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It's not just a catchy title, I'm serious. I think everything about our global recession and ballooning unemployment rate can be traced back to those shiny guys from the Terminator, and it's driving me crazy that the media hasn't latched onto this yet.

I've been a consultant to large manufacturing companies for nearly 6 years now. And I can tell you that nothing in my work is as awe inspiring as walking into a giant manufacturing plant where they make plastic, or stamp computer chips, or mold metal, or process foods. The machinery is everywhere and it is massive. And each machine lowers the bottom line for it's owners, which lowers the price for the consumers, which allows our American companies to compete with the Chinese, which allows our stock portfolios for those companies to rise. Yes, capitalism is thriving in these massive companies that have the robots.

But do you know what's missing in these plants? People. One machine does the job of fifty employees, works 24 hours a day, and requires just a few employees a shift to manage, maintain and operate it. And the machines aren't just replacing manufacturing jobs; my career revolves around implementing automation software. So now with a few programmed algorithms the secretary, the buyer, the inventory manager - all these occupations are becoming obsolete as the responsibilities are being undertaken by drones that work for nothing. By slaves.

Now I know some of you are really thinking I've lost it. That at any moment I'm going to demand that we release these poor overworked robots into the wild. That we should go back to a time when we had hardworking men and women in factories.  I'm not going to say that. Not even a little bit. I'm glad our economy has this new workforce. They truly are a sign of progress and are absolutely the future of our world.  

So let me get to my point. Who owns these robots? Who bought these slaves from the robot manufacturers - admittedly, another key component of the economy - and put them to work?  In some cases it's the company owners. In other cases it's the company's shareholders. These are the key people who reap the benefits of the robot labor. And they rake it in. They don't have to pay the robots/slaves salary, health care, benefits - hell they work for the power of.. power. There's virtually no turnover. And aside from occasional maintenance, they never get sick. And as I pointed out earlier, the bottom line falls and the company prospers. The owners really prosper. And the TOP 01% really, really prospers. That's why you see those exponential bar graphs that really piss off the protesters on Wall Street. The rest of us make out ok too; we see lower prices for our plastic, for our computer chips, and for our microwavable pastas. But we don't see the same kind of return that the guy who owns the slave-labor does.

Now I've intentionally made many allusions to slavery in this blog and my reasoning is to remind us of our history. I don't believe the reason the South reminisces on Dixie and the pre-civil war confederacy is because they're racist. They just remember how good it was when they were the slave-owners. When they were the plantation managers. When they were the 01%.Those were GREAT times for the southern economy. And if you weren't black, that wealth really did spread around.

With the new robot workforce we have an opportunity to build a utopia here on american soil. Capitalism will still run the country, but we must institute a tax on the slave owners. Yes, you might even call it a "robot tax" on the wealthiest 1% of persons who - as they grow their businesses - won't employ more people, but will buy more automated machinery to turn more profit. The revenue from this tax should be used to rebuild our country's infrastructure. Education, pubilc works... Hell, you can even use it to build bombs and to pay soldiers to go to war. I don't really care. But those robots aren't going anywhere. They're just going to keep on working, continue earning their owner's a fat pay day, and perpetually put american workers out of a job. And as long as a robot tax / slave tax doesn't exist to keep our people working, the circle will continue indefinitely. And the American economy will be kept out of the loop.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I don't really think that (0+ / 0-)

    the forcing of machines to do work is akin to the slavery of humans. Robots are machines, even if they have some resemblance to humans. People sometimes think that robots are hum because of how they look and how advanced they are today, but they are still just machines without a consciousness.

    •  You are correct, but the author is also correct (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Stetson

      in that with automation we do not share in the fruits of these leaps of industry.  They need us less and less.  I can foresee a day when there will be no jobs, and it will be a life of leisure...for the 1 percent.  The rest of us, not so much.

      #Occupy Wallstreet - Politicians will not support the movement until it is too big to fail.

      by Sychotic1 on Wed Nov 02, 2011 at 11:12:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, eventually "jobs" will be a thing of the past (0+ / 0-)

    Very little labor by human beings will be needed, due to advances in robotics and artificial intelligence. Even most "knowledge workers" will be eliminated as deep AI becomes a reality within the next couple of decades.

    This poses a major problem for the capitalist economic system, because a capitalist society in which jobs for human beings are simply no longer necessary for businesses to make a big profit is a society in which the majority of the people will end up in abject poverty -- literally destitute -- while the business owners gain all GDP of that society.

    Therefore, I think the human race is headed for some VERY interesting times ahead. I suspect that most of the current socioeconomic establishment will somehow be overthrown and be replaced by... who knows what. I only hope that it happens peacefully, through the democratic process and by non-violent individual freedom of choice among the population.

    Eric Stetson -- Author, Speaker, Visionary. www.ericstetson.com

    by Eric Stetson on Wed Nov 02, 2011 at 11:58:45 PM PDT

  •  No, we shouldn't continue to allow capitalism (0+ / 0-)

    to run the country.  And no, machines don't create profits.  Profits are created by human labor.  Moreover, the machines themselves are products of past human labor.  We must get behind the fetishized appearance of the commodity and to the heart of the matter: all the products and services of capitalist society are nothing other than objectified human labor.

    We should rid our ranks of all impotent thinking. All views that overestimate the strength of the enemy and underestimate the strength of the people are wrong. -- Mao Zedong

    by GiveNoQuarter on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 12:04:30 AM PDT

    •  nah...plenty of labor-saving (or human-replacing) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Stetson

      machines are already themselves built by machines, and soon more will be -- the fact that there's still some element of human intelligence seeding the process at some remove becomes increasingly irrelevant to the distribution of capital.  But I think we're all basically in agreement here: the basic problem lies with capitalism as such.

      The technological utopians of the 19th century foresaw a time when all (or nearly all) human labor was replaced by machines, which would usher in at once tremendous wealth and tremendous leisure for all.   But these guys all assumed some mechanism for wealth redistribution, Marxist or otherwise.  

      Otherwise the scenario is this: the 1% who own the automated factories make huge wealth, they pay a decent salary to a handful of robot-design engineers, plus minimum wage to a couple dozen machine-maintenance workers (until that part is automated); and the other 98% of us live in abject poverty, having nothing of value to sell.

  •  If automation... (0+ / 0-)

    ...inherently destroys demand for human labor, then why have the electronics and software sectors seen such tremendous growth in employment, despite the introduction of say the compiler?  Or cron?  Or huge standard libraries?

    Never forget that these "slaves" free up capital and labor to turn to other problems and opportunities, and that there is no meaningful limit to the value man can potentially extract.

    A quant and damned proud of it.

    by Cera on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 04:35:59 AM PDT

    •  Yes, but... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Stetson

      The problem is that those factories are employing nowhere near the number of people that they would have ten or twenty years ago if they had the same amount of demand (and assuming the technology they were producing existed then.)

      I think that we're rapidly moving towards a post-employment, post-capitalism world.  If handled correctly, this could be a massive force for good and the improvement of humanity's lot.  Or, if those with the most resources and power fail to recognize and accept this, it could plunge us into a world even more full of poverty and penury and indentured servitude than it already is.  

      •  Focusing on factories... (0+ / 0-)

        ...is missing the forest for the trees.  There are considerably less (well-paid) people working on circuit assembly lines building devices used by a few million people at most, but the destruction of those few hundred thousand jobs in 1960 heralded the creation of millions of more jobs.

        A quant and damned proud of it.

        by Cera on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 02:02:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Perhaps. (0+ / 0-)

          I haven't looked at the numbers, I haven't done any projections.  

          I do know that 'efficiency' has gone up vastly over the past few decades, through the use of automation and the destruction of the 40-hour-work week.  Practically all of those gains have been skimmed off the top as 'profit' instead of being passed down to those responsible for them.  But, when you look at it, since wages haven't increased commensurately, all of that efficiency can be measured in jobs not created and/or lost.

          At some point I think we need to recognize that, without a significant change in socioeconomic policy, we need to sacrifice some of that efficiency or profit merely to have a society that works.  Literally.

          •  The average hours worked per year... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Praxical

            ...in the United States has fallen from 1,948 to 1,778 (click Time and Frequency to set the range in the dataset.  

            So who's skimming off the top?

            A quant and damned proud of it.

            by Cera on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 06:56:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I hadn't realised that. (0+ / 0-)

              ...But that just means that more people are underemployed at one of those 30-some-odd-hour-a-week McJobs which refuse to bring you up to full-time even if you desperately want it 'cause then they'd have to offer you bennies and sorta treat you like a human being.

              ...Actually, yeah.  1778/52=34.19 hrs/week.  I think 35 hours/week is the cut-off for a lot of places for a job to be considered full-time.  So this average indicates that -most- of the jobs out there are no longer full-time, so they no longer count as a full 'job unit' in my reckoning.

              •  I'm not sure... (0+ / 0-)

                ...what use there is for a measure like "full job unit."

                There's another, and I think more obvious, explanation for why working hours have declined on average.  Pregnant women.

                A quant and damned proud of it.

                by Cera on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 07:28:31 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  Also, don't just look at factory jobs. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eric Stetson

          Most of the middle-class white collar jobs have fallen to the axe of automation called the Computer.  We no longer need operators to manually route calls.  We no longer need people to tabulate vast columns of numbers.  We no longer even need most of our customer support operators, having replaced them with automated 'self help.'  We don't need as many people in the fields due to improved farming equipment.  

          Now, I'm not saying that this is inherently a -bad- thing.  However, in our economy, it means that the rate of job produced per unit of demand has gone down significantly, and we may have shot our society in the foot because of it.  Instead of everyone having to do less work, we have a system with 'surplus' workers who're desperate for a job while those who have a job are working far harder than their parents in order to just keep from losing it, while being paid less for their work than the previous generation was, in real monentary terms.

          •  well said (0+ / 0-)

            this is exactly what I was trying to convey here, but you said it better

            •  Thanks! (0+ / 0-)

              I've been paying attention to the process since I was in my early teens, reading sci-fi from the 50s and 60s (...at least thirty years since it was written, but still.)   And I've watched the promise of leisure and freedom and security that such advances should have brought to the average working-class schlub slip away to be sacrified on the Altar of "Moar Profit!!!!"

          •  You have a point... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Praxical

            ...the average rate of aggregate demand growth vs job growth from 1960 to today is about 65 percent greater than the average rate between 1960 and 1970.  The question is, how meaningful is that measure?  If demand growth remains constant, then that's bad for job growth.  If job growth remains constant, then who's going to knock a jump in productivity?  Obviously the curve winds up somewhere in between and neither parameter vanishes.

            What's obvious though is that the number of jobs held in the US has almost tripled since the beginning of the automation age.  Even more importantly, setting aside recessions, unemployment has hovered around 5 percent for that entire time.  We should view predictions of the coming Skynet-induced labor crash with a measure of skepticism.

            A quant and damned proud of it.

            by Cera on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 06:32:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Oh, I don't think it'd definitely happen... (0+ / 0-)

              ....I just think that it's a strong possibility which needs to be considered and averted.  

              I also think that the unemployment rate might be misleading.  I admit that I'm not as up on the topic I should be, but I know that the definition of 'unemployed' has been changed several times to massage the numbers.  I have a feeling that if you really looked at it, the number of people who're employed but underemployed or working several McJobs because the worth of a job has gone down has gone up drastically.  

              It -used- to be normal that we had a small amount of unemployment and a vast amount of people who weren't looking for jobs -- namely, homemaking women.  Then we had a small amount of unemployment but we had both people in the household holding down a job each, though again one might be part-time.  Now we've got two-parent households were both parents are working two jobs each, and this is becoming frighteningly more normal by the day, and -real- unemployment approaching 20% or more.

              I always laugh when I see a dip in unemployment numbers, nowadays, being lauded as an improvement to the economy, because I know that a significant portion of it is probably people just falling off the rolls as they use up all their benefits, or another few thousand part-time bullshit jobs having been filled.  The metrics our government use are no longer indicative of reality, and becoming kinda useless because of it.

              Ugh, I'm having a hard time bringing this concept together, but hopefully you can see where I'm coming from, in that more and more people are fighting over less and less.

              •  You got me thinking... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Praxical

                ...so I took a look at the CES data over at BLS.  Not sure what qualifies as a McJob, so I picked retail, food and beverage, administrative and waste services, waste management, and leisure and hospitality.  In 1960, these accounted for over 93 percent of private sector servicing jobs.  In 2011, they're 54 percent.

                I don't think McJob growth is fueling the service industry.

                A quant and damned proud of it.

                by Cera on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 07:07:24 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I personally define 'McJob'... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Cera

                  As paying within a few dollars of minimum wage and not offering full-time, non-seasonal 40/hr week w/ benefits, sick leave, etc jobs.  And they're not not offering full time employment because they don't have the demand, they're doing it specifically to screw you out of those full-time benefits.  Pretty much any retail non-management position nowdays tends to be a McJob.  Or a job working for a retail-based corporation, even if you work in the warehouse.  Or if the place forces you to work as an 'independent contractor', where they tend to work you for more than 40/hrs a week but give you none of the benefits and often not the pay, plus you get the privilege of paying your own self-employment tax and having no protection against unemployment.

                  Waste management probably actually has a relatively high number of honest-to-god Jobs, if only because I'm pretty sure it's got a relatively large union component.

                  Also, argh, that site is awesome, I've got to play with it a bit and learn how to use it.  Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

                  And no matter what, if I got someone thinking, and was made to think, I view the thread as a success. ;)

                  •  Do check it out... (0+ / 0-)

                    ...but to be clear, you got me thinking about particular gotchyas in the Occupy narrative.  I've always been somewhat uncomfortable about stories that spin:

                    1. depictions of some pitched struggle for justice between groups consisting of millions of people on one side and tens to hundreds of millions on the other (give you three guesses as to why), and

                    2. financial narratives from people who probably don't give a damn about finances until April 15.

                    A quant and damned proud of it.

                    by Cera on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 07:33:26 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Could you elaborate? (0+ / 0-)

                      I'm getting tried and I'm not sure I quite understand where you're going with those two points.

                      •  Agitate for better conditions for the 99... (0+ / 0-)

                        ...but it's probably best you do so without demonizing the 1 percent.  At least not too much.  If it helps keep the GOP out of power, go for it, but eventually you're going to need bankers, financiers and yes, even speculators.

                        A quant and damned proud of it.

                        by Cera on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 07:56:46 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

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