Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.

imageAs pressure mounts to raise the wages of fast food workers, advocates may want to take note that such wage increases eventually pass a threshold where it makes financial sense to simply invest in automation. As Grocery Store cashiers learned, these jobs are not a given. We are all competing not just with each other but with robots. 

One of the primary reasons that the gap between the rich and poor has increased so much in the past 20 years has been the rise in IT.  Once we purchase a computer, robot, etc. its capabilities – its output and productivity are owned by the buyer which increases the wealth generated by that person.

As people demand McDonalds pay workers $15 an hour and the government insists that they also provide health care, restaurant owners are increasingly evaluating whether to simply replace their work force with machines.  

Naturally, in 2017 when today’s “living wage advocate” is ordering their Big Mac from a friendly touch screen and having it delivered momentarily by a robot they’ll make no connection between how their beliefs resulted in more people living in poverty. Instead, they’ll blame McDonalds. They’ll blame greedy restaurant owners. But they won’t consider that perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to price people out of their workforce.

More reading:

http://singularityhub.com/2013/01/22/robot-serves-up-340-hamburgers-per-hour/

http://www.thestar.com/business/2012/11/29/automatic_burger_machine_could_revolutionize_fast_food.html


Comments (Page 6)
on Aug 24, 2013

Alstein
I actually agree with you that there is a part-time worker trap, and it is caused by government regulation in some areas.

Funny thing is a lot of job creation we are currently seeing is part time voodoo. They are eliminating full time positions and replacing them with 2 or 3 part timers. The net result is "job creation".

Never mind that the net money paid to the 2 or 3 part time  workers is less than you were paying 1 full timer worker therefore reducing consumer spending in the process. Not to mention doing this means you don't pay benefits which further reduces the overall economic benefit of the positions, and unless those part timers are working more than 1 part time job the chances they qualify for some sort of government benefits is high.

I guess my point is IMHO what we are seeing is a false recovery, the numbers look better but the economy is actually worse off.

on Aug 24, 2013

Cauldyth


Quoting Frogboy, reply 66I've yet to meet a rich person whose motivation in life was material wealth.  Wealth tends to be a byproduct of doing something else.  I never set out to be rich. I just wanted to make really cool stuff.  It's not about wanting stuff. It's about wanting to DO stuff.

I guess you haven't met many people in finance.  I have, and most of them despise their jobs.  They're doing it because they can make a pile of money and retire as soon as possible.

You're probably referring to entrepreneurs.

 

I am sure we can pick out fields where making money is the only goal.  But MOST people who become wealthy are not in it to make money.  Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, etc. all became extremely wealthy because they wanted to do something really cool and were successful at it with money being the result.

Trying to paint rich people as greedy requires a very broad brush that has nothing to do with reality. If you want to say rich people are greedy, then it's more than fair to say that anyone poor is just a lazy, stupid loser.  We can cherry pick statistics all day but the reality is, most rich people are first generation rich people and did so by DOING something that society decided was worth spending money on voluntarily.

I have grave issues with our finance industry but much of the wealth gotten there is the result of government meddling creating markets for people who know how to navigate the byzantine rules rather than producing something good and useful for society. If you have (like I do) a problem with that, put the blame where it belongs - meddling government regulations.

on Aug 24, 2013

I don't think you can blame the regulations when it's been proven those same folks are more effective with a lack of regulations, and are often the reason those regulations are created to begin with.

 

 

on Aug 25, 2013

Alstein
I don't think you can blame the regulations when it's been proven those same folks are more effective with a lack of regulations, and are often the reason those regulations are created to begin with.

Some basic simple regulation is necessary or beneficial if it helps set up a competitive market. If investment banks were prevented from getting too large then it wouldn't matter if they failed. Banks that over reached or did stupid things would fail and fear of failure would keep the rest in check. Instead however we have "too big to fail" where government tries to prevent these companies from ever failing, which is just mind bogglingly stupid.

Read this article on regulation in America, it is eye opening.

From above link.


Every hour spent treating a patient in America creates at least 30 minutes of paperwork, and often a whole hour. Next year the number of federally mandated categories of illness and injury for which hospitals may claim reimbursement will rise from 18,000 to 140,000. There are nine codes relating to injuries caused by parrots, and three relating to burns from flaming water-skis.

on Aug 29, 2013

Not sure if fast-food strikers have thought through their game of chess.

on Sep 01, 2013

Hankers

Not sure if fast-food strikers have thought through their game of chess.

 

If the jobs go, then we  end up with a society where the majority are unemployed/underemployed.   If that happens, America will have to fundamentally change, because democratic capitalism cannot survive such a scenario.

 

I'm preparing for the dystopia as much as I can, and hoping for the best instead.

 

 

 

on Sep 01, 2013

Long as the subject has come up, I believe the problems with the finance industry had two fundamental causes (i.e., huge mistakes by government):  1 - The repeal of the ban on interstate banking.  2 - The repeal of Glass-Steagal.  Virtually all the problematic issues flowed from those two events.

Principled macro-regulation is a legitimate and useful function of government.  Micro-regulation is full of mischief, and little else.

on Sep 03, 2013

Frogboy


Had the government forced framers to pay their "farm hands" more than the cost of one of those new fangled tractors, we would have seen the mechanization of farming occur much more rapidly and a much greater difficulty of displaced farm hands to find new work.

 

This actually sounds like the proper way to proceed.
Who the hell wants their experience on earth and contribution to mankind to be schlepping burgers.

We should be automating all mind-numbing jobs with robots as fast as possible.

Better start coming up with a plan to manage this transition, though.
Greece is going commie soon, others will follow...
Governments are burning the world over...
If you think this can't happen to the US, better open up the history books.

on Sep 03, 2013

Regulation can also be mischief though, look at what happens when corporations get to write the laws (groups like ALEC)- if you live in NC, a big reason why your internet service is the worst in the country is true to ALEC writing laws on broadband to stifle competition.

 

A good role for government is to give a voice to the voiceless, but it does the reverse in America.

on Sep 03, 2013

Alstein
Better start coming up with a plan to manage this transition, though.
Greece is going commie soon, others will follow...
Governments are burning the world over...
If you think this can't happen to the US, better open up the history books.

on Sep 03, 2013

The laws of self-preservation are no less operative in business than in individual life.  Businesses inevitably seek advantage.  The job of government should be to keep the playing field as level as possible and not advantage any business(es) over others; in other words to let the customers determine winners and losers, not legislators or regulators.  Tough when those same legislators and regulators are drawn from the business community - requires a degree of moral and ethical behavior we seldom see any more.

 

on Sep 03, 2013

A great discussion so far!

 

As to the OP, automation replacing human labor has been a constant factor in human history for a long time. And so far, humans have always adapted for the better. However, there are signs that this time may be different:

1) We are running out of growth options. In past history we could expand to new lands and new resource pools. But we have found every land, and most of our mining work now is a better exploitation of existing pools....not finding new ones.

2) Machines are starting to replace "thinking" jobs. In the past, when machines replaced our human labor, we turned to more "thinking" labor, using our brains more than our bodies. While machines are still not at the point where they can replace our general thinking, they are adapting to replace certain aspects of human thinking (look at the progression of the self driving car as an example).

The market has spoken many times, that once a machine can do a job as well or better than a human...the market will take the machine. So once machines can "think" as well as a human... what would humans do for work?

 

This is the trend that is occurring, and the competitive drive for efficiency and innovation will continue to push this trend forward. Now governments can regulate and unions mandate...but like a finger plugging a hole in the dam it is only going to be so effective. The trend will continue to push, and I think the result will be a large portion of the human population that will be unemployed.

 

That is a scary proposition, but without some radical change (like a fundamental collapse of society...which is certainly possible) I don't see the trend stopping.

 

What can we do about it? I have a few ideas:

1) Population Control: What has started in China is going to have to spread to the rest of the world. The bottom line is there are simply too many of us, and modern living does not require the large family to deal with huge mortality rates. Either we do it ourselves...or nature will do it for us, and I promise you she will not be kind about it. With a reduced population, unemployment will be less of a factor and we don't have to compete for resources as strongly.

 

2) Crafting a workless lifestyle: We basically have to redesign the entire concept of modern living. First of all, with the assumption that an unemployed person is the norm...and has no negative social stigma.

But beyond that, we have to craft an economic lifestyle for that person that will let them live on a provided "living wage". This would be the evolution of welfare into a hopefully better system. Lets be honest, welfare is not a good system as written...but the fundamental needs that it is trying to address are only going to get stronger as unemployment rises. We aren't going to get away from a welfare system, but we do have to change it.

Part of that may be the recognition that some quality of life aspects are going to go down. Here is an easy example. Right now, even USA's poor generally have access to electricity 24/7. We might be able to provide electricity to them at 1/6 the price....but they only get it at certain times of the day (perhaps 8 hours a day, at key times when electricity can be generated the cheapest).

Another example: Our medical system and our drugs try to limit pain and side effects as much as possible. In some cases there are cheaper alternatives, but they involve some short term side effects and discomfort. If I can provide you a drug that will have you healthy in 2 days with no side effects....or give you a drug for 1/8 the price that will take a week and leave you feeling miserable.....number 2 may become the default option in order to make healthcare affordable. I think people would agree that not getting cured would be a worse alternative.

 

Then of course there is the social factor....what will people do with all of their freetime (again assuming machines have replaced the bulk of human labor)? That one I leave to others, as I have few good ideas to bring to the table.

on Sep 03, 2013

workless lifestyle.. sounds like star trek. without the unlimited power/resource bit.

 

thing about population control.. is that... no one can tell whether it's working. studies have stated that pop growth would have fallen as a society techs up anyway.

i remember family planning adverts decades back in hong kong - 2 kids are enough (obviously there were no penalties in law for more kids.. just a question of whether you can afford it).. nowadays, they are saying people are not having enough kids.

on Sep 04, 2013

THe funny thing is the uncertainty is causing folks like me to not marry and have children.  Maintaining a marriage is expensive, and kids are even more expensive.

 

And this is despite me doing better than most of my peers right now.

 

 

on Sep 04, 2013

there should be MUCH more concern about the innocent victims who are being served as food at these places than the one's doing the serving. 

 

check out this short video to increase your awareness about this