as you only post here for some kind of sick weird game thing your playing. You are not interested in anyone’s point of view. You think you’re so clever and funny, but really it’s childish and pathetic for an adult to act like you do.

      • Modavations

        Excuse me,that was not levity and it was this morning.Yikes,dropped my coffee.Everytime I read you I get limpwristosis

        • Demotivation

          Modavations – When I read you I get limpbrained.

        • Terry Tree Tree

          Another Larry Craig, Mark Foley, or other closeted Republican?

    • Demotivations

      Modavations – So typically off topic and so cornball unfunny.

  • Bobl1234

    I am really disappointed that there is so little mention of Marx, whose analysis of problems that capitalism has wrought fits today’s situation so well, even if developments since he wrote have altered both the structure and the complexity of those problems and potential solutions to those problems.  Despite all the socially validated vilification heaped upon him, knee-jerk rejection of his analysis seems irresponsible, in light of the profound challenges that originate in contradictions attributable to capitalism.  “Marx” happens to be a four-letter word, but we would do well to take Marx and his ideas seriously nonetheless.

    One suggestion: develop infrastructure for workforce along the lines of the US Army: two years active duty on a job, two years of active reserve, and two years of inactive reserve–then repeat.  Another model that just occurred to me comes from short-track relays on ice skates: Group 1 — 2 laps at full sprint, Group 2 — 4 laps of breath catching, then Group 3 — 2 laps of getting back to sprint speed with a final push-off from your guy moving from Group 1 to Group 2 to send you on your way.  

    If there truly is no “I” in team, then why must there be an “I” in working and compensation?  Perhaps because so many people have allowed themselves to look some other way so they don’t see capitalism’s ills.  i wish that we could all hear my Mother’s admonition: “Share, and share alike.”

    • Heaviest Cat

       OH no, Bobl. marx IS a four letter word on ‘independent” ,”objective” ,”public” radio. What would the corporate underwriters say?

      • Bobl1234

        I promise to spend no less time thinking about my postings than Heaviest Cat clearly put into thinking about his comments on them.  It’s only fair.

        • TFRX

          HeaviestCat may just be using Occam’s Razor.

          Or maybe they just heard the hours upon hours of NPR discussion devoted, slavishly, to the serious idea (with each side getting equal time), that candidate Obama was actually a socialist, in the summer of 2008.

          When NPR starts laughing derisively at memes like that, HC may need to spend more time considering the left-wing limits of NPR.

          • Bobl1234

            WOOOAAAA!  TFRX.  what do you mean by “socialist”?  Are they easy to spot?  Do they bite?  Ditto (catch the irony?) for “left-wing”?  

            Also, do you consider yourself to be “right-winger”?  If so, should I assume that you are claiming that “right-winger” is better in some sense than “left-winger”?  In what sense? OR, if you consider yourself “in the middle, somewhere”, how do you attempt to distinguish the three categories, left, center, right?  And on what basis do you get to have your distinctions determine where to draw the lines, instead of using mine?

            I intend these as serious questions. 

          • Modavations

            I see you’ve run into the ambassadors from the Ministry of Truth

          • Bobl1234

            I hope for conversation and negotiation.  Each requires an understanding of how each group , and each person in each group, defines the various terms that they use.  Your choice of sarcasm (“Ministry of Truth”) emphasizes how far we have left to go.  Personally, I don’t believe in a singular, monolithic “truth; hence, I have no use for the singular, monolithic “Ministry of Truth” that you mentioned.  Perhaps, you had intended to mention that Ministry in connection with YOUR views.  

          • Modavations

            Negative.My comment is that NPR is the playground of the Left and they are every bit as intolerant as any of Orwell’s denizens.Over 50% of Americans are “Laissez Faire”.I have no problem taking the existential stand.Be wishy washy if you wish and I’ll defend youir right to be so

          • Bobl1234

            I was so discouraged when i read your most recent posting.   I thought i’d find a hole and crawl into it.    But then i realized that you had demonstrated my point when you claimed that “Over 50% of Americans are ‘Laissez Faire’”.  What criteria did you use to assess whether a person qualified as “Laissez Faire”?  You can understand how i would need to know your criteria so that i could assess your claim that “Over 50% of Americans” are of that persuasion, can’t you?  What would you do if I replied (which i am emphatically NOT) either “not so” or it’s only 15%, you must have misheard your source.”

          • Modavations

            I would defend your right to say so.

          • Demotivations

            Modavations – No, you wouldn’t.  Writing that just makes you feel patriotic in some twisted sort of way.

          • Bobl1234

            Modavations — even if Demotivations has you figured out (that is, that you wouldn’t “defend [my] right to say so”, despite your claim that you would), I wouldn’t want you–and if i were permitted to block your acting on your assertion–wouldn’t permit you to defend me in any forum where the substance and presentation count even slightly more than whim and volume.  Your apparent inclination to argue by mere assertion, combined with the towering ineptitude your attempts at making what you apparently consider to be sensible arguments, lead me to think I would do better without what you apparently see as helping me.  

            Let me begin to count the ways…  I wouldn’t want to have you defending me with replies like your “So?”…  I imagine you’ll reply to this comment with empty vitriol, but whatever you reply, you can do it with the certain knowledge that i won’t reply to it…

          • Dave in CT

            “argue by mere assertion”…..

            Thats a pretty rich accusation for around here.  So, complicated assertions peppered with red herrings, multilayered assumptions and utopian hopes are better arguments than briefly pointing out, with humor if can keep your boiling head on, inconvenient little tidbits that are conveniently omitted from the professional left’s narratives?

            The reactions it provokes from you guys says it all.

          • Anonymous

            Typical response from the know it all right winger, nothing but mendacity and nasty rhetoric. Defending trolls.

          • Dave in CT

            Right-winger. Good one.

            Now anybody who doesn’t accept communism or democratic socialism or some version of “good will” anarchy is a “right-winger”.

            I prefer, Registered Democrat, socially progressive personal values, with Rule of Law Libertarian governing sympathies. And an open mind.

            I’ll have to change my moniker.

          • Demotivations

            Modavations – Your attitude: where intolerance meets insolence.
             

          • Anonymous

            You keep using the same old tired boring words and tags.
            NPR is the playground of the left, Orwells denizens, Laissez fair, to name a few. The act is getting stale. You need some knew material.

          • Terry Tree Tree

            You, Gregg, and a few others play here too!  I HAVE defended your right to do so!  Sometimes I even agree with you!

          • Demotivations

            Modivations – Another dull colloquialism from the master.

          • Michaelscotthicks4

            Do you guys know each other? Is your sole motivation for reading articles on this site to debunk his posts or personally insult him? Sometimes it’s amusing…but eventually it becomes trite.

          • TFRX

            Good morning. I hope you’re still around. My phrasing could have been clearer, and a serious question requires a serious answer.

            I don’t know what a socialist is, but I do know that a slightly left of center Senator (candidate Obama, when the meme got started) isn’t one. That puts me miles ahead of NPR, both the mothership and various associated programs.

            “Left wing limits of NPR” was my inartful way of saying that any right-wing crazy talk, filtered through a thinktank in the Beltway, can become a narrative which NPR deems as worthy of half the time in a discussion.

            (My example was “Obama is a socialist”, which On The Media and other NPR shows discussed in dead earnest in the summer of 2008. False equivalence demanded that each side discuss it in detail. And NPR got played like a two-bit banjo.)

            On the other end of the spectrum, it’s easily seen that almost any left-wing border of the “field of play” is what some approved source is saying in the Beltway. Anybody gets farther left that that, and they might be cited once in a while as a man-bites-dog story, but the framing is all a Beltway Inbred’s dream.

          • TFRX

            PS I’m a lefty, I liked your original comment, and along with Heaviest Cat think that NPR is throwing a lot of baby out with the bathwater when ignoring some of Marx’s analysis of capitalism.

            I’m a bit of a media critic, armchair variety. To me, NPR is piss-pants scared of being called “liberal”, but doesn’t realize that everything they do will be labelled as such by their enemies, and a hobbled NPR is more politically useful to the right wing, who get to point at it and say “EvenTheLiberalNPR….”.

  • http://www.lauriedoctor.com Laurie Doctor

    It is obvious yet often left out- nothing replaces the experience of doing something by hand, of being in the actual sunrise, of red wet paint on a surface that has not been reproduced, of being in the salt sea, of having a moment of insight.

  • Anonymous

    Fredriqua’s call was interesting.  I think we’ll merge with machines and we’ll be better than machines — and better than humans.

    • Heaviest Cat

      sounds like grade B science fiction.

      • Modavations

        borgs

        • Demotivations

          Modivations – Boring

  • Anonymous

    Fredriqua’s call was interesting.  I think we’ll merge with machines and we’ll be better than machines — and better than humans.

  • Buddhaclown

    Tom, lately you’ve fallen into the habit of interrupting your guests before they can finish their points and it is getting a bit annoying. Chill out a bit. 

    As far as the show goes, it does increasingly seem like Capitalism may have a limited life span after all. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

      Tom is a very skilled interviewer.  Among the best.   He’s quite adept at foreseeing and interrupting controversial and profound statements that his network and sponsors may prefer not to broadcast.  I’ve seen it done many times.

      • Geoff D

        I can see where you are coming from, Paolo, and Buddhaclown too. But my take is that Tom got hot here, and I thought he was echoingr listeners who were upset that Eric and Andrew consistently deflected questions about who gets the rewards of all these innovations because most of us imply consume them even while unemployed. These MIT guys diisgusted me by how they can’t come to grips with the need to fairly distribute wealth. That makes them part of the problem, and I applaud Tom for dogging them with have-have-not questions.

        • SadStateOfAffairs

          Tom… Hot?  (Maybe, in his own mind.)

          I understand brevity for show’s sake…

          I understand anticipating the callers questions…

          I don’t understand finagling the narrative to accomplish an agenda.

          Where were the tough questions on so many interviews?

          Where were the proper guests on so many topics?

          Hot…?  I think not.

  • Mike

    I think the french had it right. We need to build more Guillitones

    • Anonymous

      That sounds too French.  We need to name them head liberators.

    • Modavations

      After the intial jam,the mobs turned on their leaders and beheaded them

      • Demotivations

        Modavations – Thanks for the obvious and unnecessary comment as usual

  • Somalia

    Imagining A World Without Money

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDJ18m6KUW4

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

    Everything computerized and automated.  But we’ve seen the advent of the stuxnet virus,  and you can bet there will be serious reciprocal blowback in all areas as the official hackers from all sides refine their skills. 

  • ray muhammad

    Question: as innovation, technology overspreads, the dissatisfaction and depression grows among people. Perhaps the new jobs will come in the area the satisfies the need for people to counsel people?

  • RE

    Great Now government can reduce it”s cost dramatically by having a robot/machine do police work. With face recognition, red light cameras and speeders being tagged by cameras who needs a policeman with an attidude and personal bias harrassing you.

    • Jeffe68

      This is already being done in Germany. If you speed or go through a red light you have a ticket mailed to you.

      I see nothing wrong with this. It does give them more doughnut time.

      • Modavations

        The cameras in Berlin were busted so many times,they have them in cages

        • Demotivations

          Modavations – Another tidbit of nothing. Your life must be so uninteresting to think others find your comments worthwhile.

    • Steve

      “Shoot out the lights”

  • Modavations

    In the new book about Steve Jobs,he recounts a meeting with Prez.Obama.He called him the “can’t do President”.I’d say the Dem.Party has become the “Can’t Do Party”

    • Jeffe68

      So.

    • Demotivations

      Modavations – More trite, off topic, insignificant banter.

      • Dave in CT

        You guys use more space ignoring the valid points in his humorous commentary that often points out glaring hypocrisy in your world view, than he uses making them.

        • nj

          Supporting Moda-troll…Dave’s inexorable decline continues.

        • Terry Tree Tree

          You really think so?

    • TeacherRevolt

      True, while the GOP is the “do the wrong thing” party. 

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Because of the “NO” government of the Republican Party, because they want President Obama out of office, above ANYTHING else, most especially ANY attempt at good government!

  • Brennan511

    If there was only a machine that would/could rate and order the Comments for content and value, it’d be like heaven.
        People could be comedians, poets, guides, humans, good, better…

    The only thing worse than a life of toil, is human error that is unreported! due to ambition, emotion or worse. -[.]!
        Being unemployed is great!!! if you’re happy, desirable and capable of loving and nurturing the world and environment. if you’re not, you’re not.
    FOREST MANAGEMENT, it’s a wondrous environment, and with all the “soil mulch”, pine cones and fallen leaves “we” collect, we can make the desert’s bloom, prevent eco-neglect and temporarily escape the consumer burn-out environment, and when workers return recharged and clean [or smokey, whatever] they’ll have eco-knowledge they can apply virtually anywhere [recycling/reusing]

  • http://rrusson.myopenid.com/ Ryan Russon

    Best case scenario: Wall-e
    Worst case scenario: Terminator

  • Laura

    What about going back to paper ballots for voting when digital machines can be altered via smart phone, like “he” washing machines?  Machines can be mismanaged.  Will mismanagement determine our elections?

  • Imlemec

    This complaining and desire for job security of obsolete jobs is absurd. This is similar to building a house in a flood zone, if you see the water rising it’s maybe time toget prepared for it and consider building a new foundation in another location. I’m a self-trained programmer, and I see linkedin job postings eveywhere currently in my field. I anticipate a day when my job may become obsolete and will try to anticipate a next move to stay employed and current. Too many people on cruise control and not alert to needing to pick up new skills.

  • Dcschwartz

    Luddites: misunderstood.. The Luddites did NOT hate machine–they hated starving to death. They were knowledgeable and well organized when they raided factories. They SPECIALLY destroyed only those machines that were supplanting jobs in raided factories. They carefully protected those machines that protected their jobs. Think of how longshoremen originally blocked containerized shipping– they had no issue with these boxes, they simply wanted to keep their jobs.

  • Daniel

    Isn’t Marx’s analysis relevant here? He too was a technology enthusiast, who saw in the possibility of increased automation the seeds of human emancipation–free from nominal labor, we’ll be free to pursue less alienating activity. The problem on this view isn’t that robots are going to take our jobs, but rather that in our society only a tiny minority will own the value they produce. 

    • David Johnson

      I agree with this analysis. Tom seemed to want to go here and so did a few callers but it didn’t quite happen. The capitalistic profit motive will undoubtedly create machines which will increasingly supplant labor. Human dominated industries will be gradually overtaken by machines and new industries that emerge will do so because of the possibilities of machine labor, and necessarily be machine dominated.

      Even now we have the productive capacity/technology to provide a high living standard for everyone on the planet but we do not have the job supply to create the demand to drive that productive capacity. 

      At some point we as a society will have to socialize machine labor which will not be a pretty process.

      • Keith Z

        Automation will be relentless. We will need to reform our system and Marx had some correct insights, but certainly not the solution we want.

        Also see this very interesting PBS TV Show (you can watch online).Will Robots Take Our Jobs?http://www.ideasinactiontv.com…And check out the book mentioned on the show (free pdf available)

        “The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future”http://www.thelightsinthetunne…

        This book is much more ambitious and tries to offer some real solutions.

      • Dave in CT

        Invest in robot companies.

  • Dillontech

    Turbo Tax, Turbo Law, Turbo MD, Turbo Structure -but what about creative jobs Turbo Architect?

  • Lori Ann

    A sci-fi way of looking of it metaphorically might be envisioning the system of man and machine as a giant bee-hive, the machines being the Queen and humans the worker bees dancing around and tending to the needs of the Queen and the hive.  Perhaps it’s pessimistic but it seems to be plausible.

  • Larry in NY

    In the 1960s I was taught that machines would do almost everything thus eliminating the drudgery of life so that our main problem would be to find enough recreation to keep us all busy. The trend you cite seems to continue this trend but the effect on our lives has not turned out so well and is not likely to improve. Goods and food are cheap but instead of recreation we inherited high professional costs (medical, legal) public services etc. The top 1 – 5%  have reaped the benefit of this trend. Only a political solution can address the technological inevitability 

  • Robert Wilson

    Computers and Robots cannot Do~Installations: Installing flooring such as Ceramic flooring, Wood flooring, Carpet, and Bathroom design. It takes a “Human Eye” and feel. Added: Floor leveling, Functionality that works for Human needs.

  • Gregg

    As a professional musician I have seen my industry change dramatically due to “machines”. Now anybody with a computer can perform a symphony. It’s not the same and never will be.

    • Modavations

      Gen.G.,was she impressive?

      • Gregg

        Absolutely… and sweet.

  • GrueneJim

    Computer “innovation” is a dead end for the people. Human creativity and imagination should be used in other ways. First they give us the television, then they give us computers and we become a nation of zombies hunched over little computer screens. This is MIT’s idea of a desirable life? Give me a break.

    • Keith Z

      Automation will be relentless. We will need to reform our system

      Also see this very interesting PBS TV Show (you can watch online).Will Robots Take Our Jobs?http://www.ideasinactiontv.com…And check out the book mentioned on the show (free pdf available)

      “The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future”http://www.thelightsinthetunne…

      This book is much more ambitious and tries to offer some real solutions.

  • Anonymous

    So, I’m trying to buy their book and it seems I can only buy the $2.99 version for an amazon kindle… I for one feel book binding to be a technology worth preserving and am wondering where I can procure a bound copy of this treatise dedicated–at least in part–to examining antiquated technology and forms of labor, ancient and modern. Thrilling topic and conversation! Please keep up the good work.

  • Jason

    Perhaps this is the precursor to the Technological Singularity, predicted by futurist Ray Kurzweil? 

  • Giljac

    I loved this show.  Very relevant in today’s world.  Hope they won’t figure out how to replace talk show hosts (well maybe some of them (RL)).  You kept mentioning back rubs – but I kept wondering if you really meant jobs more closely related to ladies (and gentlemen) of the evening.  I’m sure replacements for those jobs are on the horizon.

  • BRN PC

    Why can’t this be an opportunity for our utopia on earth? Allow me to refer you to Jaque Fresco’s “The Venus Project” http://www.thevenusproject.com/

    • TeacherRevolt

      It’s long overdue that Tom gets Jacque Fresco and Peter Joseph on his show. 

      • Robert Riversong

        Jacque Fresco (the Venus Project) and Peter Joseph (the Zeitgeitst Movement), offer a dystopian vision of a future based on purely rational decision-making for the use and distribution of “resources” (which are the commodities of the market rather than the sacred elements of a natural ecology). They imagine that computers will orchestrate society (which means the programmers will control all), and ignore the many other essential facets of human intelligence (as do the guests on this show) and the basis of human dignity and meaning.

  • Brad Dunagan

    I think it would be interesting if we considered a moneyless society.  Money will not be needed because machines will build machines and do everything else.  Jobs will not be necessary.  My home and food will be provided by machines.  This brings up a lot of issues.  But I, for one, think that doing away with the need for money might be the revolution to match the machine revolution.  People may still have occupations.  (They would not get paid.)  They will receive all the satisfaction that people currently recieve that is not pay related.  For example, politicians don’t do what they do for the money.

    One single change does not occur by itself.  Machines will take our jobs.  That is a big change.  I think something else will happen as well, for the overall better.  We must figure out what that other change is and how to make the transition.

    • Drew You Too

      There’s a myriad of more pressing reasons to move towards a moneyless society but if you want to talk about a difficult battle, that’s going to be the most hard fought one yet. We’ve been brainwashed for so long that the profit motive is the ONLY motive that it’s going to take some serious work to even begin to address that issue. I’m encouraged that your comment didn’t immediately draw the “Socialist!”,”Communist”, “BLASPHEMER!” attacks that would normally ensue. That could also likely be due to the fact that most of the Usual Suspects are asleep or otherwise occupied at the moment though…

      At any rate, nice comment!

      • Dave in CT

        They are not attacks. They are empirical observations that despite the good intentions and the hopes that everyone will be fueled by good vibes and do it for the “satisfaction”, in a system with no natural incentive to work, ie effort and thinking = food and shelter, people will tend to sleep later and do less, until need kicks in again. Not all people, but MOST. And that is all that matters.

        Until we have cold fusion, or until everyone voluntarily rejects all the material luxuries of our current world, concentrating most efforts on food/shelter, we are still bound by scarcity, and the only way to allocate goods is by price and work so one can barter or use money.

        As long as there is scarcity, we need an economic system.

        Just because one can dream up some moneyless, utopian vision of good will and generosity, doesn’t mean it will happen.  When you get everyone to voluntarily sign on to the material austerity required to reduce the scarcity issue enough, let us know. Otherwise you will have to impose your vision violently.

        • Drew You Too

          Nice comment and I agree with your sentiments. I also believe, however, that the very thing that prevents any progress towards something better than our current economic and governmental systems is the “I’ll make an effort when everyone else does” mentality. This is not my “utopian vision of good will and generosity” that I am trying to impose on anyone, this is simply (in my opinion) something that needs to begin to bare consideration and discussion. It seems to me that we are heading towards something being imposed violently, whether it be an end to our failed economic experiment (which has proven to be anything but economical) or an end to our existence. This is only my opinion and I do not expect anyone to agree with it. Some open minded discussion certainly couldn’t make matters any worse though, could it?

          • mb

            This is a conversation we’ve been having since the early 19th century. I’m with Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The harm of the improved machinery may compensate its good.
            Hudson and Behring accomplished so much in their fishing-boats, as to
            astonish Parry and Franklin, whose equipment exhausted the resources
            of science and art. Galileo, with an opera-glass, discovered a more
            splendid series of celestial phenomena than any one since. Columbus
            found the New World in an undecked boat. It is curious to see the
            periodical disuse and perishing of means and machinery, which were
            introduced with loud laudation a few years or centuries before. The
            great genius returns to essential man.” And woman. 

        • Robert Riversong

          Your “empirical observations” are limited to a dysfunctional market economy in which nothing is valued that doesn’t have a price. In all of human evolution, once the primary needs for food, shelter and clothing are met (which takes very little work), the innate incentive is to create meaning through social interaction, group celebration and ritual activity.

          Everything in a consumption-based, passive entertainment society is a disincentive to serving the most important human need: meaningful interaction.

  • Drew You Too

    Interesting show and good comments. Some good related reading is http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=3&sqi=2&ved=0CD4QFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fus.penguingroup.com%2Fstatic%2Fpackages%2Fus%2Fkurzweil%2Fexcerpts%2Fexmain.htm&ei=p_-xTpbjC8iatwfT_K38AQ&usg=AFQjCNGdbTpjyauAjfDFOTnx4uZbxX1EDw. Your guests seem to lean toward a new Renaissance which is what I hope for and is certainly possible. This is of course going to be an uphill battle (severe understatement) but the discussion by your guests and the commenters here is at least encouraging.

  • Vhadzs

    Why do we have to use every new tech innovation we invent.Is it energy intensive like our factory farms which use alot of fossil fuel in machinery,fertilizer and insecticides polluting the enviroment. Jobs? Why not turn the clock back and return to the small farmer.Why not people replace machines.Whats the use of producing more faster if people can’t afford the products.

    • Dave in CT

      Providing debt and inflation to live beyond our means provides bankers a perpetual toil free life in the drivers seat.

      Only we can say no to consumption and debt acquisition, at home and in our government.

  • leftofcenter

    While the initial show idea is good, you missed some key points.

    First, one of your guests said that the national unemployment rate is the “officlal” 9%? Wrong. Try about 25%. For African Americans, Latinos and several really hard hit areas (i.e. Detroit), much higher. Not once did you challenge him on that. Very disappointing.

    Second, will machines totally replace people? No. Why? Human nature being what it is, when there’s no work and no point in staying in one area, people go elsewhere. Both in that country or abroad.

    Maybe you should do a show on the growing number of people emigrating. Nobody else will touch it. If you do, at least give me credit as the one who pitched the idea.

  • Keith Z

    Also see this PBS TV Show

    Will Robots Take Our Jobs?
    http://www.ideasinactiontv.com/episodes/2011/10/automation-nation-will-robots-take-our-jobs.html

    And check out the book mentioned on the show (free pdf available)

    http://www.thelightsinthetunnel.com

  • Judyschaefer

    Also see the alarming and moving documentary “Plug & Pray” on the MIT star Raymond Kurzweil and his notions of robots eventually supplanting human biology and even promising eternal life; and his antagonist, Joseph Weizenbaum, also formerly of MIT.

  • Wage Serf

    The answer is: When machines do the work, humans will be able to make their living by OWNING the machines and getting the income that the machines produce. This would be done through the proposed “Capital Homestead Act” (http://www.cesj.org/homestead/index.htm).
    Every citizen could purchase shares of expanding corporations, not through the Wall Street Casino, but by using self-liquidating credit made available through local banks. Those capital loans to citizens would be repaid by the dividends generated through the corporations that “employ” the machines. Dividends from ownership would thereafter provide a continual source of income for citizen-owners, even as jobs are eliminated.

    If capital ownership is good for the 1%, why not for the rest of us?
    Hopeful Wage Serf

    • Lambert Simnel

      Let me get this straight, WS.  It doesn’t matter who does the work, as long as whoever owns the labor or the capital gets the income?  Since owners of labor these days don’t usually own any capital (unless they’ve slaved and sweated all their lives to save enough to purchase just enough to pay for their funeral), you say the banks should make loans to propertyless workers so that they can buy a chunk of the company where they work, and repay the loan with dividends.

      Good idea — but we’re going to need some changes in the law.  First, some kind of insurance to replace the collateral workers usually don’t have.  That’s easy.  Just use the “risk premium” on all loans as a real insurance premium. The hard part is getting the corporations to pay out dividends.  If expansion and job creation are financed using new stock issues that workers buy on credit (on the margin — but insured), they don’t need to retain earnings, and they can be paid out as dividends.  This means that, if your suggestion is adopted, boards of directors are going to have to give owners their property rights instead of doling them out as a big favor.  My guess is that the best way to do that would be to jack up the corporate tax sky high … and make dividends tax deductible to the corporation!  Corporations could escape ALL taxes, but only by paying out earnings to the owners, who have a right to the earnings, anyway.

      Is this just an idea off the top of your head, or is there something written down somewhere?  I mean, where can we find out more about this?  We should Occupy this idea, not Wall Street.  Remember Johnny Hart’s “golden rule”: Whoever has the gold makes the rules, and this is a way for the rest of us to get a little “gold.”

      • Lambert Simnel

        Oops.  Sorry.  I see that Wage Serf DID say where.  I just got too worked up about the idea.  Then I followed the money …

  • http://twitter.com/domnogin domnogin

    Good effort, but you missed the point.  The current $7.25/hour minimum wage should be $10 to match its 1968 counterpart; Ralph Nader says its $15 to include higher productivity.  The twelve-hour agricultural day, usually with two lengthy breaks, is now down to a half-hour unpaid break.  Watch STAR TREK:  THE NEXT GENERATION “Chain of Command” for the idea of four six-hour shifts instead of three eight-hour shifts for greater effectiveness if not efficiency.  Didn’t a car factory let workers go home by noon if they made their daily quota; that didn’t last long.  America has plenty of human work to do if entrepeneurs remembered the promise of Taylorism:  higher productivity is rewarded with higher wages, or at least stock options.  What if Florida schoolteachers started at $50K/year instead of $40K/year and each had a teaching assistant at $25K/year?  We have enough underemployed college graduates to help.  Maybe you can do a show on how everyone forgot the Paradox of Thrift, how consumers saving money instead of spending it leads to a short-term slowdown but gives banks more money to invest in shops and factories; I guess that died what manufacturers fled to China and call centers fled to Bangalore, India.

  • AndreaMitch

    half of the comments here are by chatbots, first generation by the sense of ‘em

    • Andrea_itch

      AndreaMitch – You’re spiritless wit is like a case poison ivy – you don’t know what you have until it’s too late.

  • Pingback: Adaptable Org » Race Against the “Management” Machine

  • Pingback: Adaptable Org » When Machines Do The Work (On Point) – 1 hour video

  • Bin

    The rich will live very well, thank you. The rest will be body servants (until replaced by machines too) or organ donors.

  • http://twitter.com/FancyKatt Barbara

    Google Resource based economy and the end of the money system.

  • Pingback: Adaptable Org » When Machines Do The Work (On Point) – 1 hour video

  • Pingback: Adaptable Org » Race Against the “Management” Machine

  • Pingback: What happens when machines do the work? |

  • Slipstream

    Just an anecdote/comment.  I have found that very often these new, computerized, high tech work resources turn out to not work as well as they are supposed to, be a pain in the &% in numerous ways, etc.  E.g., a voice recognition software program I have used (not made by OP’s sponsor) has been slow and full of errors – just give me the darn keyboard, please.  A recent pricey upgrade from a leading software company has revealed itself to be slower than the previous version and full of glitches.   I have not worked on an assembly line, but I have yet to see in any of the jobs that I have worked, a computer that could work as well as a person could, that could understand all the different elements of a job and be able to pull them together, AND be cognizant of the social/political implications of what they are doing, which is of course a huge part of any job. 

    It will be a while until we are in the world of Neuromancer, with computer systems reaching out across the cosmos for other computers.  People are still much better – BUT I think the guests have an excellent point – things are moving in a disturbing direction.  And it is leading to higher unemployment and greater wealth disparities.

  • Truth Seeker

    Fantastic topic and need to continue the discussion again (far too complex to handle in just one hour)! This is a very complex issue and there are many, many scenarios possible as to where things *could* go. Some of these could be frightening, indeed, especially if the population continues to grow until at some possible point in time our society just collapses (hopefully not for at least 100 years). There are other less ominous scenarios though and maybe even a few optimistic ones (assuming we solve future food, energy and environmental problems).

    Ironically, I think computers should be brought to bear on the problem of how to create many more jobs (around the world) at a fixed rate of investment. There must be one or more solutions (within a 10-20 year timetable). If not, we are in real trouble!

  • Pingback: adaptableorg1.com » Race Against the “Management” Machine

  • Terry Tree Tree

    SERIOUS Question, NEEDS Serious Thought!!!

  • Anonymous

    The funny thing is we’ll hit a point of automation which will cause the entire capitalistic system we’ve grown up with to collapse – we may be close to it already.

  • Ellen Dibble

    First time round, this discussion seemed frightening to me.  This time, a few weeks later, I’m thinking we are in for much better times.  This shouldn’t be hard.  Think of the advantages we’ve derived from first steam engines, the heavy industry of the 19th and 20th century.  Starvation was less an issue.  Then in the late 20th century, there’s computers and superconnectivity.  This has given us lifestyles that were unimaginable not so long ago.  Now we consider this a birthright.  Big Macs and potable water.  
        So there’s more to come, by gallops and bounds.  All of a sudden, we don’t need you and your brother and your sister all to be licking envelopes or peeling potatoes.  Instead, we can all be doing the tending to each other that has had to be sidelined while we did the busy-work necessary for survival.  We just need to guide the resources to where this works.  There are things we do as volunteers, mentoring, for instance, or for very low wage, helping people who have had strokes to learn to speak and to walk — there are tasks that are not thought of as what we mainly need people-hours for, but in future they will be.  It may take 1,000 hours of one-on-one to get an autistic child ready for kindergarten, and right now, it may be tough to find the resources, both the money and the skilled personnel.  In future, things may change.

    • nj

      All kinds of things wrong with this mythological analysis.

      The examples of mechanization’s benefits (industry/steam -> less starvation; computers -> potable water) lack any clear connection to the listed benefits. Any number of factors contributed to “less starvation,” and the rise of fast food.

      Even if machines and robots do manage to replace humans for a majority of work that might be considered drudgery or rote (a dubious presumption), people still need to earn money for rent, shelter, taxes…

      Machines aren’t going to magically created hours and hours of “leisure” time.

      • nj

        And one more thing…

        Any technology creates a web of unintended, unanticipated, and, often, negative consequences. This needs to be kept in mind whenever people start extolling the wondrous benefits of the latest Wonder Gizmo.

        • Terry Tree Tree

          I TOTALLY AGREE!

      • Terry Tree Tree

        One farmer on one tractor can do the plowing of thousands of human-pulled plows, even hundreds of horse-drawn plows, today’s cotton-gins clean thousands of times as much cotton in a day as humans can.
            Pick almost ANY area of production, and you can find similiar results!
            Many of the not-so-mundane jobs, even the comlplex jobs, are NOW being done by machines.  This trend will only INCREASE!

        • nj

          Your examples of liberating mechanization depend of cheap fossil fuels. That show is about over.

          • Terry Tree Tree

            Even at today’s ridiculously high fossil fuel prices, the ratios of mechanical to human production stay close to the same!  Other arguements later in postings.

          • Ellen Dibble

            Solar power, wave energy,  geothermal power, power channeled back into the grid by people pedaling their exercise machines, wind energy — all combined, it begins to take the place of fossil fuels, the sooner the better.

  • John

    A curious future, indeed.

    I am hoping that our future will in some vague way resemble that of Iain Bank’s The Culture series of novels, in which automation essentially removes the need for most humans to provide real employment, instead allowing them to live curious existences of luxury and intellectual creativity and stimulation, not living a daily grind for subsistence.

    If carefully managed, we may eventually see this begin to happen over the next 50-100 years.

    I for one am not terribly concerned by this trend long term, but worried about the more short-term.

    I think this might mesh well with Creaker’s comment.

  • Rabnovena

    Humans should do the things we do well and the machines should do the things they do well.  Welcome to capitalism.

  • Matt

    YET ANOTHER REASON WHY THE WORLD’s GOTTA GO TO A 3 or 4 DAY WORK WEEK.  The other reasons? The absolute limits of the earth which will force true sustainability and the elimination of planned

    obsolescence, if not Capitalism itself. Here comes steady-state economy!

  • Anonymous

    There’s a word for countries where few people work.

    Poor.

  • Flint

    Remember the novel “Player Piano”.  Are you two fella’s paying Kurt Vonnegut a royalty?

  • Beez

    It boils down to education. We’ve been ignoring the need to properly educate our people…and this is one way we will pay the price.

  • Dcxxx

    It all boils down to power. Workers used to have some through unions, that has disappeared over the last 30 years.  Machines displacing people is nothing new. What’s new is that all the increase in productivity has gone to the owners, none to the workers.  We used to reduce the work week as productivity increased.  Now we lengthen it and lay off workers.  We used to give some of the increased wealth to the workers who spent it and boosted the economy through that.  Now it all goes to the top few percent and doesn’t recirculate into the economy. leading to slower growth.

  • Thewildebiil

    It boils down to this – nobody wants to come clean and admit the terrible flaws in human awareness. While there are many good people, it seems the vast majority of those in control can see no farther than distorted images of their own being. These will continue to consume members of society for what they perceive as their own benefit. Those cast aside, and there may be far more than we dare imagine, will be left to create a ferral society scavenging what they can to survive. The net result of this will be yet another replay of tragic human history.

    Until we are able to evolve to the point where we have learned to truly understand, appreciate, and support one another and live for ballance, equity, and fair-paly for all, we are fated to the greatest implosion of life in the history of the world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Spence-Blakely/1251757037 Spence Blakely

    If machine producers replace too many human workers/consumers, won’t there be a need for machine consumers if unemployed humans can’t pay for the goods and services?

  • Jessye Weinstein

    Is there no value to humans having the knowledge of certain skill sets? You keep saying that it’s wonderful that only 2% of our country is entrusted with the food security of our nation, but I find that terrifying. Isn’t it important for people to not lose the knowledge of how to produce the things that are most important to our very existence?

  • Ellen Dibble

    I’m thinking business schools — maybe like Sloan School of Management and places like MIT — are geared to teaching people how to become like Jobs.  It’s not that Jobs was an excellent designer.  It’s that he managed to maneuver that designing skill into billions of dollars.  That’s a business skill.  I suspect the same is true with the creator of FaceBook.  The idea itself took him a good high school education and a few weekends to launch.  The rest of it was business/management maneuvering that creation into the billions of dollars.
       So I’d say business schools are all about profit-making, all about sucking as much money up from the masses to the top, as much as possible.  That’s capitalism.

  • miro

    As you keep coming back to,
    the crux of the matter is spreading the work around.
    We are TERRIBLE as a society at doing this, and as a consequence
    any economic slowdown has large effects on a few people (the
    unemployed and the underemployed) and no effect on most.

    We need a full employment economy:
    shorter work week
    employee-owned and run enterprises
    large tax incentives for more permanent hiring and for avoiding layoffs

    We could do this if we had the social wherewithal and the political will, but with about 1/4 of our population siding with the radical right, this
    does look way off in the future.

    Machines increase our collective wealth and reduce meaningless work, but if we don’t solve this problem of the distribution of work, we will end up with a society of an impoverished 99% and an ultra rich 1%. That is not sustainable — economies need viable middle classes to sustain demand for mass production.

  • Jakireis

    All through this program, I have been thinking of the movie Blade Runner.  Now that you have broached the subject, I submit the old sci fi subject of androids being somewhat indistinguishable from humans and the problem of both android revolt and android love.

    The problem, as I see it, has also been broached, the problem of some folks keeping more than, not only their share, but they need or even can use in a lifetime, while others are left on the brink of death from lack of necessity. 

  • Ajguse

    More Credit to Baumol Due.
    Maybe they mention it in their book, but I just listened to this segment and unless they mentioned it while I checked the laundry, I was very surprised to have not heard one mention of BAUMOLS DISEASE.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baumol%27s_cost_disease

    Baumol came up with this idea more than 40 years ago.

  • Rich d

    Technology improves lives. But it also seeks to produce
    more and more things for us to buy. If Jobs are being lost who will by the
    stuff? And will technology only leave us pursue a hedonistic way of life? Or
    just a restless one leading to revolution and forcing us disavow technology
    leading to a new dark age?

  • Robert Riversong

    There are two critical points that business-focused technophiles are blind to. Every “advance” in technology has brought with it unintended consequences, ranging from the inconvenient to the catastrophic (viz. global warming, species extinction). And, what people need are not “jobs” (which is a market concept) but work – important, meaningful, dignified.

    These points lead to two conclusions. If technology is not an unalloyed social good, we must deliberately slow the pace of innovation by applying the precautionary principle rather than letting the “invisible hand” of the market decide. And we need to decouple social value from the money-based market, and eventually eliminate money entirely – starting with the absurdity that money itself can generate wealth (the financialization of the market).

    In “primitive” cultures, people were recognized and valued, not for how much they accumulated, but by how much they gave away. The only truly sustainable and dignified economy is the gift economy, in which each contributes their uniqueness to the good of the whole and each shares in the real wealth that society creates.

    • Islandcoast24

      Unintended consequences of technological advances have been with us since bow and arrows replaced the choke hold.  And those affected have real greavances, but how do you decide who should be compensated?  If we try to control the advance of technology, who will be the ones deciding? 

      The soviets tried that and we can see the results.  I feel our precious freedom here in the US is more important than trying to control who benefits and who looses.  That said, fair trade has serious benefits over free trade.  Education is the key. 

      The owners of capital always prosper in times of peace and under the rule of law.  We have that here in the US, with the financial support of tax payers, and the sacrifice of our troops.  Since the wealthy capital holders benefit more, they should pay a greater share in the form of higher taxes. 

  • Patrice Marie

    I work with university students day to use technology to access courses & course materials and there are some issues that keep coming up, day in and day out…
    First, people may know their tech, but are often at a loss when they enter into a new context, have to complete new tasks, and perform at higher levels each semester and on into the job market.
    I see lots of great tutorials, but they simply cannot replace a human who can meet individuals needs and empower them to use tech effectively to reach their academic & personal goals. But it doesn’t mean that it has to be face-to-face and synchronous…I’m getting more creative as time goes by, a uniquely human trait, so far. :)

  • OSU student

    This is the plight of the capitalism that instead of celebrating the fact that humanity is being “emancipated” from hard labor by technology. In an alternative paradigm to capitalism, in an economy based on human dignity, humans don’t HAVE TO work to be able to feed themselves and have a shelter, technology does that and humans can enjoy their lives.

  • IslandCoast24

    My feeling is that education is the key.  As robots take over repetitive tasks, displaced workers must be able focus on emerging employment to install and maintain those robots, as well as new employment in new /or related fields.  Low cost technical schools and college will provide the means for the motivated to re-direct their acumulated life skills.

    So the big question for our elected leaders is how to redistribute wealth to keep our complex society balanced and educated.  As socialist as this sounds, we do it every day; my retired neigbors pay property taxes to pay the teachers at my daughters public school, gas taxes pay for roads used by both the wealthy and the rest of us. 

     To achieve balance, the increasing wealth of the 1% must be used to lower the cost of education.  That of course is a political issue, not one that the republicans are willing to entertain, but one that the voting public will want.  I think the upcomming elections will see a vocal right pushing “self-reliance” and a voting (and less vocal) public supporting increased funding of schools.

  • Melinda

    Possibly if people end up working fewer hours every week, those extra free hours could be used volunteering and providing that human touch to the most needy in this country.  Examples would be mentoring and tutoring students, w orking in soup kitchens, building homes for habitat for humanity…

    • nj

      “Extra hours?” Really? Machines are going to relieve people of their financial burdens, too?

  • Valerieflyer

    Everything the authors say us predicated on limitless cheap energy and resources which we do not have. I feel that in the future goods may become more expensive energy much more expensive. This will change the equation

    • Terry Tree Tree

      My earlier reply did’nt get placed as a reply to you.

  • MadeInDetroit

    I am struck by the pollyanna-ish thinking of these two esteemed academics, who keep wanting to celebrate the fact that these trends will cause some relatively small subset of people to become super-rich, rich or highly prosperous, while untold millions will be driven down into poverty or subsistence-wage working lives. They have no tangible suggestions whatsoever for changing or ameliorating this trend.  Comfortably ensconced at MIT, they have apparently chosen to be cheerleaders for the neo-feudal economic society we’re galloping towards. Seems pretty clear which side of the class war (oops, not supposed to use that term!) they’re on…

  • GreggH

    I listened intently to the broadcast, wanting to call in, but realized I would probably not make it on-air.  Regardless, the issue at hand is one of a societal change heretofore alien to our experience.  Not since the fall of the Roman Empire, whose vast hordes of slave labor, performing every mundane task, led to no one getting paid for anything – a complete cessation of the flow of capital.  Without this flow – everything in our economy and society will eventually grind to a halt.  Unless a dramatic alteration to our “capitalistic” way of thinking occurs soon, even the rich will cease to garner what now seems to be an ever-increasing share of the wealth produced.  If enough of us aren’t working and getting paid, no one will be working and creating the capital flow needed to move the economy.  We cannot have “vast hordes” of unemployed walking the streets, living under bridges and in boxes, yet that is where we are headed if hard solutions are not discussed openly.  No one wants to discuss the ugly truth, yet anyone not willing to do so is living the lie – that their way of life will continue. 

    The societal changes – those confronting our core beliefs of what capitalism and technology are to bring to our existance – will involve corporations sharing their profits to those displaced.  Whether in the form of taxes, or as direct compensation, how will we as a people, regardless of nationality bridge the gap – from now to the future?  In reality, the next big industrial or knowledge breakthrough will not require any more workers.  It will invariably require less.  Until we get there one, two or more decades from now, what will the masses do?  Everyone knew that word processors would replace the large secretarial pool, but no one really discussed it.  Our industrial policy (yeah, I know.  What industial policy?) should address how our economies will address technologically displaced workers. 

    Technologically induced rather than ideogically, it would appear that capitalism may need to coexist with some form of socialism.  If we are not brave enough to confront this new reality, western society, like its Roman predecessor, will fall, perhaps into a new dark age, until a new enlightenment, or renaissance, is born.  Anyone expounding a new “jobs bill” in government is not in possession of all his or her faculties and is living a lie that is being sold on an unsuspecting population. 

    Hope dies last.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      GreggH, this was a RE-broadcast of an earlier show, therefore you could not call in.  
          With the U.S. Infrastructure in such bad shape; Reports about ten years ago, about old, decrepit bridges, etc…,  With the advantages of Renewable Resource Energy, and other obvious things, WHY do you disdain a “jobs bill”?

  • Terry Tree Tree

    The Wind is FREE, Tides are FREE, the Sun shine is FREE, until the GREEDY rich can find a way to claim them!!
        A Wind-Turbine requires a propeller, a generator, and a pylon (pole support), and the wiring to get the electricity to you! 
        A coal-fired power plant REQUIRES coal mines, mining equipment, reclaimation equipment to sort of clean up the mess, loading equipment for transport,truck or train transport of the coal to the power plant, equipment to remove the coal from the transport, heavy equipment to move the coal around to try to prevent spontaneous combustion, sprinkler equipment and spray trucks to try to prevent and stop fires, conveyor equipment to move the coal into the plant, crushers to crush the coal, conveyors to move it near the boiler fire-box apparatus, a system to inject the crushed coal into the fire-box, the fire-box, the boiler system, the steam-lines to the turbine, THE GENERATOR (finally)!
         I won’t go into the many other things required, but the exhaust system is about as complex today, making the air some better to breathe, and less likely to strip the paint from local resident and workers’ autos, and anything less protected! 
        ANY QUESTIONS??
       

    • Morrismm1

      Sounds like coal-fired plants REQUIRES ALOT of workers to run, requires alot of jobs to be filled. Employment for more people.
      Tho, I have nothing against wind, tide and sunshine, they still are very expensive and most of the jobs are overseas! 

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Many being built here!

      • Terry Tree Tree

        JOBS?   Manufacturing Wind-Turbines?  Manufacturing Solar Cells?  Manufacturing Batteries?  Installing Re-newables? 
            These jobs have been in the U.S., for over a century!!  They DON’T HAVE to be exported!

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Priced a Coal-fired plant lately?   Priced a nuclear power plant?  I gave SOME of the equipment info, NOT all.  Compare to Wind, Solar, Tidal equipment needed?

    • nj

      That’s a little too simple, there, Terry.

      There’s no way “renewable” energy sources are going to replace fossil fuels to the extent that we can maintain our current infrastructure and settlement patterns. We will need to power down, simplify, localize, dramatically reduce our energy demand (“we” in the West, and especially in the profligate U.S.). This is the hard work no one wants to talk about.

      “Renewables” don’t produce 24/7; they are geographically diverse (solar and wind don’t work everywhere) and the entirely of any “renewable” energy system isn’t completely “renewable.” Materials essential to solar and wind technologies are rare, need to be mined, and, in some cases, are difficult to recycle. Demand for some resources, especially water (increasingly rare itself) is high. 

      http://thebulletin.org/web-edition/columnists/dawn-stover/the-myth-of-renewable-energy

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Too simple?
            Probably for those that have received subsidies, tax breaks, and tax-payer cleanup of their For-Profit-Tax-Payer-covered losses!!
            MOST, if not ALL of the materials for re-newable energy, are needed for Oil, Nuclear, Coal, or Natural Gas-produced power, just in MUCH LARGER quantities!
            Now, add in the requirements of millitary intervention to ‘protect’ the national interest of those energy companies!  How many deaths and maiming could we have avoided?
            Know anything about oil-drilling and that industry to get the energy you consume?
            How about the flammable drinking water and ‘safe’ chemicals of natural gas ‘fracking’?
            Research it ALL from a totally objective point of view, then give me your synopsis of each!

        • Mama’s baby

          Maybe you could reach out to some CEO and Naval Academy smarties that you know and they could come up with an answer for us.

          • Terry Tree Tree

            The answers are there, if you research them.  The money isn’t in the grasp of someone I know personally. 
                The technology, and the equipment has been avaliable for years, or decades, for an individual.   Up-scaling takes MONEY.  Be prepared for existing energy producers to fight to keep it from happening! 

      • Terry Tree Tree

        LOTS of that increasingly rare water is used, and polluted, even in the BEST uses for ‘conventional energy’!

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Conservation methods of fuel and materials are the FASTEST and most cost-efficient methods of ensuring supply!

  • http://profiles.google.com/rickevans033050 Rick Evans

    Interesting discussion I listened to while on the road Friday. I found it interesting that the usual “more education” wasn’t chanted throughout the hour by the two academics. 

    Maybe the one’s awareness of sports writing (also business writing) computer journalists tempered their enthusiasm for that one tool answer.Then there was Watson’s electro-mechanical finger beating the tar out of Jennings and Rutter on Jeopardy. Wait until Watson’s offspring Blue, MD turns House into a 30 second show. Even Ken Jennings acknowledged Stockholm Syndrome in his final Jeopardy answer. 

  • Pingback: The return of the robots! « Andrew Taggart

  • Pingback: The Week in Geek™ – Dec. 1, 2011 - The Week in Geek™

  • Wageserf

    Here’s a song that answers Tom’s question: “When machines do the work, how will humans make a living?” It’s done to the tune of the classic “16 Tons” but brings it up to date in our automated century.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9MMbcwuvV0

  • Jclark1946

    Sorry I’ve not jumped into this discussion much earlier. It seems to me that the poor recovery in employment points directly to the increase in “productivity” since the collapse in 2008. Obama was at a new Master Lock plant insourced from China to the U S that employs 200 (I think). How many U S workers lost their jobs when the production went to China? I’ll bet a lot more than 200.

    Machines doing the work is great, otherwise we’d all be working in the fields. But nobody ever promised that there would always be enough jobs to replace the ones machines take over. Educated folks never worried much about it because they thought it was only poor farmers and factory workers that would be replaced. Factory owners never worried about it because machines could be cheaper and excess labor supply means lower labor cost. Government called it “productivity” and pronounced it good.

    And it is good. Think forward 100 years to a “Twilight Zone” or “Star Trek” world where people do no work and the machines do everything. Picture it all working out just fine and everyone has plenty to eat and leisure 24/7. Our biggest problem is getting enough exercise and not getting too fat (just like today). Unemployment is at almost 100% but that’s OK. The machines not only do the work but they fix and improve themselves. And they don’t revolt or try to take over.

    But wait? How does anyone pay for anything? And who wants to own the machines if nobody has a paycheck to buy what they make? Life is potentially good, maybe nearly perfect, but how do we distribute wealth? How do we tell if someone is lazy if nobody works? What if someone has a great new idea but no incentive to market it because who will buy it. How do we reward people that want to be in charge or take risks? How do we distribute or even define wealth?  

    The 99% and the 1% will be in the same boat. Rich people can’t make money if the masses don’t have money to spend.
         
     You can’t keep it from happening, innovation is inherent in the human species. So how can we embrace this future. What are the steps we need to take to get there and enjoy the world when we do. 

    I’m going to do this from the standpoint of a Communist government. I think communism stinks but it’s simpler to assume an all powerful government. Here are some of the steps.

    1. Start trimming down the population. One or two babies per family and incentives to have none. If your population is doing manual work that can be replaced by a machine, hurry!
    2. Use genetic profiling, intellegence testing, planned marriages and whatever else to make the population as smart as possible. It’s hard to know which skills will be needed but laborers will not be needed. They’re just excess mouths to feed.
    3. Invest in new infrastructure, especially clean energy. Machines need lots of juice and the remaining people deserve clean, cool air. Also, new technologies take lots of labor–for awhile. Solving global climate change makes for a good temporary tactic.
    4. Nationalize capital. Give the current capitalists/owners a good deal. If they see the future is bleak for capital ownership, they’ll be glad to bail out for a price. Besides they have useful talents in making the new world order happen.
    5. Invest in high tech armed forces. There will be a lot of countries that don’t plan as well and why feed a hungry mouth when it has no skills you need. Laborers make good soldiers but they will also be replaced with machines.
    6. Identify and nurture talent in sciences, engineering and social sciences. You are going to have a lot of cultural challenges so train lots of social scientists. Make sure your educational system is the best in the world. Start preparing (brainwashing) your people. Develop ways to reward talent. Just because most people won’t have to work doesn’t mean the ones that do shouldn’t get a little extra. Make sure government workers get a little extra too.  
    7. Develop natural resources. National wealth will be determined more by these than ever. Develop strategic alliances with countries that compliment your resource profile. Develop military contingency plans to secure these resources if necessary. 
    8. Buy (or steal) all the intellectual property you can. In the long run it may be that all the technology will be freeware but don’t assume that will happen.
    9. Develop a leisure/vacation industry. People who have nothing to do will like to do something fun and unique. Make sure its moving toward automation.
    10. As time passes, revisit step (1). In general, people are obsolete. 

    I said I didn’t like Communism, but if I were the president of China with hundreds of millions of unskilled workers, I’d get busy.  
       

       

  • burroak

    In the 21st century, we have replaced many jobs with machines. O.k, it does make some work more efficient and productive; but, here is an idea: if we are ushering in a mass-machine-age, why not make every component of machines in the U.S.A, if possible. Therefore we can create more jobs and communities.

ONPOINT
TODAY
Sep 2, 2014
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with Mark Wilson, event political speaker chairperson, with his wife Elain Chao, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 4, 2012. (AP)

Nine weeks counting now to the midterm elections. We’ll look at the key races and the stakes.

Sep 2, 2014
Confederate spymaster Rose O'Neal Greenhow, pictured with her daughter "Little" Rose in Washington, D.C.'s Old Capitol Prison in 1862. (Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

True stories of daring women during the Civil War. Best-selling author Karen Abbott shares their exploits in a new book: “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.”

RECENT
SHOWS
Sep 1, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) recovers a fumble by Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson (3) in the second quarter of the NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh. (AP)

One outspoken fan’s reluctant manifesto against football, and the big push to reform the game.

 
Sep 1, 2014
This Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo shows a mural in in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago dedicated to the history of the Pullman railcar company and the significance for its place in revolutionizing the railroad industry and its contributions to the African-American labor movement. (AP)

On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
The Five Midterm 2014 Races To Watch
Tuesday, Sep 2, 2014

The five most interesting races of the 2014 midterm election cycle, per our panel of expert national political correspondents.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: August 29, 2014
Friday, Aug 29, 2014

On hypothetical questions, Beyoncé and the unending flow of social media.

More »
Comment
 
Drew Bledsoe Is Scoring Touchdowns (In The Vineyards)
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Football great — and vineyard owner — Drew Bledsoe talks wine, onions and the weird way they intersect sometimes in Walla Walla, Washington.

More »
Comment