Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Automation In The Brave New World

 What I've been observing, is that while there is a lot of rhetoric going on about the economic "recovery", there has actually been a "jobless recovery", millions of college graduates can't get jobs, unemployed Americans can't get work.  No one has really identified what is actually happening or has any ideas how to move forward.Then I stumbled on this pdf.
According to what I read, one of the biggest problems is that technology and outsourcing has decimated entry level positions. There has been a lot of talk about the unemployed upgrading their skills, but the jobs are gone, and tech and job automation has had a highly disruptive impact on the economy.
Martin Ford wrote this book back in 2009, and he has some really good ideas and amazing observations.
He writes about what to watch for. Weak consumer spending, which will push cost cutting and labor saving technologies. Offshoring and automation start infusing themselves into small business taking over jobs. New tech industries will not be creating jobs. Automation in the service sector will be wiping out more employment opportunities.Also, older, higher paid knowledge workers and middle managers jobs will be outsourced, and these people will not be rehired. There will be a systemic level of unemployment at all education and income levels. Mr. Ford also wrote about the partisan politics we are seeing now. Politicians now fear their own unemployment.
He has some ideas as to how these problems could be solved, but in this political climate, they just won't work. One of the major problems is health insurance benefits being tied to employment. Maybe the ACA insurance exchanges could alleviate this. Employers don't want to hire full time workers because of that and payroll taxes. Another was government enforcing a  job sharing scheme. and supplementing income. He has a tax strategy to deal with this, but none of it is going to happen in the foreseeable future.
We may intuitively know that jobs have been outsourced and automation has made less opportunity to earn an income for a lot of average Americans. The kind of Americans no one seems to care about. The old model of employment no longer works. That is something none of our leaders has really come to grips with. AI is our present, robotics already in many industries. It's a fact that none of our leaders are talking about. Romney is going on about job creation and all he has done is outsource jobs. Unfortunately the President has not done enough as far as jobs are concerned. What I have seen in my community is suffering and abject misery. Where drugs and alcohol are the only solace for people who have no hope of advancing out of their jobs at McDonalds, if they can get that.
So who is going to have the courage to really look at our brave new world and find it decidedly lacking and innovate a new model for work in this economy? All we really have now is a puritanical bootstrap mentality of blame, that somehow the unemployed deserved their fate because they didn't upgrade, educate or work hard enough in a work place that is vanishing.

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