Coffeehouse Thread

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What’s good for Silicon Valley might not be good for America

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  • Bass

    http://pandodaily.com/2013/02/26/whats-good-for-silicon-valley-might-not-be-good-for-america/

    I think this article brings up a good point. We might not see it much as technologists (who generally are in high demand in the global workforce, and the demand is only increasing), but the economy is hurting and I don't see how it can just get better by itself.

    Are we to blame? I think so, to some extent. Improved technology and automation puts people out of work. This is why companies can make record profits and still lay off people, they aren't laying people because they have to, but because they can. We want more automation and efficient processes, but what is bad is the increasing difficulty of some to make a living, and the modern economy distributes wealth via human labor which is increasingly becoming less valuable. So how can we fix it?

  • MasterPi

    I think the abundance of silly startups, particularly those concerned with social media, become a poison to our economy. Tech bubble 2.0, etc.. too many people are chasing after the same fads (next FB, iPhone app to do x) instead of really trying to improve the world in meaningful ways. It's sad that most of my graduating peers flocked to SV to use their CS talents at social media startups instead of at tackling real world problems that affect more than just the socially conscious community.

    Re: automation putting people out of work - If a human is doing something that a machine can do tirelessly and more productively, then the machine should be doing it in the first place. But it's bad if a company can't figure out how to better leverage people for their cognitive skills in the case that technology supplants manual labor.  I don't think you can blame SV for a company's poor decision making.

  • cbae

    , MasterPie wrote

    *snip*

    Re: automation putting people out of work - If a human is doing something that a machine can do tirelessly and more productively, then the machine should be doing it in the first place. But it's bad if a company can't figure out how to better leverage people for their cognitive skills in the case that technology supplants manual labor.  I don't think you can blame SV for a company's poor decision making.

    Machines are making human cognitive skills obsolete as well.

    Combine the marginalization of human labor due to technology with this:

     

    and, we, as a society, have a huge problem.

  • Bas

    , Bass wrote

    the modern economy distributes wealth via human labor which is increasingly becoming less valuable. So how can we fix it?

    Is there, or has there been, an economy which distributes wealth via something else? Or, perhaps, had a different definition of "wealth"? Because perhaps therein lies the answer.

  • mstefanik

    That article could have been written in the 1840s about the increased use of technology (like combine harvesters) in agriculture and the broader effects of the industrial revolution as a whole that reduced the need for human labor.

    Even if technology companies in the United States would intentionally reduce the rate of innovation that results in a reduction of the need for human labor, all that would ultimately happen is that more Americans would be improverished as the rest of the world advanced (far) beyond us over the decades.

  • MasterPi

    @cbae: Even if you do believe that we'll have AI that fully matches our cognitive abilities (even imagination and creativity), such an AI won't come into being (at the very least, in the practical sense) for a long time. There's no excuse that companies can't attempt to harness the unmatched abilities in the time before an AI invasion.

    and, we, as a society, have a huge problem.

    Well, surely the problem would fix itself if the current trend continues. But still, it *is* a problem that will only get worse the more we try to help mankind to sustain such population growth.

  • magicalclick

    Scapegoats. We need cheap labor at bare minimal quality. That has been true for hundreds if not thousands of years. It is not technology makes human labor less relevant. It is that human demand too much.

    Leaving WM on 5/2018 if no apps, no dedicated billboards where I drive, no Store name.
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  • DaveWill2

    @Bass: what? There aren't enough days in the week or hours in a day. I'm watching a hockey game right now, not flipping dimes against a barn door (because I can't work cattle or crops in the dark) as would be the case in my lifetime without technology. The article writer uses retail as a metric. When is the last time you heard somebody say they love working retail? Okay, I know a few too and an interaction with a human is far better than hitting F8 and being dispensed a pair of Levi's from a vending machine. Ultimately it comes down to people making a point with their wallet by spending a little more to reward companies using humans and not machines. Will that happen? Beats me. The growth of the Wal-Marts and ATMs at closed banks of the world say no. However, the recent correction regarding outsourced customer phone support says it is possible. A lot of companies complain of not finding the right people for the job they need done. When faced with that, sure they would rather have a tech replacement. They can specify what they want and how it must perform and know that it will day in and out. We as humans just need to get off our lazy butts and be better. But not until this hockey game is over Smiley

  • cbae

    , mstefanik wrote

    That article could have been written in the 1840s about the increased use of technology (like combine harvesters) in agriculture and the broader effects of the industrial revolution as a whole that reduced the need for human labor.

    Humans invented horse-drawn carriages during prehistoric times, and automobiles didn't fully replace them until the 1930s. But we went from Wright Brothers' first flight in 1903 to putting a man on the Moon in 66 years. Whatever concerns there were in 1840 are a hundred-fold more relevant now.

    The reason we even needed a combine harvester is because of the invention of the Haber process. The Haber process is often cited as the single biggest contributor to the human population explosion. We can produce more food than ever before and do it so efficiently that we need fewer and fewer people to do the work.

     

     

  • CSMR2

    @Bass: This is bad economics. Improved technology does affect wages and income inequality. It does not put people out of work (cause unemployment). Unemployment is the failure of demand to equal supply in the labour market. The causes are labour market rigidities - government regulation or imperfect wage adjustment -, taxes and transaction costs.

    Also, currently, it is extremely easy for almost everyone in the world to make a living, owing to new technology which has massively expanded production over the last 200 years. There is almost no starvation in the world. This will not last forever, as human population catches up to the resources available, and to a lesser extent as this production depletes or damages the earth.

  • CSMR2

    @Bas

    Currently labour is more important, but historically ownership of land has been more important. This can be bought with money gained through labour, but also conquered.

  • Bass

    , CSMR2 wrote

    @Bass: This is bad economics. Improved technology does affect wages and income inequality. It does not put people out of work (cause unemployment). Unemployment is the failure of demand to equal supply in the labour market. The causes are labour market rigidities - government regulation or imperfect wage adjustment -, taxes and transaction costs.

    Also, currently, it is extremely easy for almost everyone in the world to make a living, owing to new technology which has massively expanded production over the last 200 years. There is almost no starvation in the world. This will not last forever, as human population catches up to the resources available, and to a lesser extent as this production depletes or damages the earth.

    Don't you see the problem of how human labor is how wealth is distributed, and technology is increasingly devaluing human labor?

    I'm not anti-technology, on the contrary. Like most people here I work in the tech sector and I went into it because I love technology and its ability to help people live more interesting lives.

    That's EXACTLY why I am concerned about this problem, which I view as very real. As we devalue human labor, which I have 0 problem devaluing, we have to ensure we don't devalue humans. And that is exactly what is happening when human labor is so tied to how wealth is distributed in the economy.

    It's a problem that the upper levels of government seem to be full of people who know jack * about tech, so they don't seem to be do anything useful in response. It's going to really f**k up society in unpredictable and possibly violent ways eventually, if this is not addressed.

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