Will a robot take my job? Wrong question!

I’ve just done a review article for Inside Story. The headline is Will a robot take my job? but the central point is that this is the wrong question to ask. While technology has a logic of its own, what really matters is our current set of economic and social structures, the financialised version of capitalism commonly called “neoliberalism“.

The article is a review of three excellent books:
2062 by Toby Walsh;
Made by Humans by Ellen Broad; and
The Future of Everything by Tim Dunlop

Read my review and buy the books!

5 thoughts on “Will a robot take my job? Wrong question!

  1. Today;
    abc .net.au/news/2018-09-28/cadbury-tasmania-job-losses-reaction/10315556
    Blow to Cadbury workforce as humans lose out to robots in pursuit of ‘significant efficiencies’

    JQ in Inside Story “The key question is: who gets to make those choices? Under current conditions, they will be made by and for a wealthy few.”

    Well may he say “by and for a wealthy few”, yet no job function seems immune. Mondelez, who owns Cadbury, were a supporter of a first in advertising… letting a robot ‘make’ the advertisement.
    As pointed out, a human built a model really, not an algorithm. I am sure it used ‘rithmatic.
    businessinsider .com.au /mccann-japans-ai-creative-director-creates-better-ads-than-a-human-2017-3

    I would bet a bridge no robot will take the DJWSI over. A model? algorithm? automated process may, but the finferprints left will be human ( a wealthy few).
    “”Sep 13, 2018
    Mondelēz International Named Again to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index
    Ongoing strong performance driven by focus to deliver business growth while making positive impact on people and planet
    Reflects company’s commitment to accelerate efforts around climate change and reduce its global carbon footprint
    DEERFIELD, Ill., Sept. 13, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Mondelēz International has once again been named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for both the North America and World indices. ….with a strong focus on long-term value creation for shareholders.”” Last phrase says it all.

    Meanwhile the staff are telling Mondelez they are not robots.
    “”Mondelez International Miami Reviews
    Materials Handler
    Advice to Management
    Do something about the work load, not everybody is a robot that can do back breaking work for 16 hours straight.”:
    glassdoor .com.au/Reviews/Mondelez-International-Miami-Reviews-EI_IE628257.0,22_IL.23,28_IM558.htm
    (Remove spaces in links)

  2. So far the tech-bro utopian promise of AI , robotics, smartphones etc has mainly been used to squeeze more from the working classes in a desperate effort to continue the upward trickle of wealth in an environment of chronic diminishing returns on capital in the West. These technologies hold much promise ,but deployed almost exclusively in the service of ruthless style capitalism, have not added much to the overall quality of life over the last few decades. E.g. the average English school child now spends less time outdoors than a maximum security prisoner (who gets 1.5 hrs a day).

  3. Good article, John. It is public policy that will decide if technology gives us a better quality of life, a shorter working week and greater equality OR an immiserated underclass and a greater concentration of wealth, opportunity and power.

  4. Will capitalists steal my labour and my money? Correct question, and the answer is “yes”. Look at the widespread underpayment of wages in Australia and the ubiquitous stealing by the banking and finance cartels.

  5. I think there is potential for a lot of service sector jobs to be lost thanks to the natural superiority of machines at providing the human touch. For now on a touch per dollar basis and in absolute terms later.

    Dealing with humans is a last resort for me. This is due to my being bad with machines but even worse with humans. As machines get better and humans continue to be a type of large monkey an increasing number of people will prefer machines for the superior service they provide thanks to their ability to customize responses to the individual. A call center operator might have to talk to 200 people a day and can only rely on notes that appear on the screen. Learning, if it happens at all, consists of tapping in a few more notes and advancing the number of contacts integer. This is not a problem for a machine which can call up a disturbing amount of information on an individual and are now becoming able to process it in a practical way to facilitate a real time interaction. As a result machines can cut out the weak link in human interactions which is the human.

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