Lion of the Blogosphere

And about the future robot economy

Tying the last post into the future robot economy:

Before the industrial revolution, we lived in a world in which we perceived there to be infinite resources, but a limited supply of labor to convert those resources into useful stuff like food and shelter.

The industrial revolution didn’t change that immediately, but there has been a progression in which labor became less and less necessary to convert the resources into useful stuff, and today we are awash in excess labor so a lot of it is being directed to “service” activities and away from the conversion of resources into useful stuff.

This will culminate with the future robot revolution, in which labor becomes irrelevant to the production of inherently valuable goods and services, and will only be used to provide the type of high-status service that a robot just can’t provide.

This also means that people will no longer be able to rise up in class based on the value of their labor, because labor will become do devalued, and we will go back to a more feudalistic type of economy in which a small minority own all of the robots and everyone else is poor.

There will be two classes of poor: the less poor who can provide services that amuse the few super-rich, and poorer poor who have nothing valuable to contribute to the super-rich.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 25, 2013 at EDT am

Posted in Robots

75 Responses

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  1. Ironically native English speakers will get screwed in the future in the international job pool because we are mostly monolingual in a language everyone else knows. Here in Europe I’ve met plenty of Polish, German, Hungarian, Finnish, you name it, attorneys and finance professionals who can work both in English and their native languages. They are quite capable of taking jobs away from Brits, Canadians and Americans – but Americans, Brits and Canadians can’t go work in Germany, Poland or Finland as easily because they will be at a professional disadvantage relative to the bilingual natives. The same is becoming increasingly true in places like Russia and China. Speaking a non-international language acts as a handy barrier to entry to keep foreigners out of your market, while using English to go penetrate our markets. There’s no obvious answer either because there is no other “international” language for Americans to learn. Learning French, German or even Mandarin won’t open doors for Americans the way learning English opens doors for everyone else in the world. Rather than having our children study common foreign languages, we would be better off having them all learn a common second minor language that foreigners don’t know – maybe Mexican Spanish or Ebonics, or maybe we adopt Welsh.

    Peter the Shark

    January 25, 2013 at EDT am

    • I vote for Scotch Gaelic. My grandmother spoke it.

      melykin

      January 26, 2013 at EDT pm

    • that’s an interesting idea, but i don’t think the language is really as important as the ability to define a set of rules for your economy. For example, Germany is mercantilist in nature and supports their industrial base and workers with a variety of policies. For example, wildly generous credits to get German cars. The US is destroying itself trying to be all things to all people. the fact that they all speak German helps them do this, but it’s really the shared ethnicity/values of folks that live there, which is facilitated by language. chicken-and-egg though.

      However, maybe we should flip this entire argument on its head. here we go again, a bunch of paranoid blog commenters prophesying a negative future. what seems FAR more likely, particularly in light of Obama’s reelection, is that the impoverished majority would use their numbers to vote themselves the fruits of the magical robotic wonderland.

      the complaints of robot owners would seem even less sympathetic than the republicans of today, as they couldn’t even pretend that their wealth was the result of work they had done themselves.

      and then we get the future of Logan’s Run, everyone sits around getting free plastic surgery and having a ton of carefree sex. we’re closer to that future than anyone realizes.

      lion of the lionosphere

      January 26, 2013 at EDT pm

    • “Learning French, German or even Mandarin won’t open doors for Americans the way learning English opens doors for everyone else in the world.”

      And there’s this consideration, too:

      “My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German in thirty years. It seems manifest, then, that the latter tongue ought to be trimmed down and repaired. If it is to remain as it is, it ought to be gently and reverently set aside among the dead languages, for only the dead have time to learn it.”
      – Appendix D of Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad, “That Awful German Language”

      Alan

      February 22, 2013 at EDT pm

  2. Still a lot of low-hanging fruit out there.

    1) the insane amount of paper-pushing at doctors’ offices on 18th-generation Xeroxed forms, and pen-and-ink medical histories written in for the umpteenth time. Somebody in the midst of a walking blackout is less forgetful.
    2) new car dealerships
    3) all the pomp and circumstance around by-the-book real-estate transactions to justify armies of middlemen and exorbitant fees

    Fiddlesticks

    January 25, 2013 at EDT am

    • Car dealers have no need to modernize because they have a legal monopoly on car sales.

      Peter

      ironrailsironweights

      January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • A very excellent observation. Those who benefit from the status quo have no incentive to change anything.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • In some countries, car makers set up shop with online ordering. Their dealership is over.

        IC

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • Their monopoly is only on new car sales, which is why they offer better value on certified pre-owned – because they are in competition with other used car sellers.

        DaveinHackensack

        January 26, 2013 at EDT am

  3. The wild card in all of this is peak energy production. We already hit peak oil production several years ago. In fact, the increasingly desperate measures to source oil such as fracking are exactly what peak oil theory would have predicted. There is no guarantee that these new wells will last as long as people say they are going to. And even then, they are supplemental at best.

    Based on all available data, it looks like we will be able to coast on fumes for another couple of decades, before the shortage of energy forces a reshaping of the labor market. Basic endeavors such as local agriculture will once again require massive human labor, as we are no longer able to ship in our food from far away. Modern agriculture requires massive petrochemical inputs which will no longer be available.

    As for how this will affect the higher sector of the labor market, it’s hard to say. There are many variables. But it will be interesting to see how the advance of technology interacts with the shortage of natural resources.

    shiva1008

    January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

    • Robot labor, not human labor. And we will move towards eating less energy-intensive food if energy becomes a bottleneck to food production.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

    • We can just split the atom to make energy if we really found ourselves out of fossil fuels. You’re not considering alternative possibilities. If fossil fuels became expensive it would push us to alternatives. Right now nuclear energy is on lock down but there’s no reason it couldn’t be ramped up if it were necessary.

      XVO

      January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • Nuclear energy produces electricity, and electricity is not an efficient fuel for transportation, not with the current rechargeable battery technology.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • You can use electricity to make fossil fuels if need be. It doesn’t have be efficient, and surely it can be made more efficient. There are plenty of different ways to engineer a world that uses nuclear energy. You could electrify roads, run wires over farmland. Sure it’s labor intensive, but labors not a limitation in our robot future. The resource limitation is also manageable assuming unlimited energy and unlimited labor.

        XVO

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • If, or when, the price of gasoline is high enough, it may make sense to use electricity to create transportable liquid or gaseous fuels.

        That doesn’t mean the travel won’t be a lot more expensive, and out of reach of the average poor person.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • Someone once told me that if peak oil is a problem, then so is peak nuclear. I think he said that there’s only 50 years’ worth of fissionable material out there based on current consumption.

        Gilbert

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • That’s a misunderstanding of reserve accounting, in which companies can only book reserves that are economical to mine. But if prices for uranium increases, then a much larger amount of uranium will be profitable to mine and reserves will increase.

        But no, Oil doesn’t work the same way as minerals that are mined.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

    • An energy shortage would not result in labor-intensive work. Instead it would result in more robots, because robots use less energy than humans. It currently takes less energy to grow and transport food on the other side of the earth than it does to grow it locally. This isn’t obvious but if you think about total compensation you will realize that it is true. Imagine that you have to pay a farmhand $30k/year to grow a crop vs paying $5k/year for a foreign farmer and $5k in transportation fees. $30k vs $10k, that translates directly into an energy comparison. So it takes three times as much energy to grow the food locally. Why does price translate directly into energy? Because people spend their salary on things that take energy. Farmers spend their money on paying the electrical bill for big screen TVs.

      T

      January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

    • On the nuclear energy points, liquid-flouride thorium breeder reactors (LFTR) have the potential to make an infinite amount of energy available so cheaply that it will be economically feasible to pull CO2 from the air, split off the oxygen and assemble methane. From methane you can further assemble longer-chain hydro-carbons that are liquid at room temp and thus safe and convenient for everyday transportation. That, of course, assumes there is no battery tech break-through.

      LFTR’s are proven 1950’s technology that was ignored due to the exogenous needs of the Mil-Ind Complex during the Cold War. That is to say, LFTR’s are ill-suited to plutonium production.

      Since then, it’s been naive liberals and industry incumbents working, while obviously not together, but with similar enough consequences, to maintain the status quo. Politicians get a bellicose, expansionist super-power to play around at the Great Game. Industry has their sunk-costs in fossil fuels and nuclear fission protected. Gaia-worshippers and the 1% have artificial scarcity to keep the 99% in line and creating value that can be transferred up the pyramid. Like immigration policy for Dem & Rep operatives alike, it’s win-win and so will not change.

      Portlander

      January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • Nope thorium reactors have been proved to be an engineering dead end,, thats why most of the people who support it are tin foil hat wearing conspiracy nutjobs. The only scientists that support thorium reactors are regarded as cranks.

        Theres not a mass conspiracy to stop thorium. In fact we have been experimenting with thorium reactors for 50 years, and not a single one of these experimental reactors has broke even costwise.

        Look there are better places to discuss thorium reactors, but 5 different types have been built and all 5 of them have failed miserably, the main problem with thorium is that the fuel needs to be liquid, and melting point of thorium dioxide is 3390 C, while a fission reactor uses solid fuel and reaches around 450 C. I spoke extensively with my nuclear engineering professor who worked on thorium reactors in the 50’s and 60’s.

        Its not liberals, and eco hippies that are preventing thorium. Its actual scientists who claim that its a waste of money, while the masses of unwashed and uneducated proles support thorium as the second coming of jesus christ because they read an article about it on Wired magazine.

        Bob

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

    • Well, it looks like it is about time to deliver more birth control to 3rd worlders, cuz they are gonna be starvin’ without our shipping them food.

      not too late

      January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

  4. Before the industrial revolution, we lived in a world in which we perceived there to be infinite resources

    I am not so sure about that. Before the industrial revolution, people were always one lousy harvest away from famine. I am sure they did not perceive food as an infinitely abundant resource.

    but a limited supply of labor to convert those resources into useful stuff like food and shelter

    The labor supply for creating food was not limited. Just about everyone was (or in times of emergency, could be) a farm worker. The limiting factor on food production was the low productivity of such labor.

    Tarl

    January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

    • Pre-agricultural people had no fear of famine. Until 100 y ago civilization had no lifespan advantage over living like Neanderthals.

      Tupor Mundi

      January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • How do you explain the much lower population densities of pre-agricultural people? The only explanation is that they were at carrying capacity and thus the vast majority of people died either due to a shortage of resources or due to wars for resources.

        T

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • Again reasoning from theories. The HARD FACTS from excavating remains are as I stated them. To jive with your theoretical reasoning, the birth rate was lower.

        Nicolai Yezhov

        January 26, 2013 at EDT pm

      • Also, the density of ag settlements grew slowly. If there was an advantage it could have been very small. But in fact there wasn’t an advantage. In the beginning of agriculture/civilzation there was a precipitous decline in life expectancy, health while alive, and stature.

        Nicolai Yezhov

        January 26, 2013 at EDT pm

  5. This also means that people will no longer be able to rise up in class based on the value of their labor, because labor will become do devalued, and we will go back to a more feudalistic type of economy in which a small minority own all of the robots and everyone else is poor.

    Unlike in the feudal era, the poor can vote. Why will the majority not vote to confiscate the wealth of the robot owners?

    Tarl

    January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

    • Unlike in the feudal era, the poor can vote. Why will the majority not vote to confiscate the wealth of the robot owners?

      That is a bunch of bullshit. Suffrage itself doesn’t grant anyone or group political power; it only gives the general populace the illusion of political power. The wealthy will always have political influence in a “liberal democracy” despite the preferences of the masses, unless those masses are willing to use violent means to endanger the lives and assets of the wealthy. Only a credible threat of violence or perhaps non-compliance will grant the hoi-polli political power.

      Black_Rose

      January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • “credible threat of violence”

        Right, and with gun control laws and UAV’s operating domestically the threat becomes less and less credible everyday. Get the military and police rank and file co-dependent on the status quo and the global 1% have absolutely nothing to worry about.

        Not even the internet is a concern once the last open wifi node is sued out of service ostensibly because of copyright infringement. And once everyone has a 4G smart phone in their pocket only terrorists need untraceable access, so who’s gonna complain? With trivially cheap subscriptions for streaming of music and movies from all over, do you really believe copyright infringement is as wide-spread as touted? It’s all cover story to get everyone on an easily traceable connection.

        Portlander

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • right

        I think of “Obama” phones as a sort of bait. Here you go guys. Take this everywhere you go and take lots of pictures. We will always know where you are, who you have been talking to, and what you are saying.

        not too late

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • To contend that a confiscatory regime is “bullshit” right after we just re-elected a man whose basic political platform (and personal conviction!) is “vote for me and I’ll give you other people’s stuff” is hilariously stupid.

        Suffrage itself doesn’t grant anyone or group political power

        So suffrage has not granted political power to the Democratic party or its leaders? Hmmm.

        The wealthy will always have political influence in a “liberal democracy” despite the preferences of the masses

        Right now the truly wealthy can shield themselves from the wrath of the masses because the truly wealthy can divert the attention of the masses onto the middle class and the “lesser rich”. In a robot economy, there will be no middle class, and the only “rich” people will, ultimately, be the robot owners. Therefore over time they will be unable to divert the attention of the masses from themselves.

        Tarl

        January 26, 2013 at EDT pm

  6. “Since 2005, the global production of oil has remained relatively flat, peaking in 2008 and declining since, even as demand for petroleum has continued to increase. The result has been wild fluctuations in the price of oil as small changes in demand set off large shocks in the system. ”

    http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/01/weve-hit-peak-oil-now-comes-permanent-price-volatility/

    shiva1008

    January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

  7. Thus,if there shall be two classes of poor, as in the less poor who can provide services that amuse the few super-rich, and poorer poor who have nothing valuable to contribute to the super-rich…

    There WILL be revolution comparable to the French & Russian Revolutions.

    Firepower

    January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

  8. Why wouldn’t we all just become aristocracy with our own robot slaves Lion? Assuming the robots can be taught how to make other robots there is no reason why they would be horded. All it would take is one person who’s not a total dick to go ahead and give everyone robots and the whole status game is gone. We may have to implement population controls, but that’s not so hard, it just requires a little management.

    A lot of people bring up energy constraints. Nuclear energy can be ramped up anytime. When it starts to come down to starvation vs. building new nuclear power plants, building new nuclear power plants is a better alternative, and they will be more efficient. Of course, it won’t come down to starvation, it will just take a few rolling blackouts across the country for the government to wake up.

    Land’s an issue if we let population get out of control, but we could colonize new planets with terraforming robots. There’s no reason to be pessimistic about the robot filled future. People aren’t going to stand to starve when there’s plenty to go around, and many people, even the super rich, don’t want to just crush people for the hell of it.

    XVO

    January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

    • Interstellar travel, and robots who develop free will and take over, are science fiction stuff not grounded in reality.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • Interstellar travel may never occur for human beings. The amount of energy required is enormous. What do you think of the Ray Kurzweil Singularity view?

        de Broglie

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • Mars colonization isn’t that far off. It’s really down to the money isn’t there to do it yet. But, robots are surely going to be very profitable so maybe it will be worth it for some eccentric fellow. They just found a planet (uninhabitable) in alpha centauri only 4.5 light years away, not so out of reach that it’s impossible if that’s what people wanted to do.

        I don’t know about free will, I like to call them slaves but it doesn’t mean they have free will……. But managed robots that can perform household chores (the roomba sucks but it’s a start), Crop Growing (GPS driven tractors), self-driving cars (Google’s almost there…can’t wait), Autonomous Murder Drones (Check++, Land and Air) etc. These already exist, but there are many ways they can be improved. Convergence will happen, like with smart phones and all the devices they replace. You could make a robot that could make these other robots, and why wouldn’t they be sold or given to poor people if they’re practically free to produce?

        I suppose in the near future, next 50-100 years, what you say is going to happen could happen. But there’s something unsustainable about a social system that lets some people live great while other people have to starve. I think that poor people are aware enough to use the government against the rich, and in the developed world they are already doing it. It would take a serious reconfiguration (wealth based voting, yeah right!) of first world governments to stop poor people from trying to get their “fair share” especially if they begin to get hungry.

        XVO

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • Wake up and smell the coffee. The US no longer has he ability to put a man in orbit. We ride Russian Soyuz capsules (a 60s design) to get to the low orbit International Space Station. At some point in the near future (10 years?), it is probable that the ISS will be abandoned. It is very unlikely any human will ever again set foot on the moon, and a Mars colony is an utter impossibility. Except for robots, the space age is effectively over.

        bob sykes

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • Lion, bob, I think you guys are being pessimistic about space travel. There was a 115 year gap between Columbus setting foot in the New World and the founding of the successful Jamestown colony. We landed on the moon only 44 years ago. All it takes is one group of people (religious reasons? for economic liberty? ethnic separatists? transhumanists?) with enough wealth that to decide they have had enough. There is plenty of time.

        John

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • Any group with enough wealth to leave earth has enough wealth to buy power here and is thus perfectly happy on earth. Sorry, no mayflower to the moon

        Gap year

        January 26, 2013 at EDT am

    • There’s already a movement by gun rights activists to put blue prints for various public domain firearms online, for fabrication by 3D printers.

      DaveinHackensack

      January 26, 2013 at EDT am

    • Yes but many super rich do want to crush people for the hell of it.

      Gap year

      January 26, 2013 at EDT am

      • Well what point is there to having extreme wealth if you can’t inspire terror in your fellow man?

        The Undiscovered Jew

        January 26, 2013 at EDT am

    • Creating aristocracy out of robot slaves is as impossible as the result of creating it out of Luxury SUV ownership.

      If a product costs $440,000, you have to look at who can afford it.
      THAT, is The Elite.

      Firepower

      January 26, 2013 at EDT pm

  9. Only one of the top 9 occupations expected to create the most jobs this decade (nursing) requires a 4-year college degree. So there seems to be plently of lower skill jobs still being created.

    http://www.aei-ideas.org/2012/12/only-one-of-the-top-9-occupations-expected-to-create-the-most-jobs-this-decade-nusring-requires-a-4-year-college-degree/

    Dan Morgan

    January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

    • But what is the “net” jobs created for low-skilled people?

      Black_Rose

      January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

    • #10 on the list is University Professor. Apparently we’re going to need 300,000 more college professors by 2020.

      Yeah right, get with the times BLS. 🙂

      shiva1008

      January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

  10. Mack Reynolds (SF writer) considered the roboticized future in some of his stories. He suggested people born with talent but not wealth would rise mainly by serving as entertainers, including as warriors in battles chiefly fought to entertain television viewers (akin to professional sports). Even the rich wish to be entertained (and always need something to distract the masses).

    I wish I had more talent as an entertainer.

    Longtime Reader

    January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

  11. Don’t worry L.o.t.B!
    Robots will not replace people. People have been worried about automation and technology for decades, and most of us are still employed. A dollar is a dollar, and it does not matter if it was earned providing a service or using a wrench.

    Blog Raju

    January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

  12. Doesn’t make sense. If labor becomes so devalued, then making another robot should also be devalued, and everybody will have robots… the poor and the rich

    C

    January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

    • There will be some resource bottleneck that prevents the creation of an infinite number or robots.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • Why? It doesn’t make any sense that everything becomes cheap to produce but the robots

        C

        January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • There may not be any real bottleneck in the technical sense but the ruling class will create one anyway. perhaps a robot control law to prevent the “wrong” people from getting them. For the good of the children

        Gap year

        January 26, 2013 at EDT am

  13. “This also means that people will no longer be able to rise up in class based on the value of their labor, because labor will become do devalued”

    People will rise up in class they way most do now: not by working as a laborer for someone else, but as an owner. Ownership of capital has always been the key to advancement in capitalism (it’s not laborism, after all).

    A computer programmer who works for a salary at a company will never make as much as one who starts his own successful company, or gets an equity stake in someone else’s as an early employee. Similarly, lawyer who becomes a partner at a firm will make more money that one who just works on salary.

    DaveinHackensack

    January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

    • People will rise up in class they way most do now: not by working as a laborer for someone else, but as an owner.

      But not everyone in the middle class can become their own boss.

      To attack the problem of mediocre middle class wages Republicans should advocate attacking the other end of the wage problem – the cost of living. While most conservative and liberal debates have focused on increasing income there’s not been enough discussion of how to lower the cost of living for the middle class. A $10-12 an hour job wouldn’t be so terrible for the middle class if their expenses were cut down.

      In addition to immigration restriction, conservatives should support cutting both sides of the federal payroll tax in half and replacing all of the cut with a national sales tax. Some Republican state governors are eliminating income taxes and replacing them with sales taxes, but a better deal for their middle classes would be to cut their state PAYROLL tax because the state payroll taxes have more effect on workers take home pay and employer’s willingness to hire than the income tax.

      Other ways include cutting college costs with for-college-credit MOOCs (which can be mandated by state legislators on public colleges) and cutting the price of food, which has grown to ridiculous levels. Given technological advances there are no excuses for higher food prices in an age where high tech computer tablets are falling in price. Change food subsidy policies and trade barriers so that food expenses (which run over $5000 a year per person ) can be slashed at least in half and put at least $2,500 in every taxpayers pocket.

      The Undiscovered Jew

      January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

      • “But not everyone in the middle class can become their own boss.”

        Nothing new about that.

        “To attack the problem of mediocre middle class wages…”

        Different problem than class mobility. And the way to attack it would be to lower costs not through more subsidies, but fewer. Phase out federal support of low-down payment mortgages, for example, and down payments demanded will rise, but total housing costs will go down (because with less leverage, borrowers will only be able to afford cheaper homes). Also, tighten immigration at the low end, to raise the wages of lower-paid workers, but open it for foreign physicians, to lower physician wages (and, consequently, health care costs, while also increasing access). Etc.

        DaveinHackensack

        January 26, 2013 at EDT pm

      • And the way to attack it would be to lower costs not through more subsidies, but fewer.

        I didn’t mean we should use subsidies to cut food prices. If anything we should end subsidies that incentivize farmers to destroy excess food to keep prices inflated. Annual food expenditures tend to be over $5000. This costs far too much and cutting the cost of food would immediately put thousands of dollars back into the pockets of the middle class.

        I also support cutting both the employee and employer state (and later federal) payroll taxes in half in exchange for higher sales taxes to shift taxation onto consumption and away from job creation.

        The Undiscovered Jew

        January 27, 2013 at EDT pm

  14. “This also means that people will no longer be able to rise up in class based on the value of their labor…”

    This is already true in the developed world. The poor aren’t exploited in the developed world. They are excluded. There is no use for them as far as the market is concerned.

    Tupor Mundi

    January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

  15. This will culminate with the future robot revolution, in which labor becomes irrelevant to the production of inherently valuable goods and services, and will only be used to provide the type of high-status service that a robot just can’t provide.

    The economic benefits of automation follow a Laffer curve where a 100% robotized economy has no GDP growth because no human has a job. The question what % of jobs have to become automated before the net effect on economic activity becomes negative.

    The Undiscovered Jew

    January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

    • Except that it is inherently less desirable to employ humans than to own robots. Let’s say that I am a person of the future and I am quite well off. I consume good and services worth about four million dollars annually. These goods and services are produced by a combination of robots and employees. One day I run the numbers and realize that if I fire all of my human employees my standard of living would drop to three million annually. I would do it without thinking twice. I would no longer have to interact with my employees, which would be a huge bonus. Granted, most rich people don’t think that way, but surely some will. Perhaps it would become a trend.

      T

      January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

    • Why does any human need a job? You’re not trying.

      Tupor Mundi

      January 26, 2013 at EDT am

      • Let’s say that I am a person of the future and I am quite well off.

        How will you become wealthy if 100% of all jobs are taken over by robots?

        Why does any human need a job?

        So they can have money to buy goods and services. If nobody has any job then no one can buy goods and services. And if no one buys goods or services then there is no economic activity.

        The Undiscovered Jew

        January 26, 2013 at EDT am

      • Unless the government just gives people money, so they can buy goods and services without having to have a job.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        January 26, 2013 at EDT am

      • And if no one buys goods or services then there is no economic activity.

        Not necessarily – people can just trade goods and services made/done by their robots. (Remember, “economic activity” is simply trade.)

        It might mean that barter makes a return, though.

        ntk

        January 26, 2013 at EDT am

      • Barter won’t work for stuff that requires huge capital investments and economies of scale, like HD televisions, automobiles.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        January 26, 2013 at EDT pm

    • Unless the government just gives people money, so they can buy goods and services without having to have a job.

      Where will the government get the money? If nobody has earns money from a job then there’s no tax base to tax in 100% robot workforce.

      The Undiscovered Jew

      January 26, 2013 at EDT am

      • Surely I’m not the only person wondering how all this prosperity is supposed to impoverish us.

        ntk

        January 26, 2013 at EDT pm

      • The government can get money from taxes, as it does now. Instead of taxing human workers, it could tax corporations that employ robots. Those corporations could make money by selling to other corporations and governments.
        Which wouldn’t be all that different from today. Only a minority of workers make enough money to be net tax payers now.

        DaveinHackensack

        January 27, 2013 at EDT am

  16. Despite robots, we might face greatest turmoil soon due to food shortage.http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/08/20128218556871733.html

    big cat

    January 25, 2013 at EDT pm

  17. I think it’s important to remember the Calvinist slash Puritan nature of the western ruling class mentality. Even if there is abundance, they will seek to take wealth and resources away from those that they view as bad people.

    Gap year

    January 26, 2013 at EDT am

  18. The whole peak oil theory is nonsense. What seems not to be understood is that the mining, drilling and moving of natural resources is politically determined. There is no free market so all of the price and production data is not accurate enough to make any prediction about the future.

    Take fracking as an indicator of peak oil. The only reason why fracking is profitable is because government has been artificially holding down the production of gasoline. Everything from off-shore oil drilling to building refining capacity is being artificially damped down by government regulation.

    Internationally, oil and other resources are contained in political hot spots. Look at the Middle East. There are a few hundred million people sitting on our gas station takinbg a cut that, in other circumstances, would be going to us.

    No, we will reach political limits far sooner than any physical limits.

    map

    January 26, 2013 at EDT pm

  19. I agree with the optimists. In the future robots will be so inexpensive that every person in america will own a few robot butlers and servants. Life will be dramaticlly easier for everyone

    Wencil

    January 26, 2013 at EDT pm

    • So more will be obese and diabetic like the welfare class?

      Doesn’t sound like utopia.

      not too late

      January 26, 2013 at EDT pm

  20. Check out this article: America Has Hit “Peak Jobs” | TechCrunch

    The middle class is being hollowed out,” says James Altucher. “Economists are shifting their attention toward a […] crisis in the United States: the significant increase in income inequality,” reports the New York Times.

    Think all those job losses over the last five years were just caused by the recession? No: “Most of the jobs will never return, and millions more are likely to vanish as well, say experts who study the labor market,” according to an AP report on how technology is killing middle-class jobs.

    But it won’t be 19th century capitalism redux, there’ll be no place for neo-Marxism. That underclass won’t control the means of production. They’ll simply be irrelevant.

    Why? Technology. Especially robots. The Atlantic is already wringing its hands over “The End of Labor: How to Protect Workers From the Rise of Robots.” These days robots are in factories everywhere–but soon enough they’ll be doing plenty of service jobs too. Meanwhile, software is eating white-collar jobs.

    JayMan

    January 29, 2013 at EDT am


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