How Many Jobs Do Robots Destroy? Answers Emerge

This isn’t the Industrial Revolution.

How many jobs do robots – whether mechanical robots or software – destroy? Do these destroyed jobs get replaced by the Great American Economy with better jobs? That’s the big discussion these days.

The answers have been soothing. Economists cite the Industrial Revolution. At the time, most humans replaced by machines found better paid, more productive, less back-breaking jobs. Productivity soared, and society overall, after some big dislocations, came out ahead. The same principle applies today, the soothsayers coo.

But this isn’t the Industrial Revolution. These days, robots and algorithms are everywhere, replacing not just manufacturing jobs but all kinds jobs in air-conditioned offices that paid big salaries and fat bonuses.

Just today, BlackRock announced a plan to consolidate $30 billion of their actively managed mutual fund activities with funds that are managed by algorithms and quantitative models. As these software robots take over, “53 stock pickers are expected to step down from their funds. Dozens more are expected to leave the firm,” as the New York Times put it.

“We have to change the ecosystem – that means relying more on big data, artificial intelligence, factors and models within quant and traditional investment strategies,” BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink told The Times.

In a similar vein, “robo-advisors” are becoming a cheap and hot alternative for many customers at major brokerage houses, replacing human financial advisors. A lot of the grunt work that used to be done during all-nighters by highly paid law school grads in big law offices is now done by computers.

So job destruction due to automation is not a blue-collar thing anymore. It’s everywhere. But soothsayers have been steadfastly claiming that for each destroyed job, the Great American Economy will generate more and better jobs, because, well, that’s how it worked during, you guessed it, the Industrial Revolution.

But two economists have changed their mind (more on that in a moment) and published a gloomy working paper.

Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo studied how the increase of industrial robots between 1990 through 2007 has impacted US jobs and wages. They found “large and robust negative effects of robots on employment and wages across commuting zones.”

Their working paper is available at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). This is the organization that is responsible for tracking US business cycles and calling “recessions.”

There are two effects of robots, the authors point out: The “displacement effect” when robots eliminate jobs; and the “productivity effect” as other industries or tasks require more labor and thus create jobs (for example, designing, making, and maintaining robots). But these productivity effects no longer suffice to compensate for jobs that industrial robots destroyed.

Specifically, they found that in a “commuting zone” with exposure to robots versus a “commuting zone” without exposure to robots:

  • Each additional robot reduces employment by a net of 6.2 workers.
  • Each additional robot per 1,000 workers reduces average wages by 0.73%.

Nationally – so beyond the commuting zone – effects were less massive as some jobs destroyed in Detroit might be replaced in other places:

  • One more robot per thousand workers reduces the US employment-to-population ratio by about 0.18-0.34 percentage points.
  • One more robot per thousand workers reduces US wages by 0.25% to 0.5%.

If the ratio of robots per 1,000 workers rises from 1 robot to 5 robots, wages would tumble by up to 2% nationally! In the same scenario within a “commuting zone,” wages would drop nearly 3%!

In 2014, there were 1.7 robots per 1,000 workers in the US, up from about 0.7 in 2000. Auto manufacturing is the leader in the use of industrial robots. Other sectors include electronics, metal products, plastics, and chemicals.

Between 1990 and 2007, industrial robots have eliminated a net of 670,000 jobs, according to the study. For perspective, this chart shows the total number of employees in manufacturing, which dropped by 36% from the peak of 19.5 million in 1979 to 12.4 million in February:

However, manufacturing output, adjusted for inflation, soared due to automation until 2007. During the Great Recession, output crashed. Now it has finally edged past its prior peak:

The number of industrial robots in the US is expected to quadruple. So job losses in manufacturing will continue, even if output rises.

The authors were once in the opposite camp but now have changed their mind about net job destruction by robots. The New York Times:

The paper is all the more significant because the researchers, whose work is highly regarded in their field, had been more sanguine about the effect of technology on jobs. In a paper last year, they said it was likely that increased automation would create new, better jobs, so employment and wages would eventually return to their previous levels. Just as cranes replaced dockworkers but created related jobs for engineers and financiers, the theory goes, new technology has created new jobs for software developers and data analysts.

But that paper was a conceptual exercise. The new one uses real-world data – and suggests a more pessimistic future.

The researchers said they were surprised to see very little employment increase in other occupations to offset the job losses in manufacturing. That increase could still happen, they said, but for now there are large numbers of people out of work, with no clear path forward – especially blue-collar men without college degrees.

But industrial robots are the great equalizer. They reduce the importance of wage differences, for example between the US and a cheap-labor country like China: Unlike labor, robots cost the same everywhere.

China is now on the forefront of robotizing its manufacturing plants, as wages have been soaring for years. In doing so, China is gradually losing its advantage as a low-wage country. In this scenario, manufacturing in the US can be competitive with China, particularly after figuring in the costs of transportation, time delays, risks of all kinds, and the like. So manufacturing could actually grow again in the US, but the jobs won’t come back.

And auto manufacturers face some challenges. Last time they tried this was in 2009! Read…  Automakers Resorts to Biggest Incentives Ever Just to Slow the Decline in Sales

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  173 comments for “How Many Jobs Do Robots Destroy? Answers Emerge

  1. Chris from Dallas says:

    Ride the wave or be crushed by it.

    • kitten lopez says:

      but dear Chris, how does one even ride such a wave of this preposterous scale???

    • economicminor says:

      Yeah, I’m with Kitten, it isn’t the size as much as the who is making all these robots? Is there a company or an index in robots? How do we ride this wave?

      The other side of this is when all so many people are going to be replaced by robots and algorithms, who will have money to purchase all this production? You do remember that the other side of supply is demand..

      • Smingles says:

        “The other side of this is when all so many people are going to be replaced by robots and algorithms, who will have money to purchase all this production? You do remember that the other side of supply is demand..”

        The school of American economics states that by reducing employers, profit margins will go up for capital (i.e. owners), who with all their new money will then go out and purchase goods and services, trickling down money throughout the economy, and prosperity will reach everyone.

        Oh… I didn’t know you were talking about the real world.

        “Is there a company or an index in robots? How do we ride this wave? ”

        There is an ETF catered towards the industry of automation. Its ticker is ROBO.

      • Lee says:

        Japan has been a leader in producing and using robots for years especially area of automobile production.

        Fanuc in Japan, Tokyo Stock Exchange Code 6954,is a well regarded company, but its up about 50% in yen terms since June 2016.

        PER around 40.

    • CowboyUP says:

      And how do you recommend to “Ride the wave?”

    • c smith says:

      OR take a part time, low comp service job
      OR go on disability
      OR get a politically “protected” job in government, health care or academia

      • Michael Fiorillo says:

        I hope by “academia” you don’t mean higher education (public and private, two and four-year) where, according to the American Association of University Professors, 50% of all instructional jobs are part time, and 70% are non-tenure track.

        Except for an aging cohort of tenured professors, some celebrity academics (who might occasionally encounter an undergraduate student, but rarely teach one) used as marketing props, college teaching is increasingly contingent temp work. And purposefully so, since that’s the model being applied to all us prolz.

        • Lee says:

          Yeah, even worse now for the foreign university teachers in Japan. Nothing more than ‘wage slaves’.

          Those teaching English are at the bottom of the pile and soon found the number of outside classes available being cut. I was lucky as I taught many courses in Business and Finance and never had that problem. What was a problem was that my university cut the number of adjuncts and then made us full time types teach those classes at about half what they were paying outsiders which meant we had to cut classes somewhere.

          Lots of places closed or were absorbed into other schools.

          I don’t know what the income of university types are in the USA, but Japan used to be very good. It isn’t anymore.

          Back then it was 6 Classes a week (1 1/2 hours), a few hours of office hours, and one faculty meeting a month (Where the foreigners just sat like rocks and said nothing as we didn’t count), and the rest of the time was free.

          Of course you had to prepare for classes and do ‘research’ so you could publish papers.

          My university was particularly good in one respect: they didn’t want us foreign types around once the classes were finished for summer or semester breaks. We were free to travel or do whatever, Nice long trips overseas was my answer. We could also teach as many classes outside the university as we wanted. Lots of demand at that time.

          Base pay at my university was the same for both Japanese and foreigners, but that was it. We never were given any other allowances such as research funds, family (wife, children) allowance, housing allowance, office allowance, or retirement.

          We even got screwed with the bonus payments. Japanese were given low monthly salaries and higher bonuses. Foreigners were given higher monthly pay and lower bonuses. The amount was the same, but treated differently for taxation.

          I don’t know if the system has changed, but those retirement benefits were huge. If you managed to retire after say 30 years at the school and were a full professor, your received a retirement lump sum payment from the school of 30 times your highest monthly pay.

          At my school most full profs were getting around US$200,000 a year base for 4 classes a week (plus all those nifty add ons) so a cool half million bucks or so when they retired.

          Fast forward to today and most university jobs for foreigners are 1 or 2 year contracts, pay is around the 4 to 5 million yen a year (US$36,000 – 45,000), classes per week are usually in the 10 to 12 area, you have to be on campus 5 days a week, do all sorts of extra work for free, and you are limited in the number of outside classes you can teach.

          Plus the health care and pension amounts deducted from you pay have soared as well.

          Not good………

    • R. in Oberpfalz says:

      In Germany, I work shoulder to shoulder with the robots in
      production for luxury auto components. With the reduction
      of workforce numbers with the use of robots, the company
      decided NOT to close the factory. Its a wave I have to ride
      until it crashes on the rocks.


    • Trena L Bristol says:

      How do define riding the wave and avoiding being crushed? What are you doing in your life?

  2. cap crunch says:

    Maybe I missed it but it needs to be said that ALL Robots used worldwide are NOT made in the USA.

    ASIA is full of industrial robots, but they make them.

    Japan has led the world for decades and now has household robot-dogs and servants that are affordable.

    The USA while losing massive amounts of jobs, is it going to be getting any of the high-tech good jobs of maintaining the robots or making them or writing their software.

    A good question would be to ask what happened? Largely ASIA is free to do what they wish, with sex robots, or anything the market would like given 200 million ASIAN men in China that can find a wife, there are 1000’s of entrepreneurs working on the perfect ‘robot wife’, that CHINA will be first is a given, the USA is dust in this entire area.

    Top Dog in the world in AI Big-Data from Stanford just quit and went to Baido/Alibaba where he will lead all Artificial-INTEL work worldwide; Best people in the world are free to do what they wish in ASIA backed by billionaires. What happened to the USA? They’re talking about licensing programmers, astro-nomic insurance for robots, drones are now FAA controlled. Hell you can’t even buy a chemistry set in the USA anymore, all science is essentially DOA.

    • Petunia says:

      What happened? H1Bs happened.

      Welcome to the no innovation world of low cost labor.

      • TJ Martin says:

        Sorry Petunia but the answer you’re looking for in regards to cap crunches question first and foremost is Outsourcing . Second would be H1B Abuses [ by the corporations , manufactures , healthcare , pharma , IT and tech industries committing them ]

        Not H1B’s in general

      • Smingles says:

        Errr… that doesn’t really explain it at all in relation to what he was talking about.

    • economicminor says:

      Add in a BAT to this and it appears that as isolationists we won’t even have a chance.

    • IanCad says:

      You have it exactly right Captain. The US licensing/regulation freaks will destroy any hope of competing with the rest of the world. It is an unfortunate fact that America is no longer the land of the free. It was always a mystery to me how that sturdy race permitted every form of enterprise to submit to the tyranny of vocational license boards.
      Painters, Plumbers, even Barbers must be controlled by the state. How far further can the US fall?

    • Ethan in Northern VA says:

      As a geek, I actually owned a robot arm. It was about 2000 pounds. My friend bought it in the mid-2000s from a particle accelerator in Newport News VA. Had it in the garage, then he took it to Raleigh. Later he moved to Silicon Valley and he gave it to our hackerspace in Norfolk VA. I eventually moved to Northern Virginia, robot moved up here. A different space here has 3 or 4 of them, 2 of them that have plasma cutters. They have sweet CNC machines as well. There are a few CNC machines (I’m talking cutting solid aluminum blocks CNC) available to hobbyists around here. Robots aren’t really that hard to build, and lots of kids are learning the basics in things like the high school FIRST robotics classes. Robots aren’t new, AI isn’t needed for manufacturing. These spaces are getting them in surplus channels from the 90s, why haven’t they taken over already?

      • cap crunch says:

        AI isn’t needed for the ROBOT, it is essential.

        Take a biped robot ( humanoid two leg walking robot ), with AI controlling the ROBOT, “Attention Model Machine Learning”, the robot at birth can learn to walk, balance, dance, and run on two legs with no programming. Same has now been done with drone helicopters flying upside, previously impossible tasks can be now be self-learned by machines, tasks that programmers in the past found insolvable.

        In ASIA its easy for a high-school class to to teach robots, you can get anything from for a few bucks, that includes servo’s and cpu’s, print (3d) your robot, and let the machine-algo run.

        In USA only the rich can play with these toyz, in ASIA I help teach local school kids, poor kids, and the stuff is so cheap we can give it to them for free, they go on to become engineers. The family’s can remain as farmers with NO tech, I frequently go for weeks just using a bicycle, and seen neighboring farmers go for months using no tech in their farming. Thus people have a choice, they can get their food & life without technology, or they can be cutting edge. I can see in the future my student’s building robots to handle all the farm tasks for their elderly parents. Tech being so cheap, its feels like free. In the USA customs prevents most of this TECH from entering at the low prices at the request of the cartels.


        TECH, Science, almost any innovation in the USA Dead-On-Arrival, the GOV cartels have banned all the fun. The DEA has banned chemistry-sets, its now a felony to own a chemistry set in Texas, that’s how far the USA has gone. How many of you all remember making LSD, nitroclycerine, and all in High School? I remember, now it’s all virtual, and the insurance company’s have banned ‘real’ from the schools.

        In ASIA I can order any glassware I want cheap online Aliexpress.Com, and I can go to any farm store and get virtually any chemical I want to fool around with. Now in the USA its impossible to do anything without a visit from the DEA, BATF, or FBI.

      • R. in Oberpfalz says:

        Have you ever stood and watched a modern KUKA? Not on film,
        in the flesh?? They are so damned fast and accurate that it is
        not to be believed. Our 5 year old KUKAs are fast, but they
        crawl compared to the latest generation. They dazzle. And they
        don’t mess up. The future that has meaning is the industrial one,
        not the hobby one. And do understand, the Chinese are investing
        in Robots to eliminate the over-expensive Asian Worker. (?)


  3. Jerry Bear says:

    Overproduction is already a serious problem. Automation may “increase productivity but what point is there in making products that the people can’t buy? Automation will simply pointlessly aggravate an already bad problem. If this sort of problem is treated with a laissez faire approach, it can only lead to economic collapse. There is no solution to the problems posed by traditional capitalism, it is time to start thinking outside of the box…….
    P.S. Please keep in mind that the purpose of an economy is to meet everybody’s needs, not merely to provide investment opportunities to billionaires.

    • d says:

      “Automation may “increase productivity but what point is there in making products that the people can’t buy? Automation will simply pointlessly aggravate an already bad problem”

      The Chinese are already doing this without automation. Its where they get the goods they dump from.

      Its how they bankrupt, and destroy western manufacturing capability, and then steal the customers of western manufacturing.

      If every steel plant in the world outside china closed. china would still have an overcapacity problem in steel manufacturing.

      THAT IS how bad the chinese overcapacity problem is. And not just in Steel.

      High tech robot factories, can produce a years requirement of x widget in week’s.

      Said plant shared by several manufacturers, can produce a years supply of several different widgets, for those manufacturers in a year.

      The Korean’s, and Japanese’s, along with china, stand to gain from this production style quickly, as they have cooperative, keiretsu’s, chaebol’s, and CCP state controlled, industrial relationships, already in existence.

      Instead of Toyota suppliers, requiring Ten plants to produce components for Toyota they will have one. Producing goods for all Ten of them. And they each supplier will only have to invest 10% of the cost of a very high-tech Manufacturing Plant.

      By the time the west figures this type of cooperation out.

      The Japanese and Koreans will have eaten quiet a few western companies. By quiet M & A.

      All those pesky EU labour regulations, are really not an issue, when several companies, at one site, employ very few actual physically working people, to produce an awful lot of goods, for multiple suppliers.

      Who get paid, outside the EU. Before the goods are produced.

    • talker says:

      Precisely and the governemnt has every intention of keeping those that find themselves without jobs in absolute poverty with inadequate housing and hardly any money for food or heating. This is because they refuse to spend to the economy and look for folks to borrow their way to prosperity which cannot be done because you are not a good credit risk if you are unemployed. We have built a miserable existence for our children and now even our pensioners.

      There are pensioners in USA aged 65 who are still struggling with student debt payments!

      This ugly facade must be reformed. It cannot go on for generations to come like this because congress and those in power refuse to recognize the truth about money.

      We must all first HAVE MONEY to spend money. WE ARE those who make others rich by purchasing that which they have to offer.

      • VegasBob says:

        There a also a lot of folks I know on the cusp or retirement (early-to-mid-60s) who have sizeable mortgages they cannot pay off prior to retiring.

        Most of them will have to keep working until they are forced out of the labor markets, and then they will find themselves in severe economic distress. They won’t have much to spend outside housing and healthcare.

    • kitten lopez says:

      that’s what i keep asking, too. who can afford the STUFF anymore or going out or rent or ANYTHING anymore???

      and the stock market… it’s all so fascinating how blatantly detached money is from common sense or reality on the ground anymore.

      ultimately i wonder: how many gated communities within gates will you need to be insulated from misery and bad air and water???

      i’m just in the constant state of being dumbfounded at everything anymore.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Imagine a world where even slave labor is unwanted because it’s more expensive to maintain and less productive than robots. If only the folks living during American Civil War is still arounf to witness the irony.

    • Petunia says:

      People in America don’t like to admit it, or don’t know it, but the Civil War was about an economy divided by industrialization. We are experiencing the same thing again, as we move from industrialization to digitization, and unfortunately, the outcome will be exactly the same.

      Wolf, doesn’t like politics to become the main topic on his site, but nothing is more political than money. As the gridlock in govt gets worse and worse, the real politics will play out in the streets of America.

      • d says:

        “People in America don’t like to admit it, or don’t know it, but the Civil War was about an economy divided by industrialization.”

        That’s why the south wanted to Succeed.

        As as a separate Nation State. It could tariff protect itself from northern industrialization.Yet still prosper from it’s commodity, and primary produce exports.

        Whereas reaming in the union would keep it poor and enslaved to norther industrialist. Not far from the situation that exists in much of the south today.

        • Jerry Bear says:

          The idea that the Civil war goes back to economic causes goes back to the 1920’s and has been thoroughly discredited by most American Historians. Slavery really was the main focus as indicated by the official statement of Confederate leader themselves. Alexander Stephens. Vice President of the Confederate States of America, gave the fundamental reasons for the Succession in his famous “Cornerstone Speech” made a few weeks after the formation of the Confederacy. I will give a summary here:

          “Our new government is founded upon exactly [this] idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

          I wish the current crop of Southern Apologists would realize their position is indefensible, that they are Americans too after all, and that the United States of America would never have become the great nation that it did if the North had not won the War.

      • kitten lopez says:

        you’re amazing, Petunia.

        • Thorny Rose says:

          You mean Petunia is amazingly wrong as noted above by Jerry Bear. Hint – The supreme leader wont fix anything related to slavery modern or old or the economy as it evolves in front of him. Trump will not be the answer to the question and data posed in this article.

      • two beers says:

        “Wolf[…] doesn’t like politics to become the main topic on his site[…]”

        I understand that perhaps Wolf wants to avoid the acrimony that often accompanies political debate, but removing politics from the discussion of economics and finance is fundamentally counterproductive. Smith, Ricardo, Marx, and Veblen, et al, studied “political economy,” because they understood that resource distribution was the direct result of man-made decisions, and not the result of bogus, immutable, “natural” laws. The conmen who invented the study of economics in the late 1800s imbued the nascent pseudoscience with airs of physical science (eg, social Darwinism) — as if eight individuals owning as much wealth as half of the planet’s population were the result of “natural law.”

        Unless and until the political dimension of economics — who decides how resources are allocated and why — is addressed, we’ll all gape in wonder and awe as bubbles, inequality, and instability worsen.

      • DH says:

        Yep, the South had the money, but they failed to look ahead, because they were addicted to their lucrative cotton business, which doesn’t seem all that different than the factory/coal plant job rug being pulled out from under people today.

        I was fortunate to see the writing on the wall, after watching how GM treated my dad in the 90s, so I hightailed it out of Indiana twenty years ago, but I feel for my old friends. My home town, which was once a thriving GM town, is now a shell of its former self.

        I’m sure someone back home will name their first born “MAGA” tomorrow and he’ll march against us on the West Coast like “States Rights Gist” did against the Yankees 150 years ago. Of course, he’ll probably be bringing a gun to a robot battle, so I’m probably on the right side. lol

      • Bloop says:

        The country is divided by globalism. The winners and losers are such strange bedfellows. And apart from the winners and the losers are the vast multitudes of stagnaters.

      • GSX says:

        Republicans have had how long to fix the economy as they owned Congress for years LOL> Thanks Petunia how much longer do you need to be wrong about most things is hilarious. Thanks for playing though!

        South and Industrialization…mmmm okay. Revisionist history is a failure try facts please.

      • harvey says:

        Bingo, spot on. Let’s hope there is less blood this time, let the slow great dying happen in the heartland.

    • harvey says:

      It’s already happening, Martin Ford told this story in his book “Rise of the robots”, and Tyler Cowen’s “average is over”. A labor that works for 0 wage already costs more than a robot would.

  5. Duane Snyder says:

    I find it hard to believe that it was automation and not trade that has destroyed US manufacturing jobs. I recently read a piece by Dean Baker that suggests this “automation rather than trade story is the equivalent of global warming denialism for the well-educated”. i tend to agree with dean baker but I am just a high school graduate that has seen his fair share of US manufacturing companies close their doors. (I thought it was certainly caused by outsourcing but I must be wrong). I must also revise my thinking on what has empowered China. It’s not our trade policies but robots. Who would have thunk it?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I think you misunderstood. The article said nothing about the jobs destroyed by offshoring. That is a separate issue – and has been discussed in separate articles. It only discussed jobs destroyed by automation.

      • Kam says:

        1. With robots, computers and algorithms increasing office productivity, then I guess we must be in a world of shrinking government employment? Not.
        2. Once we invent the consuming robot with a healthy take home paycheck, our economic problems will be over.

        • polecat says:

          if Elon has his way, we’ll all be in zyborg heaven, melding the worst of both worlds … so what’s not to like !!


        • elysianfield says:

          It has been said that Communism had problems with production…Capitalism with distribution….

        • Breta says:

          “2. Once we invent the consuming robot with a healthy take home paycheck, our economic problems will be over.”

          Give the robots access to cryptocurrency networks. They can then simply buy their own replacement parts and even continually upgrade an improve themselves. Problem solved. Robot economy complete. No humans needed. :-)

        • Michael Fiorillo says:

          Or, as embittered Russians supposedly joked during the brutal years after the Soviet Union’s collapse: “Everything the Soviets told us about Communism was a lie. Unfortunately, everything they told us about Capitalism was true.”

  6. Duane Snyder says:

    And a 600 billion dollar trade deficit, no problemo because, you know, robots.

    • harvey says:

      It’s no problem because the working class are the ones that is shouldering the negative effect of this, the professional class are salivating the fruits by the coastal cities.

  7. George Baron says:

    So depending how much these robots are paid as a salary they will be the only ones that can afford what they produce.

    You can’t have an out of work penniless consumer.

  8. Bob says:

    Meet SAM, the semi-automated mason, who does the work of 6 bricklayers.
    Yes, humans are still needed to perform some tasks, like loading bricks into the machine and smoothing the mortar.

  9. d says:

    Wolf these people are putting numbers

    “So manufacturing could actually grow again in the US, but the jobs won’t come back.”

    To what I have been saying for several years.

    This is simply intelligent realistic and obvious deduction/analysis.

    Global Exploiter companies like nike.

    DO NOT return manufacturing to the US (which they have on several robot assembly lines) unless there is a cost benefit + in $ to them.

    This time iot is different

    This time it is very hard to see where all the unemployed people will find as good or better paying work or any work in the future.

    Which says we need a global 1 child policy applied to the world outside the western ethnicity’s and Japan (which are naturally shrinking due to educated women) for several decades until the pre 1900 population numbers and ethnic balances return.

    In the long term this would benefit the planet and humanity.

    In the short term the leftist takers will scream long and loud


    Which means it will not happen, which points to a bad end for humanity and society, particularly Western, or at least this incarnation of it

    • Saylor says:

      “In the short term the leftist takers will scream long and loud”

      How about Catholics?
      Or any culture that still promotes large families?

  10. Human Touch says:

    I would be interested in hearing more about the safeguards put in place for the “Robo-Adviser” to prevent them from artificially creating a move up or down in the markets. We have already seen things like this happen in the near past.

    • d says:

      I would be more worried about front running, and robo adviser related, pump and dump’s.

      With the movement to them, soon may will be taking advise from few, and that is also a major hack spoof vulnerability.

      I buy and sell the indexes all the time, and come out ahead.

      I never buy individual stocks particularly, American, indian, chines, or NZ ones, as I can never get the real information at the same time as the insiders, and refuse to give them my money, or make money for them.

    • Smingles says:

      Robo advisers are essentially just passive asset allocators that automatically rebalance your account.

      In short, you answer some broad questions, the “adviser” determines an appropriate asset allocation, sticks you in some ETFs, and rebalances on a quarterly or annual basis. There is no trading that would cause them to have any effect on the market beyond very basic rebalancing.

      You may be thinking of quant funds, which do cause problems in the market from time to time, especially since they generally use the same data sources and pile into the same trades– that can cause havoc when they all try to exit the same asset at the same time, for example.

  11. cdr says:

    Take heart. They will never replace people completely.

    Before you buy a robot you need money. To get money you need a job.

    To build a robot you need capital, which must come from human effort at some point.

    Thus, our first jobs will be to make enough to buy a robot. This implies people will always be needed for something since no robots will exist without capital and no robots will be sold without disposable income.

    Of course, these rules don’t apply if Central Banks use QE for the funds needed for the first robot purchase or the first robot built.

    • Chillbro says:

      The top has all the capital, they don’t need need wage slaves for anything once they are able to consolidate capital and robotic labour under one group. There is a capitalist wet dream. They can finally put a lid on the pesky labour and have total controll of the economy and government, which in turn will controll the population for them. We are already seeing early stages of this.

      • d says:

        A major flaw in your anticapitalist, antiwealth, tirade.

        How does the nonworking nonwealthy, consumer get funds to purchase the robotically manufactured good’s???????

        Perhaps from state handouts?? funded by???

        Perhaps taxes on the wealthy. Who own the robot factories. As in you scenario they will be the only people earning anything taxable.

        An amicable relationship between the wealthy, and labour has been made impossible in modern times, by haters like you.

        • TJ Martin says:

          1) Pardon me but how exactly are you misinterpreting Chilbro’s comment to be in any way shape or form anticapitalist ?

          2) Not to mention how have you managed to not notice you’re both saying the same thing ? That being … if all jobs go to robots who IS going to buy the goods and services they create ? Other robots ?

          3) As for your last sentence that is an irrelevant verging on the absurd comment . Suffice it to say the gospel of Ayn Rand that todays wealthy bow down before prohibits ‘ amicable ‘ relations between themselves … and even each other [e.g. In Ayn Rand Land selfishness , narcism , greed and avarice are virtues and the only relationship worth pursuing is the relationship where you alone win while everyone else loses ]

          In closing … a little clue / hint . Chillbro’s comment about todays hyper capitalism’s wet dream delusions is right on the money . Todays capitalism is so deeply entrenched within itself that it doesn’t recognize never mind comprehend the fact that it is on the verge of consuming itself .

        • d says:

          “Todays capitalism is so deeply entrenched within itself that it doesn’t recognize never mind comprehend the fact that it is on the verge of consuming itself”

          should read

          Todays Globalised Corporatism. Is so deeply entrenched within itself that it doesn’t recognize never mind comprehend the fact that it is on the verge of consuming itself


          Those who quote or advocate Rand all have the same problem. they have read to much of her rubbish and it has rotted their brain’s.

          Orwell had important information to instill particularly in Animal farm and 1984.

          Most who cite Keynes only cite the leftist bits always leaving out.

          ” in good times debt must be paid down”

          “[e.g. In Ayn Rand Land selfishness , narcism , greed and avarice are virtues and the only relationship worth pursuing is the relationship where you alone win while everyone else loses ]” The old testament tells you that is Shiite.

          How many times had you read it and the new testament before you were 10?? because you wanted to, not because you were made to.

          Me I am an agnostic.

          Capitalism is not the problem. They way many apply it is.

        • Jerry Bear says:

          d, you claim to be for “capitalism” when you dont understand the concept. What makes you think our current system is genuine Capitalism? You breezily assume you are entitled to speak for the Left when you have no idea what they really believe You speak of “takers” (I have to assume this is a residue of having your mind poisoned by Alitsa Rosenbaum a.k.a, Ayn Rand) when the real takers are the financial parasites of Wall Street bleeding our nation dry and not the people struggling to survive by taking on 2 or 3 jobs. Lastly you grossly misuse and misappropriate the word “haters” when it really means “haters of people” and not “haters of evil”.

          You do not seem to be able to think clearly about what you really believe. I think it is high time you did some serious self-examination!

      • cap crunch says:

        U got this right best of anyone on this list.

        Robot’s can & do make robot’s, and now with machine learning, and augmented corrected learning a machine can learn to play a game like ‘go’ without programming. Likewise a machine can build and make a better robot than a human, so complex in fact that a human can never understand the actual algorithm used. It’s all here now, sadly its all being done in China.

        In just a few years there are going to be cheap surgeon robots, anything you can imagine. Cheap, reliable, and human doctors, surgeons, pharmacists, … will be see as leech bleeders.

    • RD Blakeslee says:

      There is some accommodation to this situation already.

      Various so-called “welfare” programs supply wheelchairs to those in various types of “need”.

      That can be extended to robots – rocket trips with Musk to Mars, etc.

  12. Mickey says:

    The hotter news is that robots have been designed to make robots.

    In time most everything can be automated.

    This is one reason the economy keeps slowing, tied to a decrease in population growth because its unaffordable to raise a family and with todays socisl situation who wants to marry

    In short, thing get more fubar every day.

    • RD Blakeslee says:

      “The hotter news is that robots have been designed to make robots.”

      I was a patent examiner for 17 years and I have no doubt whatever that my old job could be performed much faster and more accurately by automated prior art scanning, acted upon by artificial intelligence.

      In a young married group discussion in a Church in Arlington, VA in 1958, it occurred to me that there would be a discontinuity in human evolution, where homo sapiens would go henceforth as neo-human, inorganic automatons, just as fully self-aware and conscious as we had ever been.

      I remember joking at the time “Pass the screwdriver, Honey, let’s have a baby”.

      We’ll see …

    • Michael Fiorillo says:

      So, if the robots are reproducing and evolving as they do so, then we are as Gods, having created such a marvel.

      Meanwhile, simultaneous with achieving these God-like powers, the overwhelming mass of humanity will be digital serfs.

  13. Libre says:

    Few recognize that we are entering a new world order. 250 years of traditional economic theories that unite labor and capital will be made obsolete. Whether you believe in Smith,Marx,Hayek or Keynes, labor will be made irrelevant if current trends continue. Capital will be the only essential driver of prosperity, wealth, production of goods and services beyond local barter and subsistence economies. And as time goes by, fewer people will control more of the capital. If we think that economic inequality is bad now, within 20 years the displacement of human labor will be catastrophic. But it seems like it is not a question of if, but rather a question of when.

    If you read the “Second Machine Age” by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, they paint a more gradual nuanced transition than does Martin Ford in his book “Rise of the Robots”. Michael Osborne and Carl Frey in a study quantify the loss at about 47% of the US workforce within a generation. Even Nick Bostrom’s “Superintelligence” tome posits the raw challenge in developing self aware AI could take decades. Yet in these early years of automation, 39% of US GDP is from Financialization, allowing few to reap the massive rewards.

    After the carnage what will be left are those who control the means of production (raw materials ,technology, information, natural resources, capital, political sovereignty and access to markets). They will continue to accrue the wealth at ever greater speed, not human workers.

    We are witnessing the emergence of a new feudal ecosystem. Like a slow motion train wreck, we’re in the caboose waiting for the inevitable. However,the train is speeding up.

    Of course the nascent dilemma/concern: “who will be the consuming customer?” is the retort and dismissive denial to this new reality. Think a moment about cancers and viruses. Are they concerned about the longevity of their host? So much for enlightened self interest.

    A good article on the subject, even though from 2 years ago.

    Wolf, now write a new article on the economic conflicting dilemmas that we will be facing when the carnage really begins. Should Bill Gates’s idea on a taxing robots exclude Microsoft? Or in the face of Neo-liberalism, how would the basic income concept see the light of day? Will local and state governments able to sustain giving tax abatement’s for factories who employ few/no people? Personally I doubt that the average wealthy person will be happy to see their rewards spread around without a fight.

    What then must we do? (nod to G. Alperovitz)

    • subunit says:

      ‘Of course the nascent dilemma/concern: “who will be the consuming customer?” is the retort and dismissive denial to this new reality. Think a moment about cancers and viruses. Are they concerned about the longevity of their host? So much for enlightened self interest.’

      Cancers emerge de novo from new hosts. Economies do not. Viruses are “concerned” with the longetivity of their hosts insofar as extremely deadly, virulent viruses do not spread far or last long. Declining pathogenicity of viruses over time is a documented phenomenon, it’s selected for. The “retort” is simply a recognition of the reality that you can’t get something for nothing, or win the red queen’s race.

    • Jerry Bear says:

      You might check out what Karl Marx had to say about this…….

  14. Ed says:

    The future is coming and the vast majority of people will be on the dole or worse. Only the top of the economic pyramid will consume. The rest will subsist as best they can.

    • Petunia says:

      You are assuming the one percent will still be around. I wouldn’t bet on that anymore.

      • kitten lopez says:

        whoa! you are a neck snapper, woman! i hadn’t even THOUGHT of that…

      • Paulo says:

        I agree with Petunia on this. Furthermore, when us proles have no jobs, thus cannot afford to buy goods like nice little consumers, these wonderful new factories won’t have a reason to exist. I suppose before that happens we all get poorer.

        My buddy is a speciality helicopter pilot. He is hoping to hang on until retirement before being replaced by a drone. It is just a matter of time, he says. So, one more highly paid family man will be without job. Where I live it has been going on for decades, now.

        Me?. I think I will put in more potatos this year and make extra wine. We can then sit around and watch the violence unfold and cook up some fries to snack on.

        People without hope get angry. They will not quietly fade away. Never have and never will.

        Note to self: Time to re-read Steinbeck’s, “Grapes of Wrath”.


      • VegasBob says:

        I’ve always figured that when the people are hungry and the cable TV and the smartphones get shut off, the proverbial fat lady will start singing and the one percent will become history, in a fashion much like the French Revolution.

      • Niko says:

        Agreed, that is why Lead will be a more precious commodity than Gold.

  15. farmboy says:

    Back in the modern era a prevelant idea was that in the future machines will be doing most of the work so humans will be able to do their jobs in ever shorter work weeks. Well we got it down to 5 instead of 6 days but that was about the extent other than making our labour less physical. A lot of folks lost their jobs to machines during the last century but they seemed to always find other jobs and often better paying as time went on. That was until lately where its become very challenging.

    My hunch is that it is related to the earth reaching its limits to natural recource extraction rates which is throwing an additional rench into the gears. The current decrease in Global net energy production is the dragon we are now up against and has upending the foundations that capitalisim is built on ( perpetual growth)

    I am quite confident that we will never run out of useful work. The challenge is just figuring out how to get paid for that labor. Just one good example; We could use a lot more instructors, growers, distributers, and preparers of healthy food. The challenge is FIGURING OUT a way to survive financially as I well know.

    I feel that it is more critical than ever that our governments discontinue taxing labor and instead focus on taxing land, mineral rights and other natural recource right which according to my philosophy are best considered the right of every individual on the earth and not the right of those that with manipulation of other peoples labor take it all for themselves . Being a land owning Farmer myself I still feel that the largest portion of taxes should be land tax. Not the buildings or improvements which are a product of labor; just the land which would of course be higher per acre in higher population dense areas. The government would need to keep the taxes at a happy medium; high enough that land prices don’t go crazy high and low enough that land prices do not go into negative territory.

    By eliminating the majority of the tax code people would have a greater incentive to work and produce value even when they are not receiving full pay. At least they can make something and not loose it in taxes. Employment taxes would vanish so the high cost of employing people could drop by more than 50%.

  16. prepalaw says:

    I agree with Wolf 100%. We have manufactured automated systems in Michigan for 40 years. These systems fill bags, stack bags and boxes onto a pallet and unitize the stack into a cube with plastic film. The cube is dispatched to a forklift driver, who puts it in a warehouse. Everything is bar-coded. Data is collected and stored in our PLC for analysis by management. Some of our systems use a Fanuc “robot”, which is a one-arm pick-up and placing device.

    Each system we install permanently eliminates 2 workers per 8 hour shift. That is 4 workers for most plants operating 2 shifts per day. The “pay-back” period for management is between 18 and 24 months, based on labor cost-saving. Our systems last at least 10 years and some over 20 years, given the quality of maintenance and the harshness of factory operating conditions.

    Sure, there are costs for spare parts and service. But, the cost-savings overwhelm capital expenses. And, for management, our systems produce uniform and consistent packaging results, which significantly reduces losses from spoilage and waste (up to 2% of gross production, when humans are involved in packaging process). And, the better looking package generates great PR for the product producer, when consumers pull out their diapers and Tide boxes undamaged at Costco.

    What I have described is mostly a mechanical process. Wolf has described the electronic processes, that collect and analyse data, make predictions and deliver results. These processes are all part of automation technology.

    How can anyone tax a process. Do you go into a bank and tell them that their computers have eliminated the jobs of 10 bookkeepers – so pay payroll taxes for 10 lost bookkeepers.

  17. alister says:

    All this will do is bring about a wonderful future where everyone is either an artist, poet, musician or thief…..

    • kitten lopez says:

      technology made music, books, writing, art, performing, comedy all FREE. this town of SF was lousy with the sensitive freaky lot. but now the artists, poets, musicians i know are already evicted, dead, homeless and learning how to be thieves.

    • Dan Romig says:

      Or a professional athlete.

    • Saylor says:

      I listened to a classical composition a couple of years ago that was completely written by A.I. And it was a nice piece.

      Some news articles now are A.I. produced also.

  18. Mary says:

    Reading the NYT article, I was struck by this sentence:
    “If you’ve worked in Detroit for 10 years, you don’t have the skills to go into health care….”
    It speaks to a default assumption that the health care industry is going to provide most new jobs. Which in turn speaks to a topic that comes up frequently on Wolf Street: the ruinously high cost of health care in this country.

    Interesting conundrum. Not that I have a solution.

  19. MC says:

    “Generals are always gearing up and planning to fight the last war”

    Last month Zama, a German-owned fuel system manufacturer, announced they are moving part of their production from China to The Philippines in order to lower their labor costs.
    Latifondistas in Italy and Spain are taking advantage of Europe’s frankly idiotic immigration fiasco to cut their labot costs while authorities look the other way: why buy a grape harvester/pruner from CNH when you can hire illegal aliens for as little as €1/hour?
    Both the law-abiding German executives and not-so-law-abiding Italian and Spanish latifondistas are still fighting the last war, very much like those politicians supporting immigration and labor laws squarely aimed at squashing real wages.

    Allow me here a little comparison: at the start of WWI the splendid French Army was throughly controlled by the Grandmaisonites, thus named after their chief ideologue and guru, Colonel Louis de Grandmaison of the General Staff.
    Grandmaisonite doctrine has been defined by a Canadian historian as “extravagant, semi-mystical nonsense” but it literally ruled the French Army. To flaunt it meant seeing one’s career inexorably hampered, like a certain Philippe Petain, a highly vocal (and sarcastic) critic of Grandmaison’s, learned.
    Like modern economists are obsessed with cheap labor, the Grandmaisonites were obsessed with the idea of “attaque à outrance”, basically gallant bayonet charges obviously unsupported by heavy weaponry.
    Amazingly, in face of the horrifying slaughters of the Russo-Japanese War, this complete nonsense found few critics even outside of France. Lord Kitchener was in fact an admirer of Grandmaison’s and even as French soldiers were falling in their thousands every day, told his horrified generals New Army divisions should be trained to take positions at bayonet point with no heavy weapon support.

    Like modern economists the Grandmaisonites were the highly qualified experts, and everybody daring to criticize their doctrine using common sense is a crank to be marginalized and sneered at.

    • RD Blakeslee says:

      “extravagant, semi-mystical nonsense” – Grandmaison’s theories.

      … also George Patton’s

      One General failed, the other was successful.

  20. Bobber says:

    I like Bill Gates’ proposed robot tax. This causes part of the innovation benefit to accrue to society at large.

    • DK says:

      I noticed this as well. And it caused me think about the relationship of the global corporations and their politicians. The decades long trend has been to increasingly shift the tax revenue burden to the employee. Property tax, sales tax, income tax….all from working people. With this revenue stream being severely deminished, where will the political class get its money? Maybe campaign contributions and post-position jobs will have to be increased?

      • Chhelo says:

        The end user has always paid all the taxes. Any other entity that has paid any tax to a government always collects it from you the the ultimate tax payer.

  21. Frosty says:

    “time to start thinking outside of the box…….”
    For example: a sci/fi short story I remember from the ’40’s titled
    The Dreamers, envisioned a future society without occupations as
    we now know them. Replacing the idleness was dream machines
    that offered a pleasant alternative: Lost in induced Dreamscape.

    • Dan Romig says:

      Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece ‘Metropolis” comes to mind as I read your comment Frosty.

  22. GSH says:

    I’m less pessimistic regarding robots making humans obsolete. Sure robots will continue to replace humans in repetitive manual and white collar work. But a human is an incredible sophisticated and flexible “robot” and all it needs is 2000 calories of fuel/day. Humans are the true killer app on this planet.

    • kitten lopez says:

      yes, humans are amazing, but that’s what’s so heartbreaking about how most humans are slaves to the system and thus neutered/neutralized.

      i remember a feral bad ass friend of mine telling me this man she knew was many hours late because a truck of logs spilled the wood all over highway one. for THREE HOURS NO ONE GOT OUT TO MOVE THE LOGS together… all these people waited politely in their cars for an official truck to come out, navigate through the traffic jam, and dispatch workers to remove the wood by hand themselves.

      we were both originally long ago from new york but both eventually stopped laughing at californians’ pussy ways and out of horror said, “we are SO fucked” because EVERYONE’S deer in headlights now.

      even new yorkers aren’t new yorkers anymore, as one lady in new york told me. they’re all gone. no one says “water” like a true new yorker she said. i certainly don’t as i screamed when even the pizza guys in hoboken asked where i was FROM. oh the pain..

      i’m a fucking californian. but the kind who’d pick up the fucking logs still.

  23. Lune says:

    IMHO this is a political issue, not economic: how do you divide productivity gains between labor and capital? The problem isn’t that the robots are coming. The question is how do the increased profits they create get distributed? Do it right and we have nothing to fear.

    Look at the industrial revolution: At the time, the average standard of living was that of a peasant: the entire family worked the fields. Their entire economic output was enough to barely feed them, with maybe a little left over to buy a few clothes, shoes, etc. if the harvest was good that year. There was little money available for anything else.

    What if the productivity improvements from the industrial revolution went 100% to the factory owners? Current workers would be fired and the remaining workers’ standard of living would be about the same as peasants (subsistence wages) and no market for all the extra stuff (services like education, Healthcare, entertainment, etc) would have developed.

    That’s what these economists are predicting for a robot economy. OTOH, If the productivity benefits of automation are shared with the owners and workers, entire new industries would arise (would peasants in pre-industrial England have imagined the rise of an entertainment industry? Hollywood is now our second largest exporter, after Boeing).

    Note this sharing was never done willingly. It took a brutal labor and union movement to fight for it. At the end, we all enjoy a higher standard of living working less hours, for fewer years (we’re in school until our 20s, then retire in our 60’s, and many women don’t work outside the house; none of these things were true in early industrial times).

    IOW, it’s the income inequality, stupid :) Robots are just a productivity enhancer, albeit one more disruptive than most things we’ve seen (but not the most: agriculture went through a bigger revolution with industrial farming) what we do with the increased productivity is the real question.

  24. Kent says:

    Economists misunderstand the industrial revolution. People made basically everything we have today prior to the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution was about applying the technology of steam engines to make those things vastly cheaper. People got new jobs because industrialists were rapidly creating industries around almost everything ever produced.

    Then, in the 1870’s, a few incredibly important inventions happened: harnessing electricity, the internal combustion engine, and indoor plumbing. For the next 50 years, these inventions spun off the modern world creating vast new jobs, while destroying old ones.

    After the Great Depression and WWII, the federal government purposefully spun off the last revolution. That was the suburban lifestyle. It created tens of millions of jobs creating residential housing, strip malls, roadways, automobiles and household furnishings. The modern world.

    The Internet and computers destroy jobs. But in a globalized world, the new jobs that are created are in low wage countries. And there are no new great inventions or government investments that are creating the millions of new jobs in the West that are needed. The job creation miracle doesn’t just happen out of “capitalism”. It happened, for a short time in history, for very specific reasons, which are no longer relevant in today’s economy.

    • Bloop says:

      When something always works and the stops it seems like a black swan arriving. But it’s not. It’s just the extinction of swans altogether.

  25. Petunia says:

    Blackrock’s announcement that its trading is going digital, comes on the same day that Bloomberg announced that its terminal subscriptions are down by thousands. To me, both of these are directly related.

    Digital trading is a black box of obscurity and I, as a technical professional, would be extremely leery of relying on any such system. The incentive to manipulate prices in such systems is high and investors have no way to know. Considering the reputations of investment advisors, I can’t believe commenters/investors are not more concerned/interested in this aspect of the article.

    • RD Blakeslee says:

      Also, when the black boxes go wrong, they are helpless.

      Anything they are supposed to do, freezes.

    • VegasBob says:

      I think most of us with functioning brains realize that securities prices are fraudulently manipulated by the Wall Street fantasy-du-jour of the day.

      This manipulation goes on 24/7 worldwide now. So it’s not necessary to continually point out the obvious.

      Every time the VIX (volatility index) starts rising, the algos viciously slam it back down. It’s been working pretty much for 8 years now, and will likely continue to work until a black swan or two materializes to ruin the party.

    • d says:

      “Considering the reputations of investment advisors, I can’t believe commenters/investors are not more concerned/interested in this aspect of the article.”

      The Amount of readers wolf has that dont comment are probably strongly represented in that group.

  26. Tom kauser says:

    Back in 2008 we lost almost 8 million jobs without an increase in robot searches.
    The robots are coming should be good for 5-10 million more this go around?

  27. Kreditanstalt says:

    I suspect the “robot” hype has been vastly exaggerated. The real, good-paying, productive jobs have long gone.

    The real problem, and the cause of falling productivity-per-person year after year, is COST…something which seems never to be taken into account by the bean-counters in economics.

  28. Quadra says:

    Wow so many comments already!
    Shouldn’t we be glad that Robots can do the job for us?
    The question is what will we do? If we don’t work then how will we get the essentials that we need? Food, Housing, Clothing,Medical etc.
    Will we be satisfied with less and more equality? Will Money exist?
    One of the comments was think out of the box. I couldn’t agree more.
    I just don’t think that humanity is ready for this mindset yet. We are still caught in the consumption race of wanting to have more.
    But perhaps there is hope and our children will be wiser.

  29. DK says:

    Although it was defeated, it is interesting that the UBI concept has been steadily gaining traction in the public forums.
    The stage has been set for this to become a more popular idea if terminal unemployment grows/persists.

    • d says:

      “it is interesting that the UBI concept has been steadily gaining traction in the public forums.”

      On a planet with a flat or falling 2 B population maybe 7 Band rising forget it.

      Italy has an aging population a falling bith rate and cant afford it.

      Japan has an aging population a declining birth rate and will afford it.

      Heaven forbid the japanese are legally allowing some immigrant short term labor again as Abe tries to drive married women back into the workforce.

      what will a the foreign investment markets do if Watanabae San goes back to work and does the responsible thing. Invest in the company she works for.?

      UBI just like Communism/Socialism, will not work with all the leftist out there screaming MORE FOR ME FREE FIRST.

      • d says:

        The other reason UBI cant work at the moment is that landlords increase rents to exceed the family UBI for any dwelling. And munis drive taxes up, to drive the economically disadvantaged away from home ownership.

        The whole game of land speculation, and Muni land tax milking. And UBI, are completely incompatible.

  30. stan says:

    I agree about taxing robots. lets take all taxes off of human labor and put them on robot labor. then we’ll see who is more economical.

    • Kent says:

      Intelligent idea. If the purpose of government is to protect private property, then why don’t we tax private property to pay for government? Why do we tax labor and sales?

      Get rid of payroll and sales taxes. Tax capital instead. Over tax it and use the proceeds to subsidize labor costs. Jobs and income will come flooding back.

  31. Good says:

    Wolf pointed out previously that automation will level the playing field between the US and the third world.

    Which means that the country that replaces humans with robots the fastest will be the most competitive. So higher unemployment is good from a GDP perspective.

    If we could only get rid of people completely, then what a wonderful world it would be!

  32. Maximus Minimus says:

    I said it before, but the easiest jobs that can be automated that comes to mind is that of central banking governors and chair person. IBM Watson can do it better, faster, cheaper, and above suspicion.

    • Duke De Guise says:

      A proprietary algorithm conducting public affairs with public money, absent some democratic control, should never be considered above suspicion.

  33. randombypasser says:

    Change is the only constant…

    When people have gotten accustomed to something for long enough the inevitable change to something else is pretty often seen as a negative change, period. Quite often it is painful and scary jump to unknown, but as often as not it resolves in decent way in time.

    This robotics/software hubbub is exactly the same thing. It’s scary, terrifying unknown monster which seems only to promise huge unemployment and humanitarian suffering via insufficient income thereafter. But that’s been reality for ages to something like 80% percent of people globally, in modern world, just mostly not us westerners. Waky wake, globalization is the great equalizer.

    The thing is that the time in between is the one when there will be real suffering and that time in between will most likely be so long it will give us another lost generation in form of perpetual unemployment and poverty for many. And that’s the time between the actual understanding of the effects of the change and before PTB’s actually get on doing something to it. It will be too long time, a generation likely, but in the end it resolves as it always does, one way or the other.

    Only interesting things are when, how, by whom and by what means. Look back, read history, one can get a good grasp as how big changes in any society have resolved before. They do not resolve in identical way, but with many similarities as it’s the people in turmoil and the people resolving the turmoil. People don’t change, people are the same, always. And the only important thing is to ask form yourself “how can i prepare to it?” Time You have, maybe a generation, it’s enough.

    • Kent says:

      Good post. I use the analogy of a plant pulled up by its roots. People are the dirt clinging to the roots. As you shake the plant, the least embedded (poorest and weakest) get flung off first. the highest and most tightly embedded get flung off last (the rich and powerful).

      Robotics and AI is flinging people out of the traditional, working-class lifestyle. The weakest are hurt first, and they are feeling it. And more and more are getting hurt up the food chain. Some of us are well embedded and won’t see a problem for ourselves for a generation or two.

      As to how it gets resolved is a mystery. Either TPTB will be willing to support even more millions on welfare programs, or those on the bottom of society will rise up and demand more.

      I don’t think it will effect me. But certainly my children will face it. I am accumulating as much wealth as possible to ensure they have some resources behind them in case they can’t come up with their own. I recognize that not everyone is in a position to do that.

      • harvey says:

        Those past 2 comments are the best so far, beautifully explained. Happens every time there is an industrial revolution, either lead by machines or digits.

  34. Smingles says:

    I’d just like to add that this trend is HUGELY deflationary, and why looking at the economic growth + inflation of the post-WW2 era is completely irrelevant to what is happening in the long-term.

  35. BFast says:

    Folks, it’s time for infinite extrapolation analysis. What happens when robots do all necessary work? At some point, people need to have the resources which are now essentially free, or should/must be. Work, at some point, must become optional. Some stuff, mostly in the arts, would surely survive infinite robotization. But for the most part, robots must put us out of work.

    The problem continues to be Industrial Revolution thinking. The people who design and sell robots want their cut based upon the number of man hours they will save. So the automators and those who finance them, are getting painfully rich. Something must shift at some point.

    Somehow we must find a way to get to 50% automation with 100% human satisfaction.

    • Kent says:

      A similar quandary must be faced by the children of the very wealthy. They don’t have to work, but must find something to do with their time. Perhaps by studying them we can gather some insights.

  36. JimTan says:

    There was a recent article highlighting how automation has impacted Wall Street trading desks:

    “At its height back in 2000, the U.S. cash equities trading desk at Goldman Sachs’s New York headquarters employed 600 traders, buying and selling stock on the orders of the investment bank’s large clients. Today there are just two equity traders left. Automated trading programs have taken over the rest of the work, supported by 200 computer engineers. “

  37. Mark says:

    Automation and mechanization are great things for humanity and should be celebrated, not feared, provided that the productivity gains are shared more equally across society, rather than be captured by the ownership class.

    I really believe the next 20 years are going to radically change everything we think about classical economics and the relationship between labor and capital as human labor in nearly all forms approaches obsolescence. The future can either be a Europeanized socialism on steroids, where inequality is small, people work minimal hours and have sufficient capital for housing, food, etc. leaving them free to pursue activities other than work in their daily lives, or a fully free market approach where income inequality explodes, the ownership class becomes 21st century lords while the rest of humanity squabbles over the scraps. Or something in the middle. In a future like this where capital >>>> labor, I’d certainly want to live in the society that redistributes wealth rather than holding on to the idea that the poor can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” through “hard work”. That certainly was the case on the 19th century frontier, in an automated future with massively devalued human labor, not so much.

  38. michael Engel says:

    Robots might help bring back jobs to the US, enable industry to
    stand back on it’s feet & compete. Here is why :
    Capex is down, lately. But when it was up, for decades US corp. had
    expanded offshore, mainly in China & India,
    An engineer can be fresh out of college, or 30 years veteran.
    His salary + benefits : $ 60,000 to $300,000.
    But there is a pyramid above that enable the engineers to do his,
    or her job. Layers of the administration, finance and sales dept.
    also RE and management, all the way to the CEO. + CFO.
    Now the cost of an American engineer $250,000 to $300,00.
    Attrition increase engineer cost ( less of them ).
    Filling it up with H1B visa lower cost.
    The cost of a similar engineer in India, including pyramid, for US corp. $25,000 !
    Project engineers have mix of US + Indian crew.
    Corp. USA had an incentive to make profit by laying off US workers.
    including the dumping of engineers.
    The new plan to reducing corp. tax, to do WHAT ??
    – increase stocks buy back ?
    – raise dividends and become the new aristocrat ??
    – or, increase Capex in other locations in the world ??
    If president Trump will boost the industrial sector we really win.
    Let corp. USA build modern capacity here, including robots, that will
    enable us to compete.
    A weaker dollar, will help, too
    I hope it can be done if we will not tumble from the crest of a
    giant wave, first

  39. r cohn says:

    Robots -AI is often discussed relative to manufacturing .But the big effect that is is going to happen and has already started to happen is among service jobs.
    Lets look at 4 types of service jobs and guess what the future will bring
    1.Law-As Big data becomes more sophisticated many of the functions performed by paralegals and lower/mid level lawyers will be eliminated.This in turn will put even more pressure on the bottom 1/2 of law schools
    2. Securities trading-Trading desks have been decimated over the past 10 years.No reason to think that this trend will be reversed.
    The probability is that the number of research analysts will also shrink dramatically in the future as AI usurps their function
    Both trading and research jobs are in the upper echelon of income.
    3.Medicine.More and more of the functions of even highly trained doctors and nurses will be replaced by robots.
    More well paid jobs done the tubes.
    4.Golf instruction-This is obviously a tiny industry with little macro impact by itself,but the changes that have been seen and are going to be seen seen in the future can only be described as dramatic.First came high speed video and then doppler based radar systems.Then came 3d sensor systems.Now these technologies are being integrated together via AI and eventually robots..In the future, a some golfers may learn more effectively from a small number of well regarded pros,but the vast majority will be much better of visiting their local robot

    • Bloop says:

      1. Replace the homeless with robots that panhandle and collect recyclables.
      2. Replace shoppers with robots that shop on Amazon.
      3. Pay robots a living wage, including an earned income tax credit and food stamps.

  40. Old Farmer says:

    The carbon atom can make four bonds, so it is able to make complex molecules. Just below carbon on the periodic table of the elements is silicon, which also can make four bonds. If you were going to invent a life-like system on an imaginary planet, it would be based on either carbon or silicon. Here on planet earth we went for carbon. But now silicon is catching up. Silicon can capture the sun’s energy (solar panels), it has intelligence (computers) and it is learning to reproduce itself (self-programming robots). In the mighty war between carbon and silicon, silicon is making great strides, while carbon is mired down in myriad systemic failures. Interesting times. . .

  41. Saylor says:

    I am reminded about Kurt Vonnegut and the ‘Illium Works’. (G.E.)
    though the title of the book escapes me now, the ending was so appropriate.

    The concept that creating robots would create more jobs was to me something akin to ‘spending your way out of debt’.

    The very purpose of automation is to….
    reduce labor costs
    increase accuracy
    increase productivity.

    Although drones would be more economical and safer, humans hopefully will continue to press into space.

    That way we can strip mine other planets.

  42. mean chicken says:

    “They found “large and robust negative effects of robots on employment and wages across commuting zones.”

    That’s of course contradictory with the lies we’ve been told, inclusive of globalization and H1B visas.

    What other lies are we being told? For example, military spending is out of control for good reason, these lies line the pockets of special interest groups

    For the children, indeed! So many people believe the experts lies, it’s sickening.

    • harvey says:

      Military spending has averaged about 4% of GDP per year, even during the iraq war years. As per % of GDP spent fighting a foreign war, it was one of the cheapest wars ever fought. Look elsewhere.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Yeah but….

        There are military expenditures that are not in the budget of the DOD, such as nuclear weapons which are in the budget of the DOE. And there were special allocations of funds to fight the Iraq war which wasn’t part of the DOD budget. The VA is not part of the DOD either, but has Cabinet status and is administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The budgets of much of the Intelligence Community, including the CIA, are not disclosed (normally, unless it’s leaked). Some intelligence agencies are part of the DOD, like the NSA. Others, like the CIA, are not. And on and on….

        The total expenditures for the US military are far larger than the budget of the DOD. And they’re purposefully not easy to stay on top of.

  43. Ishkabibble says:

    The goal of eliminating EVERYBODY’S need to work (perhaps at, by whatever measure, terrible jobs) is a noble one. Unfortunately, under / within whatever you want the present economic system, capitalists reaching that goal will be an unmitigated disaster for the vast majority of people.

    The unsolvable conundrum is bone simple. From whom do average people get the money to buy the vital things that they need to survive, that the owners of the large-scale worker-less factories / fields produce / “own”? Certainly not from their former employers, because their former employers are not answering the phone or opening the factory door to talk to them.

    The welfare of the people is up to the people’s elected representatives. So right now the answer to that question is that governments borrow money from the capitalists and then the government gives that “money” to “their” constituents. Result? The national debts rise to infinity and, ironically, will never, ever be paid back to the capitalists by future taxpayers. But we’ll just “make believe” that it will be paid back and carry on, as usual.

    The POLTICAL battle over just exactly who SHOULD “own” robots and just exactly whom robots SHOULD serve has begun in earnest and will only intensify as the number of human “unemployables” inexorably rises.

    Even though the fate of humanity might literally be at stake and this will certainly be THE political battle of all political battles, for members of the present bewildered herd, THIS war is going to be about as “entertaining” as trench warfare was for their long-dead ancestors.

    In short, during this ongoing, intensifying slug-fest, lots of people are going to lose their livelihoods and their dreams before the carnage ends in some sort of peace deal that will be reached between the same Elite Class and their political slaves who have, by trying to satisfy their insatiable greed, if not outright caused those wars, certainly enabled and facilitated them.

  44. michael Engel says:

    Robots will cut the cost of the pyramid :
    administration, finance, HR, sales….management…tellers….
    But can rebuild the industrial sector and enable it to compete.
    Robots are expensive. The harder their job, the shorter their life
    expectancy. A worker can start at age 16 as an apprentice. An engineer
    start at age 21-22 and stay in the market for 50 years, until age 69.
    Robots cannot compete with workers. They last only very few years. And before they die they need maintenance, repairs, all kind of expensive parts.
    New type of workers will service them, a new supply chain. New industry.

    Detroit was destroyed by it”militant workers”. Powerful unions. Not by robots.
    For 100 years, since Karl Marx built a huge army of millions & millions
    of factory workers, nobody could stop their march.
    They stomp management, they gain power. Entitlements.
    They were invincible. Nobody could ever stop them.
    Until <<>>>
    After he discovered China, a solution was found.
    Fight the militant unions with communist China. Not with robots.
    Now, we are longing for the good old days. We are missing, when we look at was left behind, the huge metal skeletons where the industrial unions had flourished.
    The mighty super stars became the forgotten men.
    daron Acemoglu book : Why Nations Fail, is a great book. This attempt
    to fame is a “fake news”. It contradict his book.

  45. Red in the Midwest says:

    I guess now Congress had better get ahead of this trend and give robots the right to vote, otherwise all of these out-of-work constituents will start proposing radical ideas that conflict with the money-bags who own our elected “representatives”. We can’t have that!

  46. JB says:

    We have accelerated this loss of jobs by making it too expensive to hire a full time employee. The overhead costs of hiring someone (e.g, insurance, fica matching , regulatory paperwork, risk of lawsuits,etc) add another 20 to 30 percent to wages. Maybe we can recapture manufacturing done in low wage countries back to the US via robotics. As the article stated robotics levels the playing field. On a side note just read an article about a home builder in denver that could double the amount of homes being built if he had enough construction laborers ( framers, plumbers, electricians) . he said immigrant labor filled the gap. SO there are well paying jobs out there , but you have to get your hands dirty. It takes 6 months to get a new roof here in central florida. One to two weeks to get your a/c system looked at during the summer months . Much of this ‘dirty labor’ is being done by middle aged/senior people left over from the last housing bust. Who will do the work when they leave ? Society will always need a local maintenance type workforce that can’t be automated or outsourced .

  47. Peter Peterson says:

    ETF Robo is full of some real junk.

    Autodesk for example. A software company that IS innovative, but is also a software shark.

    The way the top brass talk, they care sod all about their user base getting vfm and toolset longevity and flexibility, and instead just prey on their trapped by design consumers for all their money, while hunting down competition and assimilating it.

    Good ‘business’ yes, but these kinds of companies are like dinosaurs.
    The real robo businesses here will be the small dynamics, not big bloated dinosaurs who just buy up innovation and then don’t know how to use it.

    It’s just more western stock/share hype bollocks.

    AI, robots, self driving cars.

    Get your money invested.

    Aaaannd it’s gone.

    Wasn’t a website getting a million hits a day a good investment and ‘riding the wave’ too?

    Pick out the wheat from Robo, and buy actual shares!

  48. Sporkfed says:

    I work for an employer that has used technology and automation to reduce headcount.
    The byproduct of this is more productivity squeezed out of the remaining employees.
    The technological and automation tools aren’t making the remaining workers lives better,
    but worse. Productivity is nearly double what it was 20 years ago but inflation adjusted
    wages have stagnated . The productivity gains have been siphoned off and not shared
    with either employees or consumers.

    • Chhelo says:

      So in reality renewing the Central Bank Charter alias the FED in 1913 has been much more destructive by destroying by purchasing power of the US$.

      The second was the progressive tax system with no Constitutional limits on how much the government steal from the worker.

      Third the miss allocation of capital by fighting 70 years of misguided wars from Korea to Afghanistan.

      Hard to believe there is still anything left.

      • Peter Peterson says:

        There isn’t anything left.

        Outright owned real assets ftw.

        Anything with debt attached, make sure you can service it!!!

        Any ‘money’ you have, prepare to see it disappear, pensions, cash, etc.

  49. AC says:

    They will heavily tax the robots to fund the human welfare state.

    I think Disney/Pixar made an animated documentary about it.

    The logo of the new ‘bureau of robot affairs’ should probably be a snake eating its own tail.

    Plan B is probably the Butlerian Jihad.


    So, i own and operate a specialty manufacturing company.

    in my metalworking operations, i use dinosaurs[multi-spindle automatic screw machines].

    and, i use cnc machine tools.

    as of yet, no entity has really developed a cnc multi-spindle.

    but, the usa no longer has a place in the cnc machine tool business. why?

    my cnc machines are all japanese. why? the japanese focused on that market. and with the assistance of miti and the japanese banks, they wiped the u.s. machine tool industry out of the market.

    i found it unbelievable that a company such as cincinnati milacron, b&s were just erased. they ceased offering competitive product. and, at some point, decided that they did not care to compete. essentially, they retired from the marketplace.

    the other problem that they confronted was how miti facilitated financing. fuji back acquired walter heller. and the japanese machine tools could be acquired interest free. imagine, at a time of relatively high interest rates in the usa, fuji bank would finance a $200,000 cnc machine tool for 5 years interest free.

    who could ignore that kind of deal? i sure couldn’t.

    but more to the point, the u.s. machine tool manufacturers had gotten so lazy that they had no competitive products.

    so, i own and operate okumas, mazaks, citizens. wonderfully reliable machines. and, from a manufacturing sense, indispensable.

    i suppose that in a sense, you could consider these the first industrial robots. when contrasted with the dinosaur machine tools that i also operate. the u s inventions that were the sources of the american 20th century manufacturing revolution. what happened to them?

    lazy managements? greedy financiers?

    now, let us consider the american technical ceramic industry. and kilns.

    here was bickley in bensalem, pennsylvania. the pre-eminent manufacturer. innovative up until the1990’s. then, either the demand for them declined, or they were copied throughout the world.

    bickley, i think, no longer has a manufacturing presence in the usa. it moved its operations to mexico.

    and, it decided to let its very knowledgeable engineering personnel retire or die.

    personally, i would say that there are no longer any bickley personnel who know anything about refractories.

    and, this is a knowledge base that has no textbooks. ceramic engineers coming out of alfred university know nothing about real world ceramic manufacturing.

    they are all book engineers.

    and this is the reality that i see. can robots rebrick a kiln? i don’t think so.

    can robots select the proper refractories? i don’t think so.

    can any graduate of alfred or any other tech ceramic engineering dept do it? not as i can discern.

    the usa has been slipping into the ooze for decades as i see it. because of lobbyist inspired taxation industrial policies.

    the usg wants to tout the fiction that the usa is close to full employment. what a bunch of hooey.

    i figure that the usa is running 25% unemployment. working to 50% within the decade.

    if am seeing it accurately[backed by shadowstats], when will the insurrection commence?

    • d says:


      A particularly Nationalist entity.

      I love what it did and respect how it did it. Even though it made a few opph’s that are still reflected in the Japanese economy.

      Globalised Vampire Corporates, headquartered in America, allied with china, holding their profits outside America and pay as little tax as possible anywhere.

      That’s what happened to your American machine tool manufacturers. Several of them were brought and asset stripped by various Japanese and Taiwanese companies then the CCP mainland moved in.

      The Japanese and Germans, still make good machines, in Japan and Germany. America dosent.

    • prepalaw says:

      Unfortunately, you are correct. Our high definition plasma cutter is made by Komatsu. We have the newest machine. We sold our 10-year old and almost worn out Komatsu to a speciality chopper (motor bike) manufacturer for $90,000.

    • RD Blakeslee says:

      “and, this is a knowledge base that has no textbooks. ceramic engineers coming out of alfred university know nothing about real world ceramic manufacturing.

      they are all book engineers.”

      My grandfather managed the Chevrolet grey iron foundry in Saginaw, MI (now defunct). He use to say the same thing about engineers coming out of the University of Michigan. He preferred the more down-to-earth graduates of Michigan State College, a land-grant school which, in those days was more akin to an advanced trade school.

      I attended MS (now U) and was taught sand mold casting. Made a bronze desktop nameplate – pattern first, etc.

    • RD Blakeslee says:

      Regarding quality of Japanese products taking the markets formerly dominated by U.S. brands:

      My son uses a Kubota tractor in the farming part of his business, because a highly competent friend of his who is in the farm implement repair business says he never sees Kubota tractors in his shop.

  51. Willy2 says:

    – Greenspan already said in the 1990s that US manufacturing (& agriculture) wouldn’t contribute anymore to growth in the US.

    – Increased productivity undermines demand (and this thread confirms that notion):

    Let’s assume a company has 100 workers and those workers each all earn $ 1000. Then those 100 (wo-)men can spend $ 100,000. So, total demand is $ 100,000. (This assumes that the amount of debt doesn’t increase).

    Now when the company increases productivity and can do the same production with 90 employees (each still earning $ 1000). The those 100 (former) employees now earn & can spend – in total – $ 90,000. So, demand has dropped to $ 90,000 or by 10%. (again, with no increase in total debt).

    And then companies are forced to cut their prices in an attempt to salvage their turn over. Hence those falling prices. And are forced to increase productivity even more.

    – Chinese manufacturers now also increasing their procductivity means a production glut in combination with “weak” demand. A recipe for an economic (demand) disaster in the (near ??) future. OMG.

  52. Willy2 says:

    – There’s a way to compensate for that falling demand (as a result of increased productivity): 1) increase the amount of debt 2) increase of demand through growth of the (US) population. More births or more immigration.

    But both 1) & 2) are currently “very tepid”.

  53. PrototypeGirl1 says:

    Prepping, or stacking as some of our more refined friends refer to it, is the big short.

  54. michael Engel says:

    In the next cycle, whenever it comes, guys like
    the ALBERT CHAMPIONS of the world, will be the force of
    rejuvenation of many industrial sectors, including the machine tool
    Those innovators will not come from the new media, silicon valley.
    Their engineers will not be Stanford grads. It will be the job of the Mid Atlantic states, where the the engine of this country, will start to roar
    again. In the meanwhile, ALBERT, cheers, Yamazaky 12 years for you !

  55. michael Engel says:

    correction : Mid Atlantic + Mid Western states.
    Add TOLA, too

  56. DMan says:

    I had a rather bleak thought while reading through the comments… What if TPTB, the people behind the people, whoever they are, are coming up with a way to replace the rest of us rabble with a much more compliant source of labour? Once they have control over enough of the means of production through automation, as well as robots to design and repair other robots, do they even need us at all anymore? Could the Ubermensch simply get rid of us sub-humans and just have robots do whatever they need? If all but say a million or two people are left on the planet, you wouldn’t need to produce much food / widgets, and you could spend your time seeking new resources on nearby planets. Having some source of power is necessary to have freedom. If you think of our labour as a source of Power, as it stands, our Power is being quickly eroded away. We could very well be useless to the powerful in short order. Once something is useless and powerless it is usually cast aside. And without much power of production in comparison to the Owners, we wouldn’t stand much of a chance. Just stop the robot farmers and a few weeks later…
    If there aren’t many people, the need of markets and such would be severely diminished.
    Even if is not the plan, as someone who enjoys making things, if robots are doing all the work, what would we do with all our time? I would imagine suicide rates are going to sky-rocket. If we are given minimum incomes, what will be the point of our existing? I think most people’s self-worth is tied to what do throughout the day and being on the dole isn’t particularly inspiring. While I don’t exist to work, I can only sip Mai Tais on the beach for so long before I’d get bored and possibly destructive…

    Please poke holes in this thought. I have 3 kids with a possibly dim future… which makes me sad. I have a feeling they might have to fight for their lives

    • PrototypeGirl1 says:

      DMan, I think our medical system is doing more to kill off the economy than robots. I am a self employed housekeeper and have been self employed for most of my life. In the last couple of years I have lost 8 clients to medical errors, & prescription deaths. I have one family that has been sick constantly since their daughter received her manditory flu shot before thanksgiving, 4 ladies who have been devastated by years of steroid and antibiotic treatment for what I believe is a parasite problem. A very hard working stable friend of mine was found hanging off his 21 floor balcony for 6 hours last week, they claimed it was a suicide attempt, actually turned out to be a very psychotic reaction to a sleeping medication. I doubt if his life will ever be the same. This medical war is taking a huge tole on our population, if you can keep yourself and your kids away from it you will have a huge advantage. There are a lot of things people can do to make themselves feel good, exercise, sports, crafts, reading, writing, growing things, animal training, helping people, all these things are very good for the heart and cost little or no money.

      • kitten lopez says:

        i agree and am hearing of similar stories more and more and am witnessing the madness in my own health care.

    • kitten lopez says:

      Dear DMan-
      i hear your existential scream and will respond in a new separate post below because i think it might turn out to be long as i’ve been writing soooo much lately and doing well mentally spiritually in all this new mess ratcheting up….

  57. michael Engel says:

    A lot of respect to you. I am sure you are a very smart business man,
    and a very good one. Just trying to remind you, that by the time your
    debt will mature, let say in 4 years, it is possible that roll over will be
    difficult and expensive. Business might slow, orders can disappear
    banks credit will dry.
    Try to liquidate debt as much as you can.

    My apology for sending such an email, in a chat room, I am not trying
    to tell you what to do !

  58. Brenda says:

    CBC Metro Morning gave a link of a podcast about this if anyone is interested.
    @metromorning 6:21 AM – 31 Mar 2017
    As mentioned, great podcast by @Freakonomics on how work will change through technology like AI:

  59. roger says:

    I think we can see how this is actually going to develop.
    Firstly; we already have UBI but call it welfare, SNAP, EBT, SSI disability, etc. This will be continued and expanded.
    Second; robots and automation will continue to reduce the need for paid labor, there will be no alternative fields to employ the displaced workforce so money for nothing programs will expand.
    Third; power will continue to be concentrated into the hands of the 1%. they know how to do this, they have been at it for hundreds of years at least. They also know what causes revolutions so will be very careful to provide at least the minimum subsistence level and maintain the force level necessary to head off or crush any serious attempt at the overthrow of the power structure. These measures are already in place.
    Fourth; enough of the economy will be allocated to providing the minimum standard of living to the masses that will prevent societal upheaval.
    Fifth; the rest of the economy will be directed towards supplying the immensely rich 1% or so with the playthings they desire, be that enormous luxury yachts, houses, vehicles, estates or maybe just a totally pointless trip into space, perhaps to a resort on the moon.
    Sixth; enough idiotic but superficially entertaining activity will be produced for the masses to keep their minds off the societal inequities and imbalances and at least partially persuade them that their totally pointless and useless lives actually have some purpose.
    Meanwhile the 1% will get richer and more powerful.

  60. R Davis says:

    Of course we do all believe that ROBOTS do perfect work / never need maintenance & repairs / when they do it is cheap & quick & ROBO is back on the job quick smart .. churning out produce to make it’s master filthy rich.
    Hooray for ROBOLABOR !
    youtube .. World Premier: 20 Nao Robots Dance in Synchronized Harmony.
    Nao is the best of all the robotic beings so far & the one with most promise.

  61. kitten lopez says:

    to Dear DMan:

    looking at just the history of the labor movement and how many bad asses had to lose their lives so we could have the privilege of working as much as we did for as little as we got, and now fast forward to the compliant domesticated “consumers” of today and yeah…

    we’re all kinda fucked because we’re more and more disconnected and now they not only speak corporate speak at work but they INHABIT it now… and people don’t even know HOW to fight back any longer…

    but i dare say that you (along with myself and others) have to allow for the fact that as much as we can reference history to understand where we are now, we don’t KNOW everything that is gonna happen and how it’s gonna turn out.

    i use my own crazy childhood and life as an example to myself: foisted into therapy as a “incorrigible problem child” my ENTIRE life, i now see all that i’ve been through as a FAERY TALE childhood that has made me strong and able to handle the many stages of disillusionment i’ve had to fall from so that i can handle what’s happening now and able to navigate the ugliness so that i may find the vision of beauty and renaissance, re-birth and all that arty fartsy stuff people thought was just for sofa art.

    nah.. .this vision shit is REAL. and if you read ROLLO MAY’s old classic, “Courage to Create,” he’s all about facing the darkness of unknowing, of going where no one’s gone alone… there’s madness there. some artists have called it sublime, but the institutions and streets are full of people for whom the madness didn’t have the financial resources to keep it “sublime.”

    i say this because yeah… worry for your kids, as ALL parents and adults should and do. but this is also an amazing, exciting and terrifying time to be alive. but i worry about humanity getting stuck in binary paradigms and so yeah… a lot of folks are gonna die as they’re dying now, albeit quietly and disconnected.

    if you wanted your kids to be normal and just worker bees and have kids they send off to school to be in lock step for the same, yeah– those days are over.

    suicide and self hatred needs to be turned outward but not in the way that makes people shoot off on others like they do.

    i say this as a mixed colored girl… yeah, lots of us mixed folks grow up “befuddled” as sister souljah called it. but i got the best (and worst) of both/all worlds and i think you also have to expand your vision as a FATHER, and try and give them reality and honor as long as they listen to you. but the stories, the american dream, they’re all long dead and actually… never really WERE. because a lot of people had to take it up the butt and then some, just so some people could have MORE.

    i see we’re all in for paradigm shifts, existential crises upon other crises… and i think the SCRAPPERS, the troglodites are having their day. not to dance on the graves of “normals,” but we scrappers have to teach others how to THINK again. be skeptical. speak UP. stand firm. not just for shit you wanna return to customer service, but for your fucking BASIC RIGHTS as a human being.

    we have to go back to basics because FDR saving capitalism just delayed all this inevitability.

    chickens are home roosting. so i think you have to reach far, far back into the history of where you and your family comes from, back to the STRUGGLE… and what made a people a tribe PROUD?

    not being able to just buy more crap.

    that’s where i think hope is. in finding our true honor again. because keeping your knees closed like a church girl in such a dying world of whores will lead to nothing but ADVENTURE now. trust me on that.

    but it’s the ONLY way you will attract honorable people and be “protected” in the long haul.

    but i notice your STORY needs revising for your KIDS. your dreams have to go bigger than to 4 bedroom 2500- sq foot houses. this is warrior/honor stuff now. again. always.

    and with the right mind set, tough times that bring or force people TOGETHER can be the most invigorating. more invigorating than affording a detached 4 car garage.

    suffering sucks but it does make us more compassionate if we live through it. i think things are just beginning to get as bad as they are/need to get, and that it is gonna get way worse before people are too tired to torture anyone and everything for more stuff.

    the fact that something like half the world is on facebook and is being trained like dogs to salivate for thumbs up approval for the tritest things makes me realize all the warriors are in prison, dead, pacified on prescription meds.

    but i think a lot of GOOD is gonna come out of even horrors NOW. i am glad things have finally snapped.

    the energy is better coming at me when i dance out on the streets now.

    things are already shifting.

    unfortunately it feels like a matter of time before anyone starts actually eating the rich. but i feel it shifting as everyone’s becoming homeless and there are more and more empty luxury condos.

    and yeah… things get scary when more and more people have less and less to lose.

    good luck to you and your kids. i know it wasn’t flowers and bunnies, what i was trying to give you. if you gave your kids a sense of honor and history and something bigger than themselves, they will flourish in their heart.

    for all the messed up things my own folks did as revolutionaries (people who save the world do so at their own kids’ expense), every DAY i am grateful that they gave me a vision of god in the people, the fighters i saw stand up for what they believed in. when you SEE that, witness that, that is god. no detached garage can give you that feeling.

    unembarrassed expressions of love have kept me from succumbing to my own demons of despair.

    yeah… it’s bad… but i’m telling you there is ALWAYS beauty in the ugliness of rot and struggle. artists, thinkers, writers, visionaries, musicians… our job isn’t to just coddle you and make you feel good. our job is to show another way to god, wake people up to themselves.

    so if you can give THAT struggle to always search for and find the beauty of suffering and ugliness to your kids, you have nothing to worry about. but you need to find for YOURSELF, first.

    men and fathers are some of the most epically “mystical” loves, and i think it’s also time YOU ALL start being less embarrassed about your own epic dreams for those you love. you all are just supposed to suck it up and take it on the chin for everyone else, and leave the fluffy love stuff to women. but we’re lost, too.

    i crave men’s epic dreams made LOUD for a change. like the men on this site, the commenters. some of the most loving men in secret.


    • DMan says:

      Thanks for your comments.

      Where I was mainly going with that thought is how long till everything regular people do can be automated and most people become somewhat useless in the eyes of TPTB. People are notoriously predictable and yet unpredictable. I’d imagine you could program AI to never revolt, whereas you always have to keep the teeming masses sated in one way or another.
      If we, the masses could be rationalized as unnecessary, would it not be easier for the most powerful to get rid of most of us and just keep the robots? Robots are quite a bit more predictable than a bunch of people, with less hassles to deal with.

      Anyways, that was a darker thought, and not a usual one.

      About your post now Kitten, I have many similar thoughts to yours. I’m becoming, more and more, a traditionalist and look to the past for guidance. I long for a return of Virtue and Meaning.
      Our society is lost, like you said. When you’re lost, to borrow from my favourite author GK Chesterton, the best way to find yourself again is to go back the way you came till you know where you are again. Something that annoys me is the term “Progressive”. My problem is “to where are we progessing?” what is the goal we seek? Or are we simply just moving away from where we are now… I think you’d enjoy Chesterton by what you’ve written. I read and re-read his stuff frequently. Also enjoy CS Lewis, but haven’t read any in a few years. Your closing lines about fathers and Men’s dreams reminded me of the Lewis book “the abolition of man”. Great stuff… Oh and the chapter “ethics of Elfland” in the book “Orthodoxy” came to mind when you talked of Faeryland. Chesterton said everything he needed to know he learned in the nursery.

      Another major part of return to the past is recently reviving my christian roots. My family’s lenten observance this year is just going to church on Sunday over the Lent season. Haven’t for half my life, but the few minutes I get to concentrate on the mass while trying to keep my 4 and 2 year old kids quiet, are a little like coming home after many years.
      I’ve described to a few people that in this world where morals seem to be relative and constantly changing, like a boat drifting on the water, Christianity has been like an anchor to something solid that doesn’t change (good ol’ Catholic church). The important things in life don’t change over the generations and I believe the Church’s message to be the closest thing to Truth that I’ve heard. Having that fixed point to anchor myself to allows me to move about in a range all around the point as the wind or current takes me, but the anchor will provide me a reference point no matter my location and so I shouldn’t lose myself.

      While I do happen to have a 2500 sq ft house and my wife and I have stable gov’t jobs, I do know that I have to escape this comfortable rut. Nothing will change while I’m comfortable. I want to get “back to the farm”. I grew up on one and miss the simplicity. My wife is fine with it as long as she can still work in the city. She likes it, a real go-getter! I’ve always wanted self-sufficiency. I want to teach my kids how to do things for themselves. I’m a jack of all trades, and all my kids will know how to cook, garden, keep animals, basic carpentry, metalwork, handle a rifle and save in gold.

      I also think the world would be well served by an overall decentralization. A return to smaller communities where it’s easier to hold your representative to account. What taxes I pay should go to the local municipality before the move up the chain to larger governing bodies, hundreds or thousands of miles away, where they don’t know me, and I don’t know them…

      You brought up the beauty of art and thought in the world, and I also agree as to it’s importance. While a robot may be able to write music, there’s a good chance it will never feel the “need” to, or appreciate the way a painting is painted.

      I could keep going, but I have some sweet’n sour meatballs to make, and I’m running out of time today. Hope to hear back

      • kitten lopez says:


        wow… MUCH to reply to and so little TIME…

        i will try / posting below anew…

  62. Ev Last says:

    In the US Chase Bank, I get accosted at the door as I enter by an employee asking what service I require and then directed to an ATM in front of the teller’s desk, which charges me $3 for the joy of interacting with a machine and helping eliminate her job. The tellers are the ones doing this. One even was quite difficult when I refused to use the machine.

  63. Peter Mott says:

    The article is paywalled – but only 5$. Anyone have a view on wheyther it is worth buying?

  64. kitten lopez says:


    i love the “after hours” of the comments forum here…

    anyhow, first i want to apologize for answering the entirely wrong question you were asking and you are so far ahead of what i’m just now realizing, that i thank you for not finding me condescending.

    there’s a zen parable or whatever you call it, that James keeps reminding me of:

    the farmer gets a horse and someone says, “what good luck!” he shrugs and says something like “we’ll see” and then his son rides the horse and breaks his leg. “bad luck!” and he shrugs again and says, “we’ll see” and then they come to get the young men in town for a war but his son has to sit it out because of the broken leg…

    i guess what i’m saying is that my perception of TIME has lengthened even as it’s getting shorter regarding my own mortality my being on the cusp of 50 and kinda digging it, but this “adult” thing feels like a constant out of body experience.

    whereas i used to just get that out-of-body feeling when i’d step up my game and do something i was terrified to do but knew it’d make me a Woman if i did it. a woman worth god’s blessing.

    which is what you’re saying and i’m starting to see a return to: an eschewing of the technological b.s. and distractions and stuff of a busy life. i’m seeing the cracks in PEOPLE.

    because i’ve written here before about being absolutely struck dumb with horror at humanity’s willingness to skip into the slaughterhouse of mediocrity and all things unholy.

    i use “holy” to mean the earth, water, animals nature OURSELVES with nature. no commas to separate us from nature.

    and i’m seeing people cracking and needing secret support systems because there are none for people trying to return to a more natural world. beyond the chop-wood-carry-water stuff.

    how do you stand up for someone who’s getting bullied in public when no one else is? those are also out of body experiences, and when you go off facebook and off the thumbs up fake connections sold back to us, you go through … you detox. you feel insane. and people tell you to get on drugs and suck it up.

    i’m glad trump’s in office and everything going to absolute shit because i FELT it for years that this just ain’t right… like watching the stock market go up but america’s end credits are starting to tick by…

    the dissonance is deafening.

    so now i’m glad others are seeing the monsters i saw still very much under the bed and seeing how FAR this shit goes back…

    it very much feels like an epic humanity sci fi movie beyond the terminator and that’s what’s so scary now: no over-the-top sci fi story can even hold up to what we’re living in real time.

    and the dread is very real.

    this city is a tinderbox. the rich folks aren’t so fucking happy. that’s what’s so TRAGIC and hard to live through and see. it’s all, “you’re KIDDING me, right???”

    we sold our souls for …THIS????

    but one of my mentors at city lights said, “we’re the elders now. it’s time to seed what’s next for the underground.”

    i was like, NO! i wanna be THE KID! i’m not DONE! i’ve not even STARTED!

    however now i have started.

    i meet one of the women who came out to protect me when the tech air bnb kid came out high on stuff from working all night and punched me in the face for dancing to music in the sun on my street.

    i mentioned before i meet her weekly to help her navigate being wide open and vulnerable and trying to jujitsu situations into more daring loving ones that “make” people.

    art for me now is only best practiced in REAL life where it is sorely needed. people need to tricked sometimes into stepping up to their higher selves and they LOVE it and can feel badass by standing by a principle instead of identity politics and ego b.s.

    but yeah.. DMan i think a lot of people are losing it because of the dissonance of living in a sci fi dystopian NOW and being told to keep running faster and faster for a modicum of …what???

    (everything this site is about)

    but speaking to your return to the fundamentals for grounding and teaching your kids, hell… that’s LOVE. not only teaching them how to fend for themselves physically as much as you can, but also the hands being used to MAKE something connects us to deep meaning and community…

    all the stuff you’re talking about and i’m going to try and manifest into the world in my little corner of the neighborhood of the universe as well. i do believe that love can be a force as strong as wind sun water rock… and that’s the upside i’m SEEING. more connection.

    but as an artist who is not just interested in the unexplicable “magic” of spontaneous life, i’m also interested in HOW we court that. the spells we cast, the practice it will take to stay in that place. because when you’re OF this world, it’s hell to get “out” without going truly mad and detached and wearing tin foil hats.

    insane people and down and out addicts are on the front line of reality to me, but they had a hard time making it. “sane” people are psychopaths to me who keep this system going and even DEFEND it.

    psychopaths are the ones who built this country and made it the way it is.

    but to defend it?

    anyhow, i agree with your idea of things getting smaller and local. things don’t make sense anymore what you can even get at a regular store.

    i know this went all over but i am online less and less on purpose and am trying to cram time into this since you gave such a beautiful response- i read it six times, you said SO much. thanks.

    have a good weekend-


  65. AERO FX says:

    Wealth or income class – Top 1 percent
    Mean household income – $1,318,200
    Mean household net worth – $16,439,400
    Mean household financial (non-home) wealth – $15,171,600

    This is for the US in 2010 dollars and Petunia thinks they will just ‘disappear’ LOL.

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