|I for one welcome our new robot overlords OR Future shock
||[Jul. 6th, 2007|08:15 am]
Robot built to help farmers with weeds. I thought this was science fiction, or that I wouldn't see it for at least another decade. I've also read an article about fruit-picking robots which are being designed.|
If we lived in a world where most labour-intensive tasks were taken over by machines, what would this do to the labour market? Does a Marxist view of the world still make any sense? Would human labour be de-valued? Discuss.
In other, less decidedly cheery news, crude oil prices are over US$70 again. I hope they're going to level off or head down.
We have been automating away tasks since time began - it's the thing about having creativity. We create more efficient means with which to farm, to mine, to manufacture.
The percentage of the work force engaged in farming has been dropping fairly consistently since the 1700s, and manufacturing since the 1950s. Most of the work force is now tied up in shuffling paper. That is the area of the next great automation push. And it's going to be a ripper.
How would you automate shuffling paper, beyond the computing systems we already have? Strong AI?
Most places i have worked have really poorly implemented, and inflexible, work flow automation of their document handling systems. The systems invariably impede the ability of the organisations to adapt to change.
When we get document workflow tools that end users can configure, think http://wufoo.com/
but extend it past just the form creation, and into the processing and reporting.
Interesting. But then, what would backpackers do if the fruitpicking circuit was automated?
Good question, and I don't know the answer. What will unskilled labourers do in general if technology improves to the point where they're not often needed?
Most of the unnskilled workers i know are incredibly gifted, just usually in ways that staid businesses don't currently see the need.
I'm betting the unskilled workers you know do not currently make up a large percentage of the world's food producers.
Imagine if 40% of the rural work force in Asia suddenly became redundant... Where would they look for work? How could they afford food or health care? STD and HIV rates would go through the roof as more and more people enter the urban sex trade. The pressure on governments would be huge - impacting ecomonies and forcing them into consistantly chosing cheaper options for everything from energy to manufacturing, etc. Thereby increasing levels of polution, and the flooding of markets with inferior unsafe products. Corruption and civil unrest will reach new levels of fucked.
Thankfully, the majority of (food producing) land owners will not be able to afford robots and so we wont face a suddent mass replacement of human labour.
The chinese agricultural workforce has been heading to the cities in china for decades. There are some amazing photo studies online of the mass produced high rise cities that these people inhabit. And most of them are working in manufacturing, tho a lot less than a decade ago. Yes, outsourcing has caused china jobloss pain as well as they start to work with western automation levels.
And if i recall correctly, most of the rural land in china is still owned by the gov't. Its only really the industrial behemoths that have been "privatised". The bit that scares me the most is what happens when chinese banking gets privatised. To say that the chinese banks are insolvent is an understatement...
Either starve or get terminally bored, I'd say. Possibly both.
Serve more drinks, is my guess.
2007-07-06 01:54 am (UTC)
Until they get robot bartenders, though that may be harder with the laws of not serving drunk people (Responsible Service of Alcohol? My brother and sister work in bar work)
It's technically feasible already, and I'm sure there have been public demos of such things. Breath-alcohol sensors could be incorporated, and it's possible to make it non-trivial to game them, which would take care of the immediate issue of serving drunk people. The least-smashed person buying drinks for the near-comatose could easily be handled by the bouncer/glass-collecter, who could also in time be replaced with a robotic equipment.
But who would want to go to a pub with vending machines instead of bartenders? Not me, however more efficient it might be, and I don't even bother flirting with the staff.
I expect that service industries will be the last to get mechanised in any significant way, because the element of personal interaction is so important.
I was thinking the same thing when I heard about automated fruit picking. Perhaps the backpackers will have to become mechanics so they go around repairing the automated fruit pickers?
back to my old mate Barry Jones and the essay on the future of work in Australia, "Sleepers, Wake".