The future of work, income

Written By: - Date published: 9:22 am, November 1st, 2014 - 188 comments
Categories: economy, employment, jobs, quality of life - Tags: , , , ,

The world is changing, and thanks to technology the changes are coming faster and faster. We probably don’t spend enough time thinking about the consequences.

This short (15 minute) documentary, “Humans Need Not Apply” is a real eye opener (hat tip to my MP David Clark). Watch it some time:

I agree with Clark’s conclusion, “Longer term, serious changes will need to be made to our society”. This will include a universal basic income. When there is no (or very little) “work” available, people will need new ways to live, and new ways to define and value themselves.

188 comments on “The future of work, income”

  1. Manuka - Ancient Order of Rawsharks 1

    Even the vid narrator may have been a bot…

  2. RedBaronCV 2

    So if people are not working how do they pay for that coffee, shop at the bot run supermarket – we don’t want UBI to be all that alot of people get.

    • KJT 2.1

      How do they find the money to buy the robots?

      If no one except a few at the top are earning enough to survive.

      Robots do not buy flat screen TV’s and I-crap.

      Successful economies share the benefits of the robots productivity in wages and welfare. Germany, for example.

      Always remember the Aussie boat builder.
      His first statement was ” moving production to Thailand cut his labour costs in half”.

      His next one was bemoaning the fact that sales were dropping.

      The obvious connection, that robots, sorry Thai workers, on less than $200 a week, do not buy half million dollar catamarans didn’t seem to occur to him..

      Capitalism cannot work if you impoverish a large proportion of the population and accumulate resources in the hands of a very few families (Dynasties).

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        Successful economies share the benefits of the robots productivity in wages and welfare.

        IMO, a successful society realises that the purpose of the economy is to ensure that no one is in poverty while having access to everything that the society produces. That it’s not there to make a few people rich. Unfortunately, our present socio-economic system is designed around the latter.

        Capitalism cannot work if you impoverish a large proportion of the population and accumulate resources in the hands of a very few families (Dynasties).

        The last 5000 years of history shows that capitalism cannot work.

  3. Coffee Connoisseur 3

    Systems analyst for 20 years. Inadvertantly making people redundant for 20 years. Thats me. Automation could do away with 60% (probably more) of the jobs we currently have right now i.e. today.
    There are solutions and ones that would provide most people a far better quality of life than they have now. It requires a fundamental change in the way people and government think about the problems we face as a society to really solve them. Try aiming for maximum unemployment rather than minimum unemployment. Try setting up the system without needing redistribution of wealth (either directly as the left does or indirectly as the right does). Try designing a system around meeting the needs and wants of all individuals rather than just a select few. Try getting your head around transitioning over a couple of generations from the current paradigm of ownership to a new one of usership. i.e. the right to use the things you want or need to.
    Try getting your head around zero taxes.
    Try getting your head around a 3 day working week and a 4 day week end.
    Try getting your head around living in a society that has the goal of actively automating jobs and freeing people from having to work.
    Try getting your head around using science and tecnical expertise in the relevant field to determine the best way of solving the problems that we face as a society rather than elected officials with all too often little to no expertise at all.
    Try getting your head around a system that designs products to last and when they do finally break can be refurbished using the minimum of resources.
    Try getting your head around a system with no Profit Motive or Planned Obsolescence.
    Try getting your head around poverty no longer existing.

    Welcome to the Resource Based Economy.
    How we get there starts with a conversation and an acceptance that our current system fails more and more people every year that we continue with it.

    At what point do we seriously start a conversation about alternatives.

    • RedBaronCV 3.1

      Yes we need the conversation so that automation benefits all –

    • Tracey 3.2

      thanks for this, damned thought provoking.

      one barrier is the age and conservatism of some employers. for example, wanting staff from nine to five cos its always worked that way, rather than rejigging days so peolle can work three 10 hour days

    • karol 3.3

      Some very good think points, CC.

      There still remains the problem of how such a focus will be brought about and maintained.

      Try getting your head around using science and tecnical expertise in the relevant field to determine the best way of solving the problems that we face as a society rather than elected officials with all too often little to no expertise at all.

      Except that, while scientific method is pretty much objective, someone still needs to make the decision about which problems to solve is made by people. And people will choose their priorities based on their political and cultural assumptions. Also, the means of achieving the selected solutions will also run into issues of political and cultural values:

      e.g.: should they use fossil fuels of renewables? Will they divert resources from home and school building and maintenance, to build transport infrastructure? etc.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.3.1

        Will they divert resources from home and school building and maintenance, to build transport infrastructure?

        That would be a problem if we didn’t have so much unemployment. Of course, we have so much unemployment now because the corporate sector wants to keep wages down.

        That really is one part of thinking about the economy in terms of resources that is massively different from thinking about it in terms of money. That difference is why I say that the average run of the mill economist wouldn’t recognise an economy if the tripped over one, which they do, regularly.

        • karol 3.3.1.1

          That really avoids my main point. How will robots know which resources to use and for what?

          Ultimately technologies are only as good (for society or anything else) as the people who design and maintain them.

          Or do you think that artificial intelligence, and/or technological experts will be running society for us?

          In reference to CC’s lines:

          Try getting your head around using science and tecnical expertise in the relevant field to determine the best way of solving the problems that we face as a society rather than elected officials with all too often little to no expertise at all

          • Draco T Bastard 3.3.1.1.1

            And my response to that statement from CC:

            A technocracy isn’t any better than any other dictatorship.

            I tend to believe that the use of the country’s resources be decided by vote. Science can inform us what those resources are and computers can help us keep track of them but the community decides on how they’re used – not rich people, not computers and not government.

    • weka 3.4

      “Automation could do away with 60% (probably more) of the jobs we currently have right now i.e. today.”

      Got a citation for that? I’m finding it a bit hard to believe.

      (when people talk about the glory of automation I think of those horrible self cleaning public toilets. Whoever invented those, and whoever thought it was a good idea to install them, should be taken out the back and shot).

      Also, unless you can make your argument in the context of Peak Oil and a low/zero carbon/CC world, it’s all a bit academic isn’t it?

      • Draco T Bastard 3.4.1

        http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/

        In the latest (Moving Forward) they point out that 75% of today’s jobs could be done with today’s technology.

        Also, unless you can make your argument in the context of Peak Oil and a low/zero carbon/CC world, it’s all a bit academic isn’t it?

        Addressed in Moving Forward as well. Their end result is tight, compact cities with their own vertical farms and manufacturies all of which are powered by renewable energy and enough work for 2 to 3% of the population. And, yes, they’ve done the sums – physically it can be done. What stopping us is the desire by some for them to be richer than others.

        • weka 3.4.1.1

          sorry I need something I can read that doesn’t take up too much BB data.

          • Draco T Bastard 3.4.1.1.1

            Try this:

            The Venus project

            • weka 3.4.1.1.1.1

              I can’t see anything on that page that is a citation for 75% of jobs being able to be replaced with automation.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Well, then, watch the movie. Read some of the other links that I’ve posted over the last few months on automation.

                • TheContrarian

                  Wow, really? Your linking to the Zeitgeist movies?

                  Isn’t that just an intellectual version of Rick Rolling someone?

                  This reminds me of that time you tried to pretend you had no idea who Jaques Fresco was despite obviously knowing who he was.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Isn’t that just an intellectual version of Rick Rolling someone?

                    Only if, like you, the person is an intellectual zombie.

                    This reminds me of that time you tried to pretend you had no idea who Jaques Fresco was despite obviously knowing who he was.

                    As I take no note of people names (I consider them unimportant) it’s entirely possible I didn’t.

                    • TheContrarian

                      An intellectual zombie? Says the guy linking to Zeitgeist which vapid in its intellectual under pinnings.

                      And what rubbish re: Fresco. Given he was the primary focus of one of the movies as well as the driving force behind the Venus Project I call bullshit. You pretended to have no idea who he was.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      /facepalm

      • RedLogix 3.4.2

        Got a citation for that? I’m finding it a bit hard to believe.

        No citation – but as a professional automation engineer with over 35 years experience I think that number is a low-ball.

        The catch is in the last phrase however “of the jobs we currently have right now”. It’s my observation that one of the direct effects of automation is to free up people to do other things that previously we could not afford to do. Most jobs that exist today did not exist in my grandfathers lifetime.

        Another way of looking at this is; that we pay people to do what we value them to do – and therefore unemployment is really nothing more than a poverty of values.

        • weka 3.4.2.1

          “No citation – but as a professional automation engineer with over 35 years experience I think that number is a low-ball.”

          Well without a research based citation we’re just talking different observations and theories right? Willing to bet that unpaid work hasn’t been taken into account too.

          I get why the theory is attractive, but it smacks of other ones like how computers would do away with paper, or ebooks would replace physical books, or that tech would replace labouring. All those things have had obvious impacts, but didn’t bear out the extent of their predictions.

          Another reason I want a citation is because I think looking at it in real world terms and pointing to specific examples and why they won’t actually work would be useful. I’ve already given the example of self cleaning toilets that got rolled out in NZ. They’re money saving at the expense of quality and human needs.

          “Most jobs that exist today did not exist in my grandfathers lifetime.”

          Not according to the narrator of the video. He says most of them existed (albeit in different forms). He’s even got a list at 13:23

          • Draco T Bastard 3.4.2.1.1

            I’ve already given the example of self cleaning toilets that got rolled out in NZ. They’re money saving at the expense of quality and human needs.

            And they’re getting better. if they were designed today they’d be different beasts and you’d probably be claiming how great they are. It’s amazing what a difference 20 years can make.

            • karol 3.4.2.1.1.1

              Technology has also brought us surveillance systems that enable employers to monitor every minute of a worker’s day, and the ability to check their non-work activities; the ability for state authorities to monitor all the activities of those opposed to a government; technologies, that when they break down, plummet workers back into the pre-digital age.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Technology has also brought us surveillance systems that enable employers to monitor every minute of a worker’s day, and the ability to check their non-work activities; the ability for state authorities to monitor all the activities of those opposed to a government;

                So we ensure that those abilities are being used for the people rather than against them. That’s why we, supposedly, live in a democracy.

                technologies, that when they break down, plummet workers back into the pre-digital age.

                Oh noes, people actually had to do something other than sit on a PC for half a day.

                • karol

                  Thus it all comes back to the people who decide how the technologies are used.

                  • Coffee Connoissuer

                    Yes it does and it should. If you go through the exercise of applying systems analysis to the system then that is the sort of system you will end up with.
                    The reason for this is that the first question is.. who or what is the system for.. everything else comes from the answer to that question.

            • weka 3.4.2.1.1.2

              “And they’re getting better. if they were designed today they’d be different beasts and you’d probably be claiming how great they are. It’s amazing what a difference 20 years can make.”

              that’s theory rather than reality again. Didn’t the video narrator make a point of automation replacing humans, where automation did a better job? Just saying that it’s not as clear cut as was presented.

              • Coffee Connoisseur

                whether its clear cut or not unfortunately doesn’t matter. Regardless automation is happening all around us. The technology exists to replace man in thousands of roles and it is only a matter of time before it does for many. This is only a problem if we don’t first change our thinking and then our current system.

                We don’t need to go through trial and error or big political battles over this (although I’m sure there will be many) as Structured systems analysis can be used to determine the system that we should have for mankind. It all comes back to mans needs and wants and designing a system around meeting them.

                • karol

                  And who designs the structured system of analysis?

                  Will it be white, rich males who build the system in their image, according to what they decide are human needs?

                  And what about life beyond basic human needs?

                  People with no work responsibilities will be doing what? Participating in creative arts, playing sports, doing self-designed research? And then who would decide how much of society’s resources are used for such activities, and by whom?

                  • Coffee Connoissuer

                    Karol structured systems analysis is a discipline within the roles of systems and business analysis in IT. It is used to solve many problems that exist in business/govt departments/non profits. In fact I prefer the term ‘Pure’ Systems Analysis.

                    It is based on identifying the true requirements of the system in question. and can be applied to any system. It is also very useful in determining the root cause of a problem (or many problems)

                    Often a ‘green fields’ approach can be used and then the outcome of that compared to the system you are dealing with. The differences are where the problems lie.

                    “Will it be white, rich males who build the system in their image, according to what they decide are human needs?”
                    Sorry Karol this doesn’t make sense in the context of Systems Analysis. Human needs (and wants) are Human needs period.
                    Think food, clean water, a home, appropriate clothing, clean air.
                    But Humans have wants and desires and this would also need to be incorporated into the equation.
                    Resources can be in abundance if used more efficiently and with better design than they are now.
                    Consider that everything currently is driven by price and price or cost of materials often dictates quality. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

                    “People with no work responsibilities will be doing what? Participating in creative arts, playing sports, doing self-designed research?”
                    People with no work responsibilities will be doing whatever they want to. I imagine many will get into sport, creative arts and self designed research.

                    “And then who would decide how much of society’s resources are used for such activities, and by whom?”
                    That would be up to society to determine.
                    But consider that if the system should be for everyone, everyone has needs and wants. As such the system should have the goal of enabling peoples needs and wants to be met in the most efficient way possible.

                    That said what a person says they want may not be what they actually want nor may it be the best way to deliver it.
                    Example Persons x y &z say they want a lawnmower. On the face of it The system needs to deliver 3 lawnmowers. The actual true requirement is that x y & z simply want their lawns mowed. The best way to deliver that outcome is to a degree up to society but bear in mind that when your sewerage system is blocked you don’t call society, you call a plumber.

                    The best outcomes under a system designed to meet the needs and wants of mankind will come from the experts in the relevant fields.

          • RedLogix 3.4.2.1.2

            @weka

            I guess the difference in our perceptions is that you are looking pragmatically at what current practise is, while I’m making an estimate based on what I know the potential of the engineering is at present.

            I agree there is a real gap between what engineers could do – and what is being done. But no-one should assume that is a situation that won’t change fairly fast.

            • weka 3.4.2.1.2.1

              I agree things will change rapidly. But I don’t think the difference in thinking is what you suggest. I’m extrapolating from theories, based on what has happened in the past with human endeavours, but I’m looking forward (ie tech being developed and how it’s likely to play out).

              Bear in mind that tech wise, I’m always waiting for the promised thing ahead of time, and it usually disappoints. I wanted TV on demand ten or fifteen years ago, where is it? Caught up in real world issues of copyright and capitalism. So let’s say that the market will try and replace people with machines. All I’m saying is that we’re actually reasonably crap at following through on such predictions.

              Even with things that should have more lattitude re capitalism, we often disappoint. One of the very obvious general tech examples is the human genome project. Remember all the promises around that? What’s actually happened instead?

              • RedLogix

                The human genome project can be more or less compared to where quantum mechanics was around the 1920’s. It’s a science still emerging from it’s infancy. It took another 30 years before the transistor was invented (the single most important technical child of quantum mechanics). The life sciences remain an incredibly fertile and dynamic field of study and I don’t think we’ve seen anything yet.

                I agree with you however that we are reasonably crap at making detailed predictions. For instance we will never tootle about town like the Jetsons; the energy densities and consumptions never made sense. Predictions based on wrong physical and social premises never stack up.

                On the other hand we are not always wrong either. Vernor Vinge’s The Peace War came remarkably close to describing a highly plausible post-apocalyptic world that contains many features of JMG’s Long Descent society, while maintaining a very low-energy, high-tech “Tinker” culture. Remarkably while he wrote it in 1985 many of the specifically tech inventions he used in the plot have since become realities. It helps I think that the man is a Professor of Mathematics at SanDiego.

                https://www.worldswithoutend.com/novel.asp?ID=371

              • karol

                And the paperless office?

                Well we kind of have it in the form of overloaded work email accounts. and hard drives. I only work a couple of days a week, and a significant amount of that time goes in to sifting through the emails that pile up between my work days – even with auto rules set to filter out the stuff that is really not relevant to me. And then I need to watch that my mailbox doesn’t get overloaded.

                • KJT

                  Imagine if the same workload was on paper.

                  I worked in a hardware store, as a holiday job, at high school, A whole storeroom full of old paperwork and often 10 minutes or more writing down stuff on an invoice.

                  I won’t even get into doing ship stability and stress calculations before computers.

                  • karol

                    Yes. Some things become easier. The time freed up gets shifted to other duties.

                    And it needs people managing the software that we use – constantly updating it, upskilling staff, etc.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      The time freed up gets shifted to other duties.

                      And that is the true purpose of higher productivity.

                    • KJT

                      Yes. A lot of my time now involves keeping computers working. 90% of the problems caused by the person sitting in front of the computer, but even that is reducing.

                      Computers update themselves now, a job which used to occupy several hours a week.

                      Except for Apple ones. The latest update has caused a myriad of issues.

                      I agree Teaching has got noticeably harder as, like most jobs, the overpaid management drones demand more bits of paper to justify their exorbitant salaries.

                • weka

                  Karol, I agree computing has reduced paper in some ways, but the prediction was that it would create paperless workplaces. How many have actually achived that, vs the places where paper use actually increased with the proliferation of printers and printer technology. My point wasn’t that the the predictions are false, but that they usually fail to live up the promise. That’s why I look at many figures sceptically eg that 60% of jobs can be replaced with automation.

              • KJT

                I would go further and say that, with present technology every job I can think off, except for ones that require a human emotional connection, such as Teachers, Carers and Retail staff, can be done by machines. (Though I wonder at even that, when you see people so attached to smartphones).

                We will still need nurses, but most of any Doctors job can be done by an expert system.

                Fortunately what has saved my present job is the complexity and cost of the machines that could do what I do. That may change in the future, as well.

                Even repairing the machines will reduce, if we stop manufacturing for planned obsolescence.

                One of my issues with those that say we need to teach children to code, is that, the need for code will become redundant as expert systems will code themselves, after having a conversation with the person who wants the program.
                More accurately than a human.

                • karol

                  Ah. Well, I guess the area one works in must result in a slightly different perspective on this.

                  Most of my worklife has necessarily involved quite a lot of person-to-person contact. Especially the decades spent teaching.

                  • KJT

                    My job does involve a lot of interaction with people, but if they are replaced by machines?

                    I have been High school Teaching in the past so I think I get your viewpoint.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  We will still need nurses, but most of any Doctors job can be done by an expert system.

                  Yep, won’t be long till you don’t go to the GP at all and the diagnosis will be better because the machine will have access to a lot more information.

                  • weka

                    except that many GPs will tell you that a big part of their job is the face to face contact and the listening/interaction. The switched on ones will acknowledge the value of the placebo effect. Will be interesting to see how much of the placebo effect continues with automated diagnosing and prescribing (I’d expect some, to the degree to which people trust the machines and system), but there will always be the need to human to human contact.

                    Can’t imagine too many people being happy with a machine taking bloods, giving a cervical exam, talking about grief triggered depression etc.

                  • Ergo Robertina

                    I agree with weka’s points.
                    Machines are not about to replace doctors Draco. On the contrary, the challenge for health systems is trying to garner the resources for longer consultation times, with real doctors, because of the considerable and increasingly acknowledged therapeutic benefit of talking and listening.
                    Technological diagnostic tools will advance alongside, but won’t do away with doctors and nurses, and will be more and more rationed because of cost.
                    The health system has been slow to adopt even basic seeming things like videolinking doctors between large centres and rural areas; your expectation of it not being ‘long’ until machines dole out diagnoses and prescriptions is wildly out of kilter with reality.
                    And it was yesterday I watched the vid, but the narrator bot said something like ‘the economy always wins, workers always lose’ (something I thought would garner more discussion, actually), but unions like our senior docs’ have maintained power; the profession plays a societal role (ideally) in advocacy, ethics, and public health.

                • weka

                  KJT, I started a new sub thread here in response to your comment

                  The future of work, income

        • BassGuy 3.4.2.2

          Just
          a thought
          to contribute something to your estimation.

          I wonder how long until we see it here?

          I could completely automate my job. A little shell script, some rules for others to follow, and a not particularly specialised piece of software (could be another script) and I’d be unemployed. Automation already exists for other key parts of the business (and is used heavily by our upmarket competitors, we fill a niche role so don’t yet). The primary reason we haven’t automated my role is that it would cost money, and spending money is something we just don’t do.

          Our sales team are borderline luddites who can’t even put out their paperwork in a consistent format. The paperwork that we require could be replaced by a database with a single button to collate and print – not that it even needs printed. It could be emailed to the people who need to know.

          Not that I’m trying to talk myself out of a job, it’s more that my small workplace could replace twenty man-hours with just a little planning and a few short hours by someone with an InfoSci degree.

    • trendy lefty 3.5

      I like working

      • weka 3.5.1

        don’t worry, there will still be plenty of things to do. The issue is how will people have an income if the economy doesn’t need labour.

        • Draco T Bastard 3.5.1.1

          Why do people need an income if the economy can provide everything that they need and want?

          • weka 3.5.1.1.1

            they don’t. I was just pointing out we haven’t solved that one as a society yet, and that that is the issue, not potential enforced idleness.

            • Draco T Bastard 3.5.1.1.1.1

              So the issue to solve is actually how do we get rid of money?

              • weka

                One of the issues 🙂 Paradigm shifting large populations is probably an important one too.

              • Coffee Connoisseur

                I used to think that this concept was something that too much for even a mainstream political blog such as the Standard. I am glad to see it is not.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.6

      Try getting your head around zero taxes.

      Try getting your head around not having money at all because it will be redundant. Economic policy will be decided by vote instead, where we as a community decide what we will do with our resources.

      Try getting your head around using science and tecnical expertise in the relevant field to determine the best way of solving the problems that we face as a society rather than elected officials with all too often little to no expertise at all.

      A technocracy isn’t any better than any other dictatorship.

      Welcome to the Resource Based Economy.
      How we get there starts with a conversation and an acceptance that our current system fails more and more people every year that we continue with it.

      Both of those things are what we need to be discussing.

    • Foreign waka 3.7

      As it was said, humans need not apply. The reason is that humans have emotions and when they are under pressure and their life is threatened – notwithstanding that it takes decades to implement any of your dreams – it spells war. In any language, guarantied. We are “programmed” to protect our turf, our offspring and our life. If all the means of doing just that is taken away, well ….. I wish you good luck.

  4. CnrJoe 4

    That Does It.
    Labour should seriously consider re-branding.
    I don’t have any serious ideas bot,.. I mean but how about-
    PEOPLE ? or
    NEW SOCIETY ?

    • karol 4.1

      There is still a strong need to focus on the role of workers within capitalism, and to protect their rights and livelihoods.

      I do think the Greens focus on society as a whole, in a way that could translate to a post-capitalist, post-industrial world.

  5. Another yes to thought provoking.

    There could well be a time, if it isn’t here already, where the productive sectors do see human’s as surplus to requirement where robots and machines do mass production really well and go for the cheaper hassle free option, like corporations exploit the third world/emerging markets for cheap labour and resources and NZ companies outsource offshore.

    I’m not a luddite and if autobots do a better job of it then let ’em rip, rather than suicide nets and children in the workplace. The people aren’t the problem, it’s the system. Logical way of doing things, rather than consign us all to serving coffees pumping petrol or the scrapheap, would be to change the system. What that system should be isn’t within my scope of knowledge, but I’d like to see credible alternatives.

    • weka 5.1

      Did you see the bit in the video on Autos? Can’t wait to see them trying to drive rural roads in the South Island 🙄

      I don’t trust people in power to utilise tech in ways that are good for people (as opposed to profits). They’re not doing it now, so why would they do it in the future? Think John Key and his mates in charge.

      I also think the basic premise of the video is extremly flawed. The example near the start about how humans don’t need to grow food anymore is ridiculous in the extreme. Conventional thought now understands that CC will render agribusiness seriously vulnerable in the future. The solutions to that, which are already being applied, are to relocalise and grow polycultures appropriate to local conditions. Machines can’t do that more economically than humans.

      The narrator just sounded to me like someone who needs to get out in the physical world more. Yes, obviously there are serious issues arising from automation, but so many of the examples were too abstract and not taking real world events into account.

      oh, and the whole thing is predicated on perpetual growth economy, and in complete denial of the fact that we live in a finite world.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1

        The solutions to that, which are already being applied, are to relocalise and grow polycultures appropriate to local conditions. Machines can’t do that more economically than humans.

        Yeah, actually, they can and they can do it better.

        • weka 5.1.1.1

          please link to an existing machine that can harvest from a polyculture and that can be built cheaply enough to fit into sustainable farming models of economics.

          • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1.1

            Here’s one from 1997.

            Yes, it can’t do polyculture but that’s ok because the modern farm isn’t going to be outside at all. It’s going to be more like this and this. Today’s farms will be left to return to the wild and that includes the polycultural organic farms.

            Cheaply enough, in reality, is if we have the resources available and we do. Again, this is the difference between viewing the economy as use of resources and use of money.

            • weka 5.1.1.1.1.1

              theory vs reality again (edit, sorry, I meant second link).

              “Again, this is the difference between viewing the economy as use of resources and use of money.”

              No, it’s the difference between understanding the physical and economic limitations in a finite world vs the perceived idea. This is why I keep asking for real world examples.

              Not sure how sustainable hydroponics is. I can it working in some situations, but feeding large scale? Too many external, artificially supplied inputs needed.

              • Draco T Bastard

                This is why I keep asking for real world examples.

                No, you keep asking for real world examples in the delusional belief that because something hasn’t been done it can’t be done.

                • weka

                  No, you are misinterpreting me. I see many good things going into the future that haven’t happened yet. I just think that relying on jetsons scenarios is illogical and risky. Your ideas are interesting, but unless you can demonstrate the path from here to there with examples that make sense in the physical world then it remains theoretical.

                  Eg

                  If you think we can have large scale solar manufacturing without fossil fuels or nuclear, then show how we get there in practical terms.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    No, you are misinterpreting me.

                    No I’m not.

                    but unless you can demonstrate the path from here to there with examples that make sense in the physical world then it remains theoretical.

                    Translation: Show us what you say can work by showing us it working today.

                    See, that’s called circular logic

                    If you think we can have large scale solar manufacturing without fossil fuels or nuclear, then show how we get there in practical terms.

                    Create solar panel. Use power from solar panel to produce more solar panels.

                    Here’s the thing: We could even produce the first solar panel without using fossil fuels.

                    Nothing, absolutely nothing, in the manufacture of solar panels requires the use of fossil fuels. Same goes for computers and cars and trains and aircraft and buildings and….

                    • RedLogix

                      Nothing, absolutely nothing, in the manufacture of solar panels requires the use of fossil fuels.

                      Been anywhere near a mine site recently Draco?

                    • TheContrarian

                      “Nothing, absolutely nothing, in the manufacture of solar panels requires the use of fossil fuels.”

                      Are you fucking kidding me?

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Been anywhere near a mine site recently Draco?

                      Electricity in mining

                      And that’s from 1889. Then there’s this and there’s the link I posted a few months back showing electricity powered digging equipment as well.

                      Just because it’s used doesn’t mean that it’s needed.

                    • KJT

                      It doesn’t actually.

                      Would you like a couple of pages describing how??

                      Steel requires carbon and heat so a replacement is difficult, but composites are, and can be, made solely from growing plants.

                      Waikato are using flax and potato starch.

                      Carbon fibre is sourced from wood.

                  • KJT

                    The Jetson’s flying car is a reality.
                    http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/03/tech/innovation/finally-a-flying-car-mycopter/

                    The amount of energy required, compared to a normal car, though, means we will never be flying around in masses of them, unless someone invents a micro fusion reactor, or we finally find an efficient way of storing electricity that doesn’t involve huge dams..

                    I remember thinking Maxwell Smart’s, shoe phone was far fetched as a kid.
                    In fact it could have been done back then, but it had to wait for the fast frequency switching technology allowed by small powerful computers, to work in something that could be carried around.

            • weka 5.1.1.1.1.2

              “Here’s one from 1997.”

              Fossil fuels, agribusiness, not sustainable.

          • KJT 5.1.1.1.2

            Every indoor pot farm in Northland.

      • The Al1en 5.1.2

        In our world people are expendable and viewed as a commodity by ‘the market’ and have been for a long time. Chasing eternal growth in a race to the bottom competition, in which most of the workforce aren’t skilled or qualified or who are but in full up sectors, without positive action to create employment it’s not looking good for the ape man long term if the system doesn’t change.

        I’d have a mid level universal income, and if people wanted to work, for the money or the thrill of it, jobs can be taken where wages and benefits are based on value to society. Dr’s can keep their money, lawyers, car dealers, politicians, real estate agents and snake oil merchants, you have to give a lot of yours to the street cleaners and care givers because they deserve it. If you want to earn it, don’t waste your time at uni/shark school learning to be a prick, make yourself useful, grab a broom or a pack of adult nappies and get ready to start rolling in loot and respect.

      • The Al1en 5.1.3

        “Did you see the bit in the video on Autos? Can’t wait to see them trying to drive rural roads in the South Island”

        Yes and rural Epsom and Coatsville. Thing is, first it will be a status symbol, then mainstream, then like a sky dish, a TV or more than two children to beat you with if you lose your job to a machine – electronic or ideological.

  6. Interesting topic for discussion – I’d suggest the following thoughts from JMG is much more likely.

    Contemporary industrial civilization has taken intermediation to an extreme not reached by any previous civilization, and there’s a reason for that. White’s Law, one of the fundamental rules of human ecology, states that economic development is a function of energy per capita. The jackpot of cheap concentrated energy that industrial civilization obtained from fossil fuels threw that equation into overdrive, and economic development is simply another name for complexity…

    That’s also a textbook example of the sort of excess complexity Joseph Tainter discussed in The Collapse of Complex Societies, but industrial civilization’s dependence on nonrenewable energy resources puts the entire situation in a different and even more troubling light. On the one hand, continuing increases in complexity in a society already burdened to the breaking point with too much complexity pretty much guarantees a rapid decrease in complexity not too far down the road—and no, that’s not likely to unfold in a nice neat orderly way, either. On the other, the ongoing depletion of energy resources and the decline in net energy that unfolds from that inescapable natural process means that energy per capita will be decreasing in the years ahead—and that, according to White’s Law, means that the ability of industrial society to sustain current levels of complexity, or anything like them, will be going away in the tolerably near future.

    Add these trends together and you have a recipe for the radical simplification of the economy. The state of affairs in which most people in the work force have only an indirect connection to the production of concrete goods and services to meet human needs is, in James Howard Kunstler’s useful phrase, an arrangement without a future. The unraveling of that arrangement, and the return to a state of affairs in which most people produce goods and services with their own labor for their own, their families’, and their neighbors’ use, will be the great economic trend of the next several centuries.

    http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.co.nz/2014/10/dark-age-america-involuntary-simplicity.html

    I think the trend to simplification is inevitable as intermediation – “the insertion of a variety of intermediate persons, professions, and institutions between the producer and the consumer of any given good or service.” is unable to be maintained.

    Work as we know it will change but imo the bots won’t take over.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      I suspect in that, in this, JMG is barking up the wrong tree. He gets many things wrong about the decline of industrial systems. A couple of examples:

      1. The first thing he gets wrong is that he believes that an agricultural society requires 100% of people out on the farm. It doesn’t. In fact, even as nomads we didn’t use all the time to gather food.
      2. He believes that renewable energy isn’t sustainable and that we’re totally dependent upon fossil fuels and can’t move away from them. This is massively wrong. Even today solar panels can produce enough power to reproduce themselves and provide services. Wind generators are even better.
      3. He seems believe that we’ll lose all the knowledge that we presently have which has never happened yet.

      Yes, excess complexity is a problem but it’s not really complexity that will cause us to crash and burn – it’s the consumerism pushed by the rich to make them richer using up resources unsustainably. Basically, the same thing that’s been happening for the last 5000 years.

      • marty mars 6.1.1

        He doesn’t believe 1 in my reading of him.

        We are dependent upon fossil fuels and we haven’t the time, resolve or focus (plus forced consumerism via capitalism as you describe in your last paragraph) to move away from them other than relative microsystems – they are a good thing and will become extremely valuable for the communities that set them up.

        He doesn’t believe 3 in my reading of him.

        Think of intermediation and the vast gap between what people produce and consume – that gap will reduce because of necessity – it already is for many people as alternatives to the industrial systems become attractive – buy local.

        Plenty of societies has come and gone over the last 5000 years, that is the cycle of existence.

        • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1.1

          He doesn’t believe 1 in my reading of him.
          He doesn’t believe 3 in my reading of him.

          Well, my reading of him over the years does. We even had an argument or two about it some years back.

          • marty mars 6.1.1.1.1

            I disagree with your reading of him – I don’t think ‘nomads’ are going to make it btw and your ‘seems’ to in 3 is a projection imo.

      • weka 6.1.2

        please link to large scale production of solar panels that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels.

        • Draco T Bastard 6.1.2.1

          /facepalm

          http://xkcd.com/54/

          • weka 6.1.2.1.1

            theory vs reality.

              • weka

                Theory vs reality. Please link to large scale production of solar panels that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels. It might be possible theoretically, but do we have anything close to that happening in reality? Do I really have to explain that? You guys are reading the Archdruid, so you understand the critiques of future science as saviour.

            • Draco T Bastard 6.1.2.1.1.2

              No, it’s reality now. You’re actually denying that reality on the delusional assumption that just because it hasn’t been done it can’t be done.

              • weka

                Fuck off Draco. Stop misinterpreting what I sm saying and then labelling me delusional. If you can’t argue the issues just be honest.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  You’re the one not arguing. That evidence that you called for has been provided but you keep calling for it.

                  http://xkcd.com/54/

                  • weka

                    Good grief, I know you are not stupid, so why keep insisting that that answers my question? I know the theory. I’m asking you to link it to something real.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      I did. The science is real. It’s a fact today that solar panels produce enough power to reproduce themselves and provide power for other things.

                      That’s not theory, that’s real now.

                    • weka

                      No, it’s real in the way I am asking about when someone actually does it, as opposed to theorising it. Maybe we are using the word theory differently. I don’t use theory in a negative or demeaning sense, and I don’t mean theory to mean not proven. I accept that it’s technically possible given the right conditions. By theory I simply mean that it’s an abstract explanation rather than a concrete demonstration.

                      One of the things that happen with theory is that new things come to light when applied in the real world. Theory on its own is insufficient.

                      So we have lots of theorising about solar being self replicating. I haven’t seen evidence of this in the real world, where everything from mining minerals to transport to final installation is dependent on fossil fuels. You will say that all those things can be done without fossil fuels (techincally true), but other theorists (eg peak oil theorists) say that the real world logisitics don’t stack up Where economics meets physics meets time meets impending oil shock or CC, you have a whole bunch of compounding impediments (and that’s not even getting to political will).

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      By theory I simply mean that it’s an abstract explanation rather than a concrete demonstration.

                      It’s been concretely demonstrated as well.

                      Build solar panel. Measure how much power it takes to make. Compare that to how much power will be produced over the lifetime of the solar panel.

                      This has been done and so we know, through empirical measurement, what can be done. And next year they’ll be even better.

                      I haven’t seen evidence of this in the real world, where everything from mining minerals to transport to final installation is dependent on fossil fuels.

                      No, they’re not dependent upon fossil fuels at all.

                      You seem to be saying that it can’t be done because you don’t want it to be possible.

                    • weka

                      “Build solar panel. Measure how much power it takes to make. Compare that to how much power will be produced over the lifetime of the solar panel.”

                      That’s the lab version. Now upscale that into a real world situation. Use NZ as the context I think.

                      I’d love to see a cradle to grave audit of the manufacture that takes into account the whole caboodle ie the audit includes the factory, where the minerals were mined and how etc.

                      “No, they’re not dependent upon fossil fuels at all.”

                      So link to solar panel production that is done without using fossil fuels. Not sure if we are having a semantic argument here, but dependent in the sentence I used it in means that it’s not currently being done without fossil fuels. Every aspect of so called sustainable energy production is currently using fossil fuels at its base. That’s why we can do it. The really interesting bit is when you start to look at how to change that.

                      Want to build a new wind farm? Where is the metal going to come from? Where are the machines that mine the metal going to come from? And their tyres, batteries, replacement parts. Are fossil fuels involved in those things? Now time, economy etc kicks in. Yes, it’s still theoretically possible to convert all those things to renewables, but you only have two decades to do it in (or 3 or 5 or whatever). Plus oil is getting more and more expensive over those decades so the economics get worse and worse.

                      At this point, as I understand your argument, you reform economics to solve that problem. Which is a great idea, and would certainly make things much better for humans, and possibly the planet, but it’s theoretical. We’re nowhere close to being able to do that. Myself, I think we will experience big paradigm shifts quite suddenly in the coming decades, and so I think shifting economics is possible. But it’s not reliable or sufficiently probably to bank our futures on. It’s a gamble.

                      “You seem to be saying that it can’t be done because you don’t want it to be possible.”

                      That’s not what I believe and not what I am saying.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      That’s the lab version.

                      No, it’s not the lab version – it’s what happens now.

                      I’d love to see a cradle to grave audit of the manufacture that takes into account the whole caboodle ie the audit includes the factory, where the minerals were mined and how etc.

                      You mean like the one I linked to further up thread?

                      So link to solar panel production that is done without using fossil fuels.

                      And there you are going back to that circular logic again in a desperate attempt to distract from the facts that don’t suit your world view.

                      Not sure if we are having a semantic argument here, but dependent in the sentence I used it in means that it’s not currently being done without fossil fuels.

                      Which is not a meaning of the word dependent. Dependent in this context would mean actually requiring them else they just couldn’t be made and that’s just not true.

                      Yes, it’s still theoretically possible to convert all those things to renewables, but you only have two decades to do it in (or 3 or 5 or whatever).

                      As I said – you want it to be not possible. Sorry to disappoint you because it is possible.

                      Plus oil is getting more and more expensive over those decades so the economics get worse and worse.

                      And that’s the typical misunderstanding of economics. Not that I can really complain – it’s what everybody has been taught over their lives. It’s just a pity that it’s wrong and no one seems to realise it.

                      Want to build a new wind farm? Where is the metal going to come from? Where are the machines that mine the metal going to come from?

                      Where they always come from – where else? It’s just that they would be mined, refined and built using renewable energy.

                      Think about it this way: If all fossil fuels dried up in NZ tonight we’d all get up in the morning and have a hot coffee. Most of the businesses would keep turning over including the aluminium and iron smelters. We’d have some difficulty with transport but even that would be overcome fairly rapidly.

                      At this point, as I understand your argument, you reform economics to solve that problem.

                      Not just economics, society and finances. Our system isn’t actually economic.

                      It can be done. If we do it or not is another question and a political one at that. It most definitely isn’t an economic one.

            • Coffee Connoisseur 6.1.2.1.1.3

              Yes and reality is working out so swimmingly well for so many people.
              Remember the world being round was once just a theory…

              • weka

                the world being flat was also once a theory. QED.

                Got a citation for this,

                “Automation could do away with 60% (probably more) of the jobs we currently have right now”

                • Coffee Connoisseur

                  I am the citation. It comes with 20 years experience in the field.

                  • weka

                    Ah, the old ‘trust me, I’m an expert’. Fair enough to an extent, but much of what is being discussed in this thread is based on belief, and I think it’s valid to want that backed up. If what you say is true, surely someone has done some research.

      • RedLogix 6.1.3

        Some very interesting points DtB. I think the three of us have been close readers of JMG for a while now.

        I disagree with your point 1. JMG’s view of the descent society is much more layered and nuanced that that.

        Point 2 is a tough one. I think most people don’t stop to think about how very complex the network of resources and services are required to keep industrial civilisation going. For instance while I can visualise a solar panel manufacturing facility to make solar panels being essentially booted off the power generated by already built cells – there remains a huge network of other external resources that for the time being a still very dependent on fossils for the foreseeable future.

        Point 3 is perhaps the most interesting one. It only takes one or two generations of disruption to lose a lot of knowledge. It’s happened before and could well happen again. But it is likely to be a patchy thing – I’d be on your side in hoping that at least all the important knowledge did survive in a few safe enclaves somewhere.

        The big difference that JMG does overlook is that “this time” we have a lot more fore-knowledge of what is likely to come down the track at us, much more than any historical civilisation before us. Maybe he’d call me delusional – but I still imagine that this will help some people prepare better.

        • marty mars 6.1.3.1

          “we have a lot more fore-knowledge of what is likely to come down the track at us”

          I’m not sure if that is really true – have you listened to politicians or read a newspaper lately. Sad fact is even with the ability to have foreknowledge and to do things smarter unfortunately people just don’t want to face reality. That is the way its always been. JMG doesn’t overlook it – he actually shows week after week the reality of the illusions and disconnect between what people want to happen and what is actually happening – he is one true voice among the forgetful, the ignorant and the deliberate liars.

          • RedLogix 6.1.3.1.1

            I think you are essentially correct mm. But again JMG also rejects the doomers who think it will all end in a massive, universal collapse, sometime before 2020. Or sooner.

            He proposes a long, slow and bumpy ride down. A ride that is by no means uniform across the whole planet.

            Vernor Vinge was predicting that a lot of tech could survive on very low energy if required. For instance the computer I’m typing this on right now draws just 3 watts – the screen draws more power. That’s a huge drop compared to just five years ago when the average PC had a 300W power supply.

            Much the same applies to bandwidth and communications- the leaps in spectrum efficiencies, and data densities has been astounding. While the ‘big energy’, flashy end of town has been languishing – a lot is still going on.

            • marty mars 6.1.3.1.1.1

              Yes the doomers are very similar to those who believe the magic alien fairys will come like white knights and fix everything.

              A long, slow bumpy ride down is how I see it and the imo the things that got us to this point are not the things that are going to offer solutions for people – at best they provide a plateau but our thinking is going to have to get way outside the square – as far out as our grandparents position is to ours – I see some children being bought up today with the ability to think in that way and that is good because those kids will inherit what we leave them and their brains and innovation will make their world – one in which we would hardly recognise if we could see it.

              • RedLogix

                Where JMG does get it wrong is that he leaves out two key elements.

                One is that he does tend to rather buy too much in the Toynbean grand cycles of history idea. I don’t think history so much repeats as it rhymes. While it is very true that there are clear patterns that re-occur, they do not happen in the same context, nor do they have the same end-points.

                For instance, while we can trace for instance the rise and fall of the Egyptians – at the end the world was not in the same place as the end of the Roman era. While you could look back and trace the same grand rise and fall – the left-overs were very different.

                And while Greer is quite right that our modern Faith of the Pink Progress Fairy will soon be shown to be distressingly naive – the wash will be different to when the Romans left town. Our far descendants will pick and choose which bits of our tech legacy are useful to them, quite oblivious to our pretensions.

                The other is that I believe Greer discounts excessively is the impact of globalisation. We’ve had two rounds already; 1845 – 1914 and 1945 – 2014 – and my instinct is we will see at least a few major iterations of it yet. All the major problems the world face are global in nature.

                We cannot tolerate a world in which some 50 individuals have more wealth than the bottom 3.5b people. We cannot tolerate nuclear hegemony indefinitely, we cannot forever sustain a capitalist model of infinite exploitation, we cannot sustain fossil fuels, ocean acidification and mass wildlife extinctions. Yet the nation states by themselves are impotent to solve these problems; only a political consensus at a global scale will suffice.

                In this sense ‘it is different this time’, because the context in which the grand pattern is taking place is different.

                • My understanding of what he says is that he recognises that the patterns are similar in that certain things happen, but how they happen, the context of them, timing and ramifications of them are not known, but they do happen and in that way the patterns of history, and the collapse of civilisations, do repeat but in totally different ways, perhaps directly related to whether we are looking at history, or looking at the now.

                  I don’t really see endpoints as such but for outlying regions of say the roman and english empires the gist was similar. They were left to their own devices, left to make what they could out of what they had and in that context I see how the decline of the current system will be the same.

                  I think the varied and terrible effects of planet warming and fossil fuel scarcity will take the legs out from under globilisation. As in the days of past empire collapse, personal, family and whānau, and community, will be the focus and as I originally alluded to in my first comment on this post, a simplification of many things for many people.

                • KJT

                  I take from JMG that too specialised a society, as ours is becoming, will be hit hard as energy shortages and crop shortages begin to bite.

                  (The pre-1984, no 8 wire Kiwi’s would have coped rather well).

                  As well as the effect of hordes of climate refugees with weapons.

                  Note we are already getting wealthy people here looking for a haven from the devastation they have caused elsewhere.
                  Russian gangsters, Chinese plutocrats, British slum lords and US speculators.

                  Also, like most North Americans, he has been influenced by Star trek and books like the “Foundation and Empire series”:

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    (The pre-1984, no 8 wire Kiwi’s would have coped rather well).

                    Of course they would have. We produced everything we needed here with very little importation. Now that we’ve outsourced the production of most of what we need we’ll be stuffed when trade collapses as it will do.

                  • “Also, like most North Americans, he has been influenced by Star trek and books like the “Foundation and Empire series”:”

                    maybe, who knows, doesn’t seem relevant

                    He makes some pretty compelling arguments, backed up with facts and history. Of course he has his critics – anyone with his message and solutions would have but i don’t find him shrill or over dramatic in fact I think he consciously keeps the tone down. Personally i find his writing very readable and his critics to be delusional.

    • Foreign waka 6.2

      This is all well and good, theoretical that is. What do you propose with the millions living in highrise buildings? Elderly, sick and vulnerable being just left to fend themselves? Is this then called the unraveling of civilization and thus a return to the animal?

      • marty mars 6.2.1

        Those issues are the ones that political leaders should be looking at and addressing rather than worrying about bots and looking to the horizon for the miracles.

        And I don’t see it as theoretical but inevitable. Future proofing is all about developing the skills and knowledge to be able to navigate the decline as best we can but that will not be easy mainly because our society in general would prefer to ignore, deride and pretend away the truth – sort of like voting for key after dirty politics – easier to just not think about it for many.

        • KJT 6.2.1.1

          Globalisation is the antithesis of future proofing.

          Outsourcing so many skills and production means that when global trade breaks down, which it will, we will fail because so many of the skills, plant and capabilities to make or grow what we need to sustain a society will have vanished.

          Can’t live on milk powder and coffee shops (With no coffee)

          • marty mars 6.2.1.1.1

            I agree. There is a steep learning curve coming up and best to start now although I think many people around these islands have a headstart at least that is what I see here in the country. It will need leadership to combat the sense of loss people will feel as things start stopping – none of the politicians are up for that imo – they are the problem not the solution. But notwithstanding that I am hopeful, as much as you can be when you have children.

          • Coffee Connoisseur 6.2.1.1.2

            Not necessarily. If globalisation is headed towards with the current power structures in place then yes I would agree with you.

            If on the other hand it starts with a redesign of the system to meet the needs and wants of mankind then it is the best form of future proofing and will lead to far better outcomes than we have today. To some the idea of a total system redesign wil sound a bigger than Ben Hur and near impossible.
            The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of the things we hae under Capitalism could and should be retained. As DTB mentioned earlier ‘Money’ is not one of them. Govt as we know it is potentially another.
            Withn an acceptance that the system we have should work for all there should also be a shift in where governmental power lies.

            Systems analysis can help with all of these things it also comes without the egos and vested interests that the current system is so full of.

  7. Once Was Tim 7

    Anyone watch “THe Nation” this morning” ?
    ENtrePRENooowers?
    F F Fucking sake!

    Even as an ex-IT person – I googled (can’t remember exactly wot -but some shit as to the creation of mobile apps and the means of their creation – and was confronted with various applications which provided a [teknikle] means to enable that EntrePrenoooer.

    Very very very very esprayshnull.
    Best of Britis.

    IF I’m not somewhere in the 3rd world in Northern India, then I sure as hell will be un-reliant on the various BS artists hell bent on building their Bullshit Castles.

    Please John Key – when that happens – don’r come running for a ‘free’ trade agreement (cos you’ll be left starving, and your MOST favourate ‘Curry Muncha’ won’t be there to help)

  8. Sable 8

    Value=leaving this shit hole behind. Both my wife and I are looking right now. I’m not spending another three years funding this disloyal scumbag and his low life neo con collaborators.

    • RedLogix 8.1

      Yes – we made the trip over the Tasman last year. It’s been a very tough year work-wise, but rewarding professionally. We’ve both thoroughly enjoyed being in a new place and even though Aussie economy is going through a bad patch at present – the Mad Monk is an intolerable buffoon – we still find people more optimistic and energised than back home.

      Overall we’re very happy with the move for the moment. Of course Aus is by no means the only, or even best choice.

  9. kickmeback 9

    No need for tea breaks
    Now this will really be a manufacturing crisis and the bots will need more oil to run

  10. r0b 10

    Very interesting discussion on this post today – thanks all!

  11. Aaron 11

    There’s some thing that I haven’t seen mentioned here which is the tendency of big business to favor capital solutions over labor solutions. Which is to say they’ll do anything to replace an employee with a machine because a) there’s too much money floating around the investorsphere and b) general hatred of the working class. An example; a lot of recycling is done these days by things called Materials Recovery Facilities, basically a big building full of conveyer lines. Despite the investment they can’t actually sort recycling as well as a human being. There are small community groups all over the country doing a better job and employing loads more people but the mindset of our world is toward large scale solutions. Coupled with the power of corporations and the pathological desire of the ruling class to shaft the rest of us I would say the real problem (as it always had been) is that unemployment is a situation that had been deliberately arranged.

    • b waghorn 11.1

      The automation of dairy farming is another place that could see a lot of jobs go .

      • Halcyon 11.1.1

        And that is fast becoming a possibility. The dairy farmer of the future will operate the whole farm sitting at a computer in the office.

        We already have farms where cows take responsibility for milking themselves with no human intervention. Given the advent of drones, a farmer could see what is happening all over the farm.

  12. FutureisRed 12

    Automation is the burgeoning political elephant in the room for any future in coming government. The social and economic impact of a significant percentage of the population across a wide social spectrum have limited participation to the productive economy is such significance that it will need to be addressed politically. Grant Robertson raised it in meeting yesterday afternoon so it in his thinking and within Labour. So I am generously assuming the current Key administration is also aware of it? However you would not think so with the political initiatives they are pursuing which are predicated on soon to be outdated “neo-liberal” assumptions about the economy and the role of government. For instance the partial selling down of the power-generators looks rather foolhardy in the context of automation with the financial benefits being only partially accrued to future governments that will need resources to provide some type of universal income to large numbers of structurally unemployed. Likewise the re-framing of beneficiaries as “jobseekers” on the basis that the market can provide them the route to meaningful employment/lives is naive right now and just plain myopic with automation around he corner . Further the current moves to withdraw from social housing which make little sense now seem even more poorly conceptualized when the impact of automation is factored in.

    • Coffee Connoisseur 12.1

      “Further the current moves to withdraw from social housing which make little sense now seem even more poorly conceptualized when the impact of automation is factored in.”

      Only when looked at in the context of the current system. When looked at in the context of better alternatives then selling power stations or state houses may not matter at all in the long run. Imagine each and every house with its own renewable power generation as an example. Under a system designed to work for mankind this would not only be possible it would be the norm.

      • FutureisRed 12.1.1

        The current structures predicate the development of near and medium-term structures within the context of automation. If automation takes hold in 15-20 years time then we will have a large group of people who are economically dislocated with limited financial resources for housing etc… The questions of the day for governments will rotate around looking after the needs of this group including housing (in order to address he social impacts upon society). If governments remain positively committed to social housing then will help to mitigate one of those impacts. In respect to home generation I have no argument with you in principle, however the grid will still be required for industrial supply. Future governments faced with having to provide a universal income for a large sector of the population will have only a partial access to the economic rent derived from the power generators to help offset those costs which is one of the reasons why selling the down is short-sighted.

  13. weka 13

    “I would go further and say that, with present technology every job I can think off, except for ones that require a human emotional connection, such as Teachers, Carers and Retail staff, can be done by machines. (Though I wonder at even that, when you see people so attached to smartphones).”

    KJT, how about we make a list of jobs and see how many could be replaced?

    Gardener

    Pest control (possums, rats, stoats)

    Chef

    Shop assistant in a health food store

    Truck driver doing stop offs on a Nelson/West coast run

    Mechanic (car)

    Courier

    Teacher aide for someone with dyslexia

    Cleaner

    Politician

    Shelf stacker in a supermarket

    Blogger

    Firewood merchant

    Recycling operation (collection, sorting, packing, dismantling)

    Shop assistant in a fabric store

    • McFlock 13.1

      Most of those, except the teacher aide (emotional attachment, although gadets might make the job easier).

      Pretty much the rest are hodge-podge mixtures of currently automated tasks, or even almost completely replaced already (e.g. TV dinners are largely automated now).

      Cleaners we have that robotic vaccuum cleaner and dishwahers already.

      • weka 13.1.1

        “TV dinners are largely automated now”

        Ok, so in theory, we can replace chefs via automation. But why would we when the quality and nutritional value of the food decrease? The dude in the video talked about replacing jobs with automation where tech could do a better job than humans. Some chefs’ jobs would fit that, but many wouldn’t.

        For the rest of the list, I can give examples where automation would either fail, or would be less useful than the human.

        Pretty sure automation would fail on the truck run. South Island roads are still not adequately mapped (probably worse mapping exists now than used to). What happens when the truck tries to go down a road that doesn’t exist?

        Automation in recycling gives a lower grade product than when you have humans sorting. That could probably be overcome with tech, but it would up the cost and from what I can tell automation is taken on to reduce costs (not out of kindness to humans).

        Shop assistants in health food stores have significant interaction with customers that a machine wouldn’t manage.

        etc.

        • McFlock 13.1.1.1

          Under this system, automation will only ever be undertaken to reduce costs. That’s why tv dinners are cheaper than a Michelin star feast.

          Many of those listed jobs robots can do adequately. I don’t go into health food shops, so I wouldn’t know what the assitants do.

          Automation on the truck run will be from depot to depot initially, and amazon’s working on the depot-to-door delivery. Google’s improving the mapping daily. But basically, the non-existent road problem you mention isn’t a problem with the mechanism, it’s a data shortage. Update the data, problem eliminated. It needs sensors to keep in the lane anyway, so at worst (assuming no way to generate an alternate route) it will send a “help” signal to a control centre chairborne ranger who will either issue a return to base command, or will guide it manually like today’s army drone pilots fly.

          • weka 13.1.1.1.1

            “That’s why tv dinners are cheaper than a Michelin star feast.”

            So McDonalds, but not cafes ie places where economies of scale makes sense and where quality doesn’t matter. Many places need chefs without being Michelin starred. So some cooks, but not chefs as a class of job.

            Re data shortage, yes. But as the tech increases we are getting worse at rural road mapping (I think there is a privatisation issue here too. Maps were more accurate when the govt was majorly involved). All the solutions you suggest increase costs, including have trucks return to base because of data shortage.

            It’s not depot to depot, it’s a delivery run, so the truck needs to stop at each place and unload specific things and then carry on.

            “Many of those listed jobs robots can do adequately. I don’t go into health food shops, so I wouldn’t know what the assitants do.”

            I think you just contradicted yourself there. The philosophy is that jobs can be done adequately and yet one of the jobs you said could be done you now acknowlege you don’t know. This is why I questioned the OP and the stats. Too much yaay tech, without looking at the realities.

            Many people don’t want jobs done adequately, they want them done well.

            • McFlock 13.1.1.1.1.1

              Mcdonald’s is pretty well prescribed for automation anyway – everything is done to plans, algorithms and the beep of the machine.

              But automation starts with the easier tasks and improves to more complex tasks.

              The costs of having a truck RTB would be offset by the fact that a human driver might RTB in similar circumstances – and machines can work 24/7 without getting tired. And don’t need an hourly wage: the only wage paid is to the control room operator whomight be monitoring a hundred trucks, rather than just driving one.

              It’s not depot to depot, it’s a delivery run, so the truck needs to stop at each place and unload specific things and then carry on.

              At the endpoints, yes (and that’s what amazon is developing). But there’s the hundreds of kilometres that are travelled between those endpoints, being rerouted through two or three distribution points before reaching the local depot from which the package will be delivered. And Amazon’s working on thee last bit, while google’s working on the middle bits.

              I think you just contradicted yourself there. The philosophy is that jobs can be done adequately and yet one of the jobs you said could be done you now acknowlege you don’t know. This is why I questioned the OP and the stats. Too much yaay tech, without looking at the realities.

              Meh. So the argument that most jobs in your list can be replaced by machines falls down because of healthfood store assistants? I think not.
              Frankly, there are two equally true responses I can make: the first is that the quote you were responding to in comment 13 explicity excluded those jobs that require a human emotional connection, which I suspect you believe a healthfood shop assistant might require.

              The second response is to say exactly why I don’t go into healthfood stores, but I suspect it might not be regarded as particularly constructive. Suffice to say, I suspect that rather than being replaceable my machines, they’re probably completely pointless.

              Many people don’t want jobs done adequately, they want them done well.

              Well, the success of mcdonalds would suggest that many people have a different opinion. But there are some bloody good coffee machines, now. And rice cookers consistently work better than I can do.

              • weka

                “Meh. So the argument that most jobs in your list can be replaced by machines falls down because of healthfood store assistants? I think not.”

                No it fails because it’s based on belief that you can’t back up. That you include things in the automation list that you patently have no idea about (and substantial prejudice by the looks of things) was a spotlight.

                My point, repeatedly, is that much of the pro-automation argument here is based on belief and when we get down to the nitty gritty the scifi reality doesn’t play out. I think it would work better if automation was presented as a wish, rather than a fact that 60% of jobs can be replaced today.

                “which I suspect you believe a healthfood shop assistant might require.”

                It probably does, but that’s not why I think automation would fail.

                • weka

                  btw, the other interesting thing about this thread is the degree to which politics disappear in the face of the shiny tech.

                  • Ergo Robertina

                    That’s a good point re politics disappearing.
                    Especially now some of the Labour MPs seem ready to talk about automation and the future of work, the TINA notions should be questioned (as you have been doing on this thread).

                    • KJT

                      Ah, but I like all those shiny toys.

                      Unfortunately, fun as it may be to imagine a future of limitless energy powering a lot of machine “slaves”, while we live fulfilled lives engaged in things we want to do, physical laws mean the future will be much more bleak, for most of humanity.

                      Our political, environmental and economic settings mean that our future will resemble Manila rather than Munich.

                      Thousands of poor scavenging in rubbish tips while a few hide their wealth behind guarded gates.

                    • Colonial Rawshark

                      Just ask yourself – what exactly do the guards think from behind those gates, when they know that the rest of their own families are locked outside scavenging in the scrap heaps?

                      Perhaps that is why the power elite are also automating security and war forces as fast as they can 😉

                • McFlock

                  No it fails because it’s based on belief that you can’t back up. That you include things in the automation list that you patently have no idea about (and substantial prejudice by the looks of things) was a spotlight.

                  You’re the one who drew up the random list.
                  In case you hadn’t noticed, the argument wasn’t that all, or almost all, jobs would be taken over by robots.

                  60%, wasn’t it?

                  And that doesn’t mean that there will be no human bloggers. Just that they will be outnumbered by content generators and aggregators (if they aren’t already).

                  Car mechanics already boost turnover by having the car cpus run diagnostics and telemetry to prompt preventive maintenance. It would be interesting to see how many cars are on the road vs how many mechanics are in the country, actually.

                  Some people will always prefer the human touch, just as I like to use a fountain pen. Does that mean that they need to, or the majority will? Hell no. You can say the same thing about bookshop assistants – Amazon aren’t in too much difficulty, though. While bookstores are struggling.

                  I have a friend working in the UK for a company that does remote medical consultations for chronic condition maintenance, with most of the interactions being with a website, largely rubberstamped (although they’d quibble with that phrasing) by humans at the end of the process. The reason the company works is that they can serve more patients than a regular GP.

                  In fact, the only substantial issue I have with the video in the post is whether the work substitution by automation will ever satisfy demand – not in capitalism, I suspect.

                  • Ergo Robertina

                    You need to factor in the huge increase in chronic disease burden over the next 15 or so years, for which the current health workforce is insufficient.
                    Website generated management of chronic conditions will be one tool to help cope with the increasing demands.
                    I see technology advances like self diagnosis online as a way to even out the power imbalance inherent in doctor patient relationships. And it is already leading to greater accountability.
                    It won’t do them out of a job, though.

                    • McFlock

                      You need to factor in the huge increase in chronic disease burden over the next 15 or so years, for which the current health workforce is insufficient.
                      Website generated management of chronic conditions will be one tool to help cope with the increasing demands.

                      So a large chunk of current doctors’ work can be automated. Yay.

                      As for your comment about self-diagnosis “as a way to even out the power imbalance”: yeah, nah. The reason doctors do better than most people, even with google, is the multiplicity of factors that need to be juggled together to get the diagnosis/investigation/treatment options, all mixed in with past history and complex interactions. Any tool that replaces the doctor needs to replace that juggling. So the power imbalance simply goes from “doctor says stress” to “computer says stress”.

                      Obvious things, yeah, sure. But the patient will never know as much as the doctor/docbot.

                    • Ergo Robertina

                      ‘So a large chunk of current doctors’ work can be automated. Yay.’

                      You have twisted my meaning. I said it was one tool to cope with a huge increase in chronic disease burden.

                      ‘As for your comment about self-diagnosis “as a way to even out the power imbalance”: yeah, nah.The reason doctors do better than most people . . .’

                      It’s not Dr Google on its own; the patient’s own observations and intuition is given a nudge by their research online. This gives them confidence or determination to raise concerns or theories in a consultation. Good doctors don’t feel threatened; it’s not hard to disabuse someone of an erroneous notion if they’re on the wrong track. People are reasonable.

                      ‘Obvious things, yeah, sure. But the patient will never know as much as the doctor/docbot.’

                      While you appear to view doctors and docbots as interchangeable, high quality engagement and empathy lead to better clinical outcomes. It depends on your desired outcome, but a high quality health service will favour human beings over machines.
                      And if we do end up with the McDonalds healthcare system, it will lead to further disparity between the rich and the poor, because the wealthy won’t be using docbots.

                    • McFlock

                      some aspects are indeed interchangeable.

                      Some aspects are not.

                      it’s not hard to disabuse someone of an erroneous notion if they’re on the wrong track. People are reasonable.

                      Seriously?

                  • weka

                    Yes 60% replaced, now. Still waiting for a citation on that.

                    I’m not saying automation is impossible. I’m challenging the ethos in this thread, that automation is inevitable and mostly good/useful/possible. Because I think that ethos is based on belief and doesn’t hold up so well when you apply it in the real world.

                    That we humans can automate chronic health conditions for economic reasons doesn’t mean we should. The lack of analysis in this thread of the politics is fairly astounding.

                    • McFlock

                      Well, most of the people currently employed in your list are, at the very least, at risk. Lower workload equals fewer workers.

                      In case you hadn’t noticed, the “ethos” is not that automation is inevitable and good, but that if we don’t start considering it now it might well be bad and a path to the new feudalism.

                      But it is inevitable, if 6,000 years of human development is anything to go by.

                      As to the condition management thing, the question is whether people eating the mcdonald’s healthcare will be / are better or worse off when there is more demand than trained doctors can deal with due to the population disease burden.

                    • weka

                      “In case you hadn’t noticed, the “ethos” is not that automation is inevitable and good, but that if we don’t start considering it now it might well be bad and a path to the new feudalism.”

                      I think it is more subtle than that. Yes, the general idea in the OP is that we need to be aware of these things because of the potential effect on people’s jobs and security as well as larger societal issues. But within that there is an absence of discussion about resistance or choice. You keep saying it’s inevitable but you’re not backing that up.

                      There’s also this muddlement around automation where it’s meant to be implemented where it will do something better than a human (see the vid), but it’s plainly obvious that economics will be the determing factor. Tech replaces competence all the time. Despite what Draco says that is about proift not just efficiency. So there is this idea that sounds good but in reality it often doesn’t pan out that way.

                      Robertina gives us the best example of how the whole ethos fails: “high quality engagement and empathy lead to better clinical outcomes.” You can argue that the reality is that increases in demand mean the best case scenario is automation (because we can’t afford doctors), which is exactly where TINA dictates things, rather than us having a political discussion around healthcare and what we really need and want. There are other options to the increasing burden of chronic health. I just don’t know why you are buying into TINA.

                    • McFlock

                      Yes, the general idea in the OP is that we need to be aware of these things because of the potential effect on people’s jobs and security as well as larger societal issues. But within that there is an absence of discussion about resistance or choice.

                      Resisting technological innovation? I’m not sure anyone’s ever managed it in the past.

                      You keep saying it’s inevitable but you’re not backing that up.

                      It’s a prediction based on current technology, the rate of technological advances, and literally all of human history.

                      […]Tech replaces competence all the time. Despite what Draco says that is about proift not just efficiency. So there is this idea that sounds good but in reality it often doesn’t pan out that way.

                      I think that this has actually been covered several times from the post to various comments.

                      If we keep going with capitalism as usual, “better than a human” means “cheaper for a directly adequate job, damn the externalities”.

                      That’s the warning.

                      But humanity keeps going with technological innovation, from clubs to space stations. It’s what we do.

                      Robertina gives us the best example of how the whole ethos fails: “high quality engagement and empathy lead to better clinical outcomes.” You can argue that the reality is that increases in demand mean the best case scenario is automation (because we can’t afford doctors), which is exactly where TINA dictates things, rather than us having a political discussion around healthcare and what we really need and want. There are other options to the increasing burden of chronic health. I just don’t know why you are buying into TINA.

                      Um, the “whole ethos” does not fail upon finding one or two professions, be it doctors or health food shop assistants, that might not be completely eliminated by automation.

                      The prediction only fails if most jobs we do today cannot be replaced by automation in the closely foreseeable future.

                      And the other options for addressing the increasing chronic health burdens involve looking at how we work on the capitalism bit, which was the point of the post. Feel free to describe how you will prevent technological innovations being implemented.

            • Draco T Bastard 13.1.1.1.1.2

              So McDonalds, but not cafes ie places where economies of scale makes sense and where quality doesn’t matter.

              Despite all the complaints McDs is actually fairly good quality. Too expensive for what it is though and that’s because they have rather expensive business practices.

              Thing is, the machines will probably make McDs better because they won’t be taking the shortcuts that the humans take.

              And when you get a rare steak on your plate would you really be able to tell if a machine cooked it?

              I think you just contradicted yourself there.

              In what way? He doesn’t go into health stores and neither do I but I also don’t go into tech stores. I find what I want online and order it online. If the supermarkets had free delivery I’d do all my shopping online.

              And I haven’t come across a shop assistant yet who’s actually worth talking to about the products that they’re selling.

              • Ergo Robertina

                ‘Despite all the complaints McDs is actually fairly good quality.’

                No, it’s not. Even McDonald’s doesn’t think so, recommending its employees eat healthier fare:

                http://rt.com/usa/mcdonalds-employees-fast-food-764/

              • weka

                “In what way? He doesn’t go into health stores and neither do I but I also don’t go into tech stores. I find what I want online and order it online. If the supermarkets had free delivery I’d do all my shopping online.

                And I haven’t come across a shop assistant yet who’s actually worth talking to about the products that they’re selling.”

                I do a lot of shopping online too and like it.

                I suppose what I don’t understand is why you believe that your personal preferences should be the basis of dictating what whole populations need and do.

                • McFlock

                  nobody’s “dictating” anything.

                  The point is that automation is in the midst of systemically changing the economy. That present technology can conceivably replace most jobs we do. And that when tech is cheaper than people, employers go to tech.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  I’m not dictating anything – it’s just the way the worlds going because it’s more economic (and, no, I don’t mean that it makes more profit, I mean that it uses less resources).

                  • weka

                    TINA. Again, the lack of political critique is astounding.

                    How is that not dictating?

                    • McFlock

                      The sun will rise tomorrow.

                      That doesn’t make me dictator of the sun.

                    • weka

                      No but it does make you dictator of daft self-serving arguments.

                    • McFlock

                      At least I’m not confusing “prediction” with “direction”

                    • weka

                      Ah, so we’re at the clever dick part of the conversation. Righto.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      We can’t afford the shops that you want to keep as they use up excessive resources. This is simple economics. On top of that the majority of people are moving to shopping online because it saves them resources – time and money.

                      The lack of political critiques is from you as you try to keep everything the same as it is.

                    • McFlock

                      frankly, I think the debate took a nose-dive with your comment

                      I suppose what I don’t understand is why you believe that your personal preferences should be the basis of dictating what whole populations need and do.

                      I’d love to see a citation to back up that assertion. /sarc

                      Fuck it, I’m off to bed.

                    • weka

                      Draco, you have no idea what I want, because you haven’t bothered to ask, or to clarify.

                    • weka

                      “I suppose what I don’t understand is why you believe that your personal preferences should be the basis of dictating what whole populations need and do.”

                      “I’d love to see a citation to back up that assertion”

                      Already quoted. Draco here, last two paragraphs.

                      The future of work, income

                      Am happy to clarify if you want clarification.

                    • McFlock

                      “Am happy to clarify if you want clarification.”

                      Yes please.

                      I mean, he certainly seems to prefer one way over the other, but I don’t see where he’s dictating that this is how the world will be run. He’s only pointing out that this is the direction that the world is going.

    • KJT 13.2

      Ok.

      You did ask for it.

      Gardener- I saw grain cultivation, planting and harvest in South Aussie, where the only humans involved were fixing the machines, 20 years ago.

      Pest control (possums, rats, stoats). -1080 drops from automated drones.

      Chef- Probably one of the easier ones. The main chef skill is timing. There is no reason why the quality of the food should be less apart from the profit making decisions of the seller.
      Don’t have to use beef floor sweepings.

      Shop assistant in a health food store- Emotional connections I have already mentioned. Selling people things they do not need is probably one of the first things which will disappear in a resource constrained world however.

      Truck driver doing stop offs on a Nelson/West coast run – Dispatch and packing operations in many big companies are already automated. Getting a truck to follow a route is just positioning and mapping.

      Mechanic (car) – Already cars which you plug into a computer and it tells you which part to change out. Not a big step to a robotic machine, like the ones in car factories to do it.

      Courier- same as the truck.

      Teacher aide for someone with dyslexia. Emotional connection and caring skills. One of the jobs that will still be required. Unless those in charge say “the person is not needed for work, why train them. Which is what happens largely now”. Try getting help for your dyslexic child if you do not have enough money to pay for SPELD etc. Personal experience of that one.

      Cleaner- Robotic vacuum cleaners and self cleaning loos already exist.

      Politician – Swiss style democracy aided by computers?

      Shelf stacker in a supermarket – Amazon has already automated shelf stacking, stock picking and packing.

      Blogger- I like to think we are irreplaceable. Emotional connection again.

      Firewood merchant- See above.

      Recycling operation (collection, sorting, packing, dismantling) – At our tip they get the customers to do it, not staff.

      Shop assistant in a fabric store – emotional connection again.

      • Ergo Robertina 13.2.1

        ‘Shop assistant in a health food store- Emotional connections I have already mentioned. Selling people things they do not need is probably one of the first things which will disappear in a resource constrained world however.’

        People with allergies depend on health food stores and the expertise therein to obtain foods free from what they can’t eat.
        Your comment mirrors the lack of empathy and mechanistic one-size-fits-all TINA view of the world in which automation of nearly every job is not just inevitable, but even desirable.
        Online shopping has already had a big impact on retail, including ‘health food’. This means the customer experience in health food stores and other retail outlets has become more important.

        • Colonial Rawshark 13.2.1.1

          Complex automated systems require complex logistics and a multitude of technical specialists, as well as highly technical infrastructure.

          All of these factors are extremely vulnerable and fragile to financial and energy depletion. Cascading subsystemic and systemic failures can be expected.

          People power may be on the wane for a little while longer. But it’ll be back bigger than ever – within the next 30 years, I wager.

          • KJT 13.2.1.1.1

            I will agree there. Energy depletion will put paid to global markets. Skills which are able to be bartered locally may well be in demand.

        • KJT 13.2.1.2

          I don’t think that automation is necessarily desirable.
          Weka, asked me which jobs could be automated, and I answered..

          Personally I prefer “live” performances rather than second hand experience.

          I like playing sport for example, but commercialised professional sport leaves me cold. Except for sailing which is more about the skill of the builders and designers than the sailors.

          Food from the growers market rather than delivered by an automated courier.

          90% of so called “health” foods are either expensive versions of the stuff you can get from the growers market, or one of the many sold as “health” foods, which have been proved to be actually, harmful..

          Dare I suggest that those with allergies would be better served by buying directly from those who produced it, just before sale, and can tell you exactly what is in it.

          Anyway, Energy shortages will, most likely, put paid to a globalist, automated world.

          • Ergo Robertina 13.2.1.2.1

            Please link to examples of the ‘many’ health foods shown to be unsafe.
            You weren’t the only commenter on the thread to condemn health food stores, another labelling them ‘completely pointless’. I don’t understand the antipathy, while the cretinous McDonalds for goodness sake was being praised (not by you).
            With any retail transaction there is temptation to cut out the middle man, but is that realistic, fair? These stores contribute to local economies’ vitality and employment like other businesses.
            Growers’ markets or visiting producers doesn’t suit many people’s work schedules; I appreciate being able to buy food (not all, but some) from outside of the supermarket duopoly. NZ is unusual in having allowed a virtual monopoly, and I reckon we should applaud the smaller food sellers who survive by creating a niche, rather than questioning their right to exist.
            Re automation, fair enough, you were stating what was realistic and likely, rather than desirable.

              • Ergo Robertina

                ‘Health food’ stores are not diet stores. Much healthy food is high in energy; most people believe in a diet with a few treats, like anything it involves finding a balance.
                The stores carry products unavailable in many supermarkets; they focus on whole foods; they often favour local producers, which helps keep the supermarket duopoly in check. Just like I don’t get why people eat McDonalds, you might not value these stores; others do.
                And no, I don’t view them as paragons of virtue, or even good sources of health/product information. As always, quality varies.
                Re vitamin supplements per se, they vary in quality according to how they are produced. But in terms of patient harm, they wouldn’t rate compared with that from iatrogenic causes.

            • Draco T Bastard 13.2.1.2.1.2

              I don’t understand the antipathy, while the cretinous McDonalds for goodness sake was being praised (not by you).

              No, really, it wasn’t. I merely pointed out that it wasn’t bad food. That’s real NZ beef with no additives, real bread and fresh lettuce and tomatoes. Of course, it’s a highly processed approximation of cheese and most of the stuff is deep fried so don’t eat it all the time.

              I then pointed out that a machine could make better burgers than McDs and the local fish n chip shop.

              These stores contribute to local economies’ vitality and employment like other businesses.

              Not really. They add to the financial sector but they don’t do much for the economy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they just added to the over use of resources.

      • weka 13.2.2

        Thanks for playing KJT 🙂

        “Gardener- I saw grain cultivation, planting and harvest in South Aussie, where the only humans involved were fixing the machines, 20 years ago.”

        That’s not gardening, that’s monocropped agriculture (and further automation of that will just takes us to Peak Soil quicker). Gardening is often a specialist skill not a generic labour. I guess it’s possible that at some point in the future robots could learn how to prune this camellia which needs to be done differently than that one beside it, but it’s a science fiction future, not something that can be done now.

        “Pest control (possums, rats, stoats). -1080 drops from automated drones.”

        Lots of places where you can’t drop 1080 for safety reasons. Expect more public backlash with increasing use.

        “Chef- Probably one of the easier ones. The main chef skill is timing. There is no reason why the quality of the food should be less apart from the profit making decisions of the seller.
        Don’t have to use beef floor sweepings.”

        How many small cafes (think 3 or 4 employees) could afford automation? Now many have the space? I’d like to see the automation tastes good argument, it’s just a timing issue, made to chefs. This isn’t just about high end restaurants, lots of eateries in NZ have skilled food preparation that is based on art and intuition. Food tastes different depending on who prepares it. Making every omelette taste the same is not an improvement on what we have now.

        “Shop assistant in a health food store- Emotional connections I have already mentioned. Selling people things they do not need is probably one of the first things which will disappear in a resource constrained world however.”

        Robertina covered this one.

        “Truck driver doing stop offs on a Nelson/West coast run – Dispatch and packing operations in many big companies are already automated. Getting a truck to follow a route is just positioning and mapping.”

        Missing the point. West Coast roads aren’t mapped correctly and unlikely to be in the future. Who does the unloading and stock check at each stop? Who passes on the news/gossip about what’s happening up the road?

        Out of curiosity, how do automated trucks deal with variable road conditions? eg one lane closed due to a slip?

        “Mechanic (car) – Already cars which you plug into a computer and it tells you which part to change out. Not a big step to a robotic machine, like the ones in car factories to do it.”

        And the 1 mechanic workshop on the West Coast?

        “Courier- same as the truck.”

        Yes.

        “Teacher aide for someone with dyslexia. Emotional connection and caring skills. One of the jobs that will still be required. Unless those in charge say “the person is not needed for work, why train them. Which is what happens largely now”. Try getting help for your dyslexic child if you do not have enough money to pay for SPELD etc. Personal experience of that one.”

        Yes.

        “Cleaner- Robotic vacuum cleaners and self cleaning loos already exist.”

        Self-cleaning loos are a disgrace and fail the ‘better than a human can do’ test. Are you suggesting that each home be retrofitted with a self cleaning bathroom? Cleaning is far more than vacuuming, and I doubt the vacuuming bit too in terms of effectiveness and dealing with abberations. Obviously some environments will be suited to vacuum robots, but plenty of others won’t. Cleaning is a skill.

        “Politician – Swiss style democracy aided by computers?”

        I’m sure Key could be replaced with a robot. Not sure about Turei or Hawawira.

        “Shelf stacker in a supermarket – Amazon has already automated shelf stacking, stock picking and packing.”

        I put this one in because I thought there should be a sure bet for the automation argument 😉

        “Blogger- I like to think we are irreplaceable. Emotional connection again.”

        haha. Apparently a whole bunch of writing on the internet is done by bots now.

        “Firewood merchant- See above.”

        Which above?

        “Recycling operation (collection, sorting, packing, dismantling) – At our tip they get the customers to do it, not staff.”

        What about kerbside and business collections? Pretty sure the dismantling isn’t done by customers in your local. And end sorting won’t be either. Some operations get more money for better sorting. It’s a skill.

        “Shop assistant in a fabric store – emotional connection again.”

        Yep, and knowledge.

  14. Coffee Connoisseur 14

    Saw a very appropriate bumber sticker on the way into work this morning which I thought was very appropriate for this thread.

    “The best way to predict the future..
    ..is to help create it”.

  15. Latecomer to the thread, but as a fellow IT geek I’m sure “Coffee Connoisseur” will agree that software is eating the world of work.

    My own theory is that we are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy.

    More and more major businesses and industries are being run on software and delivered as online services—from movies to agriculture to national defense. Many of the winners are Silicon Valley-style entrepreneurial technology companies that are invading and overturning established industry structures. Over the next 10 years, I expect many more industries to be disrupted by software, with new world-beating Silicon Valley companies doing the disruption in more cases than not.

    Why is this happening now?

    Six decades into the computer revolution, four decades since the invention of the microprocessor, and two decades into the rise of the modern Internet, all of the technology required to transform industries through software finally works and can be widely delivered at global scale.

    Over two billion people now use the broadband Internet, up from perhaps 50 million a decade ago, when I was at Netscape, the company I co-founded. In the next 10 years, I expect at least five billion people worldwide to own smartphones, giving every individual with such a phone instant access to the full power of the Internet, every moment of every day.

    On the back end, software programming tools and Internet-based services make it easy to launch new global software-powered start-ups in many industries—without the need to invest in new infrastructure and train new employees. In 2000 […] the cost of running a basic Internet application was approximately $150,000 a month. Running that same application today in Amazon’s cloud costs about $1,500 a month.

    With lower start-up costs and a vastly expanded market for online services, the result is a global economy that for the first time will be fully digitally wired—the dream of every cyber-visionary of the early 1990s, finally delivered, a full generation later.

    Perhaps the single most dramatic example of this phenomenon of software eating a traditional business is the suicide of Borders and corresponding rise of Amazon. In 2001, Borders agreed to hand over its online business to Amazon under the theory that online book sales were non-strategic and unimportant.

    Oops.

    [numerous other examples follow of software taking over, simplifying, automating and solving problems in every field of human endeavour…]

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