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Future market restructuring needs to be taken seriously

  1. Jul 27, 2017 #1
    Well, some research shows that a large portion of jobs will not exist in the future. The estimate for the proportion of jobs at risk is 47%. Pdf linked at bottom.

    This really leads to the question? What type of jobs will remain? Just jobs that require higher abstractions? Any opinions?

    Clearly, unskilled jobs are the first to go. Along with any task that can be currently computed, i.e good motor skills, calculations, typing even. So repetitive tasks are out.


    But will this open new jobs that are more creative in nature? Perhaps more jobs for mathematicians and physicists? What about the field of software engineering/data scientist? No matter how intelligent the AI becomes, it still cannot have a Sherlock Holmes style of deduction, which means analyzing data for scientific purposes still should be around.

    Skills that I think will remain are: proving theorems, writing novels, deducing cause and effect, etc. So basically: Creativity and Pattern Recognition.
     

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    Last edited: Jul 27, 2017
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  3. Jul 30, 2017 #2

    Orodruin

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    The point is that humanity is in a situation where a major part of the population is not needed in order for society to sustain itself. This results in a situation where we as a society need to figure out how this should be handled.
     
  4. Jul 30, 2017 #3

    Choppy

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    I can't help but wonder if there is a way to see this as more of an opportunity than as a change toward a dystopian future that will see half of the workforce unemployed.

    A downturn in the need for "repetitive" type jobs may result in an upturn in other types of jobs that just aren't there because no one has the time to do that. Consider service industry jobs. And I don't mean just waitresses and baristas. There was a time in western society when many people were employed as butlers, maids, gardeners, etc. In the near future with the aging population there's going to be an increase in demand for geriatric care, for example, and I'm not sure that's something that robots are going to be able to do effectively. Even if they could effectively feed, toilet and bathe people, there's a simple caring element that needs to be there.

    I remember a character in the movie Demolition Man - "Associate Bob." To the best of my recollection (and it's been over 20 years since I've seen the movie) he was basically a professional friend. In the real world this could manifest into things like increases in counselling, social convening, historical interpretation, debating, personal training, skill training, personal protection, etc.

    A lot of this of course depends on an effectively managed trickle-down. With machines doing more work, the potential is that those who own the machines are going to make the most money and there won't be much for the rest of the population to share. You can't hire a butler or a tennis coach if you don't have an income in the first place.
     
  5. Jul 31, 2017 #4
    I can see how this might ultimately turn out to be a good thing. But I'm worried about the transition period. It could take decades, and during those times, people will be unemployed.
     
  6. Jul 31, 2017 #5

    Evo

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    How is this different from any other time in past history? Please give examples, from say, the industrial revolution, just for one.

    You do realize that every time we progress technologically, we put people out of work. What about the book business? What has the internet done to that business? Now anyone can self publish online for virtually nothing.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2017
  7. Jul 31, 2017 #6

    russ_watters

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    This number is not meaningful unless compared with other times in history.
     
  8. Jul 31, 2017 #7

    russ_watters

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    That has never been true before and I see no reason being presented why this time will be different. People keep saying this time will be different without ever presenting a reason.

    I think this next disruption will usher in a new era of prosperity and standard of living growth - just like all the others did.
     
  9. Jul 31, 2017 #8

    Orodruin

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    I am not saying that people will go unemployed. I think you are misreading my post.
     
  10. Jul 31, 2017 #9

    russ_watters

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    Evidently I am. I can't reconcile it with what you are saying now. Can you clarify?
     
  11. Jul 31, 2017 #10

    Orodruin

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    We are already at a point where the majority is not needed for sustenance of society. I am working as a scientist and getting paid for it although I do not contribute directly to keeping us alive. We also have reduced working hours compared to pre-industrial society - also signifying a lower need for using the population as labour to produce what society needs.

    I think that, as a society, we should be happy about this and make sure to use it to provide sufficient sustenance and health care for everyone. Of course, you can add qualified jobs in other additional sectors (such as research), but since we have the capability to make sure that people have descent lives - why would you not do this?
     
  12. Jul 31, 2017 #11

    russ_watters

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    Ok, fair enough. I was under the impression that the premise of the thread - like similar ones before it - was that this is an impending crisis (people unemployed, leading to increased poverty), not an impending opportunity. Perhaps @FallenApple can clarify.
     
  13. Jul 31, 2017 #12

    StatGuy2000

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    Russ, I believe you have a myopic view of history if technological revolutions necessarily lead directly to a new era of prosperity and standard of living growth. At a certain timescale, yes, I do believe that the technological changes that we are experiencing will lead to that state (as has occurred in the past), but if you look at a cursory look at history in both various European countries as well as the US and Canada, the first Industrial Revolution led to masses of former farmers migrating to the cities (or emigrating to the US and other countries), and many of these people often lived in extreme poverty. Over time, these former farmers did ultimately improve their living standards over several generations, but one could argue that this arose primarily through the direct actions of governments (again, at least initially).
     
  14. Jul 31, 2017 #13
    Well, for jobs like bartenders or waiters/other service jobs, much of it serves a social function. I don't think someone sitting at a bar would want to talk to a mechanical arm. But many jobs would be eliminated outright, like data entry. Hopefully it will result in new jobs that are better. But the new jobs will either have a large social function, or a creative/analytical function. So I think these are the skills that people need to strive for, and quite urgently too.


    How is it the same as the industrial revolution? In the past, repetitive low skill jobs are replaced by new repetitive low skill jobs. Shoe makers were able to move to the factory assembly line, which is arguably even more low skilled! At least with personalized shoemaking, there's elements of arts/ craftsmanship.

    Here for the situation of increasing improvement in machine learning, the same will not happen; people will be forced to climb or fall, which makes the situation rather urgent.

    Jobs get replaced and new ones get built, as always. The issue is will new jobs appear at the same rate as the old jobs that were lost? If not, then how quickly? Then, what types of jobs will surface? That is the more interesting question.
     
  15. Jul 31, 2017 #14

    Evo

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    And you're expecting someone here to know the answer?
     
  16. Jul 31, 2017 #15
    It's just an interesting discussion on what might happen or what is likely to happen. I just want to see what people think of the situation. It's actually quite relevant for people's career path.
     
  17. Jul 31, 2017 #16
    Here is a figure from the report.(page 28)

    ProbComputerization.png
     
  18. Jul 31, 2017 #17

    russ_watters

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    It sounds like you are trying to disagree with me but ultimately not.

    Yes, change is often painful, even change for the better. You didn't really respond to the question posed in my post, so I don't know which angle you are taking, but it doesn't seem to me that either angle (massive, systemic unemployment or not) would necessarily produce a result as "troubled" as the early industrial revolution. Everything about our society is more mature and able to deal with such issues (albeit naive and overconfident...).

    The main reason robots don't scare me is that we've already had two robot revolutions(Three? Five? I guess I've lost count, but that's the point: they're ALL robot revolutions!) and the next one will be slower because this time the robots will be orders of magnitude more expensive, so they'll be much more difficult (slower) to implement.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2017
  19. Jul 31, 2017 #18

    StatGuy2000

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    I was specifically responding to your quote in post # 7:

    "I think this next disruption will usher in a new era of prosperity and standard of living growth - just like all the others did."

    My initial reaction upon reading your quote above (which you provided without further clarification or caveat) was that you were coming across to me as naive, with an unreasonably narrow view of history. Your subsequent, more nuanced reply sounds to me to be more realistic, at least with respect to what we can plausibly expect this next disruption will entail -- a period of disruption leading to initial turmoil in the labour market, followed by potential greater prosperity and higher standards of living (although I should note that I do have concerns of whether prosperity that could potentially be reaped from greater automation will be more equitably shared across populations).
     
  20. Jul 31, 2017 #19

    russ_watters

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    Hmm....I thought this was a discussion, but evidently I'm talking to myself.... but getting reviewed. Looks like I'm up from one star to three, so that's something!
     
  21. Aug 1, 2017 #20
    It is not so much an impending doom thread so much as a new jobs thread. I'm most interested in what would happen once the dust settles.

    However, one thing that is of concern is, what new jobs would those of lower skill move to? Other jobs with low skills? Those won't exist anymore.
     
  22. Aug 1, 2017 #21

    russ_watters

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    Thanks, that clarifies.
    I'm going to hedge and play devil's advocate a bit and say that I'm not sure it is that simple. In the past, CNC machining eliminated many mid-level skill jobs and spreadsheets and computer programs eliminated high skill jobs. Just because a job is low skill for people doesn't necessarily make it easier than a high skill job for a computer/robot to do. It may or may not be. In addition, high skill jobs tend to be highly specialized, so while a high-skill person may not fall back to minimum wage, they stand to drop a lot further than a low-skill person would if their job is eliminated.

    And last, robots are expensive so it may be more difficult to displace low skill jobs with robots for cost reasons.

    I also think there is a fundamental concept in economics at work that people fight hard against but is nevertheless real: Low skill jobs are not worthy of higher pay precisely because they are low skill. I know I'm crossing threads a bit with discussion on minimum wage, but my point is this: because low-skill jobs are easy and low-skill labor is cheap, it will *always* be possible for employers to find *something* for low-skill people to do, and pay them accordingly. I think how many jobs disappear for good is more a function of how we structure our economic system than it is about how technology competes with people.
     
  23. Aug 1, 2017 #22

    mfb

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    What is expensive about distributing software?

    As an example, self-driving cars and trucks won't be much more expensive than other vehicles but they save the driver - they will be worth the additional investment within months. Retrofitting the hardware in existing cars/trucks might cost a bit more, but compared to the yearly salary for drivers that is still cheap, and the vehicle can now drive 24/7. They will come rapidly as soon as the software and the legal frameworks are ready.
    Every job that requires relatively unskilled work without mechanical components (this includes everything done on computers without special skills needed) can be automatized with just new software. Simple mechanical tasks can be done with quite cheap robots as well. All the "Office and Administrative Support" jobs, most of "Sales and Related" and a lot of "Service" in the study in post 1 are in this group.

    The industrial revolution was slow because you had to build factories, and you have to build factories building tools to build factories first and so on. The AI revolution mainly needs computers as hardware - and we have them already.

    It is possible to do that - but it will take more time than many other tasks.
    If AI can do science, it will be able to do nearly everything.
     
  24. Aug 2, 2017 #23

    256bits

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    The acceptance of the concept, the changes necessary within the company, feasibility outlooks, infrastructure changes, ....
    Something such as driverless trucks won't happen in a day, but like most things the penetration takes time.
    Manpower work-hour shifting from driver personnel to dock personnel means that the cost savings won't be all that significant IMO, at least until the whole transportation system has adapted.
    Who knows where it will go - amalgamations of fleets, larger automated hub centres, dedicated road systems for automated container transport systems,...
    In the meantime, drivers, or some individual from the transport company would need to be available to sign off on the load from the dock, safety check of the vehicle, dangerous goods check with placards if need be, fuel fillup, hookup to the trailer, destination selection, etc. The first to select driverless vehicles would be TL transport, or full load from one location to the next ( ie a distribution centre ). LTL, or less than a full load pickup ( here a skid, there a skid ) would be needing a driver for some time to come, as the places these guys go were definitely designed on the back of a cigarette package 55 years ago ( hey, even some of the newer places seem to have the question of "how do we get stuff in here?" as an afterthought - a well designed loading/unloading dock takes a lot of space and a lot of money - utopia it sure ain't ).

    So until everyone gets as rich as that fancy place in the Middle east with a D...with cash to spare, penetration is going to be difficult and drawn out, and we will suffer the congestion and sharing the road with every third vehicle being a truck and driver.
     
  25. Aug 2, 2017 #24

    russ_watters

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    The licensing agreement?

    But seriously, I think you and I are on the same page about my point that they are all robot revolutions, because that question implies that what is coming in the future is mostly just smaller, evolutionary improvements in hardware and software and isn't fundamentally different from what has come before...but just might be faster. The OP of this thread is pretty well written (open) and the clarification helped, but I think based on other similar threads, more people are concerned about a sudden, cataclysmic change enabled by general purpose robots that could instantly render thousands of job descriptions obsolete (and the OP did specify he's worried about the pace). Think like the movie iRobot, where suddenly, everyone gets a new humaoid robot that can do basically anything we can. That is what I think will be fabulously expensive and it isn't something I consider realistic from either a technical or financial angle. The idea of McDonalds replacing its order-takers with iPads just doesn't scare me. It just isn't a big deal (and plenty of places have already done it). That's an example of an easy change and it is not happening quickly - at least not as quick as I think it should/could.

    So again, the reason I don't have the same fears as others is that I think the next 50 years holds gradual and continuous advancements in software/robotics/automation that will over a long span of time amount to a major change in our working/living landscape....just like the last 50 years have.

    For the specifics:

    I don't share your optimism for the prospects of driverless cars/trucks because I don't think it will be that easy/cheap to retrofit existing vehicles and if it is easy and cheap, then it's too cheap and companies will simplly charge more money for it due to supply and demand.

    For the "Office and Administrative Support" jobs, that's already happened, so I don't see any reason to fear it happening again. One small example is just how fast email replaced letter writing. I'm not sure if companies used email much before the WWW went big in 1995, but by the time I got out of the navy and got my first real job in 2002, letter writing was fully dead and replaced with email.

    A similar example from my industry (building design/engineering) is that 30 years ago, probably 3/4 of the jobs were "designers" or "draftsmen" and all of the draftsmen and almost all of the designers are gone. Overall, that equates to probably 2/3 of the jobs in my industry disappeared in 30 years....and that's not even including the loss of administrative support over the same time period.

    There are a lot of individual examples, of course. Will the future pace be faster and more disruptive? Maybe, I but I doubt it. I think people discount problems that happened but didn't turn out to be problems and then don't apply that moving forward (Y2K is forgotten because it didn't cause disruptions, but it really was a big problem). But these are just guesses -- as are everyone else's.

    What annoys me about these studies though is that they are ultimately meaningless because they don't compare the predicted future to the known past. Maybe it is the fault of people who write news articles about these studies and not the people who write the studies (because studies by nature tend to be narrowly focused), but the study linked in the OP is so narrowly focused that it is isn't helpful for discussing the topic of the thread. Personally, I think it's mostly that reporters don't like context because context makes the terrible boring and terrible gets more clicks... though the author of the study does spend 15 pages on pointless historical anecdotes, without ever discussing the historical context of the title statistic of the paper. So maybe it's the study's fault in this case.

    What I want to see isn't "47% of jobs are at risk". That's meaningless on its own (what is "likely"? When?), much less without context! I want to see:

    "25% of jobs will likely (better than 50% chance) be replaced by automation in the next 20 years. If correct, this stands to be the worst of any time period studied in the last 50 years. The next worst were 22% of jobs in 1980 were lost by 2000, 18% of jobs in 1960 and 12% of jobs in 1990."
    [made-up numbers of course]

    [Edit] A quick Google tells me there are 3.5 million truck drivers in the US and the US lost 5.6 million manufacturing jobs primarily due to automation from 2000 to 2010. So we've seen worse than what driverless trucks can bring - and recently.

    This doesn't go far enough back for what I really want, but another Google tells me we lost 900,000 admin support jobs in only 2 years, from 2009-2011.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2017
  26. Aug 2, 2017 #25

    Stephen Tashi

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    If I think of society as a single semi-rational organism, I can agree with that observation. However, if we consider humanity to be more than the humanity of the developed nations, is it true?

    Differences in geography result in differences in natural resources, but I think differences in politics and culture are the major reasons why nations differ so greatly in material prosperity. What it means for a society to "sustain itself" is a cultural question. Thinking of small groups of individuals, do they need actors, television commentators, rap musicians etc. to sustain themselves? - probably not. However, an entire society creates a demand for such things.
     
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