The future of work

Written By: - Date published: 8:41 am, July 29th, 2016 - 25 comments
Categories: economy, jobs, labour, leadership - Tags: ,

The Herald (Liam Dann) had a Terminator themed piece on the future of work yesterday:

Rise of the machines – will robots terminate your job?

Robots, virtual reality, artificial intelligence — are they coming to kill our jobs or to create more? …

Will a robot terminate your job?

Research by consultants McKinsey & Co has found that 45 per cent of US jobs could be automated by technology that already exists.

Now a convergence of several new technologies is threatening to transform the workplace at speeds which have even ardent futurists wondering what we will be left to do to make a living.

But the enhanced interface between the real-world user and the virtual world has implications for us all. Enhancing the workplace with computer graphics and visual cues promises to make complex physical tasks achievable even by first-time novices.

Meanwhile, improved sensors and the ability to process vast amounts of data are making more and more manufacturing tasks achievable by robots. Progress in language and image recognition is encroaching on professional service and creative jobs – making experts and artists out of us all. …

Read on for plenty more (it is a “long read” after all).

While the piece goes for some optimism – jobs will be created as well as destroyed – I think the change will be more fundamental than that, not enough new jobs will be created, long term structural unemployment will rise. We need to be thinking about these issues seriously. We need to be introducing a Universal Basic Income, and considering other bold solutions.

If only there was a party that was thinking about these long term issues! Oh wait – there is! (Dann might have mentioned that fact in his article – it’s not a secret or anything.)

25 comments on “The future of work”

  1. esoteric pineapples 1

    I’ve been wondering for the past few weeks whether the concept of earning a living from the trading of goods and services in one way or another has become redundant. Humans are producing so many goods now that it is almost impossible to make a living out of sales anymore. This runs two dollar shop products to news to music and visual arts. The only things that have high value are highly sought after or rear or military (more or less). Things that continue to have high value are under more and more pressure, especially the natural world as everyone wants a piece of them.

    • shorts 1.1

      added to your thoughts is the slow drift away from consumerism and material possessions… we don’t need stuff except to dull the horrors of losing so much of our lives to paid work, which few of us are lucky enough to have employment fulfil any role other than providing money

      Now is the perfect time for all of us to be thinking about how we can transition to a newer better way to organise ourselves that places the focus on leading full and reward lives in shared communities… not the “I’ve got mine stuff you” world we currently have

  2. jono 2

    Thats so true “I’ve got mine stuff you” is the major attitude in this country and around the world. It will only take one large event or catastophe to level inequality and destroy that attitude. Could also come about through revolution which has happened in most civilisations.

    Or like all things we go in cycles so it could take a generation to see the “Ive got mine stuff you” attitude does not work for everyone.

  3. alwyn 3

    “It’s not a secret or anything” you propose.
    Really? I note the most recent item you link to was back in March this year. Four months ago and there has been absolutely nothing since.
    Like so many of the Labour ideas it was like a dose of 24 hour flu. Gone in a day. After the foolishness of a half-baked UBI announcement that simply led to people calling for things they thought should be in it, with no reality at all coming from the Labour Party as to what it was really meant to be it appears to have been dumped back in the too hard basket.
    If not what has been said about it since? What progress has been made? Tell us something about their further work. It’s not a secret is it?

    • Heather Grimwood 3.1

      To Alwyn: Your input is either deliberately destructive or hopefully just not informed. if the latter, please read the links given by Anthony. I assure you much thoughtful work is being done by those I move among, the latest only last night.

      • alwyn 3.1.1

        “please read the links given by Anthony”
        But I did read the links that were posted. The second was an article in the paper about the March conference and was dated 23 March.
        The most recent thing in the first one, in the section on “latest news” was dated 06 April but simply summarised the conference. How am I supposed to know that it has not all been forgotten?
        Both you, and r0b say that things are continuing. Why not tell the public what you are up to? Surely there is some news to impart after four months. Please don’t tell me that the discussions will be going on for years and that there is nothing else going to be said about the subject for ages. The subject is an important one and there must be something to say by now.

        • McFlock

          Why would they tell you that? It says on the website it’s a two year programme. The same website says there’s a seminar in wellington in a few weeks time.

          The subject is, as you say, and important one, so careful analysis is needed. No rush though, because it needs to be implemented by a left wing government because the tories will only fuck it up.

    • r0b 3.2

      Yeah given that I spent yesterday afternoon at a planning workshop as part of the Future of Work process I can assure that it is live and well!

    • Draco T Bastard 3.3

      After the foolishness of a half-baked UBI announcement that simply led to people calling for things they thought should be in it

      It wasn’t half baked you moron. As far as I can make out they hadn’t even got that far. All Labour did was to try and open the discussion on it.

      The delusional RWNJs, such as yourself, closed that discussion down because of their fear. RWNJ policies of further enriching the already rich don’t work when there’s a good and working welfare state. Which, of course, is why they’re always attacking our present broken system.

      And people saying what should be in it or even if we should have one is how a discussion works. We want a democracy – not a top down dictatorship as you RWNJs want.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    If only there was a party that was thinking about these long term issues! Oh wait – there is!

    Well, Labour are kinda thinking about it but they seem to have dropped the idea of a UBI about 30 seconds after Key called it madness. It’s somewhat depressing when a supposedly strong, left-wing party crumbles in the face of unfounded RWNJ criticism.

    They, like everyone else really, are still thinking about it the wrong way in that they think that the government needs to figure out how to fund it through taxation. This way can never work and the government will never have enough money if people keep thinking that the government needs to be funded this way.

    The correct way to think about it and the only way that the economy can even work is by realising that it’s the government that funds everything through it’s spending. At that point there the UBI becomes essential as it’s now funding the economy.

    It has other major benefits as well:
    1. Even if businesses collapse people won’t be thrown into poverty
    2. As there will always be a solid base flow the economy will never go into a general recession
    3. Poverty will actually be eliminated
    4. we will be able to bring our economy onto a stable and sustainable path

  5. dave 5

    have a look at SAM semi autonomous robot mason laying bricks

    • weka 5.1

      autonomous robot laying tracks

      Boston Dynamics robot vs banana peels

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      I’m amazed that they didn’t have the robot also cleaning up the cement after laying the brick. Done well they could have saved bucket loads on cement.

      • joe90 5.2.1

        Obviously pointing is beyond a mere machine.

        • BM

          You don’t have to point newly laid bricks.

          Properly laid bricks should have enough mortar in the horizontal and vertical joins already, which is normally 10mm of compressed mortar.

          From experience, far easier said than done.

          • joe90

            Wow, had I known newly laid bricks could point themselves I would never have spent what seemed at the time like every second weekend of my childhood following along behind my old man pointing all those newly laid bricks.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Watch the video.

              You’ll note that:
              1. Pointing is not needed as the machine puts in place enough mortar that it needs to be scraped off. This is what the masons that follow it along are doing
              2. The machine moves in a straight line where it would be easy to scrape off the excess mortar and put it back into the cement reservoir

              What you did in the past only has bearing in that it was horribly wasteful of human capacity and thus needs to be changed so as to stop wasting the work of so many people.

              • joe90

                Of course pointing is required otherwise you end up with a dogs breakfast

                Pointing ensures the bed joints and perpends are properly filled with mortar. Pointing is usually undertaken an hour or so after the bricks have been laid, long enough for the mortar to stiffen but not so long that it has become unworkable. The unpointed joints can be topped up with fresh mortar if they are not quite full, before tooling to the required style.

                The most common pointing styles are shown opposite. The Weatherstruck and Flush profiles are formed with the blade of a trowel. The Bucket Handle profile is formed with a semi-circular section jointing bar, and the Recess profile is created with a joint raker.

                Tooled joints, notably the Weatherstruck and Bucket Handle, offer better resistance to rain penetration.



                • Draco T Bastard

                  Pointing ensures the bed joints and perpends are properly filled with mortar.

                  The machine already does that. That’s why it has so much excess. It’s a wasteful way of doing it which is why I mentioned that I was surprised that the they didn’t have the machine doing the scraping and reclaiming the mortar. A bit more effort and design to get the machine to do that but the savings in mortar, looking at that video, would be quite high.

                  And even the final finishing could be done by machine and done faster and better than by a human. The real question is if it could be done at the same time as the brick were laid.

    • BM 5.3

      Looks like the equivalent of a 1980’s home computer.

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