automate jobs technology computers

Will We Cry For Jobs Or Demand a Share of Surplus?

Will Smart Machines Create a World Without Work?

Are jobs disappearing? What could take their place? Economic justice? We excerpt two 2012/13 articles from (1) Associated Press, Jan 25, on automation by P. Wiseman and B. Condon, and (2) blog of J. Shannon, Dec 31, on user fees. Shannon hosts a libertarian talk radio show and is Chair of the Libertarian Party of Utah.

by Paul Wiseman & Bernard Condon and by Jake Shannon

Three years after Google invented one, automated cars could be on their way to a freeway near you. What happens to the millions of people who make a living driving cars and trucks — jobs that always have seemed sheltered from the onslaught of technology?

"All those jobs are going to disappear in the next 25 years," predicts Moshe Vardi, a computer scientist at Rice University in Houston.

Vardi poses an equally scary question: "Are we prepared for an economy in which 50 percent of people aren't working?"

Millions of midskill, midpay jobs already have disappeared over the past five years, and they are the jobs that form the backbone of the middle class in developed countries.

"What has always been true is that technology has destroyed jobs but also always created jobs," says Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University. "The car destroyed blacksmiths and created the auto industry."

But the rise of computer technology poses a threat that previous generations of machines didn't: The old machines replaced human brawn but created jobs that required human brains. The new machines threaten both.

Yet the rise of the iPhone, for instance, has put more than 290,000 people to work on related iPhone apps since 2007, according to Apple. That suggests that new technology continues to create new types of jobs that require higher skills and creativity.

"Computers can do calculus better than any human being," says Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at MIT's Center for Digital Business. But "restaurant bus boy is a very safe job for a long time to come."

ATMs dislodged bank tellers. Microsoft Outlook manages what secretaries used to do. Expedia is replacing travel agents. E-ZPass is doing away with toll-booth operators. And robots continue to supplant factory workers.

As far back as 1958, American union leader Walter Reuther recalled going through a Ford Motor plant that was already automated. A company manager goaded him: "Aren't you worried about how you are going to collect union dues from all these machines?"

"The thought that occurred to me," Reuther replied, "was how are you going to sell cars to these machines?"

To read more

JJS: If you’re not going to get paid for working, what will you get paid for? If you won’t get paid for investing (since computers will make better investment decisions), how will you profit? If wages were to disappear, along with jobs, and if profits were to disappear, along with portfolios, you’d be in deep yogurt.

Or would you? If those human inputs -- labor and capital -- were to wither away, they would not to be paid, so their costs would wither away, too. Everything would be free. Nothing would have a price, so money would become superfluous. Instead of earning money, people might be given quotas, as they were during wartime, so they would not consume too much.

We’re not there yet. But we are at a time when work has become less relevant and jobs less able to provide people with a livable income. And we do have an immense social surplus that we are not letting ourselves enjoy, rather we are letting only a few enjoy. That could change.

Ironically, as techno-progress makes much labor and many machines quickly obsolete, at the same time new devices make land -- both locations and resources -- more valuable. The chip made Silicon Valley vastly more spendy and copper more pricey. The automobile did something similar to suburbs and oil. So did the steam engine to iron and coal.

Since the value of nature is generated by society in general, the members of society could share in that value. People would pay in land dues to the government and get back rent share from the public treasury. The idea of land dues or land taxes is an idea catching on in many quarters, including the political party of many futurists.

I can’t find a better scheme than a minarchist state funded via a combination of land taxes and user fees.

To read more

JJS: While that libertarian did not cite the Citizens Dividend, others do, and so do people in other parties, and some cite the whole package: land dues plus rent shares. Gradually, the way to make progress benefit everyone fairly is catching on.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

US Poverty -- Record Numbers Persist

Bankers Enjoy Economic Security Beyond Jobs

Why Some Like Conservatives & Oppose Liberals

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