Lion of the Blogosphere

Archive for the ‘Labor Markets’ Category

Jeb Bush believes in robots

with 35 comments

Reported by the Washington Examiner:

“The looming challenge of automation and artificial intelligence and the rapid advancement of technology brings great benefits but also creates huge challenges,” Bush told radio host John Catsimatidis on AM 970 in New York.

The threat of a number of jobs being lost to automation is “real,” he said. “This is not something that’s science fiction. This is happening as we speak. And yet we still have this big skills gap.”

. . .

The solution, Bush said, is in education and job training so that people can obtain the skills needed where there are currently job openings and for the jobs of the future.

Jeb Bush is right that automation and artificial intelligence taking away jobs is a real problem. But why is he suddenly talking about this now? I think it’s in response to Donald Trump, who is the first president in a really really long time to be concerned about jobs moving overseas. What Jeb is saying here is “Donald Trump, you are STUPID for thinking that the jobs problem can be fixed with tariffs and withdrawal from trade agreements. Because robots.”

In fact, Jeb is the stupid one. He is very stupid to believe that education is the magic elixir that will fix everything. It’s HBD denialism. The people not already educated are that way because they just aren’t college material, and no amount of time spent sitting in classrooms will change their low-IQ genes into high-IQ genes.

This is not to say that Trump’s way will work in the long run, but at least his heart is in the right place. As long as our economy is based on people only being able to obtain resources by working at jobs in a capitalist economy, then Trump’s way will help a little by increasing the demand for domestic labor.

But I predict that eventually, Jeb Bush’s way will win out. The establishment hates Trump and they want none of his solutions A few days ago I predicted that the government will pay people to drive virtual trucks. I was being a little tongue-in-cheek. It’s a lot more likely that the government will pay people to attend “education.” No one wants to pay people to drive virtual trucks because people think it’s useless make-work, which they think is a bad thing. But paying people to get education, almost everyone believes that education is a good thing, and worth paying for. Yes, education is a form of make-work that the establishment can get behind.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 2, 2017 at 8:54 pm

Posted in Labor Markets

The Acela Express isn’t that elite

with 41 comments

Salena Zito writes in a NY Times op-ed:

Nearly everyone getting on the Acela Express that day is either on their way up the ladder or, more than likely, already at the top; they are wealthy, successful, powerful, in the crosshairs or on the boards of what moves and shakes this country.

I’ve ridden the Acela Express many times, and this is ridiculous hyperbole. Most of the people riding the train were cubicle drones like me. And I certainly wasn’t moving up any ladder.

My most memorable trip on the Acela Express was when two guido types almost got into a fight because one accused the other of making noise in the “quiet car.”

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 2, 2017 at 8:39 am

Posted in Labor Markets

In the future, will the government pay people to drive virtual trucks?

with 90 comments

Self-driving trucks will soon put all truck drivers out of work. What will they do instead? Every other industry they might migrate to will also be laying off workers because of automation. Pizza delivery will be done by robots. Stores will no longer have cashiers. Even the cashier-less McDonalds won’t be hiring anyone, because robots will be in the kitchen making the hamburgers.

The government could simply give everyone a basic income check. But there’s too much political opposition to that. The idea of poor people getting something from the government without having to work for it drives a lot of people, especially conservative blog commenters, crazy. Even free healthcare for everyone, which is an important first step towards a basic income, outrages the conservative types.

Furthermore, there are some legitimate concerns about people without the kind of structure to their lives that comes from having a job becoming social problems, joining gangs, committing crimes, etc.

Thus paying people to do virtual jobs like driving virtual trucks could be a necessary first towards a true post-scarcity economic model. And it’s a lot better than paying people to drive real trucks because the virtual trucks don’t pollute and don’t waste any scarce natural resources. Plus the truck simulator provides reinforcement of civic values because you have to obey the traffic laws.

* * *

Am I serious, or is this just tongue-in-cheek?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 29, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Videogames in the lives of the unemployed.

Commenter “Simba of the Blogosphere” brought to my attention a rather long essay at The Economist [link has now been fixed] about the role of videogames in the lives of the unemployed.

There’s a lot of musing about whether the gamers are unhealthfully addicted to the games, or they are benefiting from a distraction from depression, and about whether it makes sense that those who choose to work so they can buy big houses with expensive furniture are lauded, while those who choose not to work to play videogames are looked down upon.

But nothing about the future I’ve envisioned when the government solves the unemployment problem by paying people to play videogames.

* * *

Overwatch got better, but now I think I am growing tired of it. I lose more “ranked” games than I win, and my rank keeps going down and down. Down to 1071, which is in the lowest category. You have to get to 1500 to get to the next skill category (and then you probably get some sort of stupid reward like a new player icon or points towards getting a gold weapon which works the same as a regular weapon except it’s gold). There doesn’t seem to be any chance of me becoming a top player.

In this sense, gaming is just like the real world: I am stuck at the bottom.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 19, 2017 at 12:31 am

Posted in Labor Markets

Men who play video games instead of working

I’ve had this Washington Post article bookmarked for months, but never wrote a blog post about it.

“When I play a game, I know if I have a few hours I will be rewarded,” he said. “With a job, it’s always been up in the air with the amount of work I put in and the reward.”

That sounds exactly like something I wrote about World of Warcraft in 2006 (more than 10 years ago!):

… Most people toil away at jobs where they never see any direct benefit from their hard work.

This is where World of Warcraft comes in and meets people’s unmet psychological needs. In WoW and similar games, your status increases slowly but surely every time you play. After so many hours in the game, you can see exactly how many more experience points you have, maybe your level has increased, maybe you have better armor or weapons than you had before. Unlike the real world, where you can work 40 hours of overtime and not even get paid for it, if you put an extra 40 hours into WoW you will definitely have something to show for it. Your status within the virtual world of WoW will have increased in ways you can clearly ascertain.

The question is, are video games the cause of men retreating from the conventional workforce, or a symptom?

I do think that video games, as well as other high-tech diversions like internet, social media, high definition TV, make being out of work more bearable and to some extent demotivates people from wanting to get back into the labor force (which for people without self-actualizing jobs is often unpleasant).

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 15, 2017 at 12:56 pm

Not so easy to become a plumber

There a certain chorus in the comments on this blog and other “alt-right” places advising that young people should become plumbers because it’s a lot better than getting a college degree.

This article at CBS New York is interesting:

Hundreds of young men are sleeping on the streets of Queens Sunday night for a shot at a job.

CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported they are waiting for an application to the Plumbers Union Apprenticeship Program. One thousand applications are handed out in order Monday morning. After tests and interviews, only a percentage are accepted to the five-year program.

“It’s a long shot, so hopefully I get it,” Anthony Hughes said.

It’s my impression that the open call for a thousand people to fill out the application is for show, and that the real way to get admitted is to know the right people.

* * *

It’s interesting that the article says “Hundreds of young men.” I would have expected it to say “hundreds of young people.” Is there not a single woman who wants the job? Isn’t it politically incorrect to imply that only men can become a plumber? Or is it because the SWPL who write the article has such contempt for the job, he assumes that women are smart enough not to want it?

* * *

Of course the reason why plumbers make such good salaries for blue-collar workers is because of barriers to entry like described in the article. If anyone who shows up could become a plumber, salaries would tank. There are already many times as many applicants as there are slots available, so it’s bad advice to advise even MORE people to try to become plumbers.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 18, 2016 at 2:50 pm

The NY Times editorial board moves in the correct direction on college, but…

So the NY Times editorial board finally notices that there are too many college graduates and not enough jobs.

[T]he economy does not produce enough jobs that require college degrees. Private-sector white-collar jobs can increasingly be moved offshore and automated, while public-sector jobs that require degrees, notably teaching, have been decimated by deep layoffs and feeble hiring. Business investment and consumer spending have suffered in the busts of recent decades, and government spending has not picked up the slack, leading to chronic shortfalls in demand for goods, services and employees. One sign of the downshift is that much of the recent job growth has been in lower-paying occupations. Worse, there is little evidence of a turnaround. In the past five years, postings for jobs that do not require a college degree have steadily outpaced postings for those that do.

Unfortunately, the Editorial Board is clueless about the most obvious way to increase outcomes for college graduates. We need less immigration. Immigrants are streaming into the country and they are taking jobs that could have been done by American college graduates.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

May 22, 2016 at 9:57 am

Posted in Labor Markets

Comment from a computer programmer type

Following copied from commenter:

Whenever LOTB posts yet another blog entry about the supposedly pathetic world of computer programming, he unleashes a veritable avalanche of some of the most mean-spirited and/or self-loathing comments available on the web. Give it a rest, haters! What do you expect young folks to do nowadays? Go to law school? Join the army and get their balls blown off in some useless war in the Middle East? Go back to their alma mater to take organic chemistry, and then spend ten years in med school, an internship and a residency, up to their elbows in blood and gore? And then what about all that sky-high malpractice insurance and those gigantic debts on their student loans that they’ll have to face afterwards? Or maybe they should qualify as plumbers and dunk those self-same elbows in feces all day long? I graduated magna cum laude with a humanities degree from a top 30 national university. I did well enough that my advisor told me I should apply to Harvard and Yale for graduate school. I even remember walking down the hall in the humanities building one day and heard a professor extolling a brilliant paper which, as I found out to my delight after listening a little while longer, I myself had written. But heterosexual WASP males had no chance of finding a teaching position, either then or now, so after floundering around for a few years, I spent five grand on a quickie six month programming course that I completed in two months – and I have been continuously employed ever since. And that was thirty years ago. I’ve spent more than half that time as a contractor, a few years here and there in management gigs, but otherwise working as a lead analyst/designer/programmer/technical writer & debugger with an income over $100,000 for the last twenty years. I work only 40 hours a week, interfacing with many bright people in a clean and quiet place, leaving plenty of time for my numerous hobbies and interests, not to mention communing with my splendid wife, and giving me enough money to pay off my mortgage on a Victorian house in a leafy Boston suburb, to indulge regularly in restaurant dining, and to have visited Europe four times in the last twelve years. (And, yes, I have no kids. If you have kids, fine – but some of us prefer not to commit ourselves to the grim cottage industry of family life to produce a commodity with which the world is already excessively well-supplied.) Back in the early nineties I DID consider graduate school for a while, scored triple 800’s on the GRE’s at a time when that was super hard to do, but relented at the last moment. I realized I might as well stay the course, and have not regretted it since. So go call me an “idiot” or an “Aspergery beta” if you want, but just look in the mirror first.

* * *

Lion’s commentary:

Give the commenter a break regarding his choice not to have children. No one has a responsibility to devote their lives to an abstract principle of eugenics that mainstream society has rejected anyway.

Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn are having eight children per married couple, so let’s hope they have better-than-average genes because there are going to be a lot of them in a few decades.

Regarding the $100K salary: it’s better than digging ditches certainly but it’s not that impressive compared to what upper-middle-class people are making. Although I admit that we live in a cruel extreme-capitalist society where many good and smart people make a lot less than that while many dumb people make a lot more.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 3, 2016 at 11:40 am

Posted in Labor Markets

Not enough children of color in computer science?

Huffington Post headline reads Obama Wants More Girls And Kids Of Color To Learn Computer Science

A comment reads:

Not enough “kids of color” in computer science? Last I checked their were plenty of Asians and Indians in the computer science field.

Ha ha.

Here’s a more serious comment:

I feel like president Obama and the 9 out of 10 parents should first understand what computer science actually means before making statements like that. Saying that computer science is a fundamental skill to have, is like saying that particle physics is a fundamental skill to have. Troubleshooting computers and maintaining computer networks is not computer science, so is not programming. Just like a physicist, Computer Scientists are interested in understanding fundamental principles about the universe. We know that there is gravity but we certainly do not expect anyone to know about gravitational laws if they do not wish to know, why forcing them? I think what the president and the parents actually mean is practical computer skills such as programming, networking and troubleshooting.

I agree that more children, including white children, should be exposed to practical computer skills. Just as I had typing when I was in the sixth grade, it’s even more important for today’s children to have computer skills, and programming ought to be taught as a required subject for college-bound students.

We should also restrict immigration from India so that American young people can get jobs in IT.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 30, 2016 at 1:16 pm

It pays to have a self-actualizing career

Megan Hilty works in theater and her husband, Brian Gallagher, is an actor and musician, but they live in a modern-construction two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan with great views and its own washer/drier. Perhaps $6,000/month?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 26, 2016 at 11:25 am

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