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Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc.
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mark211The Future of Work?2015-10-18 02:59:52
mark211The Times (of London) this week reported on an Amazon warehouse in the UK that is going to start using robot picker/packers - not only are the robots likely to be faster and more efficient than their now redundant human counterparts, but as there is no need to have such wide spaces between the stacks, the warehouse will be able to carry up to 50% more stock at any one time. And it's not only blue collar jobs that are under threat - a programme exists that can detect cancer in patients faster and more effectively than human medical practitioners. Remember those huge fees that lawyers charge? Those are set to reduce as the detailed reading work once done by whole battalions of paralegal secretaries working day and night over weeks can be done in a matter of seconds using new specialist search tools. 2015-10-18 03:04:34
mark211So given that the population of the world is 7.2 billion and set to rise to over 9 billion by 2050, what on *Earth* are we all going to be doing with our time? What will people actually do for a living?2015-10-18 03:06:47
mark211I was thinking about this the other day and I have this terrible premonition that a 'Downton Abbey'-like servant class will come into being. These servants won't actually be a necessity as robots and computers would be able to do a much better job, no doubt. But as a luxury and status marker for those in the 1% I can easily see the appeal - and faced with potentially massive unemployment figures, what government wouldn't offer massive tax breaks and other financial incentives to the richest of the rich to maintain small armies of private household staff? The future is starting to look a lot more like the past day by day ... 2015-10-18 03:11:22
Pippin91As wealth concentrates, the great numbers of the impoverished will at first have no choice but to do as you say, Mark, to become servants. But as time passes, those poor will become more and more exploited, used as playthings or biological machines by the wealthy, and ultimately the poor will either revolt or sinister governments will use them as cannon fodder for endless wars. This is not some farfetched idea - it's happening now and will almost surely get worse. The 20th century dream of a middle class that buys-in to the economic system and thus creates stability is dying.2015-10-18 05:14:57
mark211@Pippin91 However paranoid this is about to sound, I am genuinely disturbed by the ever increasing size of the global population. While of course the biggest argument against a Malthusian catastrophe ever happening is that despite Malthus' original prediction not yet having been (at least fully) realised, it is really quite hard to see how the human population can go on growing at such an exponential rate without facing a sudden and dramatic fall. I personally think that a combination of famine and pestilence more than war (though the latter two are not infrequently a precondition for the former of course) will do more to put a devastating check on 'progress'. Many of my friends are just starting to have children now - most of the children I am 'uncle' to are five and under right now. I don't say this to their parents, but by Christ am I seriously worried about what they will have to face and even more so by what *their* children will be running up against. The quicker we find a Goldilocks planet or are able to effectively colonise Mars, the better. 2015-10-18 11:27:47
Pippin91Mark, suggest you read Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. It presents in a gorgeously-written story the problems of colonizing an alien planet. Adding to your fears of overpopulation (and have you ever gone to India or Japan to see how densely people are living already?) is the spectre of rising ocean levels swamping the living space of hundreds of millions of people. They'll try to migrate elsewhere, and you can see already the consequences of large-scale, uncontrolled migrations in what's happening in Europe now. That will be NOTHING compared to what the flooding of most of Bangladesh will set off2015-10-18 18:07:06
WessonIt's certainly and interesting and important question to think about, part of me hopes the human race will just adapt to the new world like it has during other technological developments in history. I don't want to panic just yet, I'm sure there were plenty of people who thought the printing press was going to sink the economy way back then. The rebel in me could have a field day with some of the topics discussed so far but I need to hold back for a second and decided exactly how much trouble I want to cause first. (Don't worry, it'll be fun trouble) 2015-10-18 19:30:46
WessonFound an interesting article in Bloomberg Business that kind of illustrates my adaptation theory. A human worker's social skills might be the most important thing on his/her resume in the future. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-19/social-skills-are-last-line-of-defense-for-humans-seeking-work2015-10-19 08:12:13
mark211@Wesson - regarding that article about social skills being those that'll be most in demand in future it would be both unfortunate as well as ironic that parents who currently now trying to push their children into STEM subjects thinking that will be the best for their future career opportunities may actually find that all those 'soft' subjects now often derided may not prove to be quite so useless after all ... (I exaggerate, of course but still)2015-10-19 12:08:10

lack of fresh water, climate change and population growth and dislocation, one major issue that all the world's intelligence agencies and insurance companies are grappling with.

Might be a reason for their concern.

Job dislocation/reduction/automation and the concentration of wealth:

Again I'll suggest "THE GLASS CAGE" by Nicholas Carr

2015-10-19 18:27:52
r.tornelloThe Glass Cage deals specifically with the nature of work. I recommend it as sort of a Quantum Book club selection for discussion.2015-10-20 07:44:34
Wesson@mark211 - I don't think you're exaggerating too much. There are still a great number of sophisticated jobs that require high levels of math, science, etc, but I think customer service jobs that require social skills will always be in demand no matter how many robots there are. It's the middle that's vanishing, the labor-intensive, dare I say simple jobs. 2015-10-20 08:16:22
RTthe origins of the word SERVICE is SLAVE.2015-10-20 11:54:15
Wessonand when one is paid for their service, it becomes freedom. When one is not paid, it becomes slavery.2015-10-20 17:05:02
rtExpand this to WAGE SLAVE. Read the book!2015-10-20 17:13:38

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