The robots are coming for white collar jobs

ScreenHunter_920 Jan. 20 09.56

By Leith van Onselen

Computers and improvements in technology have long been an important part of many industries and have already replaced humans in many jobs (think typists and bank tellers). However, a whole new wave of technological development means that even positions once thought to be safe from computerisation are now under threat.

Across developed economies, low income service jobs have expanded sharply at the expense of middle-income manufacturing and production jobs. At the same time, computers have increased the productivity of higher income workers – including professional managers, engineers and consultants – resulting in a polarised labour force, with rising wage inequality and the “hollowing-out” of the middle class.

To date, the threat from computerisation has been limited more to routine manufacturing jobs, such as production line workers. However, advancements in technology, which is extending robotics beyond simple routine-based tasks to dynamic problem solving, has raised the prospect that higher order jobs might soon be under threat.

Take, for example, the autonomous driverless cars under development by Google. They are a prime example of a how a human worker, such as long-haul truck and taxi drivers, could soon be replaced by machines – just like a scene from the 1990s futuristic movie Total Recall or the 2000s film Artificial Intelligence.

Over the weekend, The Economist released a list of jobs that it believes are most at risk from computerisation (see below).

ScreenHunter_921 Jan. 20 10.16

Accountants, economists, pilots, retailers – none of them are safe. Algorithms for big data are now entering domains reliant upon pattern recognition and can readily substitute for labour in a wide range of non-routine cognitive tasks. Many service occupations – from fast food counter attendants to medical transcriptionists – which have been a key driver of jobs growth over past decades, are now in the line of fire.

As for the implications of mass robotics, The Economist believes that it will make society as a whole wealthier, but not without major turmoil:

There is already a long-term trend towards lower levels of employment in some rich countries. The proportion of American adults participating in the labour force recently hit its lowest level since 1978, and although some of that is due to the effects of ageing, some is not. In a recent speech that was modelled in part on Keynes’s “Possibilities”, Larry Summers, a former American treasury secretary, looked at employment trends among American men between 25 and 54. In the 1960s only one in 20 of those men was not working. According to Mr Summers’s extrapolations, in ten years the number could be one in seven.

This is one indication, Mr Summers says, that technical change is increasingly taking the form of “capital that effectively substitutes for labour”…

The machines are not just cleverer, they also have access to far more data. The combination of big data and smart machines will take over some occupations wholesale; in others it will allow firms to do more with fewer workers. Text-mining programs will displace professional jobs in legal services. Biopsies will be analysed more efficiently by image-processing software than lab technicians. Accountants may follow travel agents and tellers into the unemployment line as tax software improves. Machines are already turning basic sports results and financial data into good-enough news stories.

Jobs that are not easily automated may still be transformed. New data-processing technology could break “cognitive” jobs down into smaller and smaller tasks. As well as opening the way to eventual automation this could reduce the satisfaction from such work, just as the satisfaction of making things was reduced by deskilling and interchangeable parts in the 19th century. If such jobs persist, they may engage Mr Graeber’s “bullshit” detector…

The potential for dramatic change is clear. A future of widespread technological unemployment is harder for many to accept. Every great period of innovation has produced its share of labour-market doomsayers, but technological progress has never previously failed to generate new employment opportunities…

If you are young person seeking a career, you would be well advised to begin looking at these new trends and studying The Economist’s article in detail.

[email protected]

www.twitter.com/leithvo

Comments

  1. As drsmithy pointed out the other day middle management jobs are far more replaceable than even manual jobs. Knowledge systems are tailor made for algorithmic processing. It’s already happened in logistics.

    You forgot to mention government though, why can’t the bulk of that mess be replaced ?

      • LOL :)

        That bot wouldn’t stop the boats it would replace the entrants with Canberrians and send it off again.

      • You hire the gurus that wrote the Obamacare launch program…or climate change modellers…or NBN connected premises modellers…modellers of any kind really.

        On a serious note if the topic interests read Tyler Cowen Average is Over and a new publication Second Coming of the Machine Age. Combination of technology robotics and globalisation to dramatically transform the employment space. Sell ’em dirt.

      • General Disarray

        I’m sure someone could come up with a small “slogans for bogans” IOS app fairly quickly.

      • Well they’ve already developed a Mining PR Bot (aka 3d1k) so I don’t see why a Stop the Boats bot isn’t possible.

    • A robotic govt. is the Brave New World.

      But the point here is that were inching closer to the system’s nadir. The robots will not rise up with machine guns to shoot us down, there will be no terminators.

      They’ll just scab our jobs. Boring, I know.

      But no less apocalyptic.

    • If Gen-Y wanted a job – it would be to capture all the older generations knowledge and stick it into expert systems.

      • Its already out there: when quantum computers can process all the information ever stored in seconds we’ll very far down that path.

        Here’s the problem though, the geeks that everyone pretty much can’t stand (I should know) – you don’t many TV shows about Engineers or scientists but lots about lawyers and RE agents and doctors – will be the ones everyone relies on to keep the thing going as they party on 2 hour work days. How will Australian society cope with the tall poppies on top?

      • +many mig. I know what you mean as a engineer/scientist and card carrying geek.

        @mykef No point in having an expert system about a way of doing business for example when that way is or will soon be obsolete.

      • will be the ones everyone relies on to keep the thing going as they party on 2 hour work days.

        You are referring to the geeks in Bangalore and Mumbai , I assume

      • @China-Bob: Rubbish we can put them all to work and still have work left over.

        BTW because programming is still very much an English language advantaged technical pursuit and trust me the work that comes out of India/Pakistan/Bangladesh is about quantity NOT quality :)

      • trust me the work that comes out of India/Pakistan/Bangladesh is about quantity NOT quality

        India does have some very high quality software outfits, the problem is that Aussie outsources always look favorably at the lowest bid and believe that’s all engineers are the same, so when your business model is to buy shit by the pound you shouldn’t be at all surprised when your suppliers meet or even exceed your expectations.

        Edit: I’m still amazed by Aussie businesses with this outsourcing model that are surprised when they get 100 pounds of shit code instead of the 10 pounds they ordered. It’s always amusing to see them trying to sort through the 100 pound pile of stinking putrid waste looking for something to rescue.

      • @china-bob of course I hear that! I wasn’t suggesting they have poor engineers necessarily just that you’ll get what you pay for… And good engineers are rare everywhere and always will be…

      • @China-Bob: BTW India will begin to consume its own software development resources endogenously like everyone else — expect rates in India to rise.

        Only thing with India is the caste structure, automation will decimate it and there are very powerful forces keeping that in check.

    • Adminstrative and other ‘managers’ beware, especially if lacking any special competency.

      IT now digital have transformed transformed processes, communication and activity, precluding the need for middle people, mediators etc..

      Companies and organisations need to be on the look out for irrelevant positions which have been preserved through ignorance and ‘luddites’.

      Example, one local and international industry sector where management take on big face offshore marketing, promotions and communication with job descriptions still reflecting the 1980s fifo, and legislation: ‘distribution of marketing materials’, designing or developing logos, branding etc. which suggests and is understood to be brochures and offshore events…..

      Issue for this sector, none of the ‘top people’ understand digital marketing/SEO and analytics (not technical, it’s anthropology)…… and best practice is avoided, while digital/SEO is something for ‘webmasters’ or ‘IT’.

      On the other hand, great opportunity for younger generations coming up, if they have had the opportunity to practise innovative marketing management, outside the above sector……

      PS Tourism Australia has a pretty good stab at it these days, almost all marketing is digital (footprint everywhere), with a miniscule headcount onshore vs state bodies and related international sectors….

      • Agreed! Thanks for the comment.

        Also awesome handle! I think we’ll see a Balkan ghost before the decade is out – 14 is eery I must admit.

  2. I for one welcome our robot overlords, at least I can’t get sued for punching a robot real estate agent in the face if they lie 20 times to my face.

    • Some how i think a poorly programmed souless machine will be more personable then our current real estate agents.

  3. General Disarray

    We can’t get rid of that many jobs while continuing to grow the population at the current rate without some very nasty social consequences.

    People building high security housing and bunkers would probably do well.

  4. If this is managed correctly, full time hours will be reduced in stages and we will finally experience the fabled leisure dilemma.

    Of course, it won’t be, so we’ll experience a shift to an even worse form of neo-feudalism where capital is the only beneficiary.

    • Pyramid structures are an ingrained part of human nature. Can you imagine if everyone was almost equal in every way that we differentiate each other now?

      Equal pay, equal conditions, equal life expectancy ….

      Never happen because everyone wants to get to the top and for that to happen, naturally a top has to exist.

    • we’ll experience a shift to an even worse form of neo-feudalism where capital is the only beneficiary

      I disagree, because the big difference this time around is the low entry price point for robotics, Meaning Capex availability will not be a significant barrier to robotics deployment, rather the barrier will be the technical ability to take the generic robotics primitives and reprogram them to perform specific valued tasks. Trouble is once you achieve this programming function you effectively eliminate that job forever and ever and ever.

      • Trouble is once you achieve this programming function you effectively eliminate that job forever and ever and ever.

        Hence my previous comment.

      • CB & Mig Remind us all again who will be making these here robots and to what purposes. People without jobs have zero income and therefore their demands are very low, at any price.

        Transfer payments bases on exponential increasing CAD’s forever may offer some temporary “solution”.

        MB should organize a study tour of Sudan so Aust. can see their future.
        Perhaps Feudal England may be an interim stage. Notice how those society structures; while largely dormant; fundamentally still exist. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

        Enough of this rampant optimism.

      • Like Frankenstein, neither mig nor CB can see their own downfall. Programming computers will be the most easily e-sourced job in the world.

      • “I disagree, because the big difference this time around is the low entry price point for robotics..”

        CB I still struggle to see how this can happen easily. Unless 3D Printing or similar can get us to a chain reaction where Robotics can’t be constrained by corporations and IP laws, then a feudal system might be the most likely outcome.

        Cheap robots for everyone means that capitalism, consumerism all falls in a heap. What does the average person have to trade? Not robot work. Money and economics just will not work anymore. Governments and elites will not let that happen easily – so there will be suppression.

        On the other hand consider what happens if Robots/3Dprinting/Solar Panels achieve over-unity. By this I mean that given a set of the above technologies( a Robot, a Printer and Solar Panels) they can make more than one of themselves before they are worn out. In that case you have the conditions for unconstrained growth of machines. That would severely undermine all our current notions of capital and economics I think.

  5. All of this points to an ever increasing demand for software developers.

    Every piece of robotics or other software that gets rid of white collar jobs requires people to design, write, maintain and support software.

    Then there are all the other new tech industries that eat up more developers.

    If your kids have any sort of mathematical or scientific bent then you need to be pushing them to learn to code in their high school years (or earlier if they are really keen).

    • BINGO! But do think I can get my sister (a lawyer) and her husband (a lawyer) to see that’s what they should be encouraging their kids to pursue?

      Hell no! I’m just a nerd and aggravating because I like to point out the obvious — whatever, if I ever have kids the’ll be a looong way ahead of everyone elses…

      • My partner is a lawyer. Trust me when I say that the legal profession will not be replaced anytime soon.

        Yes most of the BS aspects of things can and are already being replaced but as long as remains a human endevour, it will not happen.

      • @ff first sorry to hear that 😉

        Second completely disagree motions filling, contracts , forms are all eminently automated and have been the lawyer pricks just charge you full hourly rates for it. The monopoly will b hard to break (B. A. R) will be hard to break but the idea of justice will proliferate with the Web and ultimately pressure those parasites.

        Can you tell I despise lawyers?

      • A lot of lawyering tasks are very susceptible to automation or at worst delegation to less expensive staff.

        Many of the bread and butter law work has already evaporated.

        The best thing for all concerned is that the prospects for lawyers become so bleak that lots of smart and talented young people become open to doing something socially useful instead.

        Having said that, our neurotic society is increasingly obsessed by solving the world’s problems with a mass of prescriptive regulations and processes and that will continue to require an army of legally trained people to construct and maintain.

      • @Pfh

        A lot of lawyering tasks are very susceptible to automation or at worst delegation to less expensive staff.

        This is already the case and you see this by the drop in employment prospects for lawyers.

        I am not advocating that law is a good career choice etc etc. Just saying that while law remains a subjective, human endevour, you will need lawyers and judges etc etc etc.

      • @FlyingFox –

        While the legal profession will always exist, as the most skilled roles require a level of creativity and insight automated systems are a long way from replicating, you may already be aware that the bottom levels are already disappearing very rapidly, to the extent that the legal profession are trailblazers for the sort of hollowing predicted by the Economist article
        Some examples of how this is happening can found here, in terms of what is targeted for automated systems :-

        http://blog.diligenceengine.com/2013/01/09/legal-automation-for-laid-off-partners/

        Here is a story on the impact so far on US lawyers:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/05/science/05legal.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

        The article does not suggest that the entire accountancy profession will vanish, just that jobs will be lost.

      • @StatSailor See my response. I am every aware that this is already happening. Heck, my partner and I have even discussed ways of developing automated systems for the industry.

        However once you get to the litigation/negotiation stage, automation is out of the picture in my opinion. This is the real part of law. The other stuff is done by paralegals and junior staff anyway.

        Accountancy on the other hand can be automated to much much higher degree.

        As way of disclose, I dislike lawyers for various reasons and accountants and dentists rank up there.

      • No-one will be getting rid of the lawyers.

        Lawyers will just have their friends in government pass a new law that allows them to keep on lawyering while the rest of the world falls to pieces around them…

        This will of course require lawyers, because the friends of lawyers in government can’t actually write good laws. They need lawyers to do that for them.

        …and when these new laws are written, in draft, the friends of lawyers in government will need someone with a really good (and technical) understanding of the law to advise them on how they should vote. Lawyers!

        Good lawyers know that there’s a process involved here. Good lawyers know that you can drag this process on for years if you play it just right… Years, in order to make sense of the debate – the way things were, the way things are and could be, the unintended consequences, the meaning of the words ‘if’, ‘but’ and ‘what-have-you’.

        … eventually, the law will pass, and it will all be quite simple in the end.

        “Thou shalt not ever question the importance of lawyers”.

        Of course, it will then be up to the lawyers to tell their friends in government what this means. And if they disagree they can all take it to court, and ask a judge – who is really just a lawyer – for the definitive ruling…

        But the definitive ruling might not make it through an appeal – which would of course require another judge, and more lawyers.

        When all is said and done the definitive ruling might not be to the liking of the lawyers’ friends in government, and the law might need to be changed… in which case the lawyers will need to write a report, and a discussion paper, and… and… and…

        Nope. Can’t see lawyers getting snaked out of a job by a computer programmer any time soon.

    • Pretty much this, my father taught me to code at a very young age and while i am not in software dev (hate it) i still work in a IT and apply my code skill on a daily basis.

      I don’t fear the coming of the robots as i have been replacing people with shell scripts for years.

    • All of this points to an ever increasing demand for software developers.

      Every piece of robotics or other software that gets rid of white collar jobs requires people to design, write, maintain and support software.

      The “programmability” of robots will become progressively easier until just about anyone capable of stringing a sentence together will be able to make one do 99% of anything they can think up.

      Just like we’ve seen with computers – forty years ago you needed a soldering iron and understanding of assembly programming to make a couple of lights flash. Today you can perform extremely complex tasks just by waggling a mouse around.

      There might be a brief surge in software developers as those systems are initially created, but I doubt it will last long. Huge amounts of software development jobs are automatable, they just haven’t been yet because the industry is so immature and fragmented.

      • Nonsense! We’ve been trying that for 30+ years and still coming up short.

        Apparently logic is not a common state for humans but absolutely mandatory for robots!

        Have you every tried to code a 4th Gen System? Even with highly technical audiences (traders/surgeons) you can’t get them to get do anything useful long term — hacks maybe, maybe.

        Excel is the perfect case in point!! Strong excel users still ask me to develop macros for them even though its basically drag-n-drop — I refuse because I despise VBA but if I ever needed money there’s all the work I need out there and more.
        And BTW I work on Hadoop Clusters!!!!!

        Incidentally 99.99% of people still couldn’t make an LED blink by plugging it into the power socket! Who have you been hanging around with?

      • Nonsense! We’ve been trying that for 30+ years and still coming up short.

        Just because the system still isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean it hasn’t massively improved.

        Today, just about anyone can take a computer and make it do most things they want to without any real training. That ranges from something as simple as checking mail to something as complex as image editing.

        I struggle to see why the same won’t be true thirty years from now just because there’s a robot involved rather than a mouse cursor. Indeed, keeping in mind exponentional growth I’ll be astounded if it takes anything close to thirty years.

        Excel is the perfect case in point!! Strong excel users still ask me to develop macros for them even though its basically drag-n-drop — I refuse because I despise VBA but if I ever needed money there’s all the work I need out there and more.

        So ask yourself how complicated it would have been for people to do what are today mundane tasks in Excel back when a C64 was cutting edge.

        And BTW I work on Hadoop Clusters!!!!!

        Well then, you have a real example right in front of you. Compare the complexity of deploying and scaling Hadoop infrastructure using modern platforms like Serengeti or Cloudera compared to five years ago.

        Is it perfect ? No. Is it vastly more accessible than it was in 2008 ? Unquestionably.

      • Dude I hear everything you say but believe me I’m dismayed at the number of people who CAN’T get even a goddamn iPad to do what they want!

        But me? Hell yeah I can get an Arduino and USB inputs to make a robot with less effort than it took me to wire-wrap – badly!!- an 8bit Zilog as a kid!

        Most people can’t go anywhere near the Arduino without shaking in fear they’ll damage it.

        P.S. Sorry to everyone else for getting super super nerdy on you there :(

      • About a week ago I had a rant about the NSW High School education system which graduates students without requiring even rudimentary math or science skills. As a matter of fact LESS THAN 16.1% (2011) of students took both a math and a science course of HSC study.

        We are not talking about the 3/4unit Math course for geeks, ANY MATH, nor are we talking about advanced Physics ANY SCIENCE.

        Now encumbered by such an education, do you really believe that average Aussie GenY/Z’ers are equipped to “program” anything more advanced then their alarm clocks.

      • About a week ago I had a rant about the NSW High School education system which graduates students without requiring even rudimentary math or science skills. As a matter of fact LESS THAN 16.1% (2011) of students took both a math and a science course of HSC study.

        We are not talking about the 3/4unit Math course for geeks, ANY MATH, nor are we talking about advanced Physics ANY SCIENCE.

        I’m not familiar with how the HSC structure works as I went to school in QLD.

        Back when I was at school, at least one maths subject (Maths A was the easy maths subject at the time) and at least one science (usually Biology was the one everyone who didn’t want to do a science enrolled in) were compulsory for grades 11 & 12, along with English.

        Is this no longer the case ?

        Now encumbered by such an education, do you really believe that average Aussie GenY/Z’ers are equipped to “program” anything more advanced then their alarm clocks.

        I expect within twenty years controlling a your personal robot(s) to require about as much “programming” skill as using the typical iPad app. “Walk behind me and carry my bags”, “drive me to work” and “make my dinner from this recipe” are about all the end user is going to need to be able to do.

      • @drsmithy:

        “Walk behind me and carry my bags”, “drive me to work” and “make my dinner from this recipe” are about all the end user is going to need to be able to do

        Oh man! That is fucking bleak!!! And you’re ok with this? Letting people get this stupid? Because someone else will be controlling their behaviour quite naively to themselves. BTW drive me to work? What work can such a retard be capable of that robot can’t do?

      • The “Walk behind me and carry my bags” command is still being refined after some unexpected results in a lab on the outskirts of Tokyo.

      • @drsmithy

        Back when I was at school, at least one maths subject (Maths A was the easy maths subject at the time) and at least one science (usually Biology was the one everyone who didn’t want to do a science enrolled in) were compulsory for grades 11 & 12, along with English.

        Check out the following report
        MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE COMBINATIONS
        NSW HSC 2001-2011 BY GENDER

        http://www.maths.usyd.edu.au/u/SMS/MWW2013.pdf

        Makes for depressing reading especially our female math/science participation rates.

        National disgrace if you ask me!

      • We are not talking about the 3/4unit Math course for geeks, ANY MATH, nor are we talking about advanced Physics ANY SCIENCE.

        Human all specialise. Are the current rates atypical?

        Now encumbered by such an education, do you really believe that average Aussie GenY/Z’ers are equipped to “program” anything more advanced then their alarm clocks.

        No technology has been ubiquitous at a tech level.

        Most people couldn’t fathom how to program a GUI, construct a light bulb, weld their barbeque, furbish their internal combustion engine from scratch or lay a concrete slab for their house.

        Do I need go on?

        Wealth is created when outliers of technological prowess make their item of technology accessible.

        All you’re left with is arguiing our populace shuold be enabling this wealth, that the rest of the world can latently access.

        Maybe we’re a below average people. voting Howard is that many times indicates we are.

        Makes for depressing reading especially our female math/science participation rates.

        You’re now heading towards article IX hysteria.

        Outside of soviet style pushing, when have females ever had a wide scale interest in these fields?

        Back when I was at school, at least one maths subject (Maths A was the easy maths subject at the time) and at least one science (usually Biology was the one everyone who didn’t want to do a science enrolled in) were compulsory for grades 11 & 12, along with English.
        Is this no longer the case ?

        A minimum of 2 units of maths, and 2 units of English was compulsory in the HSC when I studied.

        I think a science may have been added after I left, not sure.

      • @Rusty
        Its OT and I’m not after an argument but combine this report with Australia’s recent disastrous showing in PISA and you get an idea of what I’m talking about. Australian 15 year old (9th graders) are scoring 100 points less than average Shanghai 15 year olds. Now for your information that corresponds with at least 2, if not 3 years study. So put another way Aussie 15 year olds have the math skills of a 12 /13 year old Shanghai students. Now add to this they they are not taking Math and Science in years 11/12 (over 80%…and probably already check-out mentally in year 10) and you have a situation where average High school graduates in Australia have the math / science skills of a 12 year old in Shanghai student.

        Personally I find this situation is a national disgrace regardless of what other knowledge they may or may not be accumulating in the last umm 5 years of school.

      • Its OT and I’m not after an argument but combine this report with Australia’s recent disastrous showing in PISA and you get an idea of what I’m talking about. Australian 15 year old (9th graders) are scoring 100 points less than average Shanghai 15 year olds.

        I would never provoke an argument with you, I hold your contribution in too high esteem.

        But looking at that summary, you’re point of issue is qualitative, not quantitative.

        Poor performance, not the numbers involved.

        I would not be surprised that the most apt 5% of males doing science may be a typical number, they are just receiving poor education than times past.

        Now for your information that corresponds with at least 2, if not 3 years study. So put another way Aussie 15 year olds have the math skills of a 12 /13 year old Shanghai students. Now add to this they they are not taking Math and Science in years 11/12 (over 80%…and probably already check-out mentally in year 10) and you have a situation where average High school graduates in Australia have the math / science skills of a 12 year old in Shanghai student.

        Is it all down to a degradation of Australian performance declining? The Chinese setting a new benchmark performance for 15 y/o’s and Australia remaining static in regards to eprformance? A combination of both.

        Other than that, it’s hard to compel people to do something they don’t want to do… and points to my article IX reference.

        Personally I find this situation is a national disgrace regardless of what other knowledge they may or may not be accumulating in the last umm 5 years of school.

        Well I think what your pointing to is symptomatic of a wider cultural malaise, and won’t be addressed by trying to treat education.

        I understand the benefit of a whole bunch of peopple, anmely males, being diligant at maths and science, and assuming a role in a colloboration of science and maths to bringing about technological advancement. But the culture doesn’t support that, in a raft of risk/reward matricies.

        Enjoy the decline, we had a good run.

      • Oh man! That is fucking bleak!!! And you’re ok with this?

        I struggle to think of a better future in HCI than a Star Trek-esque ability to control computers by talking to them in natural language.

        With the exception of full-on mind control.

        Letting people get this stupid?

        An inability to program a compute is not in any way a hallmark of stupidity.

        I know many intelligent people who have no idea how to program a computer.

        Could they learn ? Probably.

        But why should they ? Saying someone who cannot program shouldn’t be allowed to own a robot is as daft as saying someone who can’t slaughter a cow shouldn’t be allowed to eat beef.

        Because someone else will be controlling their behaviour quite naively to themselves.

        There’s no shortage of people out there who are the exceptionally good programmers, mathematicians, scientists, whatever, that are (and have been) easily psychologically manipulated.

        BTW drive me to work? What work can such a retard be capable of that robot can’t do?

        Your hubris is breathtaking.

        Just because someone can’t do something you can, doesn’t make them dumb.

        I’d be willing to bet most doctors can’t program and have zero interest in learning. Ditto for most successful businessmen.

        Your clear implication here is that people who don’t measure up to your metric of intelligence don’t deserve to benefit from advances in society. That’s a pretty fucking scary mindset to have. Life- and world-changing technology shouldn’t have a “you must be this tall to enter” sign out the front.

      • @drsmithy seriously dude what’s your problem?

        As usual lead you far enough and you contradict yourself – so now even if the tools are super easy they still shouldn’t be expected to use them. Brilliant.

        This has nothing to do with how clever I am but how stupid you’re being.

      • As usual lead you far enough and you contradict yourself – so now even if the tools are super easy they still shouldn’t be expected to use them. Brilliant.

        What ?

        The point is that have “super easy” tools mean someone can just tell a robot to follow them. Or drive them to work. Or something similar.

  6. Yes, been a developer for 20 years, in telecoms and now banking.

    The fears about off-shoring have turned out to be causing all tech jobs to be done in India have been ill-founded.

    I’ve never seen an off-shoring project that hasn’t created more jobs to manage the off shoring than jobs that have been off shored.

    Most companies now understand tech cannot be shipped off to people who are not close to the real business.

    • Scottmuz & China Bob:

      So, how many IT / programmer jobs are there in Australia?

      I’d say that this sector lends itself very well to offshoring – see the US example:

      A University of California study concludes that 14 million white-collar jobs are vulnerable to being outsourced offshore. These are not only call-center operators, customer service and back-office jobs, but also information technology, accounting, architecture, advanced engineering design, news reporting, stock analysis, and medical and legal services. These are the jobs of the American Dream, the jobs of upward mobility that generate the bulk of the tax revenues that fund our education, health, infrastructure, and social security systems.

      Corporate America’s short-term mentality, stemming from bonuses tied to quarterly results, is causing US companies to lose not only their best employees-their human capital-but also the consumers who buy their products. Employees displaced by foreigners and left unemployed or in lower paid work have a reduced presence in the consumer market.

      Many former manufacturing workers who were displaced a decade ago because of manufacturing that went offshore took training courses and found jobs in the information technology sector.
      They are now facing the unenviable situation of having their second career disappear overseas.

      In the 21st century the US economy has only been able to create jobs in nontradable domestic services – the hallmark of a third world labor force.

      Excerpted from an article by By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, Global Research, November 09, 2013

      • I like Paul Craig Roberts but I think he mixes up 2 issues here: In the technical fields one finds there isn’t really “offshoring” per se as co-operation – there isn’t enough technically skilled workers here that why so much boiler plate gets moved, so the scant resources here can do something else. There really aren’t that many unemployed boomer IT workers, under appreciated certainly but not unemployed.

      • Not sure what I’m suppose to say, both China and India excellent skillful IT technologists as dose Australia. Now your typical Aussie off-shoring program is not about access to the best’n’brightest its aimed at corporate Australia getting something that looks cheap (to the unskilled) and sounds good in financial press releases. That they’re delivered shit and truck loads of it is not the issue, because shit is exactly what you get whenever you approach the problem this way.

  7. Robots are the best thing since sliced cheese – especially if they are now slicing the cheese.

    There are lots and lots of things that we can spend our time doing that presently no one can afford to spend time on.

    As the cost of robot produced products continue to fall and the cost of labour falls we might start seeing stuff like buildings with real hand carved stonework. Hand made and artisan goods of all descriptions.

    Why buy a project home when the cost of having an architect and builder create you a one off is affordable?

    $5 mass produced T-Shirts are great but a $5 T-shirt that has been customised by a crafts person and sold for $20 will sell well.

    Likewise, why not hire a landscape gardener to design that yard that currently only the dog enjoys.

    There is a reason that the ‘hipster’ movement of customising a persons style and using hand made and artisan goods is centred on the well paid inner urban areas. At the moment they can afford it.

    In the future we will simply spend our time and money bringing the human touch to aspects of our daily lives that presently we cannot afford to do so.

    And while that may sound like we will all be making Latte’s for each other and giving each back rubs, so what?

    To a large extent that is what most of us are doing already.

    As the robot factories expand and consume the factory and routine clerical and professional tasks the human population will be left to pursue activities that today seem trivial or self indulgent.

    Any time the government wants to ‘create’ some demand it can readily do so.

    How about have everyone file a BAS statement once a fortnight :)

    How about give every child 10 hours of music, art or sport tuition every week.

    The list of things people can do to keep busy when the robots take over is endless.

    • That’s exactly right! The capacity of things we can put the robots to do is limited only by imagination and determination. Unfortunately the populace at large lacks both.

  8. As to Lawyers I think they get a bad rap.

    A consistent and effective system of law is hugely important and why I don’t invest in countries like China and India.

    I think there is a good argument that much of London’s success as a financial centre is due to the English law system that provides a good balance of protecting both sides of the an agreement without giving either side ridiculous punitive damages (as we see in the US version of common law).

  9. Yeah, robots can be destroying jobs. But I think the more immediate jobs threat is Google. Google is already destroying the livelihoods of creative people long before the robots will take over. And creative people are just the canary in the coalmine. Sooner or later, we will not have a middle-class anymore.

  10. 100% of the technology is already here to render real estate agents completely redundant, and yet they continue to bank 2.5% and upwards of the sale value of a property for … what exactly ? Writing copy for realestate.com, booking a photographer, ordering a sign, taking a few dozen phone calls, printing out a pro-forma contract ? What are we waiting for exactly to rid ourselves of these people ?

    • Whilst I agree that many R/E agents charge way too much for the service they provide, you are missing the *key* thing that they do – they negotiate and close a sale for you (if you are the seller), as well as design and execute a marketing campaign to sell your asset. From a buyers perspective there is little value – but they are not primarily there for the buyer.

      There is real value in the above. I notice many here are programmers/engineers etc (I’m one too so understand completely), but I think people of our ilk are prone to under-estimating and belittling what is involved in sales, commercial negotiation and deal closing etc. Which is why so few of us do that sort of work – or have maybe even tried, and found it to be far more difficult than expected? :-)

      • I would happily pay the non-robotic lawyers left in 20 years time a couple of hours of their time for negotiating and closing a sale. I would still be 2.25% of the sale value of the property better off. There is value, to be sure, but as offered by real estate agents it is over-stated and over-priced. Anyone telling you otherwise is a real estate agent.

      • I see no economic value in that. If it’s an established house, any benefit to the seller is at the expense of the buyer and visa versa.

      • @gonderb

        I notice many here are programmers/engineers etc (I’m one too so understand completely), but I think people of our ilk are prone to under-estimating and belittling what is involved in sales, commercial negotiation and deal closing etc.

        ROFL! As someone who grew up in a business, I can safely say we are not under estimating anything ….

      • I think most intelligent people realise that if you remove the need for plausible dishonesty, there’s not really a lot to a sales job.

        It’s only when you want to start deceiving people without being obvious about it that marketing and sales gets complicated.

  11. As some airline industry experts will tell you, in the future, planes will be flown by a computer, a man and a dog.

    The computer will fly the plane, the man will watch the computer and the dog will bite the man if he tries to touch anything!