Workplace Automation Stands to Hit Women Harder Than Men

Avatar

Kate Harveston

Kate Harveston is originally from Williamsport, PA and holds a bachelor's degree in English. She enjoys writing about health and social justice issues. When she isn't writing, she can usually be found curled up reading dystopian fiction or hiking and searching for inspiration. If you like her writing, follow her blog, So Well, So Woman.

Related Post Roulette

58 Responses

  1. Avatar JoeSal
    Ignored
    says:

    Yeah we really need to do something big. Like this is our WW2 moment. Let’s ban all those inefficient public schools and convert them to competitive private sectors.

    No more public funds for the Universities, they have to actually competitively teach skills that fit the current niches of production in the current production sectors.

    Also that minimum wage has to go, I mean if equality is the measure, let’s level the playing field globally and just eliminate the privileged nationalism.

    You know the field where women are really under represented? Sewer line replacement. Just a few weeks of training and we could have millions of women in the trenches fixing our deteriorated infrastructure. Especially with all the taxes we saved cutting out the teachers unions, the firefighters unions, the police unions.

    May as well organize a league of women to go slaughter the 90 million cattle AOC requires to save the planet.

    That train track to Hawaii isn’t going to build itself!

    Of course we are going to have to melt down all those airplanes to fabricate bullet trains. RearDem(TM) Metals!

    The future of Enforcement is looking up. It will take at least 150 million women watching over 150 million men to to eliminate the patriarchy.

    Man that’s a hell of a lot of work, and we haven’t even started talking about pointing guns at doctors to get the best health care in the world.Report

  2. Avatar DensityDuck
    Ignored
    says:

    Women were called “computers” up until IBM started making mainframes.Report

  3. Avatar Pinky
    Ignored
    says:

    I looked over the PwC report, and it was very positive about the economic benefits of automation. This article give the opposite impression.Report

    • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Pinky
      Ignored
      says:

      Hell, somehow we are supposed to be worried about automation, just think how many people electricity and petroleum displaced.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to JoeSal
        Ignored
        says:

        I didn’t want to delve into a whole argument about this article; obviously, any new technology is going to have pros and cons, and even if the pros outweigh the cons, it’s going to affect people differently. I just felt like the article didn’t do a fair job representing that report.Report

        • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Pinky
          Ignored
          says:

          I guess I would be a little less cranky if we were more like “yay automation helps us!” than “automation will create a social/cultural disparity, and what is to be done to equalize the outcomes?”.

          Mostly because if we were teaching economics as a type of technology (instead of ever warping it with culture wars), we wouldn’t be worried so much about unequal outcomes.Report

  4. Avatar James K
    Ignored
    says:

    While I agree with your primary policy recommendation (education is going to be important in ensuring that people have good opportunities as our economy changes), this claim:

    One of the troubles with automation, however, is that wealthy industrialists will predominantly enjoy its benefits — and women and minorities will primarily feel its harm.

    Is almost certainly false. Previous studies suggest that the inventors of new technology only gain about 5% of benefits of that technology. The bulk of the gains go to consumers through better products and lower prices.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to James K
      Ignored
      says:

      Is there some structural reason why this should always be so, or is it a case of “the last 5 times I pulled the trigger, this revolver didn’t fire a bullet”?

      Theoretically, according to the Lump Of Labor Fallacy the cheaper price of say, garments and electronics should spur consumption to higher levels, resulting in an overall higher demand for labor.

      Yet I’m not seeing this. Garments and electronics in particular are so cheap as to be disposable yet the wages of the workers in these sectors haven’t improved much, and if anything have declined over the past few decades.

      And the benefits of automation should, in theory, result in the rest of workers being able to work fewer hours and enjoy the same lifestyle.
      And yet, that isn’t happening either.

      And we should all be moving higher up the skills ladder, leaving the dull stupid work for the machines, while we all do complex higher knowledge sort of work like, um, oh I don’t know, like calculating retail demand for online companies like Amazon. Oh, well, bad example, that is done by a machine too.

      Maybe we can do complex data analysis which involves crunching numbers in complex vast arrays of data…oops, thats done by machine as well.

      Ahh, but we can all become lawyers, and…dang, there’s a glut of them so never mind.
      Maybe we can become brain surgeons, where the delicate and complex hand-eye coordination skill of wielding a scalpel…um, OK another bad example.

      But we can always count on jobs which cannot possibly be automated, which require uniquely human and emotional interaction.
      Jobs like the insanely lucrative and high paying world of home health care aides.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
        Ignored
        says:

        I don’t think anyone’s saying that the benefits of innovation are picked up by the workers in a particular industry. They go to the consumers.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
          Ignored
          says:

          Right.
          And if the demand for the labor of those consumers remains level while prices fall, this is called prosperity.

          I just don’t see any evidence of this happening. I see declining demand for labor in just about every sector and job category.

          I measure that by not just unemployment levels, but bargaining power and security.

          The bargaining strength of labor seems to be declining across the board, and their ability to negotiate real wage increases and benefits weaker.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Chip Daniels
            Ignored
            says:

            This looks like there is a logic problem in this statement:

            “I just don’t see any evidence of this happening. I see declining demand for labor in just about every sector and job category.”

            In new sectors there will be a increase in demand, but as time goes on efficiencies are developed to reduce the labor demands. This has been the way processes have developed for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

            What has changed is technology advances that have enabled people to meet basic needs with a lower threshold of effort.

            Changing the degree of motivation for workers to pursue niches of productivity. Also if there is a social construct that provides for needs, then there is even less motivation to find niches to produce.

            But you know this and you know what flooding the labor market with thousands of new workers does to bargaining power so this whole conversation boils down to an ideology that continues to ignore the parameters that where defined over 50 years ago.

            A ideology that is still being taught and echoed by people who should know better by this point and time in history. A ideology that starved and killed hundreds of millions, and will kill hundreds of millions more.Report

            • Avatar JoeSal in reply to JoeSal
              Ignored
              says:

              At least with folks like the ‘flat earthers’ they may be wrong in an empirical manner, but they haven’t repeatedly killed millions with their errors, and are still attempting to wrap bad ideas with a false ribbon of concern.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to JoeSal
                Ignored
                says:

                If leftwards are really needing something to do they can make reparations by going and digging up all the mass graves created by their lofty ideas and DNA identify people so they can be buried in individual graves. That should keep yall busy for a thousand years.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Chip Daniels
        Ignored
        says:

        “the last 5 times I pulled the trigger, this revolver didn’t fire a bullet”?

        Another way of looking at that is that the prediction that automation will create mass unemployment has been wrong every time it has been made in the past, so what kind of idiot would I have to be to think things would be any different this time?

        Garments and electronics in particular are so cheap as to be disposable yet the wages of the workers in these sectors haven’t improved much, and if anything have declined over the past few decades.

        Because the returns are flowing to consumers in the form of lower prices, not workers in the form of higher wages. Those benefits are less visible, but no less real.

        And the benefits of automation should, in theory, result in the rest of workers being able to work fewer hours and enjoy the same lifestyle.

        Or alternatively, that they work the same hours and have higher real incomes. You continue to labour under the misapprehension that there is a fixed amount of work to be done.

        Maybe we can do complex data analysis which involves crunching numbers in complex vast arrays of data…oops, thats done by machine as well.

        This is a good example to explain why you are so wrong. There is a real boom in demand for data analysts right now – precisely because of advances in the machines used to do data analysis. I’m in the data analysis business, and better tech makes me more productive in my job, that means that I benefit my employer more, which makes them more likely to hire people like me. You’re stuck in a model where capital is a substitute for labour, but most of the time capital is a complement to labour, and so better capital increases labour demand rather than decreasing it.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to James K
          Ignored
          says:

          You guys keep reciting theory like a catechism or something: “This should happen, and that should be the result, amen”…

          Are workers demonstrating stronger bargaining power now? More job security, less fear of being summarily fired? Positive wage growth? Better benefits such as more time off and holidays?

          Haven’t we just had a couple years of economists and pundits explaining the global wave of authoritarian politics as the result of “economic anxiety”?

          If automation is making everyone more prosperous, where is all this economic anxiety coming from?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
            Ignored
            says:

            You guys keep reciting theory like a catechism or something

            He opened his comment with discussing the last five times this happened.

            Most of his comment is discussing what is rather than what theory is.

            If what you want relies rather heavily on what should be (e.g., higher wages, stronger bargaining power, etc), you *WANT* to be discussing on the battlefield of Theory. Then you can accuse him of preferring his own theory because he is bad (or something).

            Once you get on the battlefield of “Is”, the ground you (Chip) stand on is much less solid.Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
              Ignored
              says:

              Did I miss the empirical data showing wage growth and strong job security?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Why are you expecting to see it?

                This is an important question.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I would expect that any assertion that automation leads to prosperity would be supported.

                Otherwise it’s just a creed.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                I’d probably compare baselines of what is considered poverty today to what was considered poverty 30 years ago, 45 years ago, 60 years ago, etc.

                Are you defining “prosperity” positionally?

                The number of people living in extreme poverty has declined by 1 Billion (with a ‘B’) people since 1990, for example.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Ugg. This number is great and elides a lot. China, that bastion of freedom and the free market, has led the way with reduction of poverty. India comes next. How much has automation had to do with the reduction in poverty in India and China? It seems more very cheap labor is their advantage.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
                Ignored
                says:

                How much has automation had to do with the reduction in poverty in India and China?

                Does the number of factories created have anything to do with what we’re calling “automation” or no?Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Are the factories in China that have produced the decrease in poverty filled with robots? Is it robot poverty that has decreased? Poverty has decreased due to globalism ( to use a popular word these days) which has allowed cheap labor to supply us with cheap stuff.

                Lord knows we have been told, here in the good ol US of A, that entry level workers should shut their traps about raises or their asses will be automated out the door. Havn’t you made that point? When i’ve read about cheap labor factories it is always lots of people working, not robbie the robot.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
                Ignored
                says:

                What are the jobs that the people used to do? I’m going to go out on a limb and say “subsistence farming”.

                The farming has since been automated allowing (or forcing, whatever) them to get *NEW* jobs.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Subsistence farming in China and India has been automated so now they are working in factories??? I guess that is possible but i need some citations. Until then i really doubt it. Farms in the us that have cut down on workers due to automation are big money operations, most aren’t family owned. How are former subsistence farmers affording giant John Deere ( insert correct Mandarin characters here) combines? Is the Indian or Chinese govs paying for all that?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
                Ignored
                says:

                Here’s an article talking about this sort of thing.

                The dynamic is not “the farming is automated so now they have to work in factories”. The dynamic is “it’s more efficient to work in factories and make money and buy food and have money left over than it is to make your own food”.

                You know. The way that privileged people do.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Lets try another tack-
                Imagine those Chinese workers all went on strike;

                How hard would it be to replace them, either with lower wage humans or machines?

                Would anyone argue with me if I said it was trivially easy to replace them?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t understand what you’re arguing now. Is it that automation will create mass unemployment despite the last however many times automation has changed things?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Automation won’t cause mass unemployment, but doesn’t need to in order to have harmful effects.

                Again, this is not some hypothesis about the future; I am describing what is happening now, an dhas been happening for decades.
                What is happening is technology is climbing higher on the skill ladder than many people can follow, and sucking the high value skillsets out of job descriptions.

                In almost any job, the human skill component is lower now than it used to be.
                That is, it takes less skill to do almost any function than it used to. This is true for doctors and lawyers, plumbers and truck drivers.

                Which is where people usually say, Oh, but now we just develop even higher human skills!

                Except, we aren’t, and haven’t been.

                A 2019 engineer doesn’t really have any more human skill than his 1969 counterpart. He isn’t smarter, faster, stronger but he is able to produce a lot more output because of the machine.

                The machine is now doing work that used to require high levels of scarce human skill and knowledge like operating a slide rule.

                As I asked about the Chinese workers- is the number of people who can replace any given worker in 2019 larger or smaller than it was in 1969?

                Because at the end of the day, the value of a commodity is really only what people are willing to pay.

                And if there is a standing army of people who can easily take your place, then your labor isn’t worth much, no matter how much you and the machine can produce.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                A 2019 engineer doesn’t really have any more human skill than his 1969 counterpart. He isn’t smarter, faster, stronger but he is able to produce a lot more output because of the machine.

                True. However the demand for engineering is going up, not down. Their pay is going up, not down. The numbers we’re creating is vastly up (especially if we consider India and China). Although their efficiency is way up, the complexity of what they need to create has gone up even more.

                I pay attention to which degrees result in high incomes (so I can push my kids correctly), engineering is normally high up there and that’s even after we split engineering into far more specialties than in 1969.

                it takes less skill to do almost any function than it used to. This is true for doctors and lawyers,

                You’re claiming law and medicine haven’t gotten more complex since 1969? Seriously? The tax code is so complex that it’s not possible for a single human to understand it. Medicine now has vastly more drugs, conditions, treatments, and so forth.

                And if there is a standing army of people who can easily take your place, then your labor isn’t worth much, no matter how much you and the machine can produce.

                It took us more than a year to replace our kernal guy and we still have lots of other SW positions open behind that in my building alone. That standing army all have jobs working for someone else.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                So now we’re talking about “harmful effects”.

                Are we talking about “net harmful effects” or merely “bad effects in clusters”?Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                So you have no point that i can see. You have a pointless troll about privilege and what else? Nothing you add here has anything to do with automation since the factories all those people are working in aren’t automated. If the owners could automate them for cheaper then the very cheap labor they would.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
                Ignored
                says:

                It’s not a pointless troll about privilege. How much of the food you eat is food that you raise? Like, not buy, but actually feed before you kill it and eat it or actually plant it before you eat it?

                I’ll tell you the numbers from my house: We plant radishes.

                All of the other food we eat is produced by someone else.

                I recognize my privilege. You should recognize your own. The freedom of people to move from subsistence farming to working in a factory is pretty amazing… and, yes, automation is part of what makes that possible.

                (We agree that someone using a sewing machine instead of a needle and thread is using automation, right? We agree on that much?)Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                My lack of god!! A sewing machine is automation?! Going to a store to buy food is privilege? So i will agree that you have defined words in such a broad way as to be useless and descriptive of nothing. People have been trading for food for thousands of years all around the world. Even actual slaves have been able to go to stores. The auto in automation usually suggests the machine makes it’s Cogswell Cogs will minimal, at most, human involvement. My mom liked to sew on a sewing machine; she needed to actively be doing sewing stuff, she couldn’t just leave alone to chase after me. When i go out for dinner in my automotive machine i’ll see how well it does without my constant, well mostly constant, attention.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
                Ignored
                says:

                “A sewing machine is automation?!”

                Yes, a sewing machine is automation. So are dish washers and washing machines. These simple machines put thousands of servants out of work. Seriously. This is a thing that happened.

                “People have been trading for food for thousands of years all around the world.”

                Does subsistence farming exist under this model of yours?Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Did I miss the empirical data showing wage growth and strong job security?

                “Job Security”? We’re at full employment, if I lose my job I can trivially get another.

                As for wage growth, even the NYT is talking about that, and they’re not doing like for like comparisons so that’s a massive push downwards. Compare like for like and not only do we have wage growth now but we always have.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                If you want to the workers in Youngstown and West Virginia that workers are enjoying greater prosperity than ever before, with greater wage growth and job security, then what explains all this economic anxiety?

                Is it real, this fear, or is it some sort of mass delusion?Report

              • Avatar James K in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Two things:
                1) I wrote a post on that subjecta couple of years ago.
                2) You are committing one of the classic blunders of the social sciences – You observe a phenomenon and then impute a cause onto it because it sounds plausible to you, but attribution in the social sciences is harder than that. One of the things the economics community generally has noticed is that concerns about income inequality have been growing worldwide, but outside the US inequality isn’t actually growing. This raises the possibility that people are reacting to something that isn’t inequality or income based. My own suspicion is the housing market, but that’s merely a suspicion as I haven’t done the kind of analysis that would be required to determine if that were actually the cause.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to James K
                Ignored
                says:

                So your argument is that workers have been enjoying robust wage growth, only they don’t realize that?

                They have more bargaining power than they used to, but they mistakenly think otherwise?

                The only reason they work longer and harder than they used to, is they just don’t care as much for vacations and holidays?

                Is that really the argument here?Report

              • Avatar James K in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                What I’m saying is that a lot of things could be going on here, probably more than one thing. For this reason it is unwise to confidently assert that X is doing Y to the economy (as you are) without doing a lot of careful research first.

                And, while I’m not saying people are definitely wrong about their economic circumstances, people can be quite wrong about social trends – consider how high fear of crime is relative to the rates of actual crime.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to James K
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s fair to say.

                I don’t think there is a single bullet explanation either, but I am asserting that the observed behavior of employers and employees points away from real wage growth, and towards a general softening of the demand for labor, going on over 40 years now.

                It used to be that a single income, even for a low wage job, could support a family; today it can’t;

                We regularly see workers and entire cities frantically competing to find the lowest price for labor; but rarely see employers bidding against each other for labor.

                Workers used to work less, and take more time off;

                In 1967, the premise of the movie The Graduate, was the young man’s ennui at the prospect of a lifetime job with benefits. Such a movie would be incomprehensible today.

                These are all just data points and each of them can be litigated.

                But to me, they all point to a long trend in which human labor is growing steadily less valuable, less scarce and needed.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                In 1967, the premise of the movie The Graduate, was the young man’s ennui at the prospect of a lifetime job with benefits. Such a movie would be incomprehensible today.

                Hoffman’s character was absurdly well off for his day. He’s got a well respected degree from a well respected college, in 1967 that was RARE.

                Translate him to 2019 and he’s got a PhD in some science and is looking at a lifetime job doing dull stuff, so he’s basically Val Kilmer’s character from Real Genius.

                For the rest of this, you’re using rose colored glasses for what the society/economy was like decades ago and you’re focused on the down sides of our situation, which includes full-employment and even the NYT is admitting wages are increasing.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                I lived in that economy.

                In 1979, armed only with a high school education and a strong back, I was able to walk into a factory in my home town and get hired on the spot for a union job stacking boxes, for triple minimum wage and health benefits.
                It was common, so common as to be unremarkable.
                Men supported entire families and bought houses with those jobs.

                I don’t have a magic solution. We are, IMO, actually on the edges of the post-scarcity economy, where technology can produce staggering amounts of wealth without much human effort.

                But what is going unrecognized is the social cost of people grasping that the work they do just isn’t needed very much.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                In 1979, armed only with a high school education and a strong back,

                1979 was the peak of the golden era for labor, and the magic solution which created it was Stalin, Hitler, and Chairman Mao. Overseas multiple generations of men were killed and infrastructure burned down. Smart people were shipped to death camps or to work on farms because they were smart. In the US this golden era was almost entirely reserved for white men, minorities and women need not apply. Not only is none of this coming back but it shouldn’t.

                Not only was the advantage to labor absolute (i.e. more money) but it was also relative (i.e. that job was a 50% percentile job, not a 30% percentile job). That’s probably a big part of what you’re complaining about. Although every percentile has increased, if you’re comparing 50 percentile in times past to 30 now, that’s going to look grim.

                Again, Hoffman’s character really stood out for that time period. Only 12% of men had degrees (7% of women but they don’t count at all). Now days women and minorities count and a third of the country have degrees. Hoffman has gone from the upper 6% (educated white American man) to the upper 35% (educated).

                The good news is the modern equiv of HS+strong doesn’t need college to have a good job, the bad news is he needs something (trade school counts). Everyone else has upped their game.

                We are, IMO, actually on the edges of the post-scarcity economy, where technology can produce staggering amounts of wealth without much human effort.

                Anything that is currently “scarce” is either positional (everyone can’t be the 1% or date a supermodel) or wouldn’t have existed at all 200 years ago. I’d say we’re solidly into post-scarcity and have been for many decades.

                The Bible makes a big deal about helping the poor because to be poor was to starve to death. Our poor are better off than the kings of old. This country had a President’s son die from a blister on his foot because that’s what the state of medicine was like.

                However post-scarcity doesn’t mean everyone gets to date a supermodel or have a house on a lake or even have a house in the most extreme housing market in the US where the powers that be have prevented houses from being created for the bottom 80%.

                But what is going unrecognized is the social cost of people grasping that the work they do just isn’t needed very much.

                This is very rough. I’ve been there, master of a dead technology, way to young to retire. My personal solution was to retool, get new skills, and switch jobs.

                However creating the golden era also carried VAST social costs that are also ignored.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                So…automation took your old job, is what you are saying?

                And you were forced to learn an entirely new set of skills in a short time?

                That is exactly the point I’ve been trying to make.

                You, like those coal miners and soon-to-be truck drivers, didn’t just one day choose to switch careers; The machines forced that choice upon you.

                And just to survive, you had to expend a tremendous amount of resources to adapt.

                And aren’t the new skills just variations on learning to work with new technology, which itself has a limited shelf life?Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes, to all of that. I’m one of the most analytical, logical, and least emotional people I know, and I found the trama a problem. I was deeply worried, no prospects… and the emotional toll of the outcome was actually a lot worse than the real outcome.

                I get how much of a leap it is to say “your job is being destroyed, try not to worry about it too much”.

                However that last is/was the predicted reality, and the actual reality. As usual, math was right and emotion was wrong. The worrying about this was MUCH worse than the actual doing of it.

                And if that was true at a personal level then it’s MUCH more true at a societal level. We shouldn’t be promising to preserve coal jobs; At most we should be helping people transition but if memory serves there are dozens of gov programs which already exist for that.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                We shouldn’t be promising to preserve coal jobs; At most we should be helping people transition but if memory serves there are dozens of gov programs which already exist for that.

                Part of the reason that Trump’s promise to bring back the local coal-mining, timbering, manufacturing, etc jobs resonated is that he was implicitly promising that the jobs would be right in their neighborhood.

                Many of the government training programs come with an implicit message, particularly in rural-ish areas, of “You’ll have to move.”

                What we as a society lack is any way to put the new jobs in specific areas.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Michael Cain
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes, all of that.

                For perspective, there are currently 50k coal miners, and in 2003 there were 70k. In 1985 there were 174k. In 1923 there were 863k.

                This is how much of a political stink we get by destroying a few tens of thousands of jobs. And this is why I think it’s crazy to think our political establishment has the stomach to destroy millions of well paying healthcare jobs, which is part of what serious HC reform needs to entail.

                Markets can be ruthless, just as a matter of course, the gov can’t.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                And somewhat humorously, 4k coal “miners” in six counties in Wyoming produce 40% of all the coal mined in the US. The concrete things the Trump administration has accomplished wrt coal will all make western coal cheaper and eastern coal less competitive. To be blunt, few to none of the miners in WV have the skill set to be strip miners in WY.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                So your argument is that workers have been enjoying robust wage growth, only they don’t realize that?

                They have more bargaining power than they used to, but they mistakenly think otherwise?

                The only reason they work longer and harder than they used to, is they just don’t care as much for vacations and holidays?

                I wonder if there is a class of people in the modern world for whom these kinds of skewed perceptions are useful?Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                If you want [to explain?] to the workers in Youngstown and West Virginia that workers are enjoying greater prosperity than ever…

                This is serious cherry picking. With a hundred million workers you can absolutely find some whose jobs are terrible and disappearing.

                What do you suggest to do about them that is superior? Restructure the economy so they don’t lose their jobs? Should China create more subsistence farmers so they don’t lose their jobs?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                This is why I mentioned that automation doesn’t need mass layoffs or Depression levels of unemployment in order to have devastating effects on us.

                The 2016 American election, and the history of the 21st century was radically changed by a handful of precincts in a handful of states.

                And for a lot of these swing precincts, the most pressing factor was America’s inability to address the changing nature of our economy.

                I would add into this the persistent crisis of male self image and all the violence and injustice that that produces, as part of the larger overall inability to grapple with what becomes of us when work, the thing from which we derive meaning and sense of self, is rendered trivial.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                I would add into this the persistent crisis of male self image and all the violence and injustice that that produces, as part of the larger overall inability to grapple with what becomes of us when work, the thing from which we derive meaning and sense of self, is rendered trivial.

                Oh, so we just need to make people think differently about things?

                Cool. Let’s explain to them that they’re really well off by historical standards and we should be good.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                In an election this close, EVERYTHING becomes the key issue; Emails, the media giving Trump 2 Billion dollars worth of free advertising, etc.

                Worse, swinging the election by going back in time and putting factories in swing districts seems a little backwards looking, i.e. even if we want to say you’re right that doesn’t lead anywhere useful.

                If we’re going to talk about jobs, then what we should probably go into is “2% (actually 1%) growth rate”, and how a few more points of growth would have made all this angst background noise.

                We should probably also mention that the best models predicted a GOP victory a lot greater than the one we saw. Trump on the ticket cost several points of the electorate. In order of importance, imho Trump isn’t a disaster created by automation, he’s a disaster created by the media’s Billions of dollars of advertising and the previous administration’s 2% growth.

                I would add into this the persistent crisis of male self image and all the violence and injustice that that produces, as part of the larger overall inability to grapple with what becomes of us when work, the thing from which we derive meaning and sense of self, is rendered trivial.

                As jobs become more productive they also become more important, i.e. contribute more to the economy. This implies automation and the vast increase in productivity it will bring will be good for our “sense of self”.

                Further, if memory serves, violence is trending down, not up. If we seriously want to draw a line between automation and violence, then automation is a good thing.Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
            Ignored
            says:

            You guys keep reciting theory like a catechism or something: “This should happen, and that should be the result, amen”…

            People who bet on the Theory of Gravity working rather than on against it working tend to be right. This aspect of economics is math, and math doesn’t change much.

            Haven’t we just had a couple years of economists and pundits explaining the global wave of authoritarian politics as the result of “economic anxiety”?

            That would be a measurement of what people feel, which has little to do with math.

            Feelings say immigrants steal jobs, math says they create them. Similarly math says Free Trade is great but intuition says the opposite.

            …where is all this economic anxiety coming from?

            First, we had a global credit bubble that needed to get unwound, that reduces growth.

            2nd, our political class, for all their rhetoric about increasing jobs, are normally state-ists, don’t understand economics, reach for command+control solutions, and are very willing to sacrifice economic growth for whatever.

            3rd, the media does a very poor job of informing people about this. They mostly talk about bad things to attract attention and all local news is now national. Just like a school shooter makes national news while gun violence going down does not, so to is a group of jobs being destroyed national news while being at full employment is not.

            4th, news is now very personal. My news feed routinely brings up what the gravity wave detector is doing, but if you’re worried about jobs then yours is feeding you bad news about jobs.

            5th, economic news is also local. The recession ended a few months after Obama took office, but a 2% growth average with half of that due to population growth means a 1% growth rate average for the nation. So if the coasts are booming along with 6% growth and solidly approve of how things are going, the interior does not.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
        Ignored
        says:

        We’re close to or at full employment, unemployment is headed down, not up. Yes, we’re destroying jobs, but we’re also creating more, and faster.

        And we should all be moving higher up the skills ladder,

        No. That you need to work for. The average has gone up, but you personally can go down.

        Maybe we can become brain surgeons, where the delicate and complex hand-eye coordination skill of wielding a scalpel…um, OK another bad example.

        My impression is robotic surgeons has increased, not decreased, the number of both surgeons and surgeries. “Impression” here means “I don’t see how it could not be true without me knowing considering where I work”.

        And the benefits of automation should, in theory, result in the rest of workers being able to work fewer hours and enjoy the same lifestyle.

        True, but NO ONE wants “the same lifestyle”. How many of us have smartphones?Report

  5. Avatar George Turner
    Ignored
    says:

    I think these concerns about robots taking people’s jobs are misplaced. Why would a robot want your job? The real worry is that the robots will move into management. Then they’ll make us work for subsistence wages or they’ll reach out a claw and pop our little skulls like melons.Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe
    Ignored
    says:

    The Brookings analysis and the Pricewaterhouse analysis seem to be a bit at odds with other with regards to timing and characteristic of various technological changes.

    More notionally to me the Brookings analysis really leans into ‘Food Preperation’ being almost completely automated (91%) and “Light Truck and Delivery Service drivers’ being very automated (78%). I just want to say, this sort of prediction has now been floated around for years, and I’m really beginning to think that this is the new ‘Nuclear Fusion is only 20 years away’.

    I would even say something put together as recently as 2016 needs to be significantly reassessed with regards to self-driving cars. A lot of money was going into their development around then, and no small amount of hype. Not just Musk, for instance, Google (Alphabet) spun off Waymo in December 2016.

    Merely the experience of the past 3 years has revealed an enormous amount of technical and regulatory issues to the forefront. The former are somewhat more difficult than people thought, the latter may not be overcome ever.Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *