Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The End of Jobs?

10%! The New Normal?

Is 10% unemployment the new normal?  The numbers the USA enjoyed during the Bush years are not likely to be seen again because they were the result of an unsustainable nationwide/worldwide building boom. All during those years and prior, jobs, real sustainable jobs, had been shrinking due to the efficiency needs of industry. Not only have those jobs been outsourced to cheaper labor abroad but in many cases they have been eliminated altogether due to robotization, even in countries with abundant cheap labor. 

Need a Formula?

AP Economic Writer, Jeannine Aversa, presents an interesting formula, described here, that shows just why high unemployment numbers may be with us for a long time to come. But even this mathematical figuring does not take into account the extreme shift from human labor to robots. Now that we can "manufacture" slaves, in the form of machines, that can even replicate themselves, a new way of thinking about "employment" has to be explored.

Auto Making: Going, going, Gone!

This video of a modern VW plant speaks volumes, as does this video of a new Ford factory in Brazil

As you watch these videos, as fascinating as the factories are, pay close attention to the workers manning these plants… or the startling lack thereof!


How much of the stuff we buy and use everyday no longer employs human workers… at all!? The Sharp TV Company in Japan recently opened an LCD TV screen manufacturing plant that uses not a single worker, yet will, by the end of this year, produce scores of thousands of large flat screen TVs! 

Cell Phones

Hundreds of millions of cell phones are manufactured worldwide every year….. by a handful of employees as seen here.

Building Material 

How about something as mundane as concrete blocks? Check out this factory in Belgium.

Food Shelter and Clothing

The list of products we use daily are, for the most part, made without much human labor. Even farming has been automated, from wheat production to egg production.

Here at Fair Oaks dairy farm in Indiana 32,000 cows are milked every day…. Essentially by machines with the help of the cows themselves! 

Another example, this one of robots cutting complex shapes from materials as diverse as denim, felt and foam.

What else is there? Well, how about surgery?

What once required a team of highly skilled surgeons is now routinely done by machines.

Wanna Fly-Away from it all?

In the recent past, when passengers were whisked from city to city and country to country via air transport, their route was plotted by an onboard crewman: Navigator, instruments were monitored by another: the Flight Engineer, the plane was flown by yet a third: the Pilot and for a fourth: his back-up, the Co-Pilot.

Satellites and today’s GPS mapping and broadcasting has eliminated the need for navigators. Electronic monitors keep an unblinking eye on the instruments and many flights forego a co-pilot altogether.

Are pilots the next to go? Unmanned Ariel Vehicles are already being used around the world in surveillance, war, and law enforcement. When will we be boarding the equivalent of the UAV 747? It’s just a matter of time.

The Labor Free World!

Have we finally reached the point of the labor-free world? Most things the modern world uses are made by machines. Need more production? No need to hire more workers…. More production can be obtained by simply turning a dial!

Well, what’s the point of all this? Aside from the fantastic advances man has made in the evolution of machines and artificial intelligence, the part of the equation left out is literally that of the human being.

What are 7, 10, or 20 Billion Humans going to do to earn a living when only a couple billion are a billion too many? The English and French are trying The Dole. But unless the Americans, the EU or the Chinese are willing to pick-up the slack, providing a free lunch, the basic Laws of Thermodynamics tells us this scheme too is unsustainable.  The Law of Thermodynamics is currently being tested in Greece where legions of bureaucrats are highly paid but produce nothing. The Germans or the EU will have to pay the freight for the Greeks just to avert Euro-disaster. Even this will play-out as only a short term solution…..  Kick the can down the road. But it’s not a road; it’s a Blind Alley.

Even if The Dole could somehow be made to work, there’s always the axiom, “Idle hands are the Devils workshop,” to deal with. In France those hands are used nightly to burn cars. In other places they are used in the pursuit of other forms of social ills demonstration.

Man has the mental capacity to invent and develop fantastic machines to create a labor free world of lazy pursuits, yet he lacks the vision to see the true and complete product of his work. Is 10% the new normal or is it just the prelude to even bigger numbers?

Where are the Solutions?

These are problems that our elected representatives were hired to solve. But instead they have chosen to curry favor with a block of voters through: numerous entitlement programs, promises of "health" through expensive government schemes, rich paying government jobs, payoffs to unions, and other either non-productive individuals and entities, earmarks and other wasteful spending "projects." They have latched on to complete idiocy, like Global Warming, to gain even more wealth and control over the lives of human beings, but without even an inkling of how wealth is actually created, all the while living like Potentates, a class apart. One harkens back to Orwell's  Animal Farm, where all the animals are equal, except some are more equal than others. How is it that so many politicians, most whom have never had a real job, never hired a real employee that made a real widget, born into a middle-class family, wins an election, travels to Washington then returns home a few years or a career later multi-millionaires?

Cheers, Mel

Post Script: This morning Feb. 17, 2010, from Bulletin News:

Two Million-Plus Manufacturing Jobs Lost During Recession   The CBS Evening News reported, "As the US economy struggles, we're not just losing jobs, we're losing manufacturing jobs, the kind that pay well, have benefits and provide a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. Of the nearly 8.5 million jobs lost since the recession began, more than a quarter were in manufacturing and getting them back may require a big change in attitude about working with our hands." CBS went to say that "America has largely stopped making things," and noted that "in the year 2000, more than 17 million Americans were employed in manufacturing," but "by last year, that had dropped to fewer than 12 million."