This is Why the Job Market Stinks, but No One is Talking about it

“A few people here, a few people there. But it all adds up.”

By James Murray:

Anyone who pays any attention knows that something unusual is happening to employment. Good full time jobs are disappearing, being replaced by lower paying and part time jobs. Experts and especially politicians have explanations and excuses: Offshoring to lower labor countries, excessive rules and regulations, illegal aliens, lack of education in the workforce…. The list goes on and on.

What I rarely hear: automation. When most people hear “automation,” they think “robots.” Most robots are dedicated and expensive and don’t replace that many people.

“Automation” or computer control is what gets the majority of the jobs, and it is not all that obvious.

E-mail is a great example. Almost everyone uses e-mail. Before e-mail, there was “snail mail.”

Every month, people sent you bills, magazines, catalogs, fliers, etc., and a guy in a truck came around once a day and stuffed your mail box full. You wrote checks, put them in envelopes, added stamps, and put them back in the USPS system to go back to your vendors.

Today, I get an average of two pieces of mail a month, mostly fliers that go to everyone in the neighborhood. I can’t remember the last piece of first class mail that I received. The USPS has half the employees it had a few years ago, and its business is basically a package delivery service and a deliverer of junk mail.

However, it is not just the loss of direct jobs. The USPS uses a lot less gas, trucks, tires, equipment, power, etc. All that reduction filters down to other vendors that supply the USPS.

The USPS has lost about 200,000 nicely paid employees since its peak. Since the losses were scattered over the total US, and over time, it wasn’t really all that noticeable. If some US company laid off 200,000 people at once, the uproar would be tremendous.

Even less noticed are the other people affected. People no longer buy envelopes because they don’t use them anymore. The amount of paper used in correspondence has dropped. Workers in forestry, paper mills, trucking, etc. all take a hit.

In addition, 200,000 or more people that would have a good paying jobs don’t have a job with the USPS and have to find something else to do.

It’s not just the USPS. Look at banking. It wasn’t all that long ago that you got paid, went to the bank, made a deposit, got some cash and went home, and wrote out checks to pay bills. Today, your salary is direct deposited, you get cash from an ATM, and pay bills on line. You have little need to ever go inside a bank, and branch banking is taking a hit. All those people that worked in a branch bank that got closed are unemployed.

Again the loss is not all that apparent. A few people here, a few people there. But it all adds up.

This goes on all throughout the economy. Accountants are being replaced by on line tax services. Lawyers are being replaced by automated discovery systems.

Kindle and Amazon came along and killed the bookstores. With a Kindle, you can buy a book on line at 3 AM in minutes and never talk to a human. The people working in forestry, in paper mills, in print shops that printed the books, in warehouses and distribution centers, in trucking, and in bookstores that sold the books all took a hit.

There’s a processing plant in California that makes 7.5 tons of guacamole per hour. It is run by a computer and has one person that oversees the operation. Guacamole is ultra-simple to make, but it is much cheaper to buy than to pay someone at a restaurant to make it. So, the person that made it on site is now gone.

Most of the food that is served in restaurants today has some kind of preprocessing. Steaks are cut, trimmed and proportioned and come in boxes. Potatoes are baked off site and just warmed in restaurants. Salads are prepackaged in a facility and delivered ready to serve. If you go to a place with a salad bar, all that stuff comes in prepackaged. The employees just put it in the bins.

At one point in time, if you were hungry, you could go wash dishes for a meal. Today, a machine washes the dishes and there are no human dishwashers. You may find a small restaurant that has a human dishwasher but they are disappearing as equipment gets cheaper and labor gets more expensive.

4,100,000 people make their living driving. Driverless cars, trucks, and buses are not coming; they are already hitting the streets today. Within a decade probably 50% of the driving jobs will disappear. That’s a lot of good paying jobs gone.

People say all the time, “I’m not worried, they will never automate my job.” But that is not the point. Everyone with a job depends on customers with money to make their paycheck. If the customers don’t have money, eventually, you will be out of a job also. The people that had bookstores didn’t do anything wrong. But the Kindle and Amazon ran them out of business.

The problem with automation is that it is so flexible and evolving so quickly and there is no one place where you can control it. If you had a factory somewhere that was causing such job loss, you could go weld the doors shut and stop the carnage. But automation is everywhere. It’s affecting everything. And it’s growing.

If, 15 years ago when most home computer modems were dial-up, you’d told people how important computers were going to be today, they wouldn’t have believed you. They had no way to imagine the power of smartphones, NetFlix, Amazon, Facebook, etc. They certainly would not have believed that driverless cars would be on the road and working. A large percentage of people today still don’t.

Predicting what will happen in the future is useless, other than to say that automation will continue to take human jobs.

Today, it is technically possible to completely automate a fast food restaurant, and it will happen and sooner than we think. When you consider how many fast food places there are in the US and how many people they employ, the numbers are huge. By James Murray.

But we’re not prepared. Read…  Self-Driving Vehicle Revolution to Wipe Out 4 Million Jobs

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  67 comments for “This is Why the Job Market Stinks, but No One is Talking about it

  1. Felix_47 says:

    You have written a really good post. However you neglect one thing that we need to address. How do we automate regulatory capture and the parasites that take advantage……the lawyers….A study was done at the UVA law school as I recall that showed that one could predict a judge`s decision based on whether it would produce more work for lawyers. There is no computer that can outwit lawyers and politicians. If you look at the trade agreements they are really about imposing our legal system on other countries…..patents and such issues….not about honest trade.

    • David Calder says:

      Just an aside but new entry level lawyers that did research for firms have been replaced by temps with a computer..

    • Saylor says:

      Actually…there are A.I.s that can do ‘discovery’ work that use to take a team of lawyers and para legal staff.

    • hal says:

      In the real old days, when you wanted to do a trade you called your broker, he wrote it down and put it in a box on a table and a runner picked it up every 15 minutes. The runner took it to a back office processing section where the order make it to the floor to be traded, and then the reverse process after the trade. 2 days latter you received a confirmation and you had a check in hand or had to pay before the 5 day clearing was up.

      Its now lickity-split”-and we can trade with wifi while traveling in a plane.

    • wjr says:

      This is likely a “lawyer site” but here is a modest proposal:

      Given that holding a law degree and passing the bar gives an individual greater power than carrying a gun and that power is blithely used by the legal class, I would propose that those accepted to the bar become a different class of resident in this country. One where the holder of this power is no longer a citizen but simply a taxpayer.

      As a taxpayer you would have all of the rights of a citizen save that of voting and holding any government office. This would include the judiciary.

      Granted that this change would be quite a shock but it just might result in a society that works via common sense rather than legal sophistry.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Everyone HATES lawyers – until they need one.

        • d says:

          “Everyone HATES lawyers – until they need one.”

          So true, Practicing Lawyers are not the problem.

          Lawmakers owned by, The Globalised Vampire Corperates Allied with china. Who make the laws that favor the Corperates, so do not function well are.

          Which is why America has so many problem’s, as it is the big Wealthy Western democracy where the system allows the Globalised Vampire Corporates to blatantly own the Lawmakers.

          Lawyers and accountants simply work within the framework they are given. By the Lawmakers and Tax lord’s, AKA Politicians in congress.

      • Dave says:

        We had this at one time, it was the original thirteenth amendment. Titles of nobility, it was unlawfully replaced by the slavery amendment. Anyone practicing law had the title of esquire and was not permitted to hold any public office.

        This amendment was last published when Colorado territory applied for statehood. This original amendment had been published in the national constitution almost four thousand times up until the early 1860’s

  2. jim wilson says:

    and…every day automation marches forward, and gets “better and better”. Humans in a desperate effort to compete now work more for less. Unless you have some special skill you are now of little use to the commercial world. Even if you have a skill, the time will come that if you make enough you too will be the target, first by competitors in lower wage nations, and then by automation.

    Societal reset, and another way to distribute/allocate/disperse wealth/consumption ability is required. we may see it come from the bottom of the next bust (coming soon).

    • Graham says:

      “Humans in a desperate effort to compete”

      This I think, is the fundamental problem. It reminds me of a field of cattle that have to push and jostle for the feed.

      I, like many others have hobbies, and could quite happily spend my entire time tinkering around at home and travelling – where it not for the artificial economy that forces us all into wage slavery.

      Technically, once we have good shelter and a good source of food our work is done and we should have the rest of the time free. As in FREE. If we analyse the work we do we find that about 90% odd goes to support that 0.1% that hoovers up all the money, and that if they were unable to do that, we could have retired years ago.

      When a society only works when people are beavering away for someone else’s profit – even if everything else is perfect – there’s something deeply wrong. What is wrong, is the nature of the central banking/FRB that keeps us all chained to the yoke racing to keep up with the inevitable exponential debt. Societies not based on debt money can last for hundreds thousands of years – we have historical examples – one like ours that are go through regular rises, falls, wars and revolution.

      Some countries; like Libya used to head toward this happy self reliant state of ‘deep socialism’, but that is not allowed and we all know what happened to the ringleader of that dangerously contagious enterprise – Gaddafi.

  3. John S says:

    Automation itself is not the problem. The problem is where will the income come from in order to use these goods and services.

    It will be interesting to see what will happen to cost of increasingly abundant goods and services versus increasingly abundant labor.

  4. Greg says:

    If it wasn’t for human nature, you could eventually have a Star Trek utopian society. But science fiction aside, eventually there will have to be a societal change, or there is going to be a simple bimodal distribution of wealth

  5. Alexandre says:

    There is one different view.
    Some time ago there was no one working in companies that make emails and all that stuff involved in it.
    Today we have a huge industry that in my oppinion is equivalent to the 200K People that were kicked off from USPS.

    Salesforce, Zoho, Slack, etc are some examples of this type of business.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Yes, automation produces some jobs in tech. Email may be a bad example because it hardly produces any jobs. There may be better examples.

      But there are about 4 million total tech jobs in the US, according to the BLS, which includes places like Amazon and Facebook.

      There are over 4 million professional drivers in the US alone. Then add up all the other jobs that have already been, or are at risk of being automated….

      • Mike G says:

        And cloud is currently hammering a lot of jobs in tech. No more data centers and no more local servers running apps, means a lot fewer of the techs who maintain them. A handful of jobs are created in eastern Oregon mega data centers and their networking infrastructure, but a lot fewer than those being lost.

        • Valuationguy says:

          About 8 years ago I read a report which indicated that the Internet revolution was the first massive technology displacement period in history in which the # of jobs created/enabled by the new technology change was LESS than the previous wave.

          Since the earth is essentially a closed system (to anything but energy)…the implications of this is that GROWTH is likely to decelerate and turn negative. Global population is too high to support any further growth and thus, absent a massive global population implosion (from war, disease, starvation, coastal flooding, etc.)…a gradual decrease is necessary under the current system.

        • d says:

          “a gradual decrease is necessary under the current system.”

          china, 1 child, then 1 child please, then 2 if you must, but we dont really like it.

          Not everything china does, is bad, or wrong.

          china showed the flaw and way forward. Africa, South America, and the Indian subcontinent, in particular, need to take note.

          Population management will soon no longer be, a taboo subject, outside china.

          The Euro illegal immigration crisis (perhaps 1% of the Refugees/Migrants are True refugees), has its roots in the same problem..

        • Pike's Peak says:

          That’s why there are so many homeless.

  6. Drew says:

    Interesting thesis, and solidly reasoned. As I recall, Henry Ford claimed he created high paying manufacturing jobs so that there would be cusotmers (his own employees) to buy his cars. This seems to be running that idea in reverse, with the resultant decline in the ability to buy products.

    • d says:

      Ford believed that his workers, should be able to afford to buy the base models of what they made.

      He was correct.

      This gave them the allegedly “High paying” job’s.

      Today McDonalds workers, can barely afford to buy, the discounted base model meals, they make.

      Which is why Today. America, and the world, have a very big problem.

      Caused by the abusive Globalised Vampire Corporates, allied with, china.

      • Otto Maddox says:

        This is an old economics canard long disproven. Ford was paying an efficiency wage to raise worker productivity. The higher productivity paid for the higher wage. Are Boeing workers being paid enough to buy their own 747s?

        • d says:

          Paid enough to ride in them frequently. Or at least used to be.

          Ridiculous negative comparison.

    • Richard of UK says:

      Every business that cuts its costs through either head count or remuneration is also cutting another businesses customers.

      Can Business have it’s cake and eat it?

      • Graham says:

        A good point, well made.

        If you trace back ownership of businesses you end up with a rather short list of banks and corporations who actually own most of them. IIRC the Swiss did a study on this.

        This then becomes a monkey trap – a heavy bottle of treats is left out and the monkey grabs a handful but is unable to free his hand as it’s now full of treats. He’ll not drop the treats so he gets trapped. The elite have a sad enough greed/stupidity ratio to become trapped in a similar way, and rather than living in a thriving society their greed robs them of that and they become trapped by their own greed.

        Once we are all replaced by efficient robots as in the Asimov based Robot City series there will be no money making as there will be no customers, the whole thing becomes one of engineering and maintenance – or in reality – bust and revolution. The elite always know and spy on their enemy #1, us, because they know the basic truth more than anyone: there are more of us. A LOT more.

        • walter map says:

          Once military conquest has become automated robots will solve humanity’s problems faster than you can say Tralfamadore, as Vonnegut explained in The Sirens of Titan. Really, it is easy to doubt that Skynet could be so very inefficient, or that the Source of the Matrix would really have much need for coppertops.

          In the meantime the class war will be increasingly automated, and that goes very well indeed.

      • Green Rock says:

        This “automation of all work” threat is same propaganda as the rest of the spin we see constantly.

        I have two micro-businesses. Formerly, I worked in the newsprint industry, which is dying rapidly due to poor quality products. These businesses are intentionally very small. My view is that we are in-between…..they like to project complete automation, but that is not how people enjoy life. My experience is that there are parallel universes happening where high tech is overlapping with low tech. We use computers for email, but still visit our families for holidays. Most food is impossibly processed, but that food is eliminating the people who choose to eat it. But, the high cuisine is all organic and prepared by hand. The MSM borg wants us to believe that all choice is lost, and all satisfying productivity is being eliminated. This is the Hegelian dialectic at work. Life is not controlled by polarized choices. I’m waiting it out and not spending any money on further automation. Automation is extremely expensive. The infrastructure is failing all over the world. Look at Hanjin, which they are letting fail. It takes a vast amount of infrastructure and stability to maintain what we have now. That stability is cracking. I think we could end up with lives that are far lower-tech within a few years.

        • chwee says:

          Green Rock – I couldn’t agree more. Yet we seem to be a minority amongst the general tech-believers that we’re headed in an unstoppable manner towards the event horizon…

          There is just so much hype involved and little understanding of the actual underlying technology and energy required, that I find 90% of the MSM stuff pretty much unreadable nowadays. For example, Amazon and the drone delivery hype. Excuse me, does anyone understand how much energy it takes to keep something hovering in the air, before moving it a significant distance? Versus a delivery truck that may be 30 years old with a sputtering diesel engine that can still move 2 to 3 tons of cargo within the city limits? As I told a gathering of uni-mates who were bemoaning about what kind of jobs might be available for their kids (we’re all in the mid 40’s range with ivy-league degrees or higher, and kids hitting mid-teens), the only way Amazon could even possibily make it work, would be to have an arrangement with the highest skyscraper in any city, use that to port the packages to the highest floor and then let the drone do a controlled descent towards the target address… otherwise they’ll have issues delivery even a pair of running shoes.

  7. VK says:

    This is one of the main reasons why a Basic Income will have to be introduced. Otherwise the circular flow of income will be massively disrupted. The rise of Trump in US politics indicates that the working class are revolting after years of falling wages in real terms, they are pushing for less immigration to reduce labour supply and higher trade protectionism to favour US industry so as to increase wages. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years there was a solid movement towards labour unions and the introduction of a basic income. Because once again even if protectionism rises and factories come back do these high tech factories need labour?

    Also vehicle automation is a MUST. This year we are on track to replace only 1 in 20 barrels of oil that we use up, we have about a generation and a half of oil in the tank and conventional crude oil production has stagnated for a decade plus. There are close to 2 billion vehicles of various kinds on the roads of the world today and 100 million are added every year (and obviously many are phased out as well). With automation we can reduce the number of vehicles on the road by 90-95% as people don’t need to own cars to remain mobile – simply use an app. Future electric vehicles minus automation would require an incredible scaling up to replace 2 billion units. But what if we require only 200-400 Million units with automation globally? That’s highly possible over a 10 year timeframe.
    Car ownership is going to be outdated and that’s a good thing, it buys us time to replace our existing way of living.

  8. Thomas Malthus says:

    Good points.

    Although I suspect that when we see the first head on collision involving a driverless car… that this may be the end of those

    • Green Rock says:

      There’s already been a driverless car crash.
      Rural lifestyles require vehicles of some sort. If it really went driverless, why would we need traffic police?

      This automation chatter is all the same distraction to keep people from looking at the OZ behind the curtain, he’s a skinny, old, powerless man working to create an illusion of power. HA, HA.

      • I read a piece where some reporters were invited to take a ride in the uber cars in Philadelphia. They were automated self crashing fords outfitted with who ever supplied the crash technology. As they took a drive (With an engineer to take over when the auto-crash technology disengaged) the system returned control to the engineer when the ambient light changed, a mass of leaves blew across the road, it rained, on a bridge, in an underpass, and to my surprise on a perfect flat and uncluttered road. The engineers had no answer for this one…

        Unleashed on the public, each of the above will be a crash. Not to mention the multi-car pile-up, that will be a 1,000 car pile-up…?

        The reason for self-crashing cars is what..? stupid people don’t wanna pay attention to what is going on -on the road while in a car…. But as it seems those test cars are requiring more attention to get the computer system out of a bad or incomprehensible problem it can’t handle. And what do you think the regular human is going to do once the Hal-2000 say’s “I’ve got it tom” he’ll be on facebook in a millisecond. crash 200 seconds and counting….

        What we probably need is trains, or trollies. One driver, a track, and 50 seats with wi-fi……


        • Wolf Richter says:

          Two additions:

          1. These driverless Fusions are prototypes – that is experimental, with hand-installed special equipment. Ford and Uber are testing the systems and will develop them further. These are not a salable product.

          2. Yes. Better mass-transit would be great. And driverless subway trains are already standard in some places. I’ve been on a few. It’s kind of spooky at first when you think that there’s no subway employee of any kind on the train. But they work great.

    • Saylor says:

      Not the end. Just a postponement. The same as I saw in the move to automation when I worked in manufacturing. It is the ‘quite visible’ and natural evolution of industry to continue to automation.
      I have repeatedly tried to wrap my head around the concept of a society that has very little in the way of day to day jobs but yet a large population. My usual recourse is to the sci-fi genre where most things of the future are first documented in sci-fi writings. Alas…nothing as of yet.

  9. mark says:

    Driverless cars and trucks in cities and on highways will be hugely contoversial imo and it will be a long time before a computer can figure out what to do if a child or a dog is running across the road after a ball with a car coming the other way. Kill the dog or risk a head on to save a child?
    Only a human can make that call and a computer simply can’t handle the random possibilities without being called into question. The unions win as every example of death by computer gets massive media attention. Bots can fly a plane but they still put two pilots in the cabin.
    As such I dont believe a computers will take to our roads unless they are fenced off like most rail corridors.
    In mining and remote applications..millions of jobs are going globally..but that is fenced.

    • Petunia says:

      Your technical concerns are all valid but they are not the reason for the failure of the idea. The peasants are already pissed off and paying attention. Any imposition of technology that can readily be determined to restrict their freedoms, even more, will be rejected and not politely. We are living in interesting times and the techies have not yet seen the writing on the wall.

      • Bookdoc says:

        That is one thing that scares me about the driverless car scenario (there are others as I love to drive)-it makes it too easy for the government to track where you go and, eventually, decide where you can go. I would not put that beyond our current regime.

      • Saylor says:

        Uh…but what about the tech that has already restricted ‘their’ freedoms?

        If the tech is cool and/or shiny it is embraced as a fun novelty. Later…it becomes indispensable.

        ATMs…debit cards…RFID….

    • Saylor says:

      Expect to see the elimination of cars as we know it. Going into the future the view will be very very different.
      Imagine not having to order a part to fix something. Just going down to the local 3D print kiosk and having them make it there. Files downloaded, printing to the specs of the file…no people involved.
      Same with food production…

      • Bookdoc says:

        Just wait until you have a short in the ignition system.

      • This will never happen – especially when it comes to car parts. There are too many different types of materials that will not be easily or cheaply reproduced at a competitive cost by a “printer”.

        Think about it, ball-joint. Spark plug, spark plug wires, O2 sensor….
        These 4 items are maybe 50 different processes, and 300 different materials, and hardened steel not really printable.


        • Ian says:

          Yet. The economic motivation is so high, I don’t doubt that cold steel printing could become practical. To some degree, it’s old technology. We call it “sintering.”

  10. RD Blakeslee says:

    Look at what MalMart did to local merchants and look at what is now doing to WalMart.

  11. Meme Imfurst says:

    Your 401K and IRA with the help of Wall Street and the FED, made all this happen. Every word from the author and every word of reply has a hand in the creation and the ultimate future of your world.

    Are you happy or unhappy now? Is U R or is U ain’t

  12. StanFL says:

    I think the problem is that there is no good theory of economics yet. If there was, we could use it to decide on the various alternative solutions to the temporary problems caused by automation happening faster than society’s response to it.

  13. KM Tang says:

    Wonder the fixation on driverless vehicles. We have roller-coasters for decades. There are driverless tram buses running on electricity supplied by overhead wires guided by tracks on the roads operating in many cities.
    Many urban places, townships have light rail systems with 2 or more cabins and they are driverless operating 18 hours a day. The system in Sydney Central Australia has been in service since the 80ies? Easily more than 50 commuters in one go. Many airports operate them 24 hours ferrying passengers terminal to terminal. Cheap and effective.
    Driverless car maximum 5 passengers? If while on the road a sudden heavy downpour causes waist deep flooding. Short circuited the battery system. How would the car react? Or while cruising in the night the street lights suddenly go off and then all darkness. Or another vehicle driven by a drunkard suddenly slams. Of course those with vested interest have the answers and the technology solutions. You buy their car and test for them to be convinced it works.

  14. KFritz says:

    It’s an interesting experiment to accelerate automation with a continually growing population, increasing the number of economically superfluous people. What will the endgame look like?

    The Romans practiced ruthless and straightforward realpolitik when it came to technology. According to Robert Graves “It Was a Stable World” (a rejected 1946 Life Magazine essay), the Emperor Tiberius executed the inventor of flexible glass because his invention would disrupt the jewelry trade, and hence the currency markets.

  15. farmboy says:

    Historically; as technology automation and volumes have increased they have only served to free the labourers to pursue other and better paying and more productive work. One good example is the vast population that moved from farming to manufacturing as technology coupled with fossil fuel energy replaced more than 90% of farmers. This was seen as a positive. So if the same thing happens today you try to convince us that it is a negative?

    Up until the 90s or so we always had more energy and other resources to tap into so additional ventures and jobs were in no way limited, not even the sky was the limit. That no longer is true and now we are left to fight over the leftovers. And if a job will get you a piece of that pie, then losing a job is a bad thing.
    Predictions of a one day work week used to be what people envisioned, well that didn’t work out since people just used that extra time to accomplish even more work in order to have more things.

    The predictions of automated autos are still a long way off and will most likely never materialize for the same reasons that the flying car never materialized and the reason that the concorde was scrapped. That would be the amount of available energy in a usable form that is available to enough people.

  16. interesting says:

    “Every month, people sent you bills, magazines, catalogs, fliers, etc., and a guy in a truck came around once a day and stuffed your mail box full. You wrote checks, put them in envelopes, added stamps, and put them back in the USPS system to go back to your vendors”

    well that’s still how it works for me. The car payment assholes wanted me to pay a $9 “convenience fee” to do some auto pay thing to which i replied i’ll stick with the 47 cents and let you hire somebody to open the envelope.

    • Bookdoc says:

      I am surprised at that. Most lenders and leasing companies are happy to set up electronic pay and if not the bill pay function on your checking account is free and very secure. I don’t partcuilarly trust the mail that much.

  17. Certs222MN1 says:

    The conversion of movies into digital has also resulted in armies of workers being let go: projectionists, film developers, and most of the people who used to make film at Kodak. Check out the vids on you-tube of the last projectionists. Movie projection has become totally automated, requiring somebody from the snack bar pushing a touch screen to start the movies at their scheduled time. Kodak Park in Rochester, NY used to be the largest chemical facility in the world but now it’s an industrial park with spaces for rental. In one plant where they used to make film, a food company now makes spaghetti.

    • Petunia says:

      I was recently in a movie theater which serves food and drink at your seat, menus and all. It was very comfortable but the food service was really a distraction from the movie.

  18. John D says:

    The largest impact from automation on jobs that I see is voice recognition. When was the last time you called a company and got a human being? Computers can ask you your name, account number, etc. and solve your issue for you. I bet a lot of jobs have been lost because of this.

  19. Ted Anderson says:

    I think this is a very important post as the idea of this concept when looked at in this light, poses some serious questions that need to be thought about a lot and then addressed.

    Automation is the very first challenge to the fiat money empire we now live in. I believe that empire needs to be challenged in a way that the federal reserve cannot defend itself against. Automation and robotics might be that thing. Of course they might attempt to make robotics and automation illegal for everyone but the state. That could happen.

    Otherwise, we better start coming up with solutions now.

    On a side note, the music industry has also been decimated. From songwriters, to album sales, CDs, all due to Napster, iTunes etc. Recording studios have mostly been shuttered due to a huge advance in home recording tech. Pro Tools, Abelton, UA and others.

    I envision a society where there is no longer any storefronts or commercial buildings weaving their way through every town.

    The combination of automated trucking, delivery and drone based delivery will kill off almost everything.

    • Petunia says:

      The music industry is dead because the music stinks. They promote the beautiful people to stardom, not the talented. When the talented are once again allowed into sight, the revenue will return to the industry.

      • d says:

        No the industry is dying as it has been taken over by ghetto gangsters and vampire corporates.

        The stone still fill halls wherever they go, Martha davis recorded two albums then spent a decade + touring, making money for herself, the stones model.

        The ghetto gangsters and vampire corporates have severly damaged an important cultural element it will recover in due course once teh Vampire Corporates are excorsised from it.

        Video killed the radio star, and the adverts killed radio. The vampire Corporates, are killing their industry.

  20. Peter says:

    The food example is not really accurate at least you won’t catch me eating at any place like that. Even Olive Garden doesn’t do that so I’m not sure where the author is eating but I don’t want to eat there.

    A far better exampleis newspaper publishing. I know someone who used to be a printer. He now washes dishes. Those jobs are disappearing every day.

    I myself do software test automation. My job is to put H1B visa holders out of a job. I’m a mission from God.

  21. Lab Person says:

    Another issue is not only automation but simply the government at all levels has imposed too many rules and regulations and taxes to make it worthwhile.

    The FDA has slammed vape shops with an edict to ‘approve’ their in house mixes. The sugar lobby has a stranglehold on sugar production in the US so Nabisco and others leave to build a factory where their raw product is less. The environmental Nazis have made energy production and resource extraction almost impossible. What’s bad is that no one ever really votes on this but instead determined by an army of millions of bureaucrats/ tax parasites.

  22. Who Cares says:

    If you take the research done by Pew seriously.
    in 2014 They asked about 2000 experts on this subject if automation would result in more job or job losses. The opinion of those experts was divided through the middle for both.
    But that is not the real problem
    Automation can reduce the number of available jobs (as about 1/2 of those experts think). Or automation can displace jobs while creating as many or more new jobs.
    But in either case the people in the old jobs lose (as pointed out in this article) their jobs. And if those jobs are replaced with new ones the people in the old jobs often have a hard time qualifying for them due to the vastly different requirements compared to their old ones.

  23. Big says:

    Two good books on the subject:
    ‘A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology and Creating Jobs for All: The Future Belongs to Work That Is Meaningful’, and ‘The Future Of The Professions’,

  24. discgman says:

    So when will the blog sites become automated so that wolfstreet can be run by a google bot or server to post up specific articles researched from an algorithmic search process?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      You mean, replace myself and the other authors here with a bot? And what am I going to do – collect “basic income” and play around on Facebook all day? Ha, that’ll be the day.

      I may be the last man standing when it comes to writing my own stuff – some quaint archaic guy still hammering away on an ancient computer of the type they no longer make, and doing his own research, and tourists flock to the place and look at this creature from the past with amazement. That’ll be me against the bots.

      • d says:

        If you live long enough you and your small tribe will win.

        As bot sites are only suited to the cattle/sheeple that refuse to think or think what if the bot sites are wrong.

        However you and your small tribe musty be careful, lest you become enemies of the state/people.

        Once you Experience how that works. You will get a small inkling of what it is like to be a Jew.

      • Bookdoc says:

        I have a feeling that you won’t be the only one. I trust computers and robots just so far. I do hope that when they start the self thinking robots, someone programs them with Asimov’s 3 laws (although the military won’t like it).

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