60 Minutes on Robotics and the Future of Work

I thought this video would be of interest to readers here. We’ve discussed robotics and its influence on society before, and this 60 Minutes feature takes an in-depth look at how robots combined with computing is beginning to play a increasingly significant role in a wide variety of industries, and making it very difficult for an employment recovery to catch up with the recovery that is taking place in terms of manufacturing and production.

While we wait and hope for the benefits of superior energy solutions to make a positive impact on the world, we need to realize that a technology-driven revolution is going on as we speak, and it seems that in the future the world of work is going to be very different.

  • Leo Kaas

    My son is on the high school FIRST Robotics team. FIRST Robotics competition was started by Dean Kamen inventor of the Segway among other things. There are now more high school robotics teams in Minnesota than there are high school hockey teams in Minnesota. I am a mentor for my son’s team and it has been fantastic experience. If you want to help the next generation of young professionals. Volunteer to be a mentor. You will get more out of it than you can imagine. The kids want to learn, and be inspired by you. The moto of First is “Gracious Professionalism” which was coined by Dr. Woodie Flowers. My son and I have gotten a lot out of First Robotics. If you are worried about a lack of jobs for our youth. Volunteer to be a mentor with First Robotics.

  • Gerrit
    • georgehants

      I think I might give you a plus two for that one.

    • Peter Roe

      Have done – but I wonder how long your comment will survive!

  • Pekka Janhunen

    Back to business:

    Andrea Rossi, February 15th, 2013 at 3:00 AM
    Dear Todd Burkett:
    I confirm that my theory has nothing to do with the Mills Theory. I cannot give information regarding the operation of our reactors.
    Warm Regards, A.R.

    • GreenWin

      Frankly, I think this is intentionally deceptive .

  • georgehants

    George Miley 10 kw LENR nanoparticle cold fusion proposal did well in voting for ARPA-E Ultralight future energy project funding

  • Omega Z

    I’m Sceered!!!

    Not Really. I’m only concerned with the transition. I just think it might be quite Bumpy. Things will be better once the transition in completed.

    Cut to the Chase: All or near All jobs today will be done by Robots.

    This would mean that no one would have a job or money.

    So what difference would it make if My Factory can make products super cheap if there is no one who can buy it. Society will have to transition to the new reality.

    This will effect everyone. One of our regulars here said he wasn’t to concerned because he’s a writer. I would note that programers started targeting that area 30 years ago. It’s only a matter of designing the proper algorithms. It’s just a matter of time. There almost there. From the Video you can see most Medical being replaced by robots. Nothing is safe.

    At about 3 minutes into the video they show robots doing warehouse work. I Wasn’t impressed. I saw the early version of this in 1980. It was called the Triax. It put parts in storage or out. It was a bulk system, but they were already looking to build a new system that could retrieve bulk or a single Items. Oh yeah, Update the computer feed. It still used punch cards. Hey it was designed in the 70’s.

    I’m 1 of those who since the 80’s has argued with certain people that Government is too Big. There are people who feel quite strongly on the subject. It was always my point that the Tax payer got very little bang for the buck.

    About half why into the Discussion/Argument I would flip/flop on them. I would state that at some point in the future, at Least 50%, most likely more of the people would be employed by the Government. They’d be like WTF??? Many would actually begin to argue against their own argument.. They didn’t understand where I was coming from.

    Where I was coming from was that I saw the potential of computers & robots over 30 years ago. It was inevitable as will be most people employed by the Government. It wont be Socialism so much as just a more Socially equitable system. At least if the People are smart.**More Socially Equitable because of more product economically available..

    That Said: Thou money will be of much less importance, We Will Still have the Power Mongers trying to control everyone. And once they have that Power, they will have the technology to wield it much more effectively then they do now.
    This is the Real Danger to be concerned with.

    Here’s a Scary Scenario-
    Once Computers & Robots can Build, Make or do everything, The Powers That Be may decide they don’t want to share this world with 7 Billion People. Were No Longer Needed.
    Unleash a half dozen Lab made Viruses & thin the herd. Blame it on Global Warming. Plausible Deniability.

    • Peter Roe

      “Scary scenario”

      (1) Assume for a moment that there really is a global elite who have quietly assumed almost total power over the last 2 centuries [there really is].

      (2) Assume that the only type of people who will rise to the top of such a group are ruthless psychopathic individuals with no empathy or concern for other people at all, but who have gained a degree of power over life and death unseen in any previous time.

      (3) Further assume that these people are working towards a self serving social structure in which their lifestyle of power and luxury beyond reason is supported by automation, and the only other people required are those who maintain the automation, those who perform service functions, and private armies to defend against other rapacious individuals of their kind. Then ask yourself why such people would wish to share the planet with 6 billion other (useless to them) people if they had ways to change that.

      Unless some way is found to break this power structure, I think we are in for some very hard times – beginning in the USA where the process is well advanced.

  • Thinker

    Soon the dog will bite its tail..Increased automation will speed up the concentration of wealth to the already extreamly rich.(and they don’t spend it , creating demand, like you would) The unemployment numbers will rise and the number of people that can consume the products manufactured will decrease. Less demand means the companies much lower the prices wich will lead to layoffs and more automation and the circle is closed. Some smart people need to look in to the long term effects or we will have trouble ahead.

  • Iggy Dalrymple
    • GreenWin

      Yeah. Heaven forbid, ARPAe invest in something truly revolutionary. LENR makes the scientific orthodoxy look ignorant. Which, in this case, they certainly are. Still, as Dr. Miley points out – the rally of support with next to NO notice – is a major milestone. The PTB, are forewarned. Your time is in short supply.

  • A “cold fusion” device that extracts hydrogen from ambient air humidity debuted on Saturday at the HHO Games & Exposition in Sarasota, Fla. (I’m the guy in the red shirt at the end – I organized the Games.) It uses the polarity of earth and atmosphere and a very small high-velocity fan, and is called the EPEC cell.


  • GreenWin

    CBS is a curious outfit. They elect to leave out some of the best stuff. But 60 Minutes and Scott Pelley did the 2009 LENR CF story which helped sway Dr. Robert Duncan of the SKNR Center. Look at this CBS report on robotic mimicry and extrapolate the technology 40 times to get the approximate state of the art in black programs.


    It is naive to think what we are allowed to see is anywhere near the state of knowledge.

  • CouldDoBetter

    It would be good if people stopped calling USAF drones ‘robotic’.
    They are RPVs Remotely Piloted Vehicles. There is a human in the loop.
    (who can now get a medal without risking their life!)
    60 minutes should be above this.

  • Barry

    If you thought that was something take a look at this. Flying robots. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ErEBkj_3PY

  • Greg Slade

    I also suspect there may be countries or areas such as small towns that pass laws to outlaw robotics within the town limits simply because that is the way they like it, choosing to have only human interaction, boycotts of companies that don’t employ any humans will also occur driving those companies out of business when they can’t pay their power bills for the robots that make them so efficient. Global unions will arise at some point to represent the entire human worker industry in a specific area, people will change things through politics if things get too bad, laws against robotic workers, it could get very very ugly if mismanaged, lucky we have our super intelligent politicians on the case (sarcasm)

    • AlainCo

      robots are not humanoid. your washing machine is a robot… do you prefer to let your wife wahs the clothes, or let her share vacation with you, and work in a washing machine company …

      problems todays are on one side a decraese of effective productivity, through pushing crazy regulation and inefficient technologies, beside increase of price of pumping oil, and on the other the difficulty to distribute money in US…
      note that money accumulated in wealthy people is either invested in other companies, who buy goods or work, or used to buy good or work…

      the problem is mostly that temporarily many goods are produced in asia, and workers are chinese… temporary, since they wan’t to be wealthy quickly, and they deserve it… when, and it is happening, chinese will be wealthy, then the only proble will be total productivity.
      note that productivity is:
      technologiy induced productivity increase is today eaten by : unemployment (because of inefficiency of work market, bad education, prejudice against workers, missed business opportunities because of fear), by reduction of lifetime of work (retirement, long education, young/old unemployment because of prejudices), reduction of quality of education (lack of human factor education, of matching of competence with needs, of lifelong education), increase of norms and requirements…

      part of those reason might be judged good, but the problem remains.
      the most stupid problem is unemployment, because if there is need (thus poverty/desire), there should not be unemployment…
      bad education is the hardest problem, and the lifelong education is a key fact, yet initial unadapted educatiion is too.
      prejudice agains young and old, is an inefficiency of working market…
      increase of standards, in good for a small part, but stupid in my opinion for most. political security theater, not safety.

      LENR can help, but cannot solve all.

      • mytakeis

        Yes the world will be different with free time and free energy, but it’s not so bad, because a growing awareness of man’s uniqueness will prevail. As Robert A. Heinlein titled a future, there’s gonna be “Time enough for love.”

      • The labor market, like all markets, boils down to simple supply and demand. We currently have lots of supply but decreasing demand because production of goods has become so efficient.

        • AlainCo

          the hole in the reasoning is that if there was no more enough work to do, ther will be no unhappy people, no poor, noone lacking of any good or service.

          there is a problem, not of productivity.

  • Greg Slade

    Depends how they build the robotic brains of the future, if they manage to reverse engineer a human brain into software then we are screwed some gun nut job brain is bound to get control of the nukes. Robotic brains need to be built from the ground up to keep them safe. I agree that socialism or revolution is the logical result of this continuing process. Time to find a safe enery independent place in the countryside out of the way for the next 50 years and monitor developments.

    • GreenWin

      Artificial human life is an active R&D sector in the black world. Mimicking the human brain is not a great challenge to intelligence magnitudes greater than the subject.

      • Pekka Janhunen

        LOL hello government drone, since they could take your mind they can take anyone’s… Great irony, GW.

  • I’ve been working at a robotic research company for the last 8 years. I think there are several huge problems with robotics that ain’t going to be solved quickly:

    * Robots are very expensive. A cheap one costs € 20000, a good one €100000 and more. So it can take a long time until an investment into robot reaches break even point, and it does not look like they are getting cheaper any time soon. After all the materials are just expensive.

    * Safety issues. It is incredibly difficult to develop a robot that works efficiently anywhere with a human. Either put the robot into a cell where it can move quickly, or have it without a cell and you can only let it move very slowly. It is enormously difficult to get certifications for anything robotic that works with humans, at least in europe.

    * Robots are still extremely dumb. E.g. they are still very limit with grasping their surroundings. I’ve been developing 3D vision systems for object recogition for quite a while, (see http://candelor.com), and while it is already possible to have rudimentary tasks like quickly detecting preconfigured stuff, there is no real good reasoning behind it. So robots are good at specialized tasks, but not at anything remotely generic. This also includes setup time: how long does it take to teach a new task to the robot, so it can solve the task at a speed comparable to a human? We’ve still got a long way to go.

    • ecatworld

      Thanks for your comment, Martin. Nice to have a resident expert on robotics around! In the 60 Minutes piece the guy who built the Baxter robot said it only lasts for 3 years — which was quite a surprise to me. Why such a short life?

      • I don’t know much about Baxter, but we had a similar teachable human-compliant robot. Most industrial robots are “hard” robots, they have very hard joints controlled by electric servo’s. These robots last quite long (unless you crash against obstacles, which WILL happen…). These hard robots basically move blindly wherever you tell them, and they don’t care at all if anything (e.g. a human) is in it’s way.

        The Baxter, and most other robots that work with humans, need some way to be “soft”, so they don’t just crash into you and destroy whatever is in their way. There are lots of technologies to get that behavior, but none of them is really durable. We had some air pressure controlled robots that behaved very similar to human muscles, which was pretty cool, but you had to recalibrate the robot often. I think baxter uses some kind of springs. I suspect that these add-ons to make the robot soft are the reason why it does not last long.

        • ecatworld

          Very interesting. Thanks!

    • Daniel Maris

      Well I know it is foolish to take on an expert, but I will. LOL

      1. You say robots are expensive. But what is the current production run? I think under 100 Asimos have been produced. If Volkswagen produced only 100 Golfs they would be prohibitively expensive. As robots find niche activity the production runs will increase.

      2. Safety. I have only heard of one person being killed by a robot (a Japanese worker many years ago). Contrast that with planes, trains, cars, boats, and other technologies.

      3. Extremely dumb? We have licensed robot cars driving for tens of thousands of miles automatically with NO accidents caused by the robots. Clearly they are using visual cues. I’d say that was pretty impressive.

      Obviously robots are not going to replace humans overnight and in fact I have no wish to see them replace us. I want to see robotics subjected to legal control. But I think we are a lot closer to the robotics age than you suggest. Have you seen the Japanese humanoids? – their facial expressions are actually very close to appearing the same as human faces. I’ve seen robots run over rough ground as well as humans, speak like humans, move limbs just about as well as humans…they certainly fly better than humans and climb walls better than humans and drive more safely than humans…we are getting v. close to robots matching a large range of human abilities – especially as with wireless technology, the robot can access huge offboard computing power.

      • 1. Industrial robots from kuka, fanuc, Staeubli are very expensive, and that price won’t come down much because materials will always be expensive. Maybe there will be some inventions in new materials that can radically reduce prices, but I’m not seeing that right now.

        2. Safety is a huge issue in any autonomuous system. There might not be much accidents, but right now it is practically impossible to get a 6 axis robot certified to work in collaboration with humans because of safety regulations. That might be more a political hurdle than a technological.

        3. Robots get smarter all the time, but they are only good at specialized tasks. E.g. try to let a robot do the dishes for you. This such a so highly complex task it still can’t be reliably done with robots. You need a generic gripper that is able to grasp lots of different parts, and that’s not possible yet. You can optimize a gripper for a specific part, and there the robot will be much better than a human, but then it won’t grasp anything else.
        In the example you also need to be able to visually detect lots of different parts, including glass, and that’s as of now impossible as well. Lots of tasks that seem very simple to humans are still impossible for robots.

  • GreenWin

    Wow… lot’s of gloom and doom here. Sounds like a new AGW movement. Suppose we jump ahead a century. Artificial life mimicking human appearance and intelligence is everywhere. Those who choose to live in such a world (totally their election) will have access to low cost human-like bots who cook, clean, and do all manner of menial tasks. Wealth comes from original creativity, unique ideas that bring aesthetic value to the organic human experience. “Work” building things might still be done by organic humans who specialize in “hand made” clothes, shoes, gifts, spiritual items, etc. There will be a market for these items and the jobs will pay well since – there is a finite volume of such products.

    Of course if you are unhappy with the artificial human bots, and the automated world they populate – choose another dimension, or create a different world. Anyone can. It is a conscious choice. BTW, I suspect a young couple living next door are either artificial humans or Pleiadian aliens masquerading as humans. Soon I will simply ask them, and read their aura as to the truth. 🙂

    And, in my area of NW North America, there are 25k new jobs created in the last year – and construction rivaling China. No energy related jobs, all related to global marketing of IT, entertainment, original aesthetic products, and service sectors.

    • Peter Roe

      GW –

      It is a very long way from ‘here’ to ‘there’, given current trends. Unfortunately it seems a rather shorter distance to ‘doom and gloom’.

      If the majority of the population have zero income, the employment opportunities for salesmen, entertainers and service providers will go the same way as those for assembly workers. Artists will be too busy scavenging the local tips to paint or sculpt.

      Admin – the ‘edit’ function seems to have started inserting extra line spaces (1 becomes 3) when a post is re-opened for editing!

      • GreenWin

        Peter, the west majority does not have zero income – nor anywhere near zero. I am (momentarily) discouraged by the descent into gloom by some here, when the facts are, the human race’s standard of living is growing at an exuberant rate. And the hard data show that as living standards rise, birth rates decrease. Hello Agenda 21???

        • Peter Roe

          GW – I think that if the evidence for the US and Europe was objectively assessed, it might show an overall fall in living standards in the ‘West’ of about 10% over the last decade (20% or more in places like Greece) as real incomes fall steadily as a result of bankster-engineered fake debt and relentless inflation.

          China must follow (the first signs are already visible) as much of its wealth derives from trade with the West. If the trend continues or accelerates, the outcome will be an increasing proportion of all populations who are without income, with no obvious braking system to halt the process.

          It’s the end point of this process I’m referring to, and I think that it is likely to come (CF or no) quite quickly in some parts of the world. If the US dollar collapses for instance, mass unemployment, hunger and social strife could be just years away (hence the US gov’t purchase of incomprehensible quantities of arms and ammo for domestic ‘policing’ use). Conversely, if the US economy is thriving in say 5 years time, then the ‘doom and gloom’ I’ve been predicting may have been averted. We’ll know which way things are going before the end of Obama’s current term I think.

  • The only way our world will survive the coming robotics takeover is to move from capitalism to socialism. Like a modified version of socalism. Don’t beat me up for saying it. I am a libertarian at heart, but I see no way around this one. Almost ALL of our jobs are at stake. Eventually even doctors will be replaced. The republicans better evolve out of their beliefs or they will be replaced. Don’t say nobody ever told you.


    • You may be right, fellow Astral Projectee. Alaska has the “problem” of way too much money, thanks to the oil and very few people, so the State of Alaska gives everyone a big check every year, rather than tax them. I see this as happening.

      So what happens when there are a few entrepreneurs and exactly zero workers. Who buys the products and where does the money go. I am not talking the fantasy 1%ers vs. the 99%ers. What happens when it really is 1% making all the money and 99% have no jobs, and not because they are lazy and living in their parent’s basement. Of course, there will be adjustments long before that happens, and those adjustments will probably be along the lines of what Alaska does.

    • Peter Roe

      I agree. A way needs to be found to tax automation profits in order to level the playing field, or there will be literally no need to employ people at all, and no revenue to support them in other ways. It goes against my instincts too, but like you I can’t see any other way.

      From an economic POV, 95%+ of people are fast becoming irrelevant, but that doesn’t mean that they (we) can be stripped of all assets and simply be allowed to starve to death.

    • GreenWin

      Naa. Socialists love central planning and central power structures. That’s way old hat! But social consciousness embedded into market economies is plausible and likely to continue.

      • That is why I said a modified version of socialism. Other than that, do you have any better alternative to the robotics takeover?

        • invient

          Libertarian Socialism actually does exists… economist Richard Wolff proposes this system, with a shorter work week to have full employement and a livable wage… Basically it is extending the vote to everyone involved in a corporation, so the workers have a vote as well (dont think outsourcing would happen then)

          • Greg Slade

            For true socialism to work on a large scale you need an AI in charge.

            • HeS

              A new kind (intelligent) of slave?

            • invient

              I agree, any system with humans involved can be corrupted… An ai could handle allocation quite well.

    • HeS

      @:”The only way our world will survive the coming robotics takeover is to move from capitalism to socialism.”

      ??? I lived in socialism. I do not recommend.

      • Great Einstein, do you have any other way around the coming robotics takeover?

        • Iggy Dalrymple

          The obvious answer to the robotic takeover is to vote for more GimmeCrat candidates. It will work until the system collapses, maybe not so long off. That’s when GimmeCrats start eating each other. I predict it will start inside the D.C. beltway

        • HeS

          I have no idea, but the transition to socialism is a bad idea (tested). Maybe there is a “third way”.

          • Well until you have this thrid way, I can only see some form of socialism coming.

            invient meantioned Libertarian Socialism proprosed by economist Richard Wolff. In the end we will need some kind of redistribution of wealth of some sort. If not half of the population or more could end up starving or homeless. Weather it’s done by consensus or not.

    • George N

      The more robots are adopted by industry, the cheaper robots become, the cheaper robots become, the cheaper goods become, the cheaper goods become, the less we need to work and the more time we will have to devote to the non-profit sector and help other people. Socialism interferes with localized self organization due to regulations and developed centralized dependencies. So socialism, although it sounds moral, it really is not, and private capitalism sounds immoral, it is really the closest form of organized morality that we can experience in this life

      • Well perhaps not traditional socialism, but at least some form of redistribution of wealth.

  • Pekka Janhunen

    Net-enabled antitech belongs to LOL basket for me…

    • Greg Slade

      I fail to see how 3d printed anonymous weaponry and 3d printed explosive devices are funny when used against anyone.

      • Pekka Janhunen

        I mean that a person who uses the Internet (instead of shouting on the street) to spread antitech propaganda is self-contradictory to the point of being ridiculous. The modern world is enabled by science and technology, by research done not too many decades ago, and we are living extremely good lives compared to previous generations. The poor will always be with us only because someone (mass media?) has agreed to measure poverty in reference to the median. “The general was shocked when they told him that half his solderes have below median IQ…”

        “Who wants to strike, he finds a weapon.” If someone wants to do evil, he will, regardless of technology. Example: Ruanda. But if he thinks half a step further, he might realise that violence is perhaps not such a terribly good idea after all…

  • DP

    Either cut the workweek now or get ready for a race to the bottom for the fewer jobs that remain.

    • Good luck on reducing workweek in the US, unions are almost dead.

      • Greg Slade

        Depends if you are talking about unions for workers rights or unions for buying products, a global union for boycotting a specific company would put them out of business, not to mention a global terrorist union in the case of something like….lets say starbucks employeed only roboti employees, worldwide, a global petrol bomb starbucks campaign at 13:00 on Saturday night est might put them out of business.

        • Iggy Dalrymple

          Why not boycott the most mechanized industry of all, agriculture?
          Just quit eating.

      • DP

        Its gonna happen.

        Sent from my iPad

    • Daniel Maris

      I agree.

      And the robotics age will I predict change our politics completely as it will reveal the structure of our economics. Robots don’t really add value because they have no claim on society – they aren’t paid. People are paid.

      We will I think soon see a revival of interest in reducing the working week. We need to move rapidly to a four day and then a three day week. Once we are at a three day week, that will radically transform society. For instance, couples raising children won’t need childcare – they will be able to provide childcare for free themselves as they alternate their three day working week.

  • S

    For anyone interested in seeing Watson IBM at Jeopardy

    • I would ask Watson questions like, “What is the purpose of life; and don’t give me a canned answer; what do you really think?” Or, “What do we call it when we see Al Gore flying around in a big jet?” Or, “What is experience?”

      • I am pretty sure I can get more insightful information when I ask these questions google than most people..

      • GreenWin

        We call it, “Al is special. Shutup Roger!”

  • Society must solve the problems/benefits of productivity
    increases. Since 1980 productivity has
    increased 80%, “arithmetic mean” wages have increased by 10%. This “mean” worker must also get the benefit
    of the robotic revolution, or there might be a different ugly kind of
    revolution. What do you suggest?

  • Gedo

    Robotics destroy the economy ,man’s natural life , and employment.

    The more science is the more sufferance for human life.

    • AlainCo

      we need the wealth, the wages, not the work.

      If a robot produce the same good, just have to distribute the wealth to the now lasy workers around. If you cannot distribute wealth that is anothe problem, but don’t blame robots. read books on economics and politics.

      Guess why the developing countries start to develop when they uses farming machine, then factory machine, then like today in china : robots…
      Are South Korean less happy than when they were poor…

      if you were right we shoul be more comfortable in our farm, working 14hx7days, for not enough to grow tall.

      Your opinion is very common, because it is what seems evident if you don’t see the loop.

      the problem is not robots, it is first there there is not yet enough robots in china because farmer are too poor, and prefer to work in factories, and second it is that in western world we try to save the old jobs instead of training workers for the new jobs…

      it is rational to fight against horses to save the job of walkers?
      maybe the best is to give a horse to everybody instead, and even better to teach people to grow, tame and use their horse, instead of protecting their slavery status.

      it is because of machine, robots, that we can find time to lose time on internet, go to the moon, look at TV, ear music.

    • Peter Roe

      Sorry AlainCo – I have to agree with Gedo. Given the current structure of society, there is a point where increasing automation becomes an agent of destitution and serfdom with zero benefit to the general population – and we are close to it, or in fact have probably passed it.

      Given benevolent governance, the rise of automation could have led to the sort of world you project, where everyone has increasing leisure and resources to experience the better things in life. Instead we are firmly locked in another world in which increased profits benefit the very few, and people without the highest levels of specialised skills are literally redundant – surplus to requirements.

      There are very few jobs outside designing and building robots that are
      safe from the prospect of automation. Coming soon I imagine –
      supermarkets where the shelves are stacked by
      robots, and the ‘checkout assistant’ is also a robot. Just put your
      card in a slot and carry away your bags. In other words, the days of one
      of the last jobs available to virtually anyone are limited. Also as
      this process continues, Government ‘takes’ from income taxes, ‘national
      insurance’ and the like will fall because robots do not pay taxes,
      meaning that there will be less and less money available for social

      Probably the only limiting factor to this shift is that if you don’t allow people enough to buy the products being manufactured, then you can’t sell what you make, and profits tumble. Unfortunately there is little indication that the PTB plan to allow the ‘useless eaters’ to survive, let alone thrive. In their eyes, money is all they need, so what is the point of giving it to the oiks so some of it can return as profits? They probably imagine that with a sufficient degree of automation, and a small workforce of serfs, that all their needs and desires will be met, so there is no need at all for the ‘masses’ to continue to exist.

      In the modern context therefore, automation may be inevitable, but in essence the Luddites were absolutely right. Unless governments act to ensure that a proportion of the additional profits deriving from automation (and from very cheap energy hopefully coming soon) are collected by the State and used for the benefit of its people, there is no hope at all for people who do not have the skills the elite require. If they are lucky they will be fed enough to stay alive, and provided with shoeboxes to live in – but the signs are that this is probably rather too much to hope for.

      • Joel C.

        You are very wrong.

        • Peter Roe

          Perhaps you should say why you think that?

          • Joel C.

            The part about Luddites being “absolutely right.” :op

      • Bob

        You must be kidding.
        The solution to this problem is to give *everyone* money, whether they work or not (see “basic income guarantee” and the few experimentations on it – if you pay people to do nothing, they are *not* sitting on their asses all day, a good majority of them are actually inventing stuff, performing art, etc.). If robots are doing a job and producing goods that before needed to be paid for to humans, then it means that this money can now be distributed freely to the same humans instead – without them needing to work.
        And the money *is* there, it’s just that it’s only in the hands of an extreme minority (and it’s getting worse and worse).
        The real problem is that there must be fundamental changes in the way society perceive “work” (right now, people without a job are badly considered). Also, income disparity must be reduced greatly.
        All that being said, I’m personally afraid these changes won’t be possible without a blood bath, as income disparity is becoming worse and worse and the right 1% will not give their money freely away (when they clearly should – if most people are starving and you have thousands of times more money than the poorest people, then you are criminally selfish).

        In any case, don’t blame robots/tech: this is an amazing thing, as we might finally be able to soon remove the need for humans to actually work (at least on non-interesting, non stimulating tasks – and even then, those will eventually get replaced too).

        • Peter Roe

          “You must be kidding”

          No I’m not, and I don’t blame robots or the people who design them. In fact your own analysis pretty much supports what I said – the root of the problem is an uncaring wealth-based elite who see no problem whatsoever with grinding the rest of the population into the dirt. Without a fundamental change in the way society works – which will inevitably involve massive civil strife – full automation of the means of production and distribution is simply untenable.

          If no such revolution takes place, or if it is lost (as seems likely, given the balance of forces) the outcome must be the collapse of democracy, massive depopulation and serfdom enforced in police states for the survivors.

        • Carl White

          “we might finally be able to soon remove the need for humans to actually work (at least on non-interesting, non stimulating tasks – and even then, those will eventually get replaced too)”

          And then what do we do?

          Do you really look forward to a lifetime whose only purpose is hedonism? And living among people doing the same?

          It would be like existing as a perpetual infant, bathed, fed and soothed by robots. Wow, and people think the young are spoiled and entitled now. Humanity isn’t meant for this. It would rot into something horrible.

          • Bob

            No, it wouldn’t. And the only purpose wouldn’t be hedonism. Personally, on my free time, I do free software development, electronics, CS research, etc… and I *hate* that I have to work instead of being able to pursue my hobbies full time (especially since it’s very likely what I do on my free time is more beneficial to society that what I do actually working).
            Most people would do the same – if you don’t have to work, you find other things to do. Art, science, exploration, educating oneself on a variety of subjects just for the heck of it. You say “humanity is not meant for this” – what I read is “this has never been the case in humanity history and I’m afraid of change so I’ll just firmly hold to the belief – without any basis – that this wouldn’t work”.
            With that kind of view, humanity was not “meant to” live in huge cities either, or to have electricity, or atomic power, or modern medicine. Humanity was not “meant” for anything – we appeared as the result of chaos, a random occurrence in a random universe. It’s up to us to decide what we will become – including changing our own species and eventually stop being recognizably “human” at all.

            All of this is nothing new – post scarcity societies have been explored and talked about by authors, economists, sociologists, and many other people over the last century.

            • Carl White

              “Personally, on my free time, I do free software development, electronics, CS research, etc”

              Why bother if a robot will do it, faster and better? It would be like being a kid doodling with waterpaint. Fun for a while but essentially pointless.

              “With that kind of view, humanity was not “meant to” live in huge cities either, or to have electricity, or atomic power, or modern medicine.”

              Irrelevant in the sense that, at all times, there have still been challenges. To survive and succeed required one’s own efforts. The robotic society clearly takes this away for the first time in human history.

              What happens when people no longer exert effort? Their minds and bodies atrophy.

              • Bob

                “Why bother if a robot will do it, faster and better? It would be like being a kid doodling with waterpaint”

                It would absolutely be like that, yes (especially with eventually smarter-than-human strong AI, although there could probably also be ways to improve the human intellect dramatically in artificial ways). But then what ? you do it for the sheer pleasure of it. Your acts do not need to have purpose – or rather, the very fact that you’re taking pleasure from learning, creating stuff (even if there are entities that can do it 100x better than you) is a purpose in itself, and a purpose worth living for, IMHO.

                I strongly believe that learning stuff, experimenting, discovering (even things that are strictly non-new) can naturally be a pleasure in itself for people. If there is no longer any need to exert effort, you will do it for the pleasure of it – I also believe that mostly, a lot of people associate “efforts” to “bad” because they simply aren’t doing things that are enjoyable to them – enjoyable while being constructive and productive. Then again, I may be totally wrong, but the (admittedly very few and limited in score) experimentations with basic income tend to suggest that is indeed the case. Anyway, this revolution *is* coming and I guess we will see if that holds true 😉

                • Bob

                  I meant “admittedly very few and limited in *scope*”, not score, of course. Sorry 😉

        • AlainCo

          the usual way to do that is that the engineers that maintain the robots are well paid, or they get on strike and the boss would be sad.

          workers can also invest some of their wages in buying a robot, a share… call that a pension fund, workers capitalism, shared property of the enterprise…

          ask the korean that were producing cheap gadgets in the 90s, how they now design mobile phone ?

          As to the chinese who work on netrino detectors, who on average earn more than 10000$/year, if they are afraid of productivity increase?

          the sharing is done by two way. the first, automatic is that money earned is used to invest in other companies and thus to buy and give work or that it is consumed… the only question is where. problem today is that it is in Asia and Germany… why ?

          The second way is taxes that redistribute wealth (not all taxes do that… some simply give a service at a honest price, but don’t redistribute).

          money does not exist when it is not used (it cause deflation when people keep money uninvested, and bank don’t use it).

      • Iggy Dalrymple

        Why would anyone build a grocery store when none of the customers would have a means to buy your products? Answer: people get creative when they get hungry. We went from 96% agrarian society to 2 or 3% without much trouble and without much central planning. Give people a little credit. They can adapt. GimmeCrats can trade ObamaPhones for food.

        • Greg Slade

          People also get violent when they are hungry, 3 meals away from a revolution and all that