The Future of the Workforce

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
You are probably right, we have virtually unlimited overtime at my factory, a semi-skilled production operative can easily top 40k if he puts the hours in. The office block is stuffed with graduates doing admin and clerical stuff on half that and don't seem to want to move out onto the shop floor.
If I were to overhaul the education sector, it would be to have it in line with what the country needs in terms of skills.

There will be the usual howls of protests from the not-so-closet Marxist indoctrinators in Media Studies departments, and I do believe that we do need to preserve some of the arts.

That said, how positively will youngsters respond to 'We need X many plumbers this year, and X many brickies and chippies' compared to 'Here's some debt and here's a job in a call centre'?
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
You are probably right, we have virtually unlimited overtime at my factory, a semi-skilled production operative can easily top 40k if he puts the hours in. The office block is stuffed with graduates doing admin and clerical stuff on half that and don't seem to want to move out onto the shop floor.
... it probably also tells you something about the calibre and work ethic of some graduates.
 

Mbongwe

War Hero
I'm staying well away from the point for the moment that many of those of a certain demographic are very low-skilled. One thing that will need to be watched there is radicalisation.
My bold for emphasis; work has been the saviour of many folk; quite a large proportion of the people I grew up around only became even half-way civilised (e.g. stopped most of their criminal activities / stopped sitting at home all day taking drugs) once they got a job or found a meaningful occupation of some sort.

The oft-stated notion that once robots are doing our work we will all embrace the opportunity to purse creative pastimes and self-enlightenment is, I believe, wishful thinking and fraught with unintended consequences (one of which you've pointed out).
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
My bold for emphasis; work has been the saviour of many folk; quite a large proportion of the people I grew up around only became even half-way civilised (e.g. stopped most of their criminal activities / stopped sitting at home all day taking drugs) once they got a job or found a meaningful occupation of some sort.

The oft-stated notion that once robots are doing our work we will all embrace the opportunity to purse creative pastimes and self-enlightenment is, I believe, wishful thinking and fraught with unintended consequences (one of which you've pointed out).
What we all want and need, I think, whether we all realise it or not, is purpose.

It's surprising how much structure work gives people - or, rather, it's surprising how little there is for many people without work.

Up-thread, there was a comment about wages rising. I can't help thinking that that's a very positive thing. If it can be made to encourage a lot more people to think about work, and we could revamp the social security system, that's a win-win.

Hopeful thinking, I know.





Edited to change 'ages' to 'wages'.
 
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Legs

ADC
Book Reviewer
There are only so many robot programmers/maintainers that can be employed. Yes, there will always be people to fulfil a limited number of roles. And yes, artisan bakers, brewers, plumbers and candlestick makers. But how many such artisans can a population support? Not forgetting all these unemployed folk who won't be able to afford their artisanal services. Heck, even (some) surgery can be done by robots now (or at least, it's in the developmental stages).

Thing is, so many of the people who sing the praises of total automation always say "People will have so much more leisure time/creative pastimes/self enlightenment" haven't considered the financial cost of this. Whether it's because folk will be on the dole and won't be able to afford anything that they might consider leisure, or there's the impact of the lack of income. Which means the lack of income taxes. Which will be needed to pay these ever increasing numbers of folk their dole. Or anything else that income tax pays for. Like the NHS, or roads etc etc etc.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
There are only so many robot programmers/maintainers that can be employed. Yes, there will always be people to fulfil a limited number of roles. And yes, artisan bakers, brewers, plumbers and candlestick makers. But how many such artisans can a population support? Not forgetting all these unemployed folk who won't be able to afford their artisanal services. Heck, even (some) surgery can be done by robots now (or at least, it's in the developmental stages).

Thing is, so many of the people who sing the praises of total automation always say "People will have so much more leisure time/creative pastimes/self enlightenment" haven't considered the financial cost of this. Whether it's because folk will be on the dole and won't be able to afford anything that they might consider leisure, or there's the impact of the lack of income. Which means the lack of income taxes. Which will be needed to pay these ever increasing numbers of folk their dole. Or anything else that income tax pays for. Like the NHS, or roads etc etc etc.
The financial cost, the social/mental health cost... one way or another, I think we need to keep an eye on inward migration.

That's not xenophobia. It's a recognition of the fact that we don't need more people.

As to artisans, they're not necessary all fancy. It's those guys on the tools.
 

endure

GCM
My first job after I left the sea was at Husky Computers in Coventry. They made handheld computers which were the forerunners to modern laptops.

There was a room with about 40 women basically assembling and soldering them by hand and there were 4 of us at the end of the line testing them and fixing any problems again by hand.

Today those 40 women have been replaced by this. Once all the components have been placed the board will be stuck in what amounts to a 6 foot long toaster which will heat it up and melt the solder paste on it.

It will then be stuck on a test rig which will test it automatically.

The whole thing probably needs 3 or 4 people to keep it going.

This is quite a slow bit of kit. A speedy version can place ~50,000 components an hour.

 
One of the easiest things to automate will be the law. Instead of judges, juries and lawyers, computers will be able to use complex formulas to weigh up the probability of guilt and issue fair and unobjective sentences accordingly. Whether this happens remains to be seen. It could happen now, but would require legislation. What lawyer is going to legislate themselves into redundancy?
I read this a bit back - Will A.I. Put Lawyers Out Of Business? and it does seem to suggest that lawyers could be in trouble soon.
I had read another article some time before that that suggested low-level postions in law firms in the US were in trouble because some of the basics lawyers used to do, contracts, wills etc. were now being automated by computers in, what is essential a box ticking/filling excersise which can be done by the customer via a web interface.
 
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Chef

LE
I read this a bit back - Will A.I. Put Lawyers Out Of Business? and it does seem to suggest that lawyers could be in trouble soon.
I had read another article some time before that that suggested low-level postions in law forms in the US were in toruble because some of the basics lawyers used to do, contracts, wills etc. were now being automated by computers in, what is essential a box ticking/filling excersise which can be done by the customer via a web interface.
I suspect human nature being what it is everybody feels their own jobs are safe from automation or computerisation

Back in the 70s at a poultry slaughterhouse I trained at there was a line of highly skilled women with knives who reduced the chickens into portions, the birds went past hanging upside down from shackles, wings, breast and carcass were all stripped off and the last job was the two legs off the shackles. This at a rate of 900-1200 birds per hour.

'They'll never automate this job, too expensive to develop a machine that can, economically, deal with the variations of each bird. Let alone resetting it for different weights'.

All replaced a few years later by a machine.

I wonder what happens when the vast bulk of human endeavour has been automated?
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
I read this a bit back - Will A.I. Put Lawyers Out Of Business? and it does seem to suggest that lawyers could be in trouble soon.
I had read another article some time before that that suggested low-level postions in law forms in the US were in toruble because some of the basics lawyers used to do, contracts, wills etc. were now being automated by computers in, what is essential a box ticking/filling excersise which can be done by the customer via a web interface.
Lawyers, accountants, GPs...
 

Mbongwe

War Hero
Aldous Huxley Walt!
I mentioned on another thread that in some cultures (and probably British culture in days gone by) it was in many cases a real asset, a source of social capital, for even very poor families to have many kids; it was strength in numbers, and a lottery of sorts (back when maybe 1-in-3 newsborns wouldn't survive infancy). Nowadays, the main reasons I can think of that poor families have loads of kids are: idealogical, more benefits from the state, or just pure lack of thought as to the consequences.
 

JCC

LE
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Legs

ADC
Book Reviewer
<snip>. Heck, even (some) surgery can be done by robots now (or at least, it's in the developmental stages).

<snip>

I know it's bad form to quote yourself, but in this case I feel it's justified. Just to prove my point above: Robot Performs Surgery on Pig.
 

Carl1960

Clanker
Back in the past until the last few decades, anything that we needed required a person to either make it, grow it or rear it. Each of those people fitted into a workforce which combined to produce everything from a carrot to a cow to a house to a space rocket.

In the last few decades though, many of these people have been replaced by robotic or autonomous machines. So of course the expensive and unreliable people were sent packing. Yes, this has been happening since the Industrial Revolution, and I don't see it changing in the near future. Every day someone designs some machine that will replace the human workforce. So (dystopian fiction aside) what happens? More and more people will be out of a job. But if they're not able to find a new job then they either exist on a small welfare payment (the dole), turn to crime, or starve. And then what? No one has money to buy the things made by the robots that replaced them. Do we enter a massive worldwide economic collapse? Do the people rise up to remove the automation that replaced them in a violent manner? I'm not sure, but as far as I can see, this replacement of humans with automation is a very short-sighted idea that will, at some point in the not too distant future, cause major socioeconomic issues amongst the population.

What are your thoughts?
Do you know that feeling where something is predicted and years later,,,? Once upon a time long long ago the BBC used to broadcast TV I would watch. One of those programs was Tomorrow's world. I'm not exactly sure when I saw one particular report, I suppose it must of been the late '70s. It was about a future crisis of leisure time. The premise being when automation and computers started to be implemented into the work place they would be so efficient that the time needed to do the work would be substantially reduced. The premise being the workforce would have much more time off and the leisure industry would be saturated. So fast forward a few years I left the Army and joined the civil service. The job involved lots of calculations and complex rules all of which had to be done in your head or with a calculator written down on a form. In the mid 80s the first re peace of technology arrived. It was a stand alone terminal with a printer. It could only do the the first calculation, it took much longer to do than a person and it was so slow you could be inputting data several pages in front of what the computer was processing and have to wait for it to catch up. You couldn't input anything until it had finished the first assessment. After you had done five the whole thing had to be reset. And despite the fact we could do it faster we were instructed we had to use it...Well for those cases that weren't too complicated for it. Fast forward another few years and we had more technology. This time everything had to be changed in our working practice to fit around the system. Although faster and more sophisticated still at times couldn't do simple arithmetic at times and also at times needed time consuming bodging to get it to do what it was actually supposed to do. Most upgrades brought system downtime in it's wake. In the office I was in the server when down now and again including a two week period at one stage. As everything was on the system that meant we couldn't do anything as all the information was stored in the system I was a grown up at the time so I was trusted with a safety pin. Oh the safety pin was to reset the servers. Never did find out what the issue was. I left and the office closed. So what has all this got to do with Tomorrow's World? Ahh I forgot to mention we lost about a third of our staff because the system was , supposed to be, more efficient than us. So much for the increase in Leisure as I had grown to expect of the years efficiency measures perceived or real just lead to a reduction in employers and more work being dumped on them
So Here we are. Obviously all jobs can't be automated although I predict the next big hit will be call centre jobs with AI t running the calls. In some jobs will remain that are cheaper just to employ people. Over the last two yeas we have all seen how compliant the great British public are, I treat the "high wage, high tech" as the lie it will be for the majority of the work force.
The future I'm glad I'm retired. All I do know is sheep go Baah! And there's lots of sheep out there.
 
We'll need plenty of unskilled workers to haul baskets of rubble and plant root vegetables when it all goes pear shaped. We're human beings - with all the qualities that implies. Apocalyptic mass destruction is a case of 'when' not 'if'.

Frankly, I'm surprised it didn't happen during Cold War One.
 

Legs

ADC
Book Reviewer
I think that one of the major things that may save some of the human workforce is that, by and large, tech isn't flexible. A robot designed to lift the stamped wing onto the framework of a car can't be adapted to solder components to a PCB. With a little time training, the average human can.

We'll need plenty of unskilled workers to haul baskets of rubble and plant root vegetables when it all goes pear shaped. We're human beings - with all the qualities that implies. Apocalyptic mass destruction is a case of 'when' not 'if'

In your post apocalyptic example, even skilled computer nerds can adapt to picking up rubble. Yes, their soft hands might suffer, but they'll adapt.
 

chrismcd

Old-Salt
A long time ago I read a comment by Herman Khan that you were very likely to struggle to understand your children's jobs.

My two sons work in IT security. Once they start talking detail I am totally lost!

Interestingly, having slagged Apple off for years one of them did some work on phone software and smartly switched to an iPhone:)
 

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