By Arthur Piccolo
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. July 1, 2011: Last week President Obama, to highlight his determination to see more good jobs for Americans, visited a robot factory in Pittsburg.
Yes that is the joke if you don’t get it. Let me repeat it. Last week President Obama to highlight his determination to see more good
jobs for Americans visited a robot factory in Pittsburg.
Robots, Mr. President are not a job creation strategy not in any useful way. Sure it takes some very little human labor to operate factories that build robots. But Mr. President do you have a clue – it seems you have so few – what the inevitable purpose of ROBOTS are? To replace human labor Mr. President!
Indeed robot factories are often used as the classic example by those with a Clue to explain that before too long what robot factories will do better than anything else is produce more robots to replace even more humans.
Now let’s stop here and define “robot” for President Obama and everyone else. It is not a fruitful discussion to think of robots as just clunky looking mobile machines that do simple tasks. Let’s rather discuss robotics the underlying concept upon which robots are built.
Now lets go deeper still and place robotics within its even more logical context AUTOMATION. Literally the most “dangerous” word in any language for those trying to recreate the past in the present or worse still in the future.
The way President Obama and so many others are. Here is the point I won’t make you or President Obama wait until the end of this commentary to keep you in suspense so my editor appreciates my writing skills more and pays me as much as I deserve ….
THE AGE OF JOBS IS OVER!
For hundreds of years, even use a figure of the last 500 years if you like, society has been based on a trajectory of ever greater numbers of jobs. Specifically from a Western industrialized perspective, most of all, the last 100 years from an American perspective good full time jobs have been the basis for a very successful society.
Yes there have been any number of times through history when alarms were raised by some that jobs were dwindling that previous manifestations of “automation” would bring the Good Times to an end. They always proved false. Even if it took a horrendous World War to do so. This Time is different.
Yes it is. There is no doubt about it …..
Whether Barack Obama understands it or whether maybe he does at least partially but won’t admit it like many others will not because it does not serve their purpose of an “harmonious society.”
WHAT are all jobs going to disappear? NO but that is not the issue
or the problem. The problem the BIG problem is that we are on an irreversible trajectory in which worthwhile, full time long term jobs with
excellent benefits and good prospects for advancement are inexorably dwindling and at some point in the not too distant future anyone with such a job will be considered Blessed indeed.
You can posit other contributing causes such as off shoring of jobs to developing countries. But in the end it is a trivial factor for the most part especially since the jobs going off shore are subject to the same march of time and automation. Even in China!
At root automation is about much more than physical robots although they will increase in numbers and kinds and human characteristics at an ever faster evolutionary pace. But automation is about so, so much more than things we call robots. Automation is about whatever can and is being done with less or without any human component. Automation is everywhere.
In effect computer power and its constant phenomenal increase in range in what computerization can and will accomplish makes many human tasks obsolete that we long took the cavalier attitude can never be replaced by a robot or a computer.
The fact is as we see constantly many of the most sophisticated human activities which we refer to as “intelligence” can be broken down into precise understandable steps and procedures, and computers can ‘learn’ to mimic not just average individuals with a skill but rather the very best experts in virtually any field including law and medicine.
Computers and machines not subject to the frailties of human energy, emotion, forgetfulness, distractions, gluttony, sexual dysfunction, etc, etc. Maybe not perfect but on average in task after task computers doing far better than humans. Computers are far better at flying the next airplane you board. Actually they already largely do. Although it won’t become complete until there are robots that look just like humans up there in the cockpit!
Now some of this is if you get specific are projections into the future some of it is very much happening today. Again another somewhat irrelevant distinction. The trend line and the inevitability is all important. Here in America we have an “official” unemployment rate of about 9 percent as most of us realize those are massaged figures I’d estimate at least 20 percent of adult Americans are not fully employed. It may be more. It is far higher elsewhere.
So where is this leading us. Into the Abyss if we meaning President Obama and other decision makers refuse to understand this or if they see no option except to ignore the biggest crisis in society in the last 500 years and lie to us instead. Specifically it is a problem for the United States but it is likewise a problem for everyone.
Five hundred years ago, society specifically Western European society, was at a Dead End then the Age of Discovery miraculously arrived in both its physical and creative manifestation auguring in not perfection not by a long shot but an evolving improving society for many that has continued up until now never including everyone, never without major flaws but far better than the alternatives.
So here we are again 500 years later and what does President Obama do to reassure us he goes and visits a robot factory in Pittsburg to announce more gov’t funding for it while his wife and kids go on safari in Africa. The party is almost over. Time to Worry America!
Arthur Piccolo is a professional writer and commentator and often writes about Latin America for New Americas.