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The one issue I have is that frequently people don't take into account that there are people who aren't capable of benefiting from any level of training/education.   When I was 16, I worked a fast foo

Yeah, when I need help over the phone and I am in a hurry, the last thing I need is a f*cking choose your own touch tone adventure.

Can't recall the numbers, but I think it's something like 40% of adults getting money from the government with only 60% paying taxes. That's a problem. Time to bring back the bubonic plague, because

The one issue I have is that frequently people don't take into account that there are people who aren't capable of benefiting from any level of training/education.

 

When I was 16, I worked a fast food job. There was a guy I worked with, super nice, but he was barely smart enough to wash the dishes at Boston Market. We can try to train people like that all we want, but there's a point where you just have to accept that some people aren't teachable. I mean, heck, average intelligence is 100. That means for everyone you know who's above that, there's someone equally below it.

Is there any job that isn't automatable? Because "basic income" from our own labor may be something none of us can safely rely in the future. What will we humans do when software does all the white collar jobs for us, and robots do all the blue collar jobs for us?

This is something I think about a lot; most problems, I see humanity overcoming, but this... this genuinely makes me a little future-nervous.

 

From a philosophical standpoint, I think anybody who works a full work-week should, at a minimum, not have to worry about real food (i.e. more than ramen or Hot Pockets), shelter (studio apartment or shared larger units), utilities (including Internet), and transportation (including public transportation). From a practical standpoint and personal experience, I know that what Fozzie says is 100% true. There are a lot of people -- many of them the very people we want to help -- who still won't be able to survive on a "living wage," simply because of bad choices and the inability to manage their resources responsibly. Honestly, what I see happening is:

  • Businesses hiring fewer people: some of the people currently working in low-wage jobs would now be unemployed.
  • The same pool of people still needing assistance once a state of equilibrium is reached: some people without work, some people making the new "living wage" still unable to make ends meet.

It is a disheartening view, to say the least, but the only stuff I ever read that tries to convince me otherwise comes from social scientists who really, really, really want a living wage, higher taxes, and coerced charity to "help" the lower socioeconomic classes. They're definitely trying to sell me something, and it's something that contradicts my own experiences.

 

Then I read stuff about reaching full automation and such, and start thinking "What does it even matter if we're just going to have droid dishwashers in 15 years anyway?" and wonder how the eff society is going to adapt to a huge swath of people who are doing basically nothing. I have faith that it is something that Western Culture can eventually adapt to, but I don't see how the process isn't going to be extremely messy.

 

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RELEVANT ASIDE: I read an article about a Blue county in Kentucky turning Red simply based on Republican candidates promising to cut benefits, because people were getting sick of "Cousin Bubba" sitting at home playing XBox all day, cashing government checks, spending all his extra money on alcohol and meth, rather than clothing for interviews or schooling/training. What was interesting about this political shift was the fact that for the first time, sociologists could not blame the desire to cut benefits on racism (this was white people not wanting to pay benefits to other whites). And what was tragic about this, to me at least, was the fact that the author's lament was not the inefficiency of the system and fact that people were basically frittering away other people's money -- he was upset that these people didn't often turn out to vote Democrat and keep their benefits. I don't think he was a political hack, but he did not seem to have any interest in figuring out how to help these people get and hold jobs; it was all about keeping bennies. Maybe he had already given up and reached the conclusion that the least bad solution is just to give these folks food for money and shelter and hope they stay out of trouble? What Fozzie and Destiny said is true, after all...

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Guest El Chalupacabra

We'll still need software engineers!

Which will be filled by all those engineers in China and India., And with automation, they will need less of them.

 

Pav does have a point, and it is a good one.

 

However, I think there is a point at which present technology prevents most jobs requiring human contact, decision making, critical thinking, mentoring, and emotional interaction. For now, they are safe. This is because AI is not smart enough to replace humans....yet, but give it 15 or 20 years!

 

That all said,I think we may see a point at which humans also reject automation. You need not look further than when you call your bank or doctor, or whatever telephone customer service you want to name. People HATE talking to robot voices. When given a choice, they will press 0 for a human. If not given a choice, they will go to a similar business that will offer that choice. The same is true for all kinds of customer service, management, professional jobs like finance, police, fire dept, the medical and health care industry, sport, entertainment, education, archiving, museums, research, etc, etc, etc. People require human interface. It's the very low level repetitive task production type jobs that don't require much human interaction that are in danger from machines. Also, and I think we may have talked about the uncanny valley in another thread a while back, but that is definitely another obstacle for automation, because the closer a machine looks to being human, the more people are going to freak out and be anti-machine.

 

People have been pondering this question really since the birth of the computer, and the automated assembly line, and humans haven't been replaced yet. The nature of what work is needed may end up changing, but there is always going to be a need for work that can only be done by humans.

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I think we may see a point at which humans also reject automation. You need not look further than when you call your bank or doctor, or whatever telephone customer service you want to name. People HATE talking to robot voices. When given a choice, they will press 0 for a human. If not given a choice, they will go to a similar business that will offer that choice.

Very true. Phone trees and "Internet Only Customer Service" drive me nuts, and I don't even like most people or human contact. I can't remember the company (I think it was a credit union), but I read an article about investing in just a few customer service reps to answer phones, resulting in like 10% as many angry complaints. I don't know if it ended up saving money by retaining customers and referrals, but it definitely improved the environment. Odd its biggest effect would be in improving office environment, but I imagine if you're the guy who has to respond to pissed off emails and voice message all day, you'd probably want to kill yourself less. The service industry will probably (hopefully!) never be in danger.

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People say they hate talking to robot voices, but they don't actually do anything about it. If they did, huge businesses wouldn't use them and most big businesses do use them. So I don't know that you're right on any of that.

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That's not exactly true.

 

I don't think enough people do anything about it for the largest companies to do anything about it. And if you think about it, it does make sense for the behemoths. If a huge company like AT&T allowed you to talk to a customer service rep as their FIRST option, it'd probably cost them an arm and a leg. I don't even want to imagine how many calls they get per day. I do see a lot of newer, smaller businesses in the Pacific NW use the fact you can talk to a real, live person as a selling point, though, and it is also brought up in recommendations. So it does matter to people and affect their choices to an extent.

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We'll still need software engineers!

Sure, but how many will we need? Only the very, very best will be employed.

 

We'll still need professors, too, but not many. With MOOCs one professor can potentially teach hundreds of thousands of students a semester. After the initial set-up of the online content, there's really only maintenance of the website and Q&A. Not much to do on a regular basis. I'm certainly well aware of how easily I can be replaced and it's slightly unnerving.

 

 

People have been pondering this question really since the birth of the computer, and the automated assembly line, and humans haven't been replaced yet. The nature of what work is needed may end up changing, but there is always going to be a need for work that can only be done by humans.

Yet being the operative word. We may always need some humans to be employed, but how many of the population will be able to count on access to any of that human-required work?

 

Will businesses and/or governments generate make-work to give humans something to do? Doubtful.

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Guest El Chalupacabra

People say they hate talking to robot voices, but they don't actually do anything about it. If they did, huge businesses wouldn't use them and most big businesses do use them. So I don't know that you're right on any of that.

 

That's not exactly true.

 

I don't think enough people do anything about it for the largest companies to do anything about it. And if you think about it, it does make sense for the behemoths. If a huge company like AT&T allowed you to talk to a customer service rep as their FIRST option, it'd probably cost them an arm and a leg. I don't even want to imagine how many calls they get per day. I do see a lot of newer, smaller businesses in the Pacific NW use the fact you can talk to a real, live person as a selling point, though, and it is also brought up in recommendations. So it does matter to people and affect their choices to an extent.

I agree with Pong.

 

Another example, not quite automation, but an outsourcing example, is in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we started seeing off shore customer service phone banks. People often complained about speaking with "Bob" from India, who was trying his darndest, but still had the accent/language barrier. Customers left companies in droves and in an effort to bring those disgruntled customers back, many of those companies started bringing those phone bank jobs back to the US.

 

 

We'll still need software engineers!

Sure, but how many will we need? Only the very, very best will be employed.

 

We'll still need professors, too, but not many. With MOOCs one professor can potentially teach hundreds of thousands of students a semester. After the initial set-up of the online content, there's really only maintenance of the website and Q&A. Not much to do on a regular basis. I'm certainly well aware of how easily I can be replaced and it's slightly unnerving.

 

 

People have been pondering this question really since the birth of the computer, and the automated assembly line, and humans haven't been replaced yet. The nature of what work is needed may end up changing, but there is always going to be a need for work that can only be done by humans.

Yet being the operative word. We may always need some humans to be employed, but how many of the population will be able to count on access to any of that human-required work?

 

Will businesses and/or governments generate make-work to give humans something to do? Doubtful.

 

Very true, Pav. Universities and Colleges love the force multiplier that is online teaching. It has a lot of good things about it in that it does allow for instructors to reach more students. In fact part of what I do is help faculty do this, from the tech side, so I do see this from a support side. But you know what, I think there will be a point where we reach critical mass with online teaching, because as the cost of education goes up, so do the expectations of students to feel like they are getting their money's worth in each class. You can't just post a podcast and powerpoint, and upload a couple pdfs for students to read in blackboard, and be done with it. When colleges and universities rely on online teaching a lot more than traditional teaching methods, they run the risk of alienating students, not teaching students as well as they could, or watering the course content down to the point where it's not lessons, but hoops for students to jump through, and the college/university runs the risk of becoming a diploma mill more than a place of actual education. Ever hear of University of Phoenix? !

 

And while mileage may vary from one college or university to another, from what I have seen, is this. Faculty often have issues with technology, which cuts into their ability to teach or conduct a class effectively. This lessens when you have younger instructors more comfortable with the technology and can actually use it (gawd, supporting boomer-age faculty is like trying to walk your grandma through using her computer over the phone...literally!), but the larger the classes become and the more these instructors teach online, the less the personal touch is there. Now it may be different with something like math or physics like what you teach, but with a lot of other topics (like nursing, education, liberal arts, global business, which are some of the types of faculty I have supported) that require a type of instruction and teacher/student interaction that needs to be more personal and has that intangible human quality one can only learn from a mentor, and not a book, adobe connect session, or a power point, the harder the limit is on the effectiveness of online instruction.

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The whole idea of a degree program is soon going to be outdated. When the biggest businesses on the planet are run by people without college degrees, what is the point of them? Not to mention the cost here in the US. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on a degree that can't get you a job, not because you're not good at it, but only because you're not in the, let's say, top 5% of performers in that field (and therefore are not worth employing)?

 

I'm good at what I do, but can't compete with MIT when they're giving their course content away for free. Why would anyone pay me to teach them physics? At best I could count on some income from tutoring and Q&A sessions about the content of the courses. That's hardly a comparable source of income for me, and probably not as reliable.

 

Where's the bottom of the automation trend? I don't see one. If there isn't one, we'll all need a basic income.

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Guest El Chalupacabra

The whole idea of a degree program is soon going to be outdated. When the biggest businesses on the planet are run by people without college degrees, what is the point of them? Not to mention the cost here in the US. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on a degree that can't get you a job, not because you're not good at it, but only because you're not in the, let's say, top 5% of performers in that field (and therefore are not worth employing)?

 

I'm good at what I do, but can't compete with MIT when they're giving their course content away for free. Why would anyone pay me to teach them physics? At best I could count on some income from tutoring and Q&A sessions about the content of the courses. That's hardly a comparable source of income for me, and probably not as reliable.

 

Where's the bottom of the automation trend? I don't see one. If there isn't one, we'll all need a basic income.

Couldn't disagree with you more. While I am totally with you on the principle that a piece of paper doesn't make you qualified and it doesn't replace actual knowledge and experience, the current trend in higher education seems to be over credentialize EVERYTHING. If it takes a high school diploma to do the job, a BA is better right? If it takes a BA, then a Masters has got to be even more ideal! Hell, colleges and universities HAVE to push this, in order to justify their existence for having raised tuition!

 

I've seen it where I used to work at my old job...a certain dean clashed with a certain provost. Said dean left the university and went to another one (making even more $$$$, i might add!). When that dean left, she also took all her top earning researchers, leaving the college she left, gutted, and bleeding money. Further problems arose when the remaining research faculty were snubbed by the new dean and her regime, so they either retired, left for greener pastures, or simply stopped putting in grant proposals, and marked time or took sabbaticals until they could retire. Hell they had tenure, they could do that! Two years go by. The college realizes it's in deep sh*t financially. It starts offering online courses to boost enrollment. Their new mantra was "as enrollment increases, so does the quality of education," (an actual quote)! Still, money was tight, and benchmarks weren't being met. So what does the new regime do? Promote a toxic work environment, triple down on the amount of administrators and pay them disgustingly high salaries, and force out the malcontents (AKA the long time employees). That always works, and gets you back into the black, right? Not this time. So, Plan B was create a bunch of new degrees from nowhere, to capture the students they were losing, because they weren't qualified for the traditional programs! Now, what these new students were actually going to do with these new degrees, no one knows. In fact, they are still so new, the industry hasn't absorbed them yet, except I heard from a student adviser friend of mine that a lot of these students are now filling jobs related to those degrees, except they USED to be jobs that only required high school diplomas.

 

The result was you now have these college grads spending tens of thousands on a new, made up degree. The industry absorbed these grads by hiring them, now preferring these bachelor degree students over the previous applicants, even though before the creation of these programs, it only required a high school diploma. The result: over-credential-ization.

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That's not exactly true.

 

I don't think enough people do anything about it for the largest companies to do anything about it. And if you think about it, it does make sense for the behemoths. If a huge company like AT&T allowed you to talk to a customer service rep as their FIRST option, it'd probably cost them an arm and a leg. I don't even want to imagine how many calls they get per day. I do see a lot of newer, smaller businesses in the Pacific NW use the fact you can talk to a real, live person as a selling point, though, and it is also brought up in recommendations. So it does matter to people and affect their choices to an extent.

Sure it does. So does ending the name of your business with a Z instead of an S, or calling your food truck "artisan" or changing the font on Burger King because it makes it look new and fresh. But at the end of the day, most people are going to bank with Chase, insure with State Farm and get a Verizon phone. Because they don't give a shit about robots. And nobody gives a shit about the outliers who claim they want human contact, those people, unless they're a hundred years old, just want to be different and stick it to the man because the whole robot voice is connected with big business.

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What we need is a predator. Some kind of vampire or werewolf type, that can hunt and prey on humans. It'll drive the population towards an equilibrium, and raise demand for courses on how to avoid predators. That's what we need.

 

Now we just need a mad scientist or two to start working on breeding these human-predators...I'll be in my lab.

Just start the zombie apocalypse, and nature will sort itself out. Survival of the fittest, and under those conditions (the grid falls, no consumer goods produced, back to hunter gatherer packs), most would not survive. The earth will be cleaned out in a generation.

 

..you will just have to have a cure for the ZA in place to protect the New Society.

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The reason people don't like the robot phone trees is because they don't problem solve. Your phone tree only helps with typical issues, like making payments via phone. That's why people hit 0 to talk to a real live person.

 

I get on the phone with my health insurance regularly, because they constantly deny a claim that they shouldn't deny because the medical code is named in a manner that makes them think they should deny it. So every couple of months, when my son needs a new lens, I have to call them because their claims person or claim robot auto-denies. I've asked them to put notes on the account, flags, whatever they can. But the claims people go on auto-pilot and I have to make a 30-minute phone call. (Part of me suspects they're hoping I'll miss it and won't call and they won't have to pay, but after 6 of these calls, they should really know better by now.)

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Pong! as a kind of aside I think that unions are one reason we have not gone full automated. The other reason is sheer stupidity. Taco Bell tried in some markets back in the 90s a kind of automated ordering kiosk where you would punch in your order and pay without a cashier by pushing a few buttons and swiping a card but lack of reading comprehension lead to people being confused as to what the difference between a hard taco and a soft taco. Seriously. So they gave up on this platform because it lead to more remakes of food orders - not because it was made wrong but because people are genuinely too stupid to remember they were "allergic" to lettuce when they were punching their order in because they were overwhelmed by the new "technology". The other issue of course is a machine couldn't keep an eye on the lobby so it wasn't as kept up as well or some illegal things happening.

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That's not exactly true.

 

I don't think enough people do anything about it for the largest companies to do anything about it. And if you think about it, it does make sense for the behemoths. If a huge company like AT&T allowed you to talk to a customer service rep as their FIRST option, it'd probably cost them an arm and a leg. I don't even want to imagine how many calls they get per day. I do see a lot of newer, smaller businesses in the Pacific NW use the fact you can talk to a real, live person as a selling point, though, and it is also brought up in recommendations. So it does matter to people and affect their choices to an extent.

Sure it does. So does ending the name of your business with a Z instead of an S, or calling your food truck "artisan" or changing the font on Burger King because it makes it look new and fresh. But at the end of the day, most people are going to bank with Chase, insure with State Farm and get a Verizon phone. Because they don't give a **** about robots. And nobody gives a **** about the outliers who claim they want human contact, those people, unless they're a hundred years old, just want to be different and stick it to the man because the whole robot voice is connected with big business.

 

I DISAGREE!
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Also nail on the head concerning phone trees. The more choices the worse it gets trying to accomplish something.

 

AT&T is being a real jerk about my internet lately. I do a dry-loop DSL connection at home and pay 56$ a month and my connection through my router is always - when I use the internet mostly - not lit up so essentially they need to either prorate me some days I can't use my internet or fix it. I have to go through the usually BS talk to the philippino dude who gives me the usual scripted "Check to make sure it is plugged in" thing before I can escalate to a person who can register my issue and try and resolve it.

 

The most frustrating thing is "I am sorry. I did not get that".

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  • 2 weeks later...

I switched health insurance in March of last year. The previous company never sent my 1095-B form. Needs to be available on their website by now (hardcopy needs to be mailed by "early February"). After navigating an incomprehensible phone tree for 5 minutes, I've been on hold for 37 minutes. I seriously want to murder somebody. I won't take it out on the operator, because I understand their company is no doubt run by some miserly dipshit who refuses to properly staff, but fuuuuuuuck.

 

I don't get road rage, but man, do I get phone rage.

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I'm the same way. I used to be prone to road rage but eventually you just expect asshole drivers and accept it.

 

We spend less time on the phone dealing with customer service BS, though, and when we do it can be frustrating as hell. And you're right about not blaming the rep/operator. Usually they're thrown out there with minimal training. I used to be one myself, and it ain't fun.

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99% of the time all that explanation does is waste time, make others wait and annoy the person you are talking to.

 

Hopefully the person who called you back has been fired for helping to ruin society.

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99% of the time all that explanation does is waste time, make others wait and annoy the person you are talking to.

In my case, she emailed me the forms, and it allowed me to complete my taxes today. Finally, I'm in the 1%! She wasn't at all surprised; I have a sneaking suspicion that I was like the 20th person she'd spoken to during the course of her workday with the same exact issue.

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99% of the time all that explanation does is waste time, make others wait and annoy the person you are talking to.

 

Hopefully the person who called you back has been fired for helping to ruin society.

In this case, it got what I wanted done. They didn't give their own people the power to determine anything, despite the fact that they should know what my policy covered, and I called them on it. So I got a call back after leaving that nasty gram that they had approved it. Otherwise I probably would've gotten a form letter in the mail.

99% of the time all that explanation does is waste time, make others wait and annoy the person you are talking to.

 

Hopefully the person who called you back has been fired for helping to ruin society.

In this case, it got what I wanted done. They didn't give their own people the power to determine anything, despite the fact that they should know what my policy covered, and I called them on it. So I got a call back after leaving that nasty gram that they had approved it. Otherwise I probably would've gotten a form letter in the mail.

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Yelling and demanding a call from a supervisor would've probably had the same results and been more efficient.

 

The whole "it isn't you" thing does nothing to help the situation, it just makes you feel better. I hear it all the time, because people are mad about insurance (dude, you hit a parked car and filed this 10 minutes ago, you haven't had time for us to make you mad), and it just wasted time. Simply saying "you can't help me, let me speak to your supervisor and see if they can help" is way less time.

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