AI or Bust?

Industrial pencil sharpening

From information Week Today 20170613:

Rethink How Humans and Machines Will Work Together

Productivity gains from automation are not resulting in job losses, but are enabling companies to redeploy employees to handle higher-value tasks and a greater volume of work.

Technology vs. labor

Technology vs. labor has been a question at least since the industrial revolution and more likely since the invention of the escapement movement that allowed machines to be made to replace slave labor. Perhaps it goes back further, to the invention of the loom, since now one weaver could build a cloth without dozens of other weavers all helping to hold the thread – the loom held the threads and only one weaver was needed to push the bobbin back and forth to make more cloth, better, faster, cheaper, than was possible before.

But it is always the same question: technology has advanced and a job can be done better, faster, cheaper, by a machine. Human labor is no longer needed, and in fact does the job less acceptably than the machines can do the job, so what role can the displaced humans perform?

In the case of the loom, most likely each displaced weaver simply received a loom and used it to increase their personal productivity and gain. Each weaver is in fact doing a more complex job (using a loom rather than holding one thread) but it is well within the scope of activities in which they are qualified, or can be easily trained, to perform. Woven cloth was at a premium, the market needed much more, and so it was economically possible to advance.

In the case of manufacturing the question is the same but the stretch is greater. A person who can comprehend putting a nut on a bolt or soldering a seam on a gasoline tank (a top of the pay scale job that I did at American Motors) may not be capable of being trained to operate a computer that puts hundreds of nuts on bolts or solders gas tank seams far better than any human possibly could. Physical as well as mental limitations fit in the same discussion.

What is to be done with these displaced humans?

There are three realistic answers:

  1. Nothing – let them have complete leisure paid for by their previous wisdom and financially responsible preparation for their own future by their own savings & investments, or by social support.
  2. Re-train them to do a different, better paying, more productive job, such as running the machines that replaced them.
  3. Euthanasia.

1. Nothing

This is the approach we presently use in the United States when the displaced worker is unwilling or unable to re-train. The result has been a drastically growing population of under employed, unemployed, and unemployable people who have made it their profession to be supported by what was intended to be a very temporary emergency support system. They are basically given Panem et circenses – their basic needs to be happy or at least not rioting – and nothing effective is done to change the situation. The social support system has been expanded to include those who are not even citizens: some are technically criminals illegally living here and others were brought in by government sanction as refugees from radically different cultures, some of which advocate religious and gender persecution and destruction of America.

The professional generational social support person passes on to their children the tricks of the trade to enable the children to better prosper in this system, much as a professional worker would pass on middle class skills and attitudes on how to be more successful from personal productivity to their children. In other words, it has become imperium in imperio an industry within an industry. This has not only enraged working people whose income is decreased through government taxation to support those in genuine need through no fault of their own, but also to support the added burden those who have no apparent interest in ever working to support themselves, those who are here illegally, and those brought in by government who actually may commit acts of terrorism against the very people paying for their subsistence.

In past civilizations this approach has resulted in economic collapse and revolution. The approach is barba tenus sapientes – it may look wise (or charitable or morally superior) but is far from it.

2. Re-train them

In many instances displaced workers can and will be retained to do a better, more productive, better paying job. Historically non-working citizens could likewise be trained. In some cases, manufacturing jobs are being removed from the country so that the displaced workers need far more radical re-training – a person with no high school diploma and no math or organizational skills may be required to become a computer programmer in order to change from a manufacturing industry to an information processing industry. Experience has demonstrated that this is too much to achieve: if more manufacturing jobs can be found the displaced worker must often relocate and compete with other displaced workers for the remaining jobs, otherwise the displaced workers retire if possible or, all other options expended, become perpetually under employed (a skilled assembler working as a janitor) or altogether unemployed.

The dearth of manufacturing jobs in America is the main cause, aggravated by a corporate unwillingness to train citizen workers instead of bringing in “pre-trained” foreign workers legally on H-1B visas or hiring illegal aliens. Reversing this foolish political position by allowing American manufacturing industry – in particular “small business”, those businesses with eight (8) or fewer employees which comprises at least 80% of our economy –  to compete unfettered in the market place would strengthen our national economy, security, and citizen morale. It would make working more attractive to those from generational poverty and with a developed corporate culture of training our own workers and lifetime employment it would become possible for those generational “employees” of the social support industry to join the manufacturing industry suo jure for greater personal confidence, social respect, and financial profit.

In the greater real sense it would help form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, because these are all weakened and at risk when one part of our citizenry is adverse to another from perceived financial deprivation or unfair and unreasonable exploitation such as involuntary extraction of earned income through taxation to support those perceived as unwilling to work to support themselves – e pluribus unum  instead of dividitur labimur.

3. Euthanasia.

In our society euthanasia is presently considered unacceptable when applied to adults and born children, but in a socialist society it is very acceptable – “they do not fulfill the needs of the State” so they are eliminated. I realize that many of you are screaming this is an atrocious idea that should not even be mentioned but abortion of full term viable babies is legal in the US now,  including “partial birth” abortion where the full term baby is allowed to begin birth, stopped before the head emerges, then its skull split open and its brains suctioned out to kill it (yes in Illinois in the US). How much more of a step does it take to justify euthanizing people against their wishes for other reasons? They are too sick, too disabled, or mentally disabled.”They are unable to understand and would want to be dead if they could think clearly.”  It is a slippery slope which we as a civilization should have avoided. This is a socialist concept, not a new Nazi concept – if someone is not considered useful, they need to end rather than burden society. Movies have also discussed this approach – Logan’s Run, as one example of many.

Eugenics figures prominently in this approach also – if a being is not smart enough or physically able enough, to operate contemporary technology, then eliminate them from the gene pool and create / evolve a better human race. This also has been widely discussed for many generations and appears in many media, as one example the Tex Murphay computer game Under a Killing Moon  produced by Access Software. Hitler coded his law on genocide from an Indiana (USA) law that permitted to forcible sterilization of idiots. Eugenics has been a big thing for a long time and it will likely be a bigger thing in the future as more and more generational professional social dependents burden the global economic systems.

On the surface this seems a reasonable approach, but in reality it results in eliminating those who may contribute in unanticipated ways – a paraplegic could still be a genius that revolutionizes science if given a chance. The loss to society from applying this approach could be greater than the gain, and sincerely, since I am an old codger who would rather retire after my 40 years of working than be euthanized so that my real assets and the social security insurance premiums that I have been paying for 40 years to allow me to retire could be reabsorbed by government, I hope it is never attempted.

In Summary

America prospered when it was a nation of people, not politicos. Industry and workers were loyal to each other: workers did not sell company secrets or sue employers, and employers did not have reduction in force, layoffs, or move operations overseas. Lifetime employment was the norm, not the exception, and workers and company saw each other as extended family with company loyalty and identity.

When the attitude of community returns to prominence in our collective and individual mindsets then we, collectively and as individuals, will return to prominence. America is not “Made Great” by building walls or making laws – those are mere side affects. America is “Made Great” by how we think, who and what we value, and our personal and corporate culture of personal independence, community interdependence, and personal loyalty and responsibility. It is not enough to declare “He that will not work, let him not eat” without first honoring “(you say) Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”

People who are not working must become people who are working. I said people, not things. For displaced workers or non-workers, and America, to succeed four things are required:

  1. They must know they will have a better life and be happier if they work than if they remain on social support.
  2. They must gain confidence in and maintain proficiency in the needed hard and soft work skills.
  3. They must have the training, mentoring, and resources needed to apply for, attend, and remain employed at work.
  4. They must be accountable for working and it must be a two way accountability: each worker must be responsible to society for supporting themself and their family with meaningful unsubsidized employment, and society must validate, encourage, and inspire them to grow into productive citizens.

In his book, MY LIFE AND WORK By Henry Ford In Collaboration With Samuel Crowther, Mr. Ford writes:

“It would be quite outside the spirit of what we are trying to do, to take on men because they were crippled, pay them a lower wage, and be content with a lower output. … no one applying for work is refused on account of physical condition. This policy went into effect on January 12, 1914, at the time of setting the minimum wage at five dollars a day and the working day at eight hours. It carried with it the further condition that no one should be discharged on account of physical condition… “.

Ford further writes that he analyzed all jobs in his factories with the intent of identifying those that disabled persons could perform, and be paid, as well as anyone else. He reports the results as follows:

There were 7,882 different jobs in the factory

* 949 were classified as heavy work requiring strong, able-bodied, and practically physically perfect men;
* 3,338 required men of ordinary physical development and strength.
* 670 could be filled by legless men,
* 2,637 by one-legged men,
* 2 by armless men,
* 715 by one-armed men,
* 10 by blind men.

Therefore, out of 7,882 kinds of jobs, 4,034 — although some of them required strength — did not require full physical capacity. That is, developed industry can provide wage work for a higher average of standard men than are ordinarily included in any normal community.

Ford was a leader in industry. He showed and personally demonstrated that non-workers can be employed, he expected to train new workers, made a way for any worker with the desire to advance, and even made certain that he provided the same work and pay to any disabled person who could do the job, even if other employers considered them unusable. Manufacturing jobs are more forgiving of mental capacity than scientific and computer jobs. We need jobs that normal people can do as well as jobs only highly intelligent people can do. And we need to include all willing persons, even those with physical differences that traditionally have been rejected.

We are already a good nation. But good is the enemy of great. We can do better than this. We as a nation and as individuals need to recapture how our forebears thought of work and working. They embraced change. Technology is not our enemy, it brings to us opportunity. In a living society the only constant is change: we must either buy our ticket and ride the train of change or we shall be run over by it.

Let us Make America Greater again, together.