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Future Jobs

Written By: - Date published: 9:33 am, September 29th, 2015 - 14 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, economy, employment, jobs - Tags:

I’m going to get to reviewing Labour’s next 3 Future of Work papers, honest.

But in the meantime, I have something to share from Andrew McAfee.

Just a great Ted Talk on YouTube.

He’s looking at the opportunities and problems that technology is bringing us.  And he presents it very well.

Good anecdotes about Henry Ford 2 and unionist Walter Ruther – “Walter, how are you going to get these robots to pay union dues?” “Hey Henry, how are you going to get them to buy cars?”

He looks at the declining return to workers and the middle class over the last 15 years, with median income going down.  He looks at the split between stereotypical “Ted” – educated, professional, creative freed from drudge work to really express themselves – and “Bill”, a labourer, whose job is going to disappear if it hasn’t already. Bill is already working less, having more unhappy marriages and more likely to be in prison than he was a couple of decades back.

The answers: much better education aimed at creativity, invest in infrastructure, and something like a guaranteed minimum income.

But give it a watch, there’s much more in there.  It’s not claiming to have all the answers, but it’s a discussion we need to be having – and I’m glad Labour are interested in this stuff with their Future of Work Commission.

14 comments on “Future Jobs”

  1. Detrie 1

    Great video. Another TED talk a while back shown below that expanded upon the slow elimination of the middle [buying] class and growing inequality.

    No doubt new technology can certainly help the rich more than the growing poor. But as both speakers say, if you are in the business of producing goods, if the potential middle class buyers are disappearing through lack of jobs or income, then it’s all for nothing… A pity the plutocrats and industry leaders can’t see this simple truth. Henry Ford did.

  2. maui 2

    But computers were supposed to leave us with the paperless office and out of work. Instead we’re working longer hours and I personally can’t see much evidence of technology taking peoples jobs. I think this is just american hype. Showing that we could keep growing the economy exponentially with the use of robots denies peak oil and all the other resource problems were having. A robot labourer would be the worst worker out there, give anyone a spade and they would make it look silly.

    • RedLogix 2.1

      As a professional automation engineer I’d advise that the vast majority of automation already in existence doesn’t look anything like a robot. That’s 99.99% of it.

      The conventional idea most people have of a robot is a less than useful anthropomorphism. And no you wouldn’t use one to dig a hole.

      But you might want to consider this:

      http://www.asirobots.com/products/excavator/

    • David 2.2

      “I personally can’t see much evidence of technology taking peoples jobs”

      You clearly are not looking very hard. It’s happening everywhere from accounting to farm sheds. Hell, many manufacturing jobs are gone via automation, and the days of manufacturing being a source of mass employment are long gone.

      “A robot labourer would be the worst worker out there, give anyone a spade and they would make it look silly.”

      Spend some time on a mine site where the excavators and haul trucks are all automated.

      • lprent 2.2.1

        The most obvious recent (at least for a earth sciences major) historical example is the abrupt disappearance of almost all clerical staff from the 1950s to the present. Jobs all directly killed by computing machines.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.3

      But computers were supposed to leave us with the paperless office and out of work. Instead we’re working longer hours and I personally can’t see much evidence of technology taking peoples jobs.

      I posted this one a couple of days ago but it fits here:

      This is not the story we are told. Instead we read story after story like this latest one from the Guardian, claiming that 140 years of job creation show that jobs will always be created. And yet the ongoing trend of such articles is to mostly ignore the potentially unnecessary nature of the jobs themselves, the level of skill involved to perform them, and the lower pay they can command than the jobs they are replacing. Take for example the following excerpt:

      Their conclusion is unremittingly cheerful: rather than destroying jobs, technology has been a “great job-creating machine”. Findings by Deloitte such as a fourfold rise in bar staff since the 1950s or a surge in the number of hairdressers this century suggest to the authors that technology has increased spending power, therefore creating new demand and new jobs.

      So there’s no need to worry about technological unemployment, because there will always be a need for more bar-backs and haircuts? Is that bar-back better off no longer having a manufacturing job paying $40,000 per year and instead having a job paying $20,000 per year in the service industry? Is that an important job to the human species, bringing empty glasses from Point A to Point B? Is the job entirely voluntary or done out of need for income? And is this a job that just can’t possibly be done by a machine, or outright eliminated? Ever? Is the service industry really safe?

      So, what’s actually happening are that the machines are taking the interesting, well paid jobs, and we’re having to make do with the low paid Bullshit jobs and even those will be going away over the next few years.

      Showing that we could keep growing the economy exponentially with the use of robots denies peak oil and all the other resource problems were having.

      Showing that we could keep growing the economy exponentially with the use of robots denies peak oil and all the other resource problems were having.
      Robots don’t have anything to do with Peak Oil because we don’t need oil to run robots – just electricity and that can be (and should be) produced by renewable means. The only thing that’s affected by Peak Oil is cars and we need to get rid of those anyway so as to try and stave off catastrophic climate change.

      A robot labourer would be the worst worker out there, give anyone a spade and they would make it look silly.

      Don’t kid yourself. In a few years an automatic digging machine really will dig the hole faster and more accurately than a human and it won’t cut the cables/water mains/sewers while it does it. Give it another few years and that digging machine will even drive itself to the digging site.

      • maui 2.3.1

        I have a problem with the automated digging machine even though it’s not literally fossil fuel powered, it’s still made up of complex computing and electrical components that all require fossil fuels to be made in offshore factories. We would also be relying on there being stable global trade for those parts to be made and then shipped here, and then there’s the issue of replacement parts being available in a post-carbon world.

        There’s also the issue of declining complexity in societies that have used up their fuel sources. We’ve clearly hit the downhill slide (reaching peak oil), it’s just hard to see technology sliding down at this point, but I think it has to soon.

        • Draco T Bastard 2.3.1.1

          it’s still made up of complex computing and electrical components that all require fossil fuels to be made in offshore factories.

          No they don’t. Nothing, quite literally nothing, requires fossil fuels to be made. And if we bothered with the investment we could easily make all of those parts here for the same costs as they’re made elsewhere. In fact, it would cost less as we have somewhat higher environmental protections.

          • maui 2.3.1.1.1

            I must have missed the boat somewhere then.. I thought that most consumeable products that our economy thrives on are made using large amounts of energy sourced from oil.

            • Draco T Bastard 2.3.1.1.1.1

              I thought that most consumeable products that our economy thrives on are made using large amounts of energy sourced from oil.

              That doesn’t mean that they have to be. Renewably generated energy works exactly the same way and we can produce enough power from renewables to replace fossil fuels. For some strange reason, despite renewables always being cheaper than fossil fuels, we aren’t.

  3. RedLogix 3

    I read this alternative view yesterday:

    In an influential paper this month, Morgan Stanley economists Charles Goodhart, Manoj Pradhan and Pratyancha Pardeshi argue that we are on the verge of a global turnaround in wages. For the past 30 years, business profits have surged on the back of a demographic glut of labour: the babyboomers of the west augmented by the newly urbanised workforce of the global south, plus millions of women brought into the labour force.

    Now the catch-up effects of urbanisation will peter out, they say – and, at the same time, the falling birth rate will create a shortage of labour, triggering a rise in the bargaining power – and wages –of workers. That, in turn, will trigger the rollout of innovations such as McDonald’s touchscreens across the economy. Capital and labour will rebalance; the surge in business-profit rates that happened after 1989 will subside; and Thomas Piketty’s dire predictions about 21st century inequality will be disproved.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/27/the-era-of-cheap-labour-is-over

    I suspect the authors are a tad optimistic about how easily global capital will relinquish power in the face of this trend – but there is still a valid point in here.

  4. Gabby 4

    There’s plenty of cheap labour on the way from the Middle East and Africa.

  5. Bill 5

    There is no ‘Future of Work’

    Yes, automation will do away with low pay/low skill jobs. No, people won’t suddenly up and become tech whizzies or a part of the bloated middle management workplace bureaucracy.

    People will be shed from the economy – excluded. Remember the ‘good old days’ of the 60s and 70s when it was only large numbers of black people living on that continent of Africa that scrabbled around in the dirt? Okay, that’s not true. The same was true for many Asians and others, but you get my point. That’s our future.

    It’s going to be ‘white’ and right here. It’s already happening. Give it another few decades and if you don’t have private health cover here in NZ – then hey. And if you didn’t somehow manage to hang on in there in some reasonably well paying career that meant you could send your kids to school – then hey.

    And because ‘falling revenue’ – no welfare state to be speaking of and an ever more rapacious yet distant market in terms of providing affordable products (food etc) to ever increasing numbers of us.

    Sometimes I’m glad I’m getting on….

  6. millsy 6

    To be perfectly honest, I think in about 10-20 years time, most of use will find employment cleaning up after the rich (and upper-middle classes). ie domestic service.

    Seeing as most of the jobs that provided people with a spring board to the middle class have been automated or shipped offshore, we will probably end up as maids and butlers to the 1%.

    Cactus Kate a few years ago suggested that this should happen, only each household imports a filipino maid/housekeeper.

    If you look at it, our young people are being steered towards trades, hospo, cleaning etc. Perfect for serving the 1%.

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