ROBOTS AND EMPLOYMENT IN THE UNITED STATES

Jeff Jackson's Robots, Workers, and Wages article posted March 29, 2017 on website Writer Beat raises doubts about the possibility that President Donald Trump's policy will bring back jobs from overseas countries with corporations returning their factories to do things in America again. It raises doubts about the possibility of the old middle class getting back to work on the assembly lines with good wages, buying cars, homes, televisions, refrigerators, Budweiser and that everything will be okay with America.

 

Jeff Jackson says works in America will be made by robots that would be bought from Japan and Germany that factories will only hire a quarter of the former employees who used to do the jobs, and the robots will do the rest. Japan and Germany will make the robots. Jackson argues that the number of hours needed to produce, say, a car will be significantly reduced, and what were once considered the "man-hours" needed to produce things will drop significantly.

 

Jeff Jackson states that the United States is behind other countries and asks how long they will be able to make robots to use in American factories is yet to be seen. Jeff Jackson's Best Scenario: The government offers tax incentives to companies that produce robots. Seeing that robots are the future, producers who need robots collaborate with existing technology companies and create new specialized companies that utilize the manufacturing capabilities of technology companies and manufacturers and collectively create robots.

 

Jeff Jackson says the new companies decide to hire immigrants to help to produce the robots and outsource the rest. But the revolution of the robot reached the second, or possibly the third phase. This change is demonstrated by BlackRock, the financial powerhouse, in March 2017, which freed seven of its portfolio managers because robots choose stocks better than people. The job of choosing stocks for wallets, which requires a great deal of financial knowledge, has now been replaced by a robot. Wall Street is moving in the direction of robotics and soon all the financial geniuses who collect hundreds of millions of dollars will be out of a job. Robots will create more and more wealth and people will win less and less. The rich will become richer and the poor will become poorer.

 

There is every reason to believe that robots will replace human beings in the labor market. According to Brynjolfsson and McAfee, we have technologies that are shaping the world we are heading for. The threat to current jobs is quite evident. Boston Consulting Group predicts that by 2025, up to a quarter of jobs will be replaced by softwares or robots, while a study by the University of Oxford in the UK points out that 35% of current jobs in the country run the risk of being automated in the next two decades  [WAKEFIELD, Jane. Quais profissões estão ameaçadas pelos robôs? (What professions are threatened by robots?), Available on the website <http://www.bbc.com/portuguese/noticias/2015/09/150914_profissoes_robos_lgb>].

 

The professions most threatened by robots, according to Wakefield, are taxi drivers, factory workers, journalists, doctors, lawyers, office workers, freight delivery jobs, police officers, etc. Taxi drivers around the world are threatened by Uber as drivers in general by vehicle manufacturers that are already manufacturing units that exclude the presence of the driver. Factory workers are threatened because the assembly lines are being increasingly automated. The profession of journalist is threatened because in the near future, reports will no longer be written by journalists, but by software capable of collecting data and transforming it into minimally comprehensible texts. Doctors are threatened because some medical procedures are done more quickly by robots that are already helping doctors perform surgeries. Office workers are already being replaced by smart machines that perform countless of their tasks. Workers engaged in the delivery of goods will be replaced by drones or vehicles without a driver. Police and military will be replaced by robots.

 

It is believed that the economic effects of Artificial Intelligence on so-called cognitive human jobs (those formerly considered in the industrial age as "office work") will be analogous to the effects of automation and robotics on industrial manufacturing work, where workers eventually lose Jobs even possessing technical expertise, often specialized, loss that has negatively impacted on their social status and their ability to provide for their families. With labor becoming a less important factor in production compared to intellectual capital and the ability to use it to generate value, it is possible that most citizens may find it difficult to find work in the future [TIBAU, Marcelo. Inteligência Artificial e o mercado de trabalho (Artificial Intelligence and the labor market). Available on the website <http://www.updateordie.com/2016/10/08/artistic-intelligence-and-work-marketing>, 2016].

 

Another fact is obvious: robots often cost less than humans, work longer hours, and can perform less secure tasks. Experts believe that the intelligence of machines will match that of humans by 2050, thanks to a new era in their ability to learn. Computers are already beginning to assimilate information from collected data, just as children learn from the world around them. That means we are creating machines that can teach themselves to play computer games - and be very good at them - and also to communicate by simulating human speech, as with smartphones and their virtual assistant systems. But what will humans do when their abilities are no longer useful? For Martin Ford - author of the book Rise of the Robots, the world will face massive unemployment and a financial meltdown unless radical changes such as the guarantee of a minimum wage are implemented [WAKEFIELD, Jane. Inteligência artificial: máquinas que pensam devem surgir 'até 2050' (Artificial Intelligence: Thinking machines should emerge 'by 2050'). Available on the website <http://www.bbc.com/portuguese/noticias/2015/09/150916_inteligencia_artificial_maquinas_rb>, 2015].

 

On the technological advance, it should be noted that Gordon Earl Moore, co-founder of Intel Corporation, one of the world's largest processor companies, wrote in 1965 an article for Electronic Magazine that was published on April 19 of that year. The same year in which he conjectured about the fantastic evolution of technology from then on. And it was in these reflections that he made one of the most accurate predictions about computing in the last half century. Moore said that "the complexity for components with minimal costs has increased at a rate of approximately a factor of two per year". Certainly, in the short term, one can expect this rate to hold, if not increase. "In the long run, the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe that it will not remain nearly constant for at least 10 years. I believe large circuits like this could be built in a single component".

 

That's how Moore's Law came about, which says that the processing power of computers would double every 18 months. It's been 50 years since Moore created his "law". And even half a century later she remains strong and strong. It's an impressive brand, especially when it comes to hardware evolution. Supercomputers represent very well the evolution of Moore's Law processors. It's worth noting that Moore's Law does not only encompass the home processors we use on our computers. It holds for all types of processors in use, from calculators and digital cameras to supercomputers. The semiconductor industry, seeing that they could achieve the goal that Moore had spoken of in their article, went on to invest heavily in research and development, so that in fact they managed to double the number of transistors in the processors every 18 months.

 

All that has just been exposed calls into question the purpose of the Donald Trump administration to bring jobs back to the United States. Technological progress will inevitably have three consequences: 1) the decline in consumption or general demand for goods and services due to the increase in unemployment and the reduction of the purchasing power of the working population; (2) the decline of the middle class with major implications of a political nature since it acts as an ally of the bourgeoisie; And, 3) the weakening of the struggle of the unions in favor of the workers. The political consequences of the end of employment thanks to technological advances are quite serious because the population needs to work to survive. This may open the way for the advent of a social upheaval with unpredictable consequences.

 

* Fernando Alcoforado, member of the Bahia Academy of Education, engineer and doctor of Territorial Planning and Regional Development from the University of Barcelona, ​​a university professor and consultant in strategic planning, business planning, regional planning and planning of energy systems.

Comments

Tamara Wilhite Added Apr 10, 2017 - 11:14pm
Automation/robots are also going to eliminate those few agricultural workers that have been brought in, ending all legitimate basis for immigration into the U.S. when we have workforce participation rates at the same level as the 1970s.
 
7 robots that are replacing farm workers around the world
http://www.businessinsider.com/robots-that-are-replacing-farm-workers-2016-8
 
Whether liberals continue to demand higher minimum wages that result in faster adoption of job eliminating technology like self-ordering kiosks is yet to be seen. But you cannot have increasing numbers of foreign born competition for a dwindling number of jobs and not see violent chaos.
John G Added Apr 11, 2017 - 2:59am
Tamara Wilhite
 
LOLz.
 
Malthus made these sorts of predictions over 200 years ago. 
 
It didn't happen.
George N Romey Added Apr 11, 2017 - 4:16am
Fernando as usual great article.  I believe what people are truly not ready for is artificial intelligence that will destroy white collar, knowledge driven jobs.  Just think of the profits if six and seven figure jobs can be eliminated.
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 11, 2017 - 5:36am
Thank you, Tamara Wilhite, for your comments that reinforce our point of view about the impact of automation on the world of work. You yourself claim that automation / robots will also eliminate the few farmworkers who were brought in, ending any legitimate basis for immigration to the US when we have labor force participation rates at the same level as the 1970s. I agree with your argument that if liberals continue to demand higher minimum wages that result in faster adoption of technology to eliminate jobs, such as self-service kiosks, unemployment will grow even more. You are right to say that it´s not possible to have a growing number of foreigners competing for a decreasing number of jobs in the United States and not see the violent chaos.
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 11, 2017 - 5:48am
I agree with your argument, George Romey, that people are not really ready to deal with artificial intelligence that will also destroy the white collar, knowledge driving jobs.
Mike Haluska Added Apr 11, 2017 - 11:10am
A car is just an improved horse.  Yes, horse trading declined after the Model T but the folks who called themselves "Teamsters" soon took to driving trucks instead of horse drawn carts and the men who built carriages went to work at Ford, GM, Chrysler for three times their previous wage.
 
No matter how sophisticated robots get, a human has to design, engineer and assemble them.  Just don't make Cylons.
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 11, 2017 - 2:28pm
Mike Haluska, do not underestimate the impact of automation on the world of work. What is foreseen is that the robots of the future will have the ability to design and assemble other robots.
Dino Manalis Added Apr 12, 2017 - 9:46am
The economy and job growth will improve with business tax cuts and deregulation, but robotics won't stop either.  It's important to focus on employers' and consumers' interests first before improving labor conditions as well, otherwise, employers will hasten their reliance on robotics.  We have to do things gradually and keep everyone happy!
Mike Haluska Added Apr 12, 2017 - 10:33am
Fernando - your comment:
 
"What is foreseen is that the robots of the future will have the ability to design and assemble other robots."
 
is 99.9% science fiction.  I spent quite a few years implementing robotics projects - they always make you appreciate the human brain and body even more. 
 
Take the simple task of a worker reaching into a box of bolts, grabbing just one, orienting it without looking at it, positioning it to thread into the bolt hole, rotating the bolt to start threading in but not strip the threads, etc.  I can tell you right now this little task that a kid can perform is a monumental programming and hardware task for robots that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to design, program, manufacture.  And that's just for one bolt size and one fixed bolt hole location - there are thousands of them in a complex product like a car!
 
It will be well past our lifetimes before robots are "human" enough to replace us en masse.  
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 12, 2017 - 7:54pm
Dino Manalis, I think that in order to address the problem, governments need to revise the current social safety net and make it evolve to serve a larger contingent of people and help them to re-integrate into a society whose job market demands are more intellectual rather than manual. Countries such as Switzerland and Finland have already begun to actively consider this new reality and have begun a process of adaptation of their societies - which began by reformulating their educational systems, favoring the development of the ability of metacognition (human capacity to monitor and self-regulate cognitive processes, ie the human being's ability to be aware of his or her actions and thoughts), language proficiency (especially in English, because most human knowledge is registered in this language) and a curriculum based on STEM (acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
Dave Volek Added Apr 13, 2017 - 1:34am
Good article Fernando
 
Agriculture is one of many industries that use far fewer workers than it used to. Robots are already in tractors and better at driving in straight lines in fields than humans. The technology for milk production is such that workers are not needed to herd or handle dairy cattle as much as they used to. Each worker remaining is harvesting 50 times as much product as each worker was 50 years ago.
 
150 years ago, we used to dig ditches by hand: then someone invented the steam shovel that replaced 100 workers with 3 to 4 workers. Then someone invented the diesel-powered excavator that needed only one worker. Anyone who cannot see these trends has their head in the sand. 
 
More STEM is needed for this new economy.
 
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 13, 2017 - 6:23am
Thank you Dave Volek for your lucid comments that reinforce our vision about the impact of automation and, above all, of artificial intelligence on the world of work.
George N Romey Added Apr 13, 2017 - 10:16am
Isn't the idea that has technology replaces human effort we innovate into new products that can re-engage the human race?  However, rather than innovate and invent corporations are using excess cash to buy back stocks and acquire competitors, none of which enhances the research and development chain.
Mike Haluska Added Apr 13, 2017 - 12:09pm
Dave - your "ditch digger" only portrays half of the story.  In conjunction with "ditch diggers" losing their low wage jobs, a bunch of little companies sprang up (John Deere, Mack, Clark, P&H, Caterpillar, etc.) that employed hundreds of thousands of high paid workers.  Lots of former "ditch diggers" went to work for these companies and their kids went to colleges like Purdue to become engineers and design even better equipment.
 
Still think we ought to get rid of automation/technology and go back to manual labor?
Jeff Jackson Added Apr 13, 2017 - 2:06pm
I guess you're a fan, or at least I must have sparked some thoughts in your mind, as I am mentioned  at least 6 times. Thank you for the notation. The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. 
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 13, 2017 - 8:18pm
You are quite right, George Romey, in stating that large corporations prefer to buy stocks and acquire competitors, none of which enhances the R & D chain.
George N Romey Added Apr 13, 2017 - 8:21pm
Thank you Fernando for the vote of confidence.  Productivity has been taking a nose dive as the value chain is fading away.  
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 13, 2017 - 8:24pm
Jeff Jackson, I think your contribution to the debate about robots and jobs in the United States is very important. Your article inspired me to write the article that we are debating.
Jeff Jackson Added Apr 13, 2017 - 8:29pm
Thank you very much. You write some nice thinking material yourself.
Dave Volek Added Apr 14, 2017 - 8:14am
Mike: Just to set the record straight, I don't want to go back to the time when many of us were employed as "ditch diggers"--and many ditch diggers did not have much opportunity to rise above their station.
 
Going back to Fernando's article, he is quite clear that the future economy is going to move towards more robotics. Whether we like it or not, that's the trend.
 
Those workers with only a high school education are going to find it harder to find a middle class income. Whether we like it or not, that's the trend.
 
If we insist that a certain demographic must retain a certain level of income that is beyond their education, that's a recipe for economic stagnation. There will be a price that will be paid if we go in that direction.
 
 
Mike Haluska Added Apr 14, 2017 - 9:53am
Dave - We agree in principal.  You have a terrific point about job opportunities for the average person.  I strongly believe that the single stupidest thing our economic advisors came up with was moving from manufacturing to a "service economy".  The only way an average person can earn a decent living is through manufacturing.
George N Romey Added Apr 14, 2017 - 10:01am
Dave those with a four year degree and even an MBA are already finding it harder to make a middle class living.  In my writings and in my personal life I have come across so many college grads and particularly over 50 people with advanced degrees that have been bounced out of the workplace or are working vastly below their skills and therefore earnings potential.  The future is already here in that regards.
 
I contend that artificial intelligence is making some professional work such as legal research and accounting obsolete.  This is where the real savings will be obtained.
 
Unfortunately, both the public and private sector has no solution on what to do with the excess and unwanted employees?  Do we simply allow the already growing poverty class (living on the street or shelters, barely surviving with government assistance, prone to disease, violence, substance abuse and suicide) to get even bigger. Do we want squatters to become a permanent part of the landscape?
Mike Haluska Added Apr 14, 2017 - 1:51pm
George - "people with a four year degree and MBA" may sound impressive at a glance.  But if it's a BA in 14th Century French Literature and an MBA from a 3rd rate university - I'm reluctant to be impressed without knowing more. 
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 14, 2017 - 4:32pm
Dave Volek, your conclusions are perfect about the impact of artificial intelligence on the economy whose tendency is economic stagnation. Education, training, reduction of working hours and creation or re-adaptation of goods and services that require more human intervention can help to mitigate the negative economic effects of automation, especially Artificial Intelligence on the world of work. With a new education, it will be possible to prepare workers to perform their activities adjusted to the new times. In order to implement a new education, it is imperative that government begin to identify the skills needed for 21st century work and to adjust the education system that is obsolete in order to train citizens better equipped for a reality that is different from the industrial era that is coming to an end and still prevails at the moment.
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 14, 2017 - 4:53pm
The political consequences of the end of employment thanks to technological advances are quite serious because the population needs to work to survive. I agree with George Romey that both public and private sectors have no solution on what to do with surplus and unwanted employees. For Martin Ford - author of the book Rise of the Robots, the world will face massive unemployment and a financial collapse unless radical changes are implemented, such as guaranteeing a minimum wage. But more than a minimum wage for the unemployed, it is necessary to build a new model of society that avoids an unprecedented crisis of humanity by replacing human labor with machines. A society in which human beings are discarded from productive activity is unsustainable socially and politically. The serious thing is that technological advancement is inevitable and its effects on society are catastrophic. This may open the way for the advent of a social upheaval with unpredictable consequences.
George N Romey Added Apr 14, 2017 - 5:25pm
If we are unwilling to redefine work and our relation to each other technology will doom us not enhance our life. Already the 40 hour work week should be obsolete. Its origins were from the 1930s, more than 80 years ago.  Work will need to be redefined.  
 
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 14, 2017 - 5:54pm
You are quite right George Romey that the work must be redefined.
Mike Haluska Added Apr 15, 2017 - 3:36pm
Fernando - from "Minimum Wage" to "Economic Central Planning" we are on opposite ends of the spectrum.  All I can say is that the single greatest economy the world has ever produced was the result of government getting out of the way of its people and allowing Free Enterprise Capitalism to flourish.  I can find no such example of any nation that followed your beliefs - only utter failures and ultimately dictatorships (see almost any South American nation). 
Jeff Jackson Added Apr 15, 2017 - 6:04pm
The forty hour workweek was mostly a union idea. People like Andrew Carnegie would work people ten hours a day six days a week. The unions stopped that, along with gaining respectable wages. The eight hour day, by the way, was because university studies concluded that human performance and efficiency falls off after eight hours. This is why surgeons and ER doctors might do a few hours more, but in jobs where you must stay very sharp, or physically adept, eight hours is the average before things start to go haywire. You don't want that surgeon working on you to have been awake and on their feet for the past ten hours, and generally it is not allowed.
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 15, 2017 - 9:59pm
Mike Haluska, data and facts of history and economics prove that both the Soviet socialism of central planning of the economy and liberal or neoliberal capitalism have failed. Soviet socialism came to an end in the late 1980s, and neoliberal capitalism has brought dire consequences to all countries in the world, and particularly to the United States. The only model of society that has produced excellent results from the economic and social point of view is the Scandinavian social democracy that operates as a mixed economy with state regulation. Scandinavia is the cradle of the most egalitarian model that capitalism has ever known. Its origins date back to Sweden in the 1930s, more precisely 80 years ago, when social democratic hegemony took place in the Nordic government, initiating a series of social and economic reforms that would inaugurate a new type of capitalism as opposed to liberalism of the previous decades whose final act was the crisis of 1929. The so-called Scandinavian model was born, which would quickly cross Sweden's borders to become influential in northern Europe, but also an important reference in the formulation of heterodox (progressive) economic policies throughout the planet. The success of this model was due to the combination of a broad welfare state with rigid mechanisms of regulation of market forces, capable of putting the economy in a dynamic trajectory, at the same time that it reached the best indicators of well-being among capitalist countries. It is not by chance that the Scandinavian countries, in addition to having great economic and social successes, are leaders in HDI (Human Development Index) in the world.
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 15, 2017 - 10:15pm
Jeff Jackson, the technological advancement and its impacts on the world of work imposes the need to establish new rules for the work to be performed by humans in an environment with massive presence of robots on the production lines, as well as to redefine the systems of education. The secret to the future of work in a world with Artificial Intelligence lies in the adoption of new measures aimed at reducing working hours and qualifying the workforce, who should know how to use technology as a complement, a tool, and not as a substitute for your skills. It is the responsibility of education system planners to undertake a broad education revolution at all levels to qualify teachers and to structure teaching units to prepare students for a world of work where they will have to deal with intelligent machines. The curricula of educational units at all levels must be deeply restructured to achieve these goals. Countries such as Switzerland and Finland have already begun to actively consider this new reality and have begun a process of adapting their societies - which began by reformulating their educational systems, favoring the development of the ability to metacognition (human capacity to monitor and self-regulate cognitive processes, ie the human being's ability to be aware of his or her actions and thoughts), language proficiency (especially in English, because most human knowledge is registered in this language) and a curriculum based on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
Mike Haluska Added Apr 21, 2017 - 4:59pm
Fernando -
Despite their relative differences in size, population, etc., more people in Sweden (given the chance) would choose to live in America - especially the economically disadvantaged willing to work to improve themselves.  I have no doubt that strung out dope addicts incapable of or having no desire to support themselves prefer Sweden.
 
Sweden has been around for thousands of years longer than the USA.  In less than 200 years the US went from a backwoods agricultural colony to BY FAR the most prosperous, free nation in human history.  Sweden has the advantage of being a small, mono-cultural society.  The US is composed of millions of people from all over the world who left their homeland to escape tyranny, poverty, famine, etc.
 
But - far be it from me to hold you back.  Please feel free to immigrate to Sweden anytime you like.
Mike Haluska Added Apr 21, 2017 - 5:06pm
Fernando - Human Development Index???  Compiled by the UN??? 
 
This is the kind of intellectual mental masturbation that gets paid for by tax dollars of working people that really pisses us off.  Please - stop telling us how screwed up we are and how putting people like you in "charge of things" will make us all "equal and happy" in our Socialist Paradise.
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 23, 2017 - 7:47pm
Mike Haluska, your comments demonstrate ignorance about economy and society in Scandinavia. I suggest a better study of Scandinavia, especially since the 1930s when social democracy was implemented in Sweden, which later spread throughout the Nordic countries. In addition to having studied Scandinavian social democracy, I visited Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland 2 years ago for 3 months, contacting universities and parliaments. I suggest reading the World Hapiness Report 2013 (http://unsdsn.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/WorldHappinessReport2013_online.pdf) when you will find that among the 10 happiest countries in the world, 5 are in Scandinavia. These are: 1. Denmark; 2) Norway; 3) Switzerland; 4) Netherlands; 5) Sweden; 6) Canada; 7) Finland; (8) Austria; 9) Iceland; 10) Australia. United States is ranked 17th. If you doubt that the human development index is carried out by the UN, I suggest contacting the website http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/reading-between-averages-review-2016-undp-human-development-report.
Mike Haluska Added Apr 24, 2017 - 9:52am
Fernando - Instead of some bogus/rigged "poll" pre-designed to give the desired results of the anti-US United Nations, here's a litmus test that would show the TRUE preferences of people around the world:
 
If the United States issued a statement saying:
 
"The United States now welcomes any citizen of any foreign nation to come to the United States and become a full citizen within 30 days."
 
and Sweden and all the rest of the "Happier Nations" issued the exact same statement, which nation would receive the most immigrants???
Mike Haluska Added Apr 24, 2017 - 9:57am
Only an academic would even consider something like a "World Happiness Report" to be a legitimate document.  What irritates me the most is that tax dollars that could have been put to actual productive benefit (e.g. building new schools, disease research, etc.) are being frittered away on pseudo-science mental masturbation. 
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 24, 2017 - 11:31am
Mike Haluska, put forward more robust arguments to show that I am wrong to say that the Scandinavian countries are the happiest in the world. I maintain my view that the Scandinavian countries are the happiest in the world.
Mike Haluska Added Apr 24, 2017 - 11:46am
Fernando - this is a big problem with academics who should supposedly understand and practice the rules of logic.  You are putting for the theory - I am NEVER called upon to prove a negative!  For example:
 
A Catholic Priest says "God is real - prove me wrong" to an Atheist.  Logic states that it is NOT the responsibility to "prove there isn't a God" - it is the Priest's job to prove there is a God.
 
So stop with the "prove me wrong" pronouncements!  This tactic may work with undergraduate millennials but it won't with an Engineering graduate of Purdue University.
Fernando Alcoforado Added Apr 26, 2017 - 7:34am
Mike Haluska, when two individuals debate each other on a particular topic it is up to each of them to present arguments to convince the other that he is wrong. Just as I did not convince you, you did not convince me either.
Mike Haluska Added Apr 27, 2017 - 11:49am
Fernando - with all due respect, you can't use "prove me wrong" if you're the proponent of the idea.  My not "proving you wrong" doesn't mean that you are right.  OJ was found "Not Guilty" - that doesn't mean he was found "Innocent".