Well, there will ALWAYS be jobs for some, but as time goes by clearly there will be fewer.

The reason there will be fewer is due to something most of us normally think of as good: efficiency.

The signs are everywhere: the Post Office is overstaffed due to so much of what used to be done in snail mail being done online: we don't send letters by mail. No longer do we pay most bills by mail; we do it online or over the phone. And the rub is that we don't even pay for those services because we'd have Internet or phone service anyway, and when you're not paying, you're not subsidizing someone's employment.

Largely automated systems have eliminated many jobs. Craigslist has so few employees (about 25 as I understand it) that it almost runs on autopilot (ever wanted to talk to their customer service? don't bother: it really doesn't exist for any practical purpose). Think of all the employees of newspaper classified ad departments who no longer have jobs, and the revenue lost to those newspapers, which has forced some out of business, adding to unemployment, forcing the rest to cut back drastically on staff.

When I was young (I'm 65) automobiles and trucks were built by people on assembly lines. The only mechanical assistance was probably a small lift to lift heavy objects like motors, but the lift was still operated by a person. Today, the amount of actual human later going into the building of a car on assembly line is greatly limited, with much of the work being done by industrial robots.

One can only expect that this trend will continue because we will always want products to be cheaper.

So, as fewer and fewer people have jobs, who will be out there to buy them? If you stop to think about it, the trend is rather obviously unsustainable!

We can't continue to let the numbers of the unemployed to expand. At some point, the economy will become totally dysfunctional.

How do you think we will have to deal with this eventually.

Tags: efficiency, unemployment

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interesting point! I too have though about this when someone cries, "they're destroying jobs!" upon seeing something become more efficient. I think it's ridiculous that people would think that having MORE WORK TO DO would be a better thing. Of course, the problem isn't "there's less work to be done"; it's "there's less money going to ME."

Thinking macroeconomically, having the same work done using less resources is good! It also produces cheaper prices, so consumers can save money (taking the edge off of your "everyone will be poor" dystopia). Sure, a few people get fired, but doing such menial labor, did they "deserve" a job in the first place? Now that they're not stuck putting zip ties on brake light wires, this new portion of the labor force can get out and do something more important! What is that? Heck if I know. Maybe inventing new things, maybe creating art, maybe just enjoying how wonderful life is now that all the world's work is now on autopilot. When the world is filled with "wealth-printing machines" (automated production lines), we're all rich and can take a day off. Maybe start colonizing space? Idk what mankind's goals are going to be once we approach a fully automated world!

BUT one important thing that needs to be addressed is how the "wealth-printing machines" will distribute wealth to the masses. The way things are going, we're approaching (and maybe have reached?) a society in which all wealth accumulates in the hands of the few people owning these machines. We'd need some socialist correction; a way of redistributing wealth so that the non-machine-owners don't starve. Maybe a government tax imposed upon all products produced, according to what percentage of revenues go to human workers (less $ going to workers = more $ going to the govt and therefore the masses)? 

Wait, did I (hardcore Capitalist) just say that Socialism will be necessary? Heck, I'm an open-minded fella, I think I just converted myself!

Amen!

I believe you can only have so many people unemployed before you end up with a revolt of some sort.  Put 25% of people in New York out of work, and the other 75% will likely start to feel very very uneasy regarding their personal security.

I think capitalism has failed.  The free market provides a drive for efficiency, but wealth acquisition by capital alone causes all the surplus capital to drift to the same people who happened to get a good head start.  Any system that does not properly reward labour will fail.

I don't really see us running out of jobs entirely, however.  When cars first started popping off the assembly line, people wondered what would become of the blacksmiths, wagon makers, feed delivery guys, etc, etc, etc - it is no different now as industrial robots roll of their assembly lines.  :D

Of course there will always be jobs. Well, at least until machines become the dominant species (plenty of sci-fi about that). The real problem is what about the unemployed. Do those with jobs pay higher taxes and support the unemployed with monthly checks? I already view the unemployed people here as having a job: it is their job not to have one. I say this, because the economists tell us that 100% employment isn't possible and so isn't a reasonable goal.

@Unseen - For years I've been saying that 100% employment is impossible and haven't encountered a single person who agreed with me; Thank you!  :D

You are right, to a degree, that the job of the unemployed is being unemployed.  That being said, however, I don't believe that being rich constitutes the employment of the rich.  We need, once again, to address social mobility.

I heard a program recently (I think it may have been on public radio) talking about upward mobility, which is very possible in countries like China and India, but is very difficult in the United States. Here in the U.S., even with the advantage of education, most people find it hard to move from being poor to being middle-class, or from middle-class to wealthy proves almost impossible.

A big part of the problem is the 'American Dream'.  It is considered unpatriotic, if not down right treasonous, to suggest any policy change that might make it hard to hold onto vast wealth.  A sales tax that constitutes a direct dollar for dollar reduction of the savings of the poor, however, is just 'fair fiscal policy'.

About the machines taking over....check out

http://what-if.xkcd.com

(Use the directional arrows to find the question for the week of July 31, 2012)

Pretty much covers it.

 

Here's the paradox as I see it - for decades, big business screwed over workers, paying them a bare-subsistence wage under deplorable working conditions, essentially utilizing them as economic slaves.

Then they united, under unions, which cut into BB's bottom line, so they retaliated by sending many jobs overseas, to be done by another country's economic slaves, while building robots to do many of the local jobs, slaves who can't rebel.

The only alternatives I can see, short of government interference that penalizes companies who send their work abroad (good luck with that, when it's BB who ponies up the funds for most of our politician's campaigns), is to capitulate and accept a life of squalor as an economic slave, or retrain to do work in industries where home-grown humans are essential.

I'm sure there are other alternatives and I would love to hear them.

"Industries where home-grown humans are essential."

Waiting tables, auto detailing, and package delivery, for example. Hey, we could bring back gas attendants, elevator operators, and other jobs that have gone by the wayside.

It seems like most of the well-paying jobs can be done offshore with the exception of perhaps surgery, but that is on its way to being automated as well.

RE: "gas attendants, elevator operators" - sorry, already taken by robots.

As for the 25%, I think you're already seeing that some level of unemployments brings enough people into the streets to threaten social stability. Spain and Greece being current examples of countries in extreme trouble from economy-linked political problems.

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