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Rise Of The Droids: Will Robots Eventually Steal All Of Our Jobs?

Rise Of The Droids: Will Robots Eventually Steal All Of Our Jobs? - Photo by stephen bowlerWill a robot take your job?  We have entered a period in human history when technology is advancing at an exponential rate.  In some ways, this has been a great blessing for humanity.  For example, I am absolutely blown away by all of the things that my little iPod can do.  But on the other hand, all of this technology is eliminating millions upon millions of high paying jobs.  In the past, I have written extensively about how millions of American jobs have been sent to the other side of the world, but now we may be moving into a time when workers all over the planet will be steadily losing jobs to super-efficient robots.  For employers, robots provide a lot of advantages to human workers.  Robots never complain, they never get tired, they never need vacation, they never show up late, they never waste time of Facebook, they don’t need any health benefits and there are a whole lot of rules, regulations and taxes that you must deal with when you hire a human worker.  In the past, robots were exceedingly expensive, and that limited their usefulness in the workplace, but as you will see later in this article that is rapidly changing.  As robots continue to become even more advanced and even less expensive, will there eventually come a point where the “human worker” is virtually obsolete?

Of course I can hear the objections already.  Many of you will insist that even though automation has always eliminated jobs in the past, it has also always created new jobs that were even better.  For instance, once upon a time most of the U.S. population worked on farms, but thanks to automation now hardly any of us do.

But what happens when we get to the point where super-intelligent robots are more efficient at everything?

What will be left for “human workers” to do?

And if human workers are no longer needed for most tasks, what will their role in society be?

Personally, I still complain about self-service check-in kiosks at airports and self-checkout lanes at supermarkets, but most people seem to have accepted them.  There are even many bank branches now that don’t have any humans in them at all.  The number of jobs where a human worker is absolutely “required” is dwindling all the time.

And a lot of the jobs that are disappearing thanks to advances in technology are fairly high paying jobs.  In fact, one recent study of employment data from 20 countries discovered that “almost all the jobs disappearing are in industries that pay middle-class wages, ranging from $38,000 to $68,000.”

As I mentioned earlier, in the past robots were simply far too expensive to perform most tasks.  So human workers had an advantage.

But that advantage is disappearing right in front of our eyes.  For example, one company has produced a new robot called “Baxter” that only costs $22,000.  The following is from an article about Baxter in the MIT Technology Review

Baxter was conceived by Rodney Brooks, the Australian roboticist and artificial-intelligence expert who left MIT to build a $22,000 humanoid robot that can easily be programmed to do simple jobs that have never been automated before.

Eventually, the goal is to produce versions of Baxter that will perform tasks even more cheaply than Chinese workers do…

Brooks’s company, Rethink Robotics, says the robot will spark a “renaissance” in American manufacturing by helping small companies compete against low-wage offshore labor. Baxter will do that by accelerating a trend of factory efficiency that’s eliminated more jobs in the U.S. than overseas competition has. Of the approximately 5.8 million manufacturing jobs the U.S. lost between 2000 and 2010, according to McKinsey Global Institute, two-thirds were lost because of higher productivity and only 20 percent moved to places like China, Mexico, or Thailand.

The ultimate goal is for robots like Baxter to take over more complex tasks, such as fitting together parts on an electronics assembly line. “A couple more ticks of Moore’s Law and you’ve got automation that works more cheaply than Chinese labor does,” Andrew McAfee, an MIT researcher, predicted last year at a conference in Tucson, Arizona, where Baxter was discussed.

So it won’t just be American workers that will be displaced by robots – it will literally be workers all over the planet.

In the future, when you call someone for customer service you probably won’t be talking to someone in India.  Instead, you will probably be talking to a robot.  In fact, this transition is already starting to happen…

IPsoft is a young company started by Chetan Dube, a former mathematics professor at New York University. He reckons that artificial intelligence can take over most of the routine information-technology and business-process tasks currently performed by workers in offshore locations. “The last decade was about replacing labour with cheaper labour,” says Mr Dube. “The coming decade will be about replacing cheaper labour with autonomics.”

IPsoft’s Eliza, a “virtual service-desk employee” that learns on the job and can reply to e-mail, answer phone calls and hold conversations, is being tested by several multinationals. At one American media giant she is answering 62,000 calls a month from the firm’s information-technology staff. She is able to solve two out of three of the problems without human help. At IPsoft’s media-industry customer Eliza has replaced India’s Tata Consulting Services.

Even some of the largest companies in China are starting to make the transition from human workers to robots.  The following is from a recent TechCrunch article

Foxconn has been planning to buy 1 million robots to replace human workers and it looks like that change, albeit gradual, is about to start.

The company is allegedly paying $25,000 per robot – about three times a worker’s average salary – and they will replace humans in assembly tasks. The plans have been in place for a while – I spoke to Foxconn reps about this a year ago – and it makes perfect sense. Humans are messy, they want more money, and having a half-a-million of them in one factory is a recipe for unrest. But what happens after the halls are clear of careful young men and women and instead full of whirring robots?

So what will the world look like as robots begin to replace humans in just about every industry that you can imagine?

A recent Wired article described what this transition might look like…

First, machines will consolidate their gains in already-automated industries. After robots finish replacing assembly line workers, they will replace the workers in warehouses. Speedy bots able to lift 150 pounds all day long will retrieve boxes, sort them, and load them onto trucks. Fruit and vegetable picking will continue to be robotized until no humans pick outside of specialty farms. Pharmacies will feature a single pill-dispensing robot in the back while the pharmacists focus on patient consulting. Next, the more dexterous chores of cleaning in offices and schools will be taken over by late-night robots, starting with easy-to-do floors and windows and eventually getting to toilets. The highway legs of long-haul trucking routes will be driven by robots embedded in truck cabs.

All the while, robots will continue their migration into white-collar work. We already have artificial intelligence in many of our machines; we just don’t call it that. Witness one piece of software by Narrative Science (profiled in issue 20.05) that can write newspaper stories about sports games directly from the games’ stats or generate a synopsis of a company’s stock performance each day from bits of text around the web. Any job dealing with reams of paperwork will be taken over by bots, including much of medicine. Even those areas of medicine not defined by paperwork, such as surgery, are becoming increasingly robotic. The rote tasks of any information-intensive job can be automated. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, lawyer, architect, reporter, or even programmer: The robot takeover will be epic.

I don’t know about you, but the phrase “robot takeover” is not exactly comforting.

Perhaps I just watch too many movies.

In any event, as technology advances there will eventually be very few jobs that robots cannot perform.  In fact, you might be surprised to learn some of the things that robots are already doing.  The following is from a recent Yahoo News article

Google and Toyota are rolling out cars that can drive themselves. The Pentagon deploys robots to find roadside explosives in Afghanistan and wages war from the air with drone aircraft. North Carolina State University this month introduced a high-tech library where robots — “bookBots” — retrieve books when students request them, instead of humans. The library’s 1.5 million books are no longer displayed on shelves; they’re kept in 18,000 metal bins that require one-ninth the space.

So what will the 3.1 million Americans that drive trucks do for a living once robots are driving all of our trucks?

What will the 573,000 Americans that drive buses do for a living once robots are driving all of our buses?

And eventually even our skies may be filled with robotic drones that are busy performing one task or another.  Just check out what a recent Time Magazine article had to say about the emerging drone industry…

But the drone industry is ramping up for a big landgrab the moment the regulatory environment starts to relax. At last year’s Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) trade show in Las Vegas, more than 500 companies pitched drones for filming crowds and tornados and surveying agricultural fields, power lines, coalfields, construction sites, gas spills and archaeological digs. A Palo Alto, Calif., start-up called Matternet wants to establish a network of drones that will transport small, urgent packages, like those for medicine.

In other countries civilian drone populations are already booming. Aerial video is a major application. A U.K. company called Skypower makes the eight-rotored Cinipro drone, which can carry a cinema-quality movie camera. In Costa Rica they’re used to study volcanoes. In Japan drones dust crops and track schools of tuna; emergency workers used one to survey the damage at Fukushima. A nature preserve in Kenya ran a crowdsourced fundraising drive to buy drones to watch over the last few northern white rhinos. Ironically, while the U.S. has been the leader in sending drones overseas, it’s lagging behind when it comes to deploying them on its own turf.

Unfortunately, many people will not understand what I am really trying to get at in this article.

They will just say something like this: “Well, they are going to need someone to build all of those robots.”

Even if that is true, they won’t need hundreds of millions of us to build them.

No, the truth is that when human workers become “obsolete”, those that dominate society with technology will look at the rest of us as “useless eaters” that are not contributing anything to society at all.

Already, there are many economists that are warning that advancements in technology are steadily reducing “the natural employment rate”.

And we are already seeing this happen in the United States.  As I wrote about the other day, the percentage of the labor force that is employed has declined every single year since 2006…

2006: 63.1

2007: 63.0

2008: 62.2

2009: 59.3

2010: 58.5

2011: 58.4

In January, only 57.9 percent of the civilian labor force was employed.

Of course there are certainly a lot of factors involved in why those numbers are declining, but without a doubt technology is playing a role.

So what do we do with all of the workers that are being displaced?

Are we just going to put everybody on food stamps?

Will the gap between the rich and the poor grow even larger than it is today?

Will most people eventually become dependent on the government in order to survive?

We are moving into uncharted territory, and nobody is quite sure what comes next.

As time goes by, robots will even start to look more like us.  In fact, this is already starting to happen.  Just check out the following description of a “bionic man” that has been created from a recent article in the Guardian

He cuts a dashing figure, this gentleman: nearly seven feet tall, and possessed of a pair of striking brown eyes. With a fondness for Ralph Lauren, middle-class rap and sharing a drink with friends, Rex is, in many ways, an unexceptional chap.

Except that he is, in fact, a real-world bionic man. Housed within a frame of state-of-the-art prosthetic limbs is a functional heart-lung system, complete with artificial blood pumping through a network of pulsating modified-polymer arteries. He has a bionic spleen to clean the blood, and an artificial pancreas to keep his blood sugar on the level. Behind the deep brown irises are a pair of retinal implants, giving him a vista of the crowds of curious humans who meet his gaze.

He even has a degree of artificial intelligence: talk to him, and he’ll listen (through his cochlear implants), before using a speech generator to respond.

As robots become more like us, will we eventually become more like them?

Will we be told that we must “merge with the machines” in order to keep up and be useful in society?

As we rapidly approach the “technological singularity” that futurist Ray Kurzweil and others have talked about, will humans increasingly seek to “enhance” themselves with technology in an attempt to “get an edge”?

What will happen to those of us that refuse to “merge with the machines” and that refuse to “enhance ourselves” with technology?

Will we be outcasts?

Those are some important questions.  Feel free to share your thoughts on those questions by posting a comment below…

Terminator - Photo by tenaciousme

  • Rodster

    This article reminded me of the movie Blade Runner.

    • AS55423

      I’m ready for the Tyrell Corporation.

  • The Terminator

    Surely, with all of what has been said, they could have provided the Robot with a far better set of teeth than those “chompers”…………maybe the Robot Denture Dentist had broken down………………..The face needs a bit of plastic surgery as well……………ha, ha, ha

  • John Wheeler

    Maybe with the robots doing all our work us humans can start getting ready for the next Carrington-level event that will render most of these robots (and electronics and the electrical grid) non-functional…. because it’s not a question of “if”, it’s a question of “when”.

  • Colin

    One of the reasons that I think this “robot takeover” will succeed is that the transition is gradual, and most people aren’t aware of it. I don’t know what will happen next. And, robots are making other robots now.

    As a species, I feel that we are withdrawing from the world, and that we are becoming more isolated. The psychological effect of this worries me greatly.

  • Syrin

    Lets say you own a business. You can hire one robot to do a job that doesn’t require health insurance, payroll taxes, breaks ever 4 hours, meal breaks, can work 24/7/365 and does not make errors except for break downs periodically. Or you can hire 10 people to do the same job with more errors, and all those added expenses. From a business decision stand point, this is a no brainer.

    Plus, look at what colleges are producing now. Today’s college degree is the equivalent of a high school degree from 40 years ago, except the graduates today expect full partnership the day they show up because their indoctrination center told them they’re entitled to it in their “peace and tolerance” class. (read ANY post from GARY) I mean, can ANYONE tell me what a Woman’s Studies major would add to your company? Any value at all? Talked to anyone in the science fields? The guys I know in the engineering world tell me they spend a YEAR training these new grads just to get up to speed to where they are if not more.

    We’re not at SKynet levels, yet.

    • http://www.takeshiyashima.com/#axzz2HvCwY7Om Ron

      You got some point. I have nothing to argue here. but u know still there are reasons… some pretty valid reasons…

    • Hambone

      Our education system, at all levels, is lacking. It doesn’t help that people get degrees in education, which essentially teach them how to be libs and brainwash our children.

      • Nexusfast123

        Resident idiot.

    • Ralfine

      It takes a lot more brain to make a robot or computer to do what you want it to do, than some people.
      Tell a robot to go through a door and it will do so. A reasonably intelligent person opens the door first.
      It isn’t easy to employ robots. You need more than a MBA to make a robot work.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Palladino/100001624813101 Joe Palladino

      That’s why gov’t was invented, to employ useless slobs like GARY. Who in their right mind would ever hire a ‘GARY’ as part of their company. You would have to be insane. I will put my life on it that GARY receives a gov’t check.

      • DownWithLibs

        It sounds as if you have a problem with this “Gary” person! lol

  • Drover

    Juxtapose the robot replacing the human workforce with the many quotes of those who wish–or rather practically demand–the death of 90% or so of the world population, and the future looks rather grim.

  • MisterC

    There are already a lot of ‘robots’ amongst us. They like to chant OOOOOOBAAAAAAAMAAAAA. They also have a habit of avoiding work and seeking handouts.

    • Jagrick

      I take it you have a job. Throw stones in a glass house if you want but living life ignorant isn’t becoming.

      • MisterC

        Yes, I have a job. A job I got because I earned a bachelor’s degree(which I paid for because I had to pay for tuition with good paying summer jobs,a scholarship, and loans from my parents). I can throw a lot of stones, so, don’t try some pity party because “hope and change” did not work out for you. I grew up wearing clothes from the Salvation Army. Want to try me???? Live where I do? All I see is the “gimme” generation. It saddens me. ;-(

  • Doug

    Great article.

    I think a switch to a resource-based economy, like what’s outlined in the “Zeitgeist Movement” documentaries is what’ll be needed in this new technological age. The jobs are clearly never coming back and we must adapt or perish.

  • RICHARD

    I am watch sy-fy right now good movie about the future and now. It’s called continuum. The movie is something that is more or less going on in this country right now. A lot of people laugh at science but if you watch movies like the matrix or some of the other ones that have came out in the past you will come to realize that some of the things that people used to laugh at 40 years ago are possible now. By the way I think that is a picture of Arnold.

  • Benjamin Collier

    And where are the robotic sex-workers?

    Let’s maintain SOME semblance of practicality here, people…

  • Ralfine

    Your iPod can do nothing by itself. let it sit idle or busy by itself for a week and it will be less useful than a brick.

    • David Williams

      The Ipod does NOT have intelligence. Robots within 5 years will be able to read your mind. BIG difference.

      • Ralfine

        You are very optimistic. Reading minds is still very far off.

  • Ralfine

    You still need people to develop robots. And right now I could think of robots that illuminate tumours, evaluate the reflection and then destroy the cancer cells without harming the healthy cells with the action or waste.

    Some of the technology exists already, things need to be combined, the software written and tested, and variants be developed for different types of cancer and locations.

    And then you need to install them and repair them when necessary. And there are all those parts that need to be developed and produced on machines that also need to be developed and maintained.

    There is still a lot of manual and brain work necessary.

    All those scientists and engineers need to be fed and clothed and transported to their work places and home and hiking trail.

    • JAH666

      You are right Ralfine, for now. The techniques to design, build, program and repair robots done BY ROBOTS is in process and accelerating. By the middle of this century most if not all manufacturing, distribution and delivery will be done by robots. They will be designing and manufacturing themselves by then with the guidence of a very few theoretical scientists and planners. Most of humanity will not be necessary and will actually be an impediment to the “sustainability” of the lifestyle of the elites that are in control.

      • Ralfine

        If there is no more manufacturing, mining and agriculture to do, there are still other things to do.

        Mid of this century is very soon.
        Technology won’t be that advanced until then.
        Just watch “The Time Machine” movie from the 60s about their prediction of the year 2000.
        The baby boomers will be gone soon, and their knowledge and skills will go with them unless they get the chance to teach the younger generations.

        And this is not just technological knowledge.

        So, here you have a brake that slows down progress considerably.

        Another brake is the wastage of wealth for wars. All those bombs and ammo are just a huge waste of resources.

        And with unemployment and crime nations waste a lot of people (brains!).

  • Ralfine

    When i have the choice i use the human cashier in the super market,not the diy thing that doesnt work most of the time.
    no need to destroy more jobs.

  • Ralfine

    remember the stage coach? the blacksmith?
    want to go back?

    What is “costs” to one side, is “job” to the other.

    Other cost reduction measures could be avoidance of loans and interest payments.

  • Roger Stamper

    i agreed with you about robot

  • Orange Jean

    all I can say to that is… SICK!

    Well, did any of you catch a recent post (from Huffington Post no less… which I got because I use AOL to connect to the internet)… about DOJ has OK’d drones being used to kill Americans?? Mind you, supposedly they are talking about Americans who are Al-Quida members, but even so…

    And here in southeastern VA, they have already “warned” us in the local paper that they’ve got unmanned drones a-flying around (“practising”)….

  • K

    You already have robots doing surgery on humans. Yes there is a human who remotely operates the robot, so far. Also there is the development of the shadow hand. Very close to doing anything a human hand can do. Give AI another 7 or 8 years of development, and we are done. Robots will be able to build robots with no human intervention. Mankind will be relegated to only those tasks, which require great creativity. That will not keep even 10% employed. You have some people, who think it will be paradise. Mankind will sit around and write poetry, and compose songs. There will be no need for money. Because our mechanical friends, will supply us with all our needs. These people overlook mans destructive nature. The most advanced robotic research is being done by Darpa..For applications,useful for defense purposes. Translate, weapons

    • EDAQUASURE

      Mans destructive nature is bullshit.All destructive behavior is because of lack of lifes essentials.If everyone has what they need then there will be practically zero crime.

      • K

        You could not be more wrong. The ancient Hawaiians are the best example. They lived in what was very close to paradise. Abundant food and water.. Ample material for shelter, and boats. And yet they had more than a few wars, between the islands. Also your theory would indicate that rich people, who lack none of life’s essentials. Would never act in a destructive manner. They are some of the most destructive people on earth.

  • markthetruth

    We are becoming programmed humans working for free,

    who scans the items at the self checkout and ba

  • Martin 0002

    Problem with robotic world is quite simple: lack of consumers capable to purchase products will invalidate reasons for such economy to exist.
    Though I would like to have a robot which I could not distinguish from a woman.
    Beautiful, always wet where need be, never suffer of headache and can join in activities which I like.
    Covered with artificially grown female skin for best experiences.
    With IQ adjustable to personal needs of user.
    Priceless…

    • David Williams

      I remember when a VCR cost $3000. I saw a DVD player selling for $10 this week. Your argument is baseless.

      • Martin 0002

        Wait until food will take 40% of your budget and bills 60%. Then we may discuss it again. Don’t forget that we are transforming to “service economy”.

      • Rick2248

        When you are unemployed earning $0.00, his argument isn’t so baseless. It’s fine when robotics make things cheaper, but cheaper isn’t free.

  • steve

    Let’s say you fire everyone and hire robots…..no body has a job and cant buy products that robots produce….makers awesome business sense….no brainer. Also, no matter how intelligent you make them, they lack the ability to detect and work around abnormal situations. Maybe over the course of 50-100 years AI will have built a pretty solid foundation of trial error but will they ever truly be able as ingenuitive as humans?

    • steve

      See the errors above? Where is the intelligence in my crappy smartphone? Why didn’t it catch those mistakes? Long way from take over but definitely food for thought…..last week there was an article on self healing wire and plastic so those robots would be indestructible!

      • Ralfine

        Indestructible?

        Just food for thought:
        What happens when the all-penetrating bullet meets the indestructible bullet-proof vest?
        Probably one of the marketeers lied to increase sales?

    • David Williams

      They will surpass human IQ by 2018. The military already has computers that can read a person’s mind. Denial and ignorance will NOT insulate you from what is on the horizon.

  • jox

    It’s not an economic problem, but a social one. Another step in the industrial revolution and the humanity will be finally free from the hard, manual and repetitive work. No more factory lines, forges, mines, farms, etc.

    If we as a society learn to distribute the enormous productivity gains, our future could be bright. A heaven, a blessing. More and more people dedicating their time to activities of creativity, intelligence, art, sport. A golden era. The only problem is that the government must play the role of ‘wealth distributor’.

    On the other hand, if the capital owners try to capture all the benefits generated by the automation, well, then I’m afraid that the jobless and poor will start a revolution.

    Now is the historical moment to choose. I’m all for the redistribution of wealth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bill.sundling Bill Sundling

    We’re at the Wright Brothers stage of robotics. We’re 50 years away from C3PO type robots. The real societal benefit to robots would be 1,000 networked robot doctors that share their experiences. After a year you’d have 1,000 doctors with 1,000 years of medical experience.

    • JAH666

      Good point, Bill. Ever heard of a B movie entitled: The Creation of The Humanoids
      Not a great movie, but very prescient in many respects.

  • EDAQUASURE

    We are headed towards 90% unemployment but that is not the problem.The problem is the transition to a new social order much like Jacque Fresco creator of the Venus project has been trying to tell people about.Scarcity does not exist and is manmade by those in power to keep us in control.Without scarcity then all economic systems fail.Much like we don’t need to farm anymore does that mean we should or want to?The machines and technology taking over is a good thing,but not for our current sytem of taxation, price manipulation and speculation.And no the machines are not programmed to take over the world by themselves and destroy us.Do you see autobots emerging from Ford’s factories?

  • JAH666

    Another good article that cites the many articles and reports published recently that deal with this subject. Michael, you have the knack to take the salient points and lay them out for the layman. I’ve been studying this subject for twenty years, and the trend has been accelerating for the last ten. The development of machine intelligence and sophistication of automation is being pushed along by the same moneyed elites that control everything else. See Michael’s “Who Runs The World? Solid Proof That A Core Group Of Wealthy Elitists Is Pulling The Strings”. THEY have a plan for the future and it doesn’t include us little people. Others that read and comment on this site get it… and when the plan really swings into high gear and becomes apparent to the rest of the useless majority (to the elites that is), well, it’ll be too late by then.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.kleinkamp Joe Kleinkamp

    Ask any draftsman, machinist or tool and die maker who’s been in the business for 30 years what’s happened in their trades. These were jobs once thought to have been immune to technological unemployment. The need for labor in those fields has been decimated by intelligent design and machining processes. Every unemployed worker costs the treasury in the form of lost income taxes and payroll taxes. Every unemployed worker increases, at least temporarily, the already insane deficit spending. Here’s the punch line — the government offers companies tax credits for buying the equipment that leads to this unemployment! A real knee slapper eh? Oh those zany lobbyists. What will they purchase next?

  • SanMateo

    “Well they are going to need someone to build all these robots”.

    Maybe robots will be used to build robots.

    Why build a robot with teeth if they don’t eat?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Webb/100001371414176 David Webb

    The printing industry was decimated as well. In 1970 we gave up our jurisdiction over our work for a trust agreement between the company and the workers for lifetime employment. There were 225 printers and about 30 part timers when this happened. Over the next 40 years, all of us retired. Many got severance packages of 6 months or a year’s pay to retire. The jobs were taken over by graphic artists. Only they needed about 30 graphic artists to do the job of 225 printers. Last year the remaining graphic artists were laid off and their jobs were shipped to India. We were paid well, had good benefits, and eventually all the jobs were gone.
    This was the newspaper industry. They made one tragic mistake. Technology made them obsolete in the modern world at the same time they were making us obsolete with billions of dollars worth of technological advances to eliminate those jobs.
    They automated the telephone complaint line. It cost them about 40,000 people in circulation of the paper. People do not want to talk to automation. So they quit buying the newspaper when there was a problem. This cost about 10 jobs. It cost the newspaper their livelyhood. At the time that automation started, the paper had about 125,000 daily subscriptions. It lost at least 40,000 of them to stupidity.
    The year I retired though, the paper’s Major’s department had a gross of 850 million dollars worth of advertising. Since I retired, that number has drastically went down. They have laid off sales people. That should tell you something.
    I only know the newspaper business backwards and forwards from many years of experience. I know what they are doing wrong. They have taken the people out of the equation. When they did that, they also took the profit out of the newspaper business.
    Many blame the internet. I don’t. I blame the incompetence of the people in charge.
    You are right about one thing. With the advent of 3-d printing technology, tooling has taken a big advance in its ability to automate industry.
    The last time we had this kind of jump it was in the 20s. The jump was the assembly line vs skilled trades to produce retail goods much cheaper.
    History is repeating itself. This time there will be an economic upheavel the world has never ever seen in the past.

  • I think therefore I am

    As Robotics devalue human labour, we will be left with two things of value. Capital and creatives. If you have capital you can re-invest it. If you are creative you can write, make music, create products or do the creative work robots can’t replace. If you are a labouror (even if it’s a skilled proffession) you will be out of work. No work means you wont have income to aquire new capital.

    Those labourors who cannot transition from worker to thinker and find a way to capitalize on it are in trouble. Unfortunately we have generations of indoctrinated sheeple who were taught to memorize and regurgitate. Computers are much better at input output functions than we are. We will either see an incredible renaissance of human reativity or a population bust if the future doesn’t need us anymore.

  • markthetruth

    Humans make Mistakes – Computers don’t…

    the end…

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.kleinkamp Joe Kleinkamp

    Wanna have some fun? Go to checkout and wait for the young cashier to ring up your $11.17 purchase. Hand him / her a twenty after he / she has punched all the right keys. Then pull out the 17 cents and say “here, I have the coins.” Watch the young victim of today’s technology struggle while figuring out how to adjust your change without the aid of the register.

  • Lisa67

    The funny part of this that the companies forget about is that robots and computers, also don’t need to buy their crap or their services. Then they wonder why they are going out of business.

  • Alasha

    Yes and China is replacing waiters with robots…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W46QYYTfLYU

    Actually I don’t mind be replaced with robots – yet the NWO aka The Globalists want to exterminate us….. 90 percent of the population….

  • Billygoat

    One way to prep for tech change, rather than be scared is get the training in the specific area of change especially when you have been forewarned.
    Try Robot building classes instead of a psychology major as one example.

  • Mark

    We need robot president!!!

    Robot president does not need to show his “long form” birth certificate because he proudly displays his “made in the USA” label!!!

    • Mondobeyondo

      Don’t we already have a cyborg in the White House?!

  • ancap

    “But what happens when we get to the point where super-intelligent robots are more efficient at everything?

    What will be left for “human workers” to do?”

    Are you serious? As if less work for us all would be a bad thing. Yes, less work and exponentially increasing prosperity as a result of automation will be very bad indeed.

    For heaven’s sake man, learn some basic economics before you make such a commentary.

    • EDAQUASURE

      Exactly.Why do people think that 95% employment is good? If everything is automated then food,water and energy would be much cheaper and we would only need about
      10%-20% total employment.There used to be time when only ONE person per household HAD to work.Now TWO people per household HAVE to work.The reason is government theft by taxation and banker theft by inflation and commodity speculation.

  • Farneis Berberian

    I think the biggest difference betweeen us and the robots will be exactly the fact that robots will not be consumers, they will not have a salary and will not move the economy. Who will buy what they produce?

  • Trend Spotter

    I definitely see technology as the “missing link” behind the economic trends that Michael has talked about for some time now. Declining labor force participation, declining number of middle class jobs, and rising debt levels across the board for everyone. Automation is definitely playing a role. I know some are arguing that too many displaced workers will erode consumer confidence. But why worry about that when the big time corporations can just lend you back the money with interest?

    This is an existential problem. Humans have always had different talents and skills. For example, not everyone is naturally good at math. But what these technological trends do is to elevate a small number of bright talented individuals while casting the vast majority into poverty and misery.

    Which would explain another trend. The rising gap between rich and poor.

  • DownWithLibs

    So we create them and then they take over our livelihood. Nice!

  • kathy k

    God held back our ability to advance technologically until the present time . God will be here long before the ” ROBOT ” take over of planet earth.

  • bwoboe1

    Michael, you need to do an article about the elephant in the room; the 401(k) shortfall.
    No one is reporting that the majority of people do not have nearly enough saved for retirement.

    When the baby boomers retire, the true collapse will occur.

  • WM

    Robots or robotics as we refer to it in high tech manufacturing is definetly changing things. However, the robotics are expensive and at the current time, really accel in a very high production environment where you are dealing with a similar product. I work as a CNC machinist in the aerospace industry, and I have seen the technology really changing so that less people are needed to manufacture things, everything from robotics to “lights out manufacturing” is making humans workers extinct, very slowly, but it is definetly happening. As many have commented on, people in general, and especially American workers, cost so much $$$$ with insurance, health insurance, high wages(because it cost so much to exist in America), regulations, etc. and you can see a bad future for our economy, and even the global economy. I don’t realistically see us ever going back in time, technologically speaking, unless we had some sort of crash (economic, war, emp, etc) that wiped eeverything out beyond repair.

    Heres a scary thought regarding the gloablists and their insatiable desire to usher in a one world system…….Do you all rememeber the movie Robo Cop?? What if the government used robots as police and home land security officers? Imagine trying to excersize your 2nd Amendment right against an army of well armed machines. It would appear that this is not as far fetched and wacky of a concept, as we once thought.

  • Mondobeyondo

    You can see the results of automation quite easily at your grocery store. Just go to one of those automated checkout lanes to purchase your items. That’s somewhere between 1 to 6 cashiers that are no longer needed. The same is happening in many other industries.

    • GemniWoman5459

      I never see the self service lanes busy, most seem to avoid them like the plague.

  • Mondobeyondo

    Oh yeah, almost forgot – robots don’t work for pay, they don’t get sick (although they do break down sometimes), and they never need any vacations. Looks like we humans are becoming quite expendable…

    • GemniWoman5459

      Plus robots don’t pay taxes, the only people that will have money will be the corporations, I see a massive die off coming.

  • Rob

    no workers = no one to buy their products.

  • Dave of OK

    We are indeed entering murky waters. American industry is not really thinking about such a future nor planning for such. We are so addicted to progress, that anyone suggesting a halt to progress would be considered Unamerican. But can we sustain such a world where 75 percent of its people are unemployed by the end of the century? Our present way we finance our unemployment system is not sustainable in such a world. 25% is not going to bankroll 75% with a middle class lifestyle. We have to be thinking about alternate societal structures. Maybe a return to self-sustaining family agricultural plots organized into group rural village structures for the 75%.. These sustainable agricultural regions are still using modern technology to exist and thrive, manufactured in urban centers where 25% of the populous still live and work. The middle class of the future will look different than the consumer-based middle class culture of today. Content with 10 acres and 4 horses or cows, but also having the latest technological advances and healthcare of the urban society. Sounds Utopian, but we need to be thinking about the sustainability of what we are doing now for our environment and our middle class way of life.

  • Dave of OK

    Was walking past a construction site today. They were pouring concrete on a one story slab building. They were using one of those concrete pouring booms that normally I thought was used only for multi-floor buildings. I was watching them and realized with the boom they did not need laborers with wheel barrels to haul the concrete to the slab. The building contractor just got rid of 4-6 laborers. The contractor is putting out of work 4-6 family men that did not need a college education to do what they have done in the past, who no longer can keep a roof over their family. Well, there is always food stamps. I am glad we have a government that can afford to keep paying for corporate shortsightedness.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnb.mclemore John B McLemore

    All dependent on Unlimited Cheap Energy…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tatiana-Covington/100002159242044 Tatiana Covington

    None of this surprises me. I have been reading Science Fiction for more than 50 years and my first exposure to robots was seeing Robby in “Forbidden Planet” (1956). I’ve been waiting ever since then… and sure enough!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1596731290 James B. Hixson

    One thing you need remember. All these bots need energy to run. With the decline in our energy, e.i. petroleum, coal, electricity, Etc. These bots will be useless.

  • frank1569

    This is what we wished for, isn’t it? A car in every driveway, a chicken in every pot, robots and ‘others’ doing the hard work so we could kick back and enjoy ‘the easy life?’

    It was the theme of every World’s Fair. ‘Tomorrowland’ at Disneyland. ‘The Jetsons’ and countless TV shows and movies…

    We should have been more careful with the wishing.

  • K

    Resources were plentiful. In any group of any size, certain individuals will fight for dominance. You are either very young, or very naive, to not know that.

  • Rick2248

    CIO President Walter Reuther was being shown through the Ford Motor plant in Cleveland.

    A company official proudly pointed to some new automatically controlled machines and asked Reuther: “How are you going to collect union dues from these guys?”

    Reuther replied: “How are you going to get them to buy Fords?”

    How can the unemployed buy the stuff robots make? Chinese labor is little more than robotics with a human face. How many jobs have we already lost to these robots?

  • http://www.facebook.com/marjanssen Martijn Janssen

    They better invent robot consumers soon. Because almost no-one will have a job and thus nearly no-one will have any purchasing power to pay for the goods and services which the robots provide.

  • JJ

    That’s why a massive worldwide EMP attack would be a good thing. We’d all instantly be taken back to the 1850’s and then there would be plenty of jobs!

  • http://twitter.com/Paul_Revere_Mad Paul Revere

    Listen up you guys. Technology is already destroying us.
    That’s what all our problems are about. This is much bigger than a financial
    doomsday. Technology doesn’t have to fully take over our jobs. All our
    economies will simply collapse long before we see the more autonomous robots
    and technologies come on the scene. You only have to put 25% – 35% of the working
    population out of work to destabilize our whole economy and way of life, especially
    in America. Capitalism is based on consumption. If enough people don’t have
    enough purchasing power to keep the ponzi scheme going then guess what? There’s
    No need for you to guess. It’s happening right now. You are living it! This
    will cause an economic domino effect like we’ve never seen before. More and
    more people will lose their ability to participate in the economy.

    Check out “Death by Technology” by Dan Thomas. He’s a computer scientist who
    has been warning about this since 2006. Now many other computer scientists have
    joined him.

  • efinlays

    Brilliantly written. I wish the everyone understood that given that now one man can farm thousands of acres of land, and half the amount of factory workers can make twice as many cars, we are at a point where we can get everything we need and want with far fewer people working. And this trend should be working to our advantage to increase leisure time and decrease stress at work. But instead it has only padded the pockets of the wealthy and drove the common person to unemployment and poverty. We tell people to stop being lazy and get to work and support themselves but don’t offer them any options to do so. One day we have to realize that we need to work toward a society where we all get our needs met and those few that are willing to keep the machines going to support our survival can be reimbursed nicely to have a higher standard of living. Otherwise who do these companies think is going to buy their products? Robots don’t have much use for an iphone.

  • Zippy

    Bring on the singularity !!! Faster !

  • vor

    I hope that anybody taking Library Science at North Carolina State U realizes hat their future is dim. If they don’t, then they deserve their degree.

  • FRANKFURCSA

    TECHNOLOGY IS NOT ENERGY WHEN ENERGY RUNS OUT TECHNOLOGY WILL STOP …END OF STORY

  • nicthstic

    Rage against the machines

  • Buddy199

    I own a business. I replaced 2 full time, $20+ / hour plus health insurance and 1 week paid vacation workers with a computer billing system that shows up every day, doesn’t goof off or make excuses, doesn’t have a fight with it’s boyfriend the night before or come in hung over Monday morning, doesn’t quit 3 weeks after I hired and trained it.

    • Lena Johnson

      That’s all well and good for you, but that computerized billing system will never ever turn around and put $40 / hour’s worth of wages back into the economy. The profit that you yourself are making is simply an incremental advance upon what is essentially global economic suicide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.p.medlen Michael P. Medlen

    There’s one problem with this article: if robots do displace workers, who is going to have the money to buy the products being produced by robots? With less employed buyers comes less spending money, which in turn causes lower demand. Eventually companies would be killing themselves off. Don’t believe the hype and stick with logic.

    • A

      You have a good point, but I am still really worried about this. The federal government will probably control all assets, all money being spent and taken in. Most products that humans buy and need (like soap and shampoo) will no longer exist or be very little of. They wont need human workers to keep the economy going. Most people will simply die and phase out.

  • Pol

    Guys ,computers can’t think yet. Ipsoft touts that computers can think . It’s a gimmick .the guys at ipsoft do all the work and they say machines are doing it…

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