8.31.2005

 

Incredible economic incentive to deploy RFID

How RFID can help optimise supply chain management

From the article: $6.7 billion is a lot of money. It will come from eliminating employees from Wal-Mart's stores. Assume that the average Wal-Mart worker makes $20,000 per year. $6.7 billion represents 335,000 workers.

Now imagine the same thing happening throughout the retail sector as every retailer moves to RFID to compete with Wal-Mart. Several million people are unemployed. And the robots have not even started arriving yet. Once the robots arrive, a total of 10 million people are unemployed in the retail sector alone. See Robotic Nation for details.

Comments:
I just saw this on CNN: Census says the US poverty rate rose from 12.5 to 12.7 in 2004. It says that's about 1 million people.

Is it because of automation? I don't know how to tell.
 
The article says: "The ranks of the poor rose to 37.0 million, up from 35.9 million the previous year, the report said. The poverty rate rose for only one group -- non-Hispanic whites -- which had an 8.6 percent poverty rate for 2004 compared with 8.2 percent in 2003. The poverty rate declined for Asians and remained unchanged for blacks and Hispanics, the report showed."

37 million is a lot. The fact that all the new poor are white means what?
 
Your $20k/year assumption is pretty on target. According to this article, WalMart does pay on average about $20k a year:
http://www.ips-dc.org/projects/global_econ/walmart_pay_gap.htm

Don't forget the supply chain either. According to the above article WalMart has 68,000 suppliers all of whom will be cutting back on staff once RFID is implemented.
 
Replace the word "robots" with "automation" and I think you'll be right on. The most likely short term 'robots' will be the invisible kind that are billed to merely "enhance" productivity. It will end up just like the revolution in farming where one tracter replaced a hundred workers. Tiny RFIDs, simple scanners at the exits, credit & loyalty card processing, heck, software on a PDA by the 5% of remaining employees can all remove sections of employees all along the product chain. Those are the kind of changes that it's very difficult for the average Joe to point to and say: "They took yer job!" But, that job is gone nonetheless.

What most people aren't seeing is that public stores are already feeling the pinch. I buy almost everything online now. That's where RFID and a few other enhancements can remove entire stores - not just a few employees. A couple of employees taking product pictures and maintaining a website can service MILLIONS of people. The best part is that now that my wife has seen how much easier it is, and how cheap it is to have it delivered (compared to gas and time), we pretty much only shop for food. All other shopping is online. Talk about automation removing jobs!
 
Frankly, I'd rather use the self-checkout than have some half-wit process my order anyway. I'm all for it, Marshall. The failures of public education became the marketplace's job to solve... and it's doing it in the most efficient way it can. By eliminating the defective parts.
 
ofcourse you are all for it....that is untill....."They take yer job!" right captain :)
 
"Several million people are unemployed. And the robots have not even started arriving yet..."

We may lose some Jobs in the retail sector, but think about all of the people working in the high-tech sector to develop all of this new RFID technology. Walmart is investing $3 Billion (with a "B"). This will create a lot of jobs.

Also, Walmart WILL pass along the savings to the consumer. This is a win-win situation. This is truely a thing of good. Also Wal-Mart will require fewer people to work in their life-sucking jobs. I can't wait for the day when 10 or fewer humans can run a Wal-mart store.
 
Concerning "poor" people...

Many "poor" people in my small town seem to be able to afford large SUVs with shiney wheels. I am middle-class, but my car is less expensive than theirs.

Also, there seem to be a whole bunch of "poor" people that can somehow afford to pay $40 a month for cable/satellite television.

I think the *definition* of poverty is causing these increases. My parents never wasted money on new cars or cable television growing up, but we were still considered middle-class.
 
The definition of poor has certainly changed.

It even changed in Manna.

Remember: The people in Manna were living a near life of luxury, by todays standards of poverty. Consider.

They were guaranteed a nice room to sleep. They were guaranteed food. Marshall Brain didn't write it, but it may well be the case that they were even guaranteed health care.

They may have even been granted television; Perhaps Marshall Brain can let us know whether that was the case or not. We can be pretty confident that they were not allowed to write programs, programs that would allow them to communicate and efficiently organize. But TV would probably be okay, for the purpose at hand. (Namely: getting the poor people out of the way.)

It just so happened that they were locked up in a box, and there wasn't anything they could do.

I don't deny that the definition of poverty has changed in the US. It doesn't mean that poverty is suddenly "okay," and that we shouldn't worry that poverty is increasing, and that wealth is concentrating. (Yes, Ivan. They reinvest. They reinvest in technologies that concentrate wealth. Fire 5 people, hire 1 programmer.)

If you're focused just on what a person has, you're missing the point.

Two of the critical values I identify in the Australia project are freedom (freedom of motion, activity, ability to organize, ability to direct machines) and brotherhood (respect, kindness, enthusiasm, dignity, and sharing.)

Work was no longer necessary, and thus command-and-control structures required for efficiently meeting needs were no longer necessary. Granted the commanders of the old order didn't like the new way of things (you only get freedom if you can provide for me!), but in Marshall Brain's story, Australia won out. It is clear that Australia's is the better outcome.

We already see the model for Australia. It is Free/Open Source Software, it is Wikipedia. Wikipedia's only been around for 5 years, and has been an amazing success. We have see Wikipedians develop government and society, much like the one described in the Australia project. And yet our communications technology is horrible and excruciatingly primitive. That is: Communications technology will improve dramatically, and with it, the efforts of online organizing. At the same time, the on-line world will become less and less a fairy land, and more and more something that overlaps and merges with the off-line world.

If we play our cards right, we won't have to experience the Robotic Nation, and flight to Australia. Instead, we can make the Australia project here, now.

-- Lion Kimbro
 
Many "poor" people in my small town seem to be able to afford large SUVs with shiney wheels. I am middle-class, but my car is less expensive than theirs.

Do the math. Make estimates about their hourly wage. Then calculate how much their large SUV with shiney wheels cost them. Factor in financing available to them, at their hourly wage. Also factor in gas prices.

What you come up with is indentured servitude.

As for yourself, the reason you are middle class, is because you are not making decisions like this.

Now we ask ourselves: "What is the proper response, observing this?"

One option is to say: "These people are stupid, and they get what they deserve." We could then try to construct rationalisms in our head, to ease our conscious, observing the immanent doom of our neighbors. "They must be intrinsicly dumb." Yes: Libertarian thinking about IQ is actually about easing their conscience! (Yes, they actually have one.) "People deserve whatever they get." (I have wealth, they do not. I deserve it.) "I have no obligation to anybody. Kindness is not mandatory. Am I my brother's keeper? Those aren't my people." (Racism.) "I can't do anything about it." Incorrect, but close, since our own attitude about our capability does influence our capability: A consistent thread, from top to bottom here. "They'll learn if they're punished by hard times." Occasionally true, but only rarely.

The other option, is to see what's happening, and to realize that something is broken, and that real people are being harmed by it. There's a long chain of causality leading up to this kind of thing. At some point, someone said, "Fuck it," decided that they're already going to hell, and signed the dotted line that says "Life is Indentured Servitude is Hell." The thing here is to figure out how to solve the problem. If you can't solve the problem, then the thing here is to hope that the problem can be solved, and pay attention to efforts to help solve it. But certainly not to deride the people who suffer, or smirk "they had it coming to them."

-- Lion Kimbro
 
What you come up with is indentured servitude.

I couldn't agree with this more, but it truly is (any way that you look at it) a servitude of their own making. It was their final choice. It was their final decision. No one forced them to make it but themselves. I know the above is paraphrased from the response, but it is still true.

One thing that I believe makes this country great is the gigantic amount of credit that anyone may access. Such credit allowed ME to get an education. Such credit allowed ME to buy the modest home I currently live in (as opposed to renting from another person). Such credit allowed ME to buy a later-model Honda Accord that is a necessity of my life.

Why is it my or society's fault when a sane person chooses to use credit in a manner that they KNOW will cause them harm? No form of system has enough power to prevent stupidity. None. (if there is, I am all ears..)

Why should other people's gluttony or stupidity cause me to not have easy credit available for my needs?
 
Why is it my or society's fault when a sane person chooses to use credit in a manner that they KNOW will cause them harm? No form of system has enough power to prevent stupidity. None. (if there is, I am all ears..)

It's partly societies fault, because it is society that teaches a person how to live. Everybody is indoctrinated by their parents and culture.

Okay, you say you are all ears.

There are several proven systems for preventing stupidity.

At Twin Oaks, for example, people do their expenses in common. They have a yearly budget gatherings, where they figure out how much money will go to new investments, how much money will go to maintenance, how much money will go to charities, and how much will go to discressionary income.

By working on their finances together as a community, there is zero chance that someone will screw the pooch in a fit of cynicism. Everything but discresionary income is deliberated over.

Another system is used by some unions. When union contracts are negotiated, part of the employee income is guaranteed to go to medical, and part of the employee income is guaranteed to go to further education. It cannot be wasted in a moment of weakness, because the union is the collective agency that the members use to watch out for one another.

If unions bother you, recognize that several employers take on the responsibility voluntarily, by making medical insurance part of the employee's "income." When an employer buys health insurance for the employee, that too is money to the employee that cannot be wasted in a moment of weakness.

These are all systems that prevent stupidity.

It is not at all unlike setting quotas and permissions on computer systems. Skilled computer users set file permissions that prevent themselves from doing stupid things, like deleting every file on the system.

By setting locks on the system, they ensure that the only time that they mess with critical system settings. One idea that this analogy suggests, is that perhaps we should be able to put permissions on parts of our bank accounts- "budget locks," or something like that. Perhaps you could say: "$300 a month from my paycheck can only be spent at Safeway. What isn't spent goes to a saving account. I can't access that savings account unless I go to a specific location, and enter a password."

There are a lot of ways we can extend financial security systems. These systems prevent stupidity.

Why should other people's gluttony or stupidity cause me to not have easy credit available for my needs?

It shouldn't, if there aren't proven predatory lending practices!

But that's not what we're talking about, and it's not what you should be thinking about.

This isn't about you, this is about them: the poor who don't know how to responsibly handle the money they make.

You should spend more time worrying about them, then you worry about your own line of credit.

If they are falling into traps set by a system that we either support or tolerate, then it is our moral duty to help get them out of the traps.

When you see the poor person driving the SUV that they obviously can't afford, don't look at the SUV, instead look at the indentured servitude. Don't think "What a stupid idiot," think: "How can I help these people get out of this pattern?"

It's very true that these people are partly to blame. But we've also got to look at the set and setting, of which we are a part. If we're not a part of it, we're at least connected with it. Rather than thinking bitter, scornful, or paranoid, we need an attitude of courtesy and helpfulness.

-- Lion Kimbro
 
Wow... comments from people thinking they know what's best for other people. Being a Libertarian and in favor of greater choice for everyone, I would like to counter with:

(1) People aren't as dumb as you think they are. Collectively, yes, people appear stupid. But individually, people make decisions rational and emotional that make sense for them. Many millionaires are illiterate, boorish and uneducated (but street smart). You don't have to be smart to be rich, as I like to say.

(2) People find alternatives when faced with obstacles. When the price of gas goes up, they sell the SUV. No education or sellable skills in the workplace? Sell drugs (NOTE: I'm not in favor of it, but people will go where the money is) --- And incidentally, if you take the profit out of drugs (make them legal), then you kill the incentive to sell them at artificially inflated prices by armed gangs.

(3) The "poor" are not quite as poor as you think they are. There is an enormous invisible economy running in the US and the world... the all-cash, under the table, gambling, bartering, etc., economy. This invisible economy may be nearly as large as the "visible" economy, at least based upon what I have seen in business and life.

(4) Manna is a story meant to illustrate a science-based potential future. It will never happen. Real life is created by the collective "we", and if it does not benefit all of the needs of the collective wills, it will not succeed. People like dealing with people, and they also don't mind NOT dealing with people on occasion. The point being, people with PEOPLE skills will continue to enjoy gainful employment for many, many, many years into the future.
 
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