More and more robots

Taking no Chances: Mercedes adds robots, suppliers for M-Class plant as part of quality effort

The article talks about a new Mecedes-Benz plant in the U.S. The new factory has a cost of $600 million and replaces "what already was one of North America's youngest auto plants." From the article:Obviously the end point for this kind of automation is the eventual extinction of human workers in the factory.

Why the desire to completely eliminate humans? The main reason is the cost, but humans are also mistake-prone, work only eight hours a day and they get sick and pregnant. This article (and hundreds of others right now) point out that: "The world's largest automaker [GM] spent $5.2 billion last year to cover 1.1 million salaried and hourly employees, retirees and family members. GM has said that could grow to $5.8 billion this year." $5.2 billion works out to well over $1,000 per car. Never mind the salaries of the workers. If a car company eliminates the humans, the cost of a car can go way down.

From a consumer standpoint, lower car prices are good. From an employee standpoint, eliminating millions of factory jobs is good if there are better jobs that are waiting to be filled. The problem is that, for most factory workers who get fired, the new job will be worse, not better -- it pays less and has less benefits. The headline for this article says it all:This is the problem that we face in the Robotic Nation. Robots eliminate jobs so quickly, and take over so many jobs, that job creation cannot keep pace. That, combined with the concentration of wealth means that things get worse, not better, and we begin heading toward Manna.

1) increased reliability and tighter tollerances make for a better and more durable product.
2) the cost goes way down

What would be nice to see is a society where working is optional. If we're at the point where we can prosper on volunteer labor (see open source projects) then we could really change the basic concepts of economics/capitalism.
Let's not get communist please.

People respond to incentives, and operate best when they will reap the rewards of their labor. Making labor 'voluntary' implies basic needs are provided for. Not only would this lead to far worse productivity (look at Europe), but is extremely expensive for those that do choose to work. This makes a double disincentive for innovation. The dead-weight loss of high-tax avoidance alone is reason not to follow that path. The risk of a more powerful, unlimited government empirically shown to follow such a system is an even better reason not to.

And please don't use "open source" hype as a good example of the products of freely given labor. Full-time, dedicated employees at AT&T built Unix.

As far as I'm concerned, the best thing that could happen to the industrialized world is a realization that industry needn’t be labor intensive, and, like farming, will be performed by a small percentage of people. Read this, if you're still concerned about what will happen to those people.

The fear-mongering in Robotic-Nation about our potential robot overlords springing up to imprison citizens for their own security is a victim of it’s own world-view: the only plausible solution in Brain’s mind to large amounts of unemployment is some large government program to solve it. The alternative is a commune in Australia. HA. How pigeonholed.
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If industry and farming can "be performed by a small percentage of people," what other jobs will be available? Service jobs? Only a small percentage of people needed. Academic? Only a small percentage of people needed. Creative? Perhaps, but then only a small percentage of people seem to have any creativity.

So, if we are to avoid communism and communes in Australia, what is the solution? Whether robots take over all jobs, or leave a small percentage of jobs, there remains a lot of people with no work to do.

Personally, I don't fear robots. They have better things to do than become our overlords. Just like Marshall Brain, we all need to start thinking about our options. Maybe a social program is not the answer...what is another possible solution?
Well as I see it, the world has two basic paths for a the inevitable future with our robot friends:

1) Robots take over most manufacturing jobs, and the owners of the factories pass on the vast majority of the savings on to the consumer (ie a $15,000 car now costs the consumer $5000).

2) Robots take over most manufacturing jobs, and the owners of the factories pass on some of the savings on to the consumer (ie a $15,000 car now costs the consumer $13,500).

There is a crossroads of capital here, either the money goes into the pocket of the consumer, or to the factory owner (or board of directors, or whatever).

I am all for robots taking over manufacturing jobs, as long as the savings are pass along almost completely to the consumer. Don't get me wrong, I am a full-blooded free-market capitalist, but if the current trends of CEOs (1 single man or woman) making hundreds of millions of dollars, and workers being paid minimum wage continues, we may soon have a socialist revolution on our hands and rightly so.
The modern industrialized countries of the world have already become post-industrial economies, mainly relying on services.

I'm not sure where Richard gets the idea that a low percentage of jobs are services. All jobs that do not produce an object are basically services.

From interior decorators, to web designers, to massage therapists, to wedding planners, to head hunters, etc. all are under the radar and forming a new economic backbone of America. It is the basic reason we have nothing to fear from robotics: gains in productivity don't just go to a CEO's pocket, they raise the standard of living of all, as millions of dispersed, intelligent people to decide the future through their entrepreneurial ventures.

This will only get easier as communication technology gets better. We certainly don’t need to brainstorm about top-down solutions.

One big problem with folks that over-react to robots is the implicit fixed quantity of wealth fallacy.
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