## Should machines replace human workers?

 Quote by Dotini While Ayn Rand might find your remarks admirable, I'd respectfully suggest they may be slightly out of step with the current reality that many recent American college graduates find themselves in debt of ~$100,000, more or less, and without the slightest prospect of employment, are moving back in with Mom and Dad. Once upon a time, we generally went into the same line of work as our fathers, and stayed in it for life. During my working life (I'm retired now), we got used to the idea of changing careers two or three times, and prepared ourselves accordingly. Now it is said that changing career perhaps seven times might be more the norm. If each career change requires years of education, and the career changes seven or more times, and the employment available changes faster than you can acquire education and pay off student debt, you can perhaps appreciate that the situation quickly becomes unsustainable. I would politely suggest that in such a systemically dysfunctional pattern of rapid changes to educational and employment requirements, the modern individual faces an increasingly daunting task in being usefully or successfully employed, and is likely to become disillusioned, resentful and bitter at such an absurd system. Respectfully submitted, Steve I think you misunderstand me. Speaking as a modern individual (I am 21 pursuing a degree in physics), I realize how competitive job markets are these days, and I am not sitting on my butt complaining about how hard it will be to get a job with a measly BSc in Physics. I enrolled in a co-op program that allows me to alternate between school and work, attaining experience in the industry, as well as paying for school on my own (I live in Canada so school is much cheaper than in the US). As you even mentioned, I have realized the shortcomings of my prospective degree and I anticipate that I will need to go back to school to augment it to be more competitive for the job that I want. It is not up to anybody else to ensure my career. Sometimes times are hard and "**** happens" and blaming anyone else for that is a demotivating and self pitying attitude. Since the 80s everybody has needed a degree to get a job. And my parents, and my friends' parents have always said "Hey Kiddo, get your degree and you'll be okay." That's not true at all, and it is unfortunate that it has been accepted for true for the past decade. As you stated, things are changing, and things are changing quickly. University degrees mean less and less by the day. That's just how supply and demand works. I can empathize with being in debt, having the constant pressure of being unemployed, and being self-deemed unsuccessful. But feeling that way isn't helping anything at all. Go volunteer! Make connections, find your way into an industry. Do something... I tried to read Atlas Shrugged once but I got to page 400, shrugged, and never picked it up again. I don't agree with everything Ayn Rand says, but you can't expect every aimless youth to be Reared in the right direction by the "system" (pun intended ) I am not an idealist, I just don't see a point in being upset about something that I can't change. My parents didn't need an education, how great is that!? Well, my dad has been a landscaper for 30 years, he is now 56 and who knows how much longer he will be able to handle the physical demands. My mother works a few days a week as an assistant to a podiatrist. They don't have a ton of money, or much at all, but that's not anyone's fault but theirs. I understand how you can blame the current system for hammering the youth, but I don't understand why. Recognitions: Gold Member  Quote by Evo Unless you suggest we get rid of technology and go back to the way things were 100-200 years ago? I make no such suggestion. That's for neo-Luddites and primitive anarchists. I'm part and parcel of the modern system, and benefit greatly from its pensions, annuities, oil and gas royalties, modern health care, and fabulous entertainments such as go-kart racing and video games. I'm set for life, and laughing all the way down the road to my fishing cabin. I'm also very grateful for things such as PF! No, it's for you, the working, and the up-coming generation to deal with. I don't even vote anymore. When the career turnover rate goes from 7 to 14, then to 28 and above, you may want to get off the merry-go-round and return to a simpler lifeway. I'm already there. Respectfully yours, Steve Mentor Blog Entries: 4  Quote by Dotini I make no such suggestion. That's for neo-Luddites and primitive anarchists. I'm part and parcel of the modern system, and benefit greatly from its pensions, annuities, oil and gas royalties, modern health care, and fabulous entertainments such as go-kart racing and video games. I'm set for life, and laughing all the way down the road to my fishing cabin. I'm also very grateful for things such as PF! No, it's for you, the working, and the up-coming generation to deal with. When the career turnover rate goes from 7 to 14, then to 28 and above, you may want to get off the merry-go-round and return to a simpler lifeway. I'm already there. Respectfully yours, Steve So am I. And I've been telling my kids for several years to be very careful about choosing their career, do research, make smart choices. Even entering the workforce when I did in the 70's,working for a bleeding edge tech compnay that invented everything themselves, my jobs would be constantly eliminated and I would be moved to or I'd win new positions or promotions. My company, because there were no schools that could teach the technology as it was being invented, had their own schools, which I attended. There were plenty of people that couldn't adapt to the change, couldn't learn the new technology, and they lost their jobs. That's the way it is. Recognitions: Gold Member  Quote by dacruick I understand how you can blame the current system for hammering the youth, but I don't understand why.  Quote by Evo There were plenty of people that couldn't adapt to the change, couldn't learn the new technology, and they lost their jobs. That's the way it is. I do understand the current system, and why it is the way it is. I have adapted to it well, but I'm concerned about what happens when large numbers of people find themselves unable to adapt, and resort to crime or (yikes!) sabotage or insurrection as a way of life, as in other failed societies around the world. Will they come after me? I find myself wondering if, for instance the tech-savvy Swiss (who eschew joining the UN, eschew joining in to headlong globalization, and protect their society from too much change) haven't made an ultimately wiser choice. Respectfully, Steve Recognitions: Gold Member  Quote by Dotini ...many recent American college graduates find themselves in debt of ~$100,000, more or less,
Why is that? Why have higher education costs gone up 4X faster than inflation?
 and without the slightest prospect of employment,
Again, why is that?

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 Quote by Dotini I find myself wondering if, for instance the tech-savvy Swiss (who eschew joining the UN, eschew joining in to headlong globalization, and protect their society from too much change) haven't made an ultimately wiser choice.
Nonsense. The swiss import some 40% of their GDP, or 3X that of the US.

They export some 50%, and both figures have steadily increasing.
 Recognitions: Gold Member Machines already are replacing human workers. That's what a competitive software engineer is: an unemployer; your purpose is to cut costs in the company by automating infrastructure processes with computing machines. One example: reduces the size of HR (have employees fill in and turn their time sheets in online through web software, and you have much fewer HR employees to oversee). If you think about it, robots are just the extra baggage of legs to walk off with and an audio dictionary to talk back with? Why not just keep to the silent, obedient computer?

 Quote by dacruick Ah, I understand. Yes, I agree that is a fact. But this has been happening since the industrial revolution. If you count computers as robots, think of all the jobs that has created? Think of how much computers contribute to the globalization of industry and economy. With that increased complexity, jobs are created less in the labour field and more in the management field.
IBM is programming their Watson NLP system. http://www.research.ibm.com/deepqa/faq.shtml

 Quote by dacruick I'm saying that this is the natural flow of the world right now, and just like you bring an umbrella if you think its going to rain, you should acquire a skill set that can't simply be replaced by lumps of metal.
If we know a hurricane is off shore, it's our collective responsibility to plan and afterwards, to ameliorate it's effects.
 Should machines replace human workers? Sure. But resources should not be witheld from humans, and humans should not overpopulate the globe. If machines make your food and housing, and there are enough resources to go around in the world, what do you need a job for? Survival is no longer an issue, and if you want to contribute to society, you'll find a way. The problems that need to be dealt with are potential overpopulation, abuse of resources and unchecked greed, which cause conflict regardless of employment conditions.

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 Quote by Pythagorean Machines already are replacing human workers. That's what a competitive software engineer is: an unemployer; your purpose is to cut costs in the company by automating infrastructure processes with computing machines. One example: reduces the size of HR (have employees fill in and turn their time sheets in online through web software, and you have much fewer HR employees to oversee). If you think about it, robots are just the extra baggage of legs to walk off with and an audio dictionary to talk back with? Why not just keep to the silent, obedient computer?
Creativity (and there's all forms of it) is a good way to escape automation.

If you settle into a job involving repetitive, manual tasks, where you are not being challenged, then sooner or later your job will be at risk. Data entry, monitoring and reporting are some of the popular examples.

Many of these jobs are really tedious and a waste of talent IMO so in the bigger picture it's not all bad, though it's tough to argue for unemployment.

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 Quote by -Job- Creativity (and there's all forms of it) is a good way to escape automation. If you settle into a job involving repetitive, manual tasks, where you are not being challenged, then sooner or later your job will be at risk. Data entry, monitoring and reporting are some of the popular examples. Many of these jobs are really tedious and a waste of talent IMO so in the bigger picture it's not all bad, though it's tough to argue for unemployment.
I agree in the bigger picture. Human resources can be better spent than on menial tasks.
 It's not necessarily a free choice to introduce machines. At some point, it's all that make sense. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedan_chair

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 Quote by Pythagorean I agree in the bigger picture. Human resources can be better spent than on menial tasks.
My thoughts exactly. Look, you can only replace a persons job if it is something repetitive that can be coded and run by a machine (like a factory). Notice you still need people there to monitor the process in case something unexpected happens.

Basically this is just society evolving to fit its current needs. Just like the industrial revolution pulled a large chunk of people away from agriculture/farming. Let's say society wants a new technology called 'A'. But they also want to purchase 'A' for a reasonable price. Then it is the job of the company that makes 'A' to try and figure out a way to produce it at a lower cost so that society will deem it reasonable and worthy of buying. Now how does the company do this. Do they hire on lots of workers to sit at an assembly line and pay each worker x.xx$/hr or do they invest in a robot that after its initial cost is recovered does the same task for essentially free (minus things like the power needed to run it and maintenance...) As more company's fall into similar molds, remaining others are forced to follow if they want to keep competitive pricing. Basically all this change happens because of what society "wants".  Machines do most of the work already (combine harvesters, electric checkouts etc ad infinitum) and yet governments say "we must create new jobs!" because of the unemployment endemic to the free market capitalist system. As robotics improve, sooner or later there will only be 5,000,000 beneficial, economically viable full time jobs left for humans...if, indeed, there are that many at the moment...then 500,000...then 50,000...at what point will governments have the mandate to aportion benefits and work evenly amongst the population, so that everybody can live well and have some honour/satisfaction at contributing to the system? Such a system would also allow for boundless education and academic research which does not promise profit. Or need we all become marketing executives, cold calling double glazing salespeople, chuggers, trigger happy cogs in the wheels of the military industrial complex or cops/robbers? Recognitions: Gold Member  Quote by Dotini It probably wouldn't hurt to put some modest degree of thought toward what constitutes a happy and sustainable society. Respectfully submitted Steve Certainly you aren't suggesting that corporations take such things as "happy and sustainable society" into consideration when looking at reducing expenses. In particular those corporations that are "too big to fail". Oh wow, there is some irony in there isn't there? EDIT: darn resurrections, get me every time  Many people do not seem to be considering the economics behind these machines. As companies try and solve more and more complicated problems using automated systems, costs increase. Even if long term R & D costs could be offset over time as manufacturing costs for these machines decrease, there are no guarantees. High research and development costs lead to high unit costs which will shrink potential buyers. Not only that but these machines can be incredibly expensive to fix, and have unknown problems or errors which can lead to extended periods of downtime. When I was in South Africa, I happened to noticed that there were around 5 guys with machetes cutting the grass on a football field. Curious, I went over to find out why. The man I assume was in charge came over to me, and I asked him my question. At first he seemed perplexed by my question, so I clarified what I meant by suggesting a lawnmower. I expected him to respond positively to the idea. To my surprise he began to laugh, then he explained it to me. 'A good lawnmower will cost us 1000 rand (around$120), but I can hire all these men for only $2.50 a day.' To better answer the original question 'Should machines replace human workers?' The answer lies in the three D's of automation. Is it dull? Is it dirty? Is it dangerous? If all three come up yes, then it's probably should be automated (or already is ). If it's none of those things, you're probably looking at a very hard task to get a machine to do, and thus a comparably cheap, reliable, self-sustaining human is probably the best bet.  Quote by physicsboard Many people do not seem to be considering the economics behind these machines. As companies try and solve more and more complicated problems using automated systems, costs increase. Even if long term R & D costs could be offset over time as manufacturing costs for these machines decrease, there are no guarantees. High research and development costs lead to high unit costs which will shrink potential buyers. Not only that but these machines can be incredibly expensive to fix, and have unknown problems or errors which can lead to extended periods of downtime. When I was in South Africa, I happened to noticed that there were around 5 guys with machetes cutting the grass on a football field. Curious, I went over to find out why. The man I assume was in charge came over to me, and I asked him my question. At first he seemed perplexed by my question, so I clarified what I meant by suggesting a lawnmower. I expected him to respond positively to the idea. To my surprise he began to laugh, then he explained it to me. 'A good lawnmower will cost us 1000 rand (around$120), but I can hire all these men for only $2.50 a day.' To better answer the original question 'Should machines replace human workers?' The answer lies in the three D's of automation. Is it dull? Is it dirty? Is it dangerous? If all three come up yes, then it's probably should be automated (or already is ). If it's none of those things, you're probably looking at a very hard task to get a machine to do, and thus a comparably cheap, reliable, self-sustaining human is probably the best bet. There are a few problems with your thinking. 1) It assumes there is a massive portion of the people willing to work for dirt cheap and be poor. Very poor. I don't think that is the goal of any modern society. 2) It assumes that there is some kind of permanent labor shortage that will only grow. This is most definetly not true. As new technology comes out it creates more jobs then it kills, then in the long run it kill more then it creates, but then more technology comes out that again creates jobs. 3) It would kill GDP. Just look at China were there is very little automation. There GDP per person is around 8400 compared the the US of 48k. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...PP)_per_capita Meaning the average US worker produces 8k as much stuff, and should have about 8X as much stuff (varying dependant on distribution of wealth in each country). Are YOU willing to gives up over 80% of your stuff just so there is no automation? I think the answer is a resounding no. In certain countries it doesn't make sense to go from no automation (low GDP, low wages) to fully automating everything. So I agree with the example of South Africa (11k GDP per person). Yet, as GDP grows, wages tend to grow, and some sort of automation becomes necessary. Take for example the US. Minimum wage here is$7.50. If the lawnmower costs $120 and it takes 1 person 8 hours to mow this field, your talking$60 a day in wages. Three people would cost \$180 a day, literally the lawnmower would pay for itself in a single day.