Saturday, January 26, 2013

Race Against the Machine

John Markoff IHT article

[E]conomists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson [..] published ‘‘Race Against the Machine,’’ a book that renewed the debate about the relationship between the pace of automation and job growth. They  argue that the pace of automation is accelerating and that robotics is pushing into new areas of the work force, like white-collar jobs, that were previously believed to be beyond the scope of computers.

Mr. Christensen said the evidence indicated that the opposite was true: While automation may transform the work force and eliminate certain jobs, it also creates new kinds of jobs that are generally better paying and that require higher-skilled workers.

How about the quantity of such jobs?

Robots might create better jobs but will there be more of such jobs? That is the root of the problem isnt it? This article creates a lot of smoke and mirrors through clever use of words such as better, quality, salary, money - but it keeps avoiding the one number that is most important in the job debate: quantity.

We argue more robots will mean less jobs. And that's fine - ppl should work less, that is, do less *work* as it is defined by today's standards, so they can focus on things that they feel most passionate about.

* To buttress its claim that automation is not a job killer but instead a way for the United States to compete against increasingly advanced foreign competitors [..]

Increase of competitiveness does not say shit about job count

* The federation said the industry would directly and indirectly create from 1.9 million to 3.5 million jobs globally

Nice trick.. global count is higher

I'd look at individual countries, and see the difference between jobs created and jobs destroyed.

* ‘‘Automation has allowed us to compete on a global basis. It has absolutely created jobs in southwest Michigan,’’ said Matt Tyler, chief executive of Vickers Engineering

Again competitiveness does not equal more jobs

Plus no number is mentioned on the # of jobs created. A lot of hand waving, little substance.

* A German robotics engineer argued that automation was essential to [..] make it possible for national economies to support social programs [..] ‘‘Countries that have high productivity can afford to have a good social system and a good health system,’’ said Alexander Verl, head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering in Germany. ‘‘You see that to some extent in Germany or in Sweden. These are countries that are highly automated.

Which side are you arguing?

Wait a second.. so then, through robots we are generating more revenue, which means more revenue for government and social programs so we can pay more to people who are out of work displaced by technology. Are you kidding me? The paragraph above was the absolute best part of this sorry-ass article.

Also see here