[ExI] retrainability of plebeians

Dagon Gmail dagonweb at gmail.com
Wed Apr 22 18:43:59 UTC 2009

2009/4/22 Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com>

> First, it's true what Rafal says about Marshal Idea.
> He has no brain.

Ahh right that would explain Oprah quotes him.

> He based one of his pieces, for example, on the
> hypothesis that a fast food joint could succumb
> to complete automation first by having the
> "superfluous" (Emlyn's term) job of manager
> replaced by a computer.
> Which totally demonstrated that he had no solid
> foundation about what managers do in fast food
> restaurants. They deal with the constant unexpected
> events, directing the lower labor to "attend to this",
> "attend to that". No---who'll be automated first are
> the people who do the most predictable jobs. His
> writings appear to be full of such misunderstanding.

I quote with nothing but politeness.  Red is my emphasis.

*Replacing all the Pilots*

  The Pace of Change It is hard to believe but true that the World Wide Web
did not exist 10 years ago. On November 11,
version 1.0 of Mosaic, the first Web Browser, became available on the
Internet. The Web was born on the day that Mosaic appeared. Think about
everything that has changed in those 10 years. No normal person had an
Internet connection in 1993. Today, more than 60 percent of U.S.
households<http://www.instat.com/pr/2000/is0001sp_pr.htm>have an
Internet connection. No one shopped on the Web, bought tickets on
the Web, read the news on the Web, hooked up with dates on the Web, blogged
on the Web, participated in auctions on the Web, looked up movie trailers or
reviews on the Web, traded or purchased music on the Web, used Instant
Messaging on the Web, etc. in 1993. Today these activities are taken
completely for granted. A tiny handful of people used email in 1993. Today
email is essential for both business and personal communication, with
trillions of messages sent every year. And The entire Internet Bubble came
and went on the stock market since 1993. Hundreds of billions of dollars
were invested and lost in new Internet companies. All in 10 years.

That pace of change seems fast, and it is, but it is not unusual in America.
Even 100 years ago things could change very quickly. The first Model T Ford,
for example, was sold in the 1909 model year, and in that first year only
10,000 were manufactured. By 1912 there were 3,500 Ford dealers selling 300,000
cars per year <http://www.aaca.org/history/cars_20.htm>. Just a few years
later, Ford was selling 2 million cars per year and there were over 100
companies competing with Ford. Even a century ago, a popular idea could
catch on and spread very quickly.

Robots will spread at the same remarkable rate throughout the job market.
Robots in the workplace will be a very popular idea because they will
eliminate labor costs. Pilots will be the first to go because pilots are
incredibly expensive and their jobs are largely automated already.

Let's say that, in 2015, one airline decides to completely automate the
cockpit and eliminate its pilots. Since pilots are expensive, that airline
will have a real price advantage over its competitors. That airline will
also have far more scheduling flexibility because it will not have to worry
about crew availability.

After that first airline makes the leap to the robotic cockpit, every
airline will do the same thing. Competitive pressure will leave the other
airlines with no choice. Southwest Airlines has shown us just how sensitive
the airline industry is to lower prices.

The complete elimination of pilots from the airline industry will take just
a few years. The 66,000 pilots in the Air Line Pilots
be out of work. These pilots are people who have spent thousands and
thousands of hours training in their chosen profession. They have high
salaries as well -- up to $250,000 per year is not uncommon for a senior
pilot flying commercial aircraft.

The economy could weather the loss of those 66,000 jobs. With an American
workforce of over 100 million employees, 66,000 people is a drop in the
bucket. We will all feel sorry for the pilots for a few minutes, but then we
will get over it because ticket prices will go down. The pilots will all
adapt by getting jobs at Wal-Mart or Target or McDonald's. This sort of
thing happens all the time in any capitalistic society.

The question is, will all the unemployed pilots be able to get jobs at
Wal-Mart or Target or McDonald's? The answer to that question is where
things get uncomfortable.

*Robots in Retailers*

In 2015, at about the same time that the airlines are laying off all of
their pilots, Wal-Mart or Target or some other large retailer will be
introducing a totally automated inventory management system. Every shelf
will be fitted with RFID tags and bar codes, allowing a mobile
pick-and-place robot to find the exact shelf location of every product in
the store. Every individual product in the warehouse will also be fitted
with an RFID tag and bar code, so the robot will be able to pick up and
identify every product that it needs to shelve. A relatively simple computer
vision system will allow the robot to stack items on the shelves. These
inventory management robots will operate 24-hours-a-day shuttling
merchandise from the back of the store onto the shelves as items are sold.
The robots will also constantly straighten the shelves and re-shelve
merchandise. All of the technology needed to do this is nearly in place

By 2015, every big box retailer will be using automated checkout lines.
Robotic help systems will guide shoppers in the stores. The automated
inventory management robots will allow the first retailer to lay off a huge
percentage of its employees. Competitive pressure will force Wal-mart,
K-Mart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, BJ's, Sam's Club, Toys R Us, Sears, J.C.
Penny's, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Max,
Staples, Office Depot, Kroger's, Winn-Dixie, Pet Depot and so on to adopt
the same robotic inventory systems in their stores. The entire transition
will happen in just five years or so. Any company that does not automate
will be at such a pricing disadvantage that it will go out of business. Ten
million unemployed workers dumped onto the job market over the course of
five years will have a profound effect on the unemployment statistics in the
United States.

The problem is that this same sort of thing will be happening in every
sector of the economy at a very rapid pace, dumping millions more unemployed
workers onto the job market at the same time. See Robotic
Nation<http://marshallbrain.com/robotic-nation.htm>for details.

*Creating New J*

  Rationalizations People who read Robotic
Nation<http://www.marshallbrain.com/robotic-nation.htm>had a variety
of rationalizations to explain why the coming wave of
intelligent robots will have no effect on employment in the U.S. Here are
some of the most common rationalizations:

   - *"We will never create robots that have vision, touch and hearing like
   humans do. There will never be robots working in McDonalds or
Wal-Mart."*This is no different from a person in 1900 saying "humans
will never fly".
   - *"People will not go to stores and restaurants staffed by robots.
   People need human interaction."* ATMs have replaced tellers for a
   majority of banking transactions, and automated gas pumps handle most
   gasoline purchases now. People love to use automated systems. It is also
   easy to imagine walking into a robotic restaurant where the robots, using
   facial recognition systems, actually greet you when you arrive, know exactly
   what you like and do not like, etc. The expreience in a robotic restaurant
   is likely to be much more personal and friendly than most restaurants are
   - *"Robots won't eliminate jobs, they will create more jobs. Backhoes and
   bulldozers replaced all the people who used to dig ditches, but then those
   ditch diggers got jobs building backhoes and were a lot better
off."*This article explains why that won't be the case -- robots will
be making
   the robots, not people.
   - *"Unemployed workers will riot, destroying the robots and taking back
   their jobs."* Part of the robotic nation will be a pervasive and
   extremely sensitive robot security force that will remove the word "riot"
   from our vocabulary.
   - *"We will move to a 20 hour work week and everyone will be
employed."*If that's going to happen, why doesn't it happen today? We
are moving in the
   opposite direction right now, with people in service sector jobs making so
   little money that they have to work two or three jobs. There is no economic
   reason for business owners to raise pay or shorten hours when tens of
   millions of people are unemployed. Supply and demand dictates that wages
   will fall, not rise.
   - *"Unemployed people will start their own businesses in massive
   numbers."* Unemployed people generally do not have the capital to start
   businesses, but even if they did the odds are against them. According to
   Robert Kiyosaki in the bestselling Rich Dad, Poor
   "The odds are against success: Nine out of 10 companies fail in five years.
   Of those that survive the first five years, nine out of every ten of those
   eventually fail, as well." That's a 1% chance of long-term success. If your
   business does not succeed, you are unemployed again.

When Ford started selling the Model T in 1909, the industrialized automotive
industry was born. This new industry eventually created millions of new

Why won't all the new companies that are making these robots create millions
of new jobs in 2015? Why won't these new jobs absorb all of the unemployed
pilots and service-sector employees? Think about it:

   - Will these millions of new robots create manufacturing jobs? Not in the
   United States. Robots will be assembling robots. Even if you assume that
   some people will be involved in assembling them, all of the assembly will
   take place in places like China, Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, etc. where
   manufacturing costs are far lower than they are in the U.S.
   - Will these millions of new robots create programming and engineering
   jobs? Not in the United States. U.S. corporations are in the process of
   moving the bulk of all programming and engineering jobs to places like
   India, Russia, China, etc. where the programmers and engineers cost a tenth
   as much as they do in the U.S.
   - Will the millions of new robots create jobs in sales? Not in the United
   States. Corporations ordering new robots will purchase their robots over the
   Web without any human intervention, in the same way that you can
order a Segway
   from Amazon<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00007EPJ6/ref=segway_tn_left/>today.
   - Will these millions of new robots create repair and servicing jobs? Not
   in the United States. When a robot needs repair, another robot will bundle
   it onto a pallet. A robotic forklift will place the pallet on a truck. The
   truck will drive to a repair facility. The facility will repair the robot
   with highly automated systems that require no human intervention or
   supervision. Human beings will not be repairing robots -- robots will.

The rise of the robotic nation
<http://marshallbrain.com/robotic-nation.htm>will not create new jobs
for people -- it will create jobs for robots.

In the past, automation has not had this effect. For example, before there
were backhoes there were men with shovels. A backhoe replaced a hundred men
with shovels. But new businesses and factories sprang up to manufacture the
backhoes, and those companies hired people -- many of them former ditch
diggers. All of these new businesses and factories tended to employ many of
the workers displaced by technology. It has never been a perfect system --
for example, the book The Grapes of
how bad things can get when a large segment of workers in the economy gets
displaced. But, ignoring short-term displacements like that, the economy has
generally absorbed every unemployed worker in the new businesses that get
created by advances in technology.

The unusual thing about the robotic revolution is that the robots will come
and displace millions of workers throughout the economy, but the robot
industry will create very few new jobs. Millions will be unemployed in
America, but there will be nothing for them to do.

Conventional wisdom says that the economy will respond to all of these
unemployed workers by creating new jobs for them. But look at our economy
today. For the past 40 years, the economy has been generating millions of
low-paying service sector jobs that create a large class of employees known
as the working poor<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0805063897>.
60% of the American workforce makes less than $14 per hour today
If the economy is going to be creating millions of high-paying, exciting,
fulfilling jobs for all of these displaced workers, it would be doing it
now. Why can't all of the Wal-Mart/Target/McDonald's/etc. employees who are
going to get displaced in 2015 step into their new, exciting, higher-paying
jobs right now, instead of waiting? It's because the economy tends not
create jobs like that in any sort of volume.

At this moment, instead of creating exciting new jobs, the economy is locked
in a race to the bottom. This race is marked by a workplace that
continuously creates lower-paying jobs instead of higher-paying ones.

*The Race to the Bottom*

The fast food industry provides a perfect demonstration of how the race to
the bottom works. Almost every working American employed by the fast food
industry is paid hourly, makes minimum wage or close to it, receives no
benefits, no vacation time and no sick time. Employee hours are tracked so
that no hourly employee works more than 40 hours a week, thereby avoiding
overtime pay. Schedules can be extremely choppy, sometimes requiring
employees to come in to work, go home and come back again during the same
day. The pay of the nation's 3.5 million fast food workers has been driven
as close to zero as is legally allowed.

But that is not low enough. The fast food industry wants to drive worker pay
even lower. The only way to do that is to eliminate the minimum wage. The
book Fast Food Nation<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0060938455>by
Eric Schlosser describes the trend:

   The fast food industry pays the minimum wage to a higher proportion of
   its workers than any other American industry. Consequently, a low minimum
   wage has long been a crucial part the fast food industry's business plan.
   Between 1968 and 1990, the years when the fast food chains expanded at their
   fastest rate, the real value of the U.S. minimum wage fell by almost 40
   percent. In the late 1990s, the real value of the U.S. minimum wage still
   remained about 27 percent lower than it was in the late 1960s. Nevertheless,
   the National Restaurant Association (NRA) has vehemently opposed any rise in
   the minimum wage at the federal, state or local level [minimum wage has been
   $5.15 since 1997 <http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0774473.html>]. About 60
   large fast food companies -- including Jack in the Box, Wendy's, Chevy's,
   and Red Lobster -- have backed Congressional legislation that would
   essentially eliminate the federal minimum wage by allowing states to
   disregard it. Pete Meersman, the president of the Colorado Restaurant
   Association, advocates creating a federal guest worker program to import
   low-wage foodservice workers from overseas.

   While the real value of the wages paid to restaurant workers has declined
   for the past three decades, the earnings of restaurant company executives
   have risen considerably. According to a 1997 survey in Nation's Restaurant
   News, the average corporate executive bonus was $131,000, an increase of 20
   percent over the previous year.

In this brief passage, you can see four different techniques that
corporations use in their race to the bottom:

   - They hunt in packs.
   - They work closely with Congress to modify laws for their own benefit,
   even when those modifications adversely affect millions of employees.
   - They use multiple angles of attack. They prevent minimum wage
   increases. They work on guest worker programs. And they work to eliminate
   the minimum wage.
   - The upper echelon in these companies, while lowering the pay of
   everyone else, raise their own pay.

Robots completely change the equation, because robots make the minimum wage
irrelevant. As robots become available, they will allow the fast food
industry to dump all the minimum wage workers. The executives will make even
more money, and who can blame them? We would all like to get bigger
paychecks. The goal of a business owner is to make more and more money, not
to create jobs or raise wages.

This is why robots will spread throughout the workforce with remarkable
speed. The same sensitivity to labor costs will cause the high-speed
replacement of employees in retail, construction, transportation,
entertainment, etc., all at approximately the same time. Over the next
decade or two, robots will begin releasing millions workers from their jobs.
The bad news is that there will be nowhere else for these workers to go.

In the first part of the 20th century, productivity gains translated into
higher pay and shorter hours for workers. In today's economy it is just the
opposite. Jobs at places like McDonald's and Wal-Mart, as well as places
like meat packing plants and factories, get fragmented into components that
can be performed by any warm body. "Any warm body" means a minimum wage
worker. This is what the race to the bottom is all about -- the de-skilling
of the workplace has been a fundamental theme of the American job market for
the last century. It allows the easy replacement of low-skill workers (e.g.
- turnover in the fast food industry is 300 to 400 percent), which means the
lowest wages possible. So the U.S. economy is creating millions of minimum
wage jobs, and minimum wage jobs are perfect for replacement by robots. The
pace of that replacement will be startling to all of us.

Time for some alarmist websites that some people here will be able to
discount by saying they alarmist or irrelevant.
* http://www.marshallbrain.com/robots-in-2015.htm
* http://www.silverbearcafe.com/private/04.09/pandemonium.html
* http://www.newscientist.com/data/images/archive/2605/26051202.jpg
* http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8002178.stm
* http://www.mobilerobots.com/
* http://www.ccsrobotics.com/
* http://www.activrobots.com/ROBOTS/patrolbot.html
* http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/taleb09/taleb09_index.html
* http://www.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/papers/Capitalism%20Genes.pdf
* http://money.cnn.com/2009/04/14/pf/taxes/_federal_tax_revenue/index.htm
* http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/04/population-of-e.html

>  > ### But - in the real world technology will
> > > have unprecedented effects. We had mass
>> > migrations of millions (in the US) based
> > > on cotton picking machines.
>> Amazing, you spasm back in faith based thinking.
>> YES when millions of blacks became superfluous
> > in the US south they had to leave or face severe
> > consequences.
> No. They were merely *attracted* by better working
> conditions elsewhere.

That's a keen sense of empathy to say the least - the fact they traded
genocide by a racist
population for squallor in ghettoes is your humane tip of the hat for ex
slaves and their plight?

Many did die,
> What? Look at the growth of the American black
> population. All during the last two centuries,
> there have been far more per-capita black births
> than white births. IN colonial times, blacks
> constituted about 1 in 4. Then thanks to huge
> immigration of whites from Europe, they declined
> to as little as 10% of the population.
> But black people are now at 13 or 14 percent,
> still despite a huge rise in the Hispanic and
> Asian populations. They're approaching the same
> 1 in 4 ratio of Colonial times.

What point are you trying to make? We both know that people living in abject
poverty breed like
rabbits, with very few historical exceptions. So I claim, black former
slaves died under miserable
conditions, traded in slavery for despair in a ghetto, and your come back is
"yes but they at
least got to fuck a lot, and got many babies". What ARE you trying to say

>  but many more ended up in squallor in ghettoes
>> and poverty. Many moved north, to find jobs and
> > found miserable factory jobs.
> It beat what was available where they came from!

Great. Marvelous. Absolutely stupendous. While people all around them live
better, by any
standard, historical or contextual, the blacks were slaves, were tortured
routinely, and then,
were made redundant - so they made a mass migrations that was probably all
one giant
picnic, and then ended up in ghettoes - surrounded by people that were all
better off, again.
And then you go and say,  "damn, lucky them".

One would (and I say this cautiously since my accusations have been heated
in earlier\
posts) almost get the nagging feeling you have markedly different
expectations for "those
kind of people". Am I making a big leap here? Damn, that sure was
tendentious and
suspsicious. Advice - do not make the same casual statements about jews,
ever as those
tend to bite back when you make the same kind of ahhh..... generalized
about their past ordeals. Which I again phrase amazingly cautious.

> especially when they still live in the projects.
> The Projects were created by government bureaucrats
> who took evolutionarily developed neighborhoods
> and replaced them (forcefully) with monstrosities
> that seem to have been *designed* to foster lack
> of community among the residents. Most of the projects
> have been torn down, thank goodness.

Again you retort with a perception that is in large part opinion, drawn out
of context,
and consistently prejudicial against big government. I agree - the design of
was miserable, even under the circumstances. But who could have done a
job? And who designed these ? A comitteee attributing funds? An architect?
A mayor? A civil engineer? A Planner?

Or.... perhaps you are indeed right and these
guys<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFlFIG22Y9E&feature=related>ARE to
blame for everything
including dubious use of lycra <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFplu2wY0Y0>.

>    But even if you can retrain the labor reserves,
> > the question is on how fast you can retrain,
>> again a topic which you conveniently scurry
> > away from.  Do you really have the near-papal
>> faith that markets can re-integrate, without
> > massive coercion, squallor, statism, trauma
>> millions of people in under one or a few decade?
> The Irish in American took about six generations
> to develop from (statistically speaking) lazy,
> drunk, and extremely combative types into
> ordinary Americans. They're incomes are at par.

Be cautious with those contortions, you might sprain a muscle.
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