My Security Thoughts – A Panel Discussion
Melvin: Tony/Brian, you both have read my thoughts on automation and that it will have a negative impact on civilization. The paper is located here: http://www.securityorb.com/security-thoughts-mhbjr/. To add into this we have seen the uprising in France from cab drivers against Uber. This has resulted in France ruling that the uberPOP app is illegal though Uber is appealing the ruling it is another hurdle for the service.
Now to me the French are known to protest against things that go against their comfort but are they onto something. Uber maybe the first step on a path to where not only are the cab drivers out of business but Uber drivers become extinct as well with driverless cars.
What will automation do to our world? Will there be no need for the average human? Will life end for those that are not super rich? Where will it end?
We have seen the increase use of drones by the military. They have said that using drones will save lives. That is obviously true but if you eliminate the horror of war for one side then what is the incentive to stop fighting?
Tony: Rise of the SLUHs, eh? Hmmm, I don’t think so! I have had several conversations this last week about technology destroying the human condition. In fact, so much so…that it has led me to coin the term “Stupid, Low Energy, Under-employed Humans”…SLUH. One would use it in a sentence like “Hey Sluh, what you doin’?”
Ok, seriously thought, I mean that’s basically the argument I hear over and over…so let me define the acronym and then get on with it.
- Stupid – Technology is making us/humans stupid, calculators, the internet…omg!
- Low Energy – Technology is making us lazy…just get up and change the channel you lazy human!
- Under-employed – Technology like drones, driverless cars, robots are taking our well paying jobs!
- Human – Technology is antithetical to humans…so take off that damn prothesis and deal with life, you whiner!
If you want to get at my thoughts in detail about SLUHs go ahead, but for the moment I will address your position, Mel. Your position speaks to Stupid (“Will there be no need for the average human?”) and Under-employed (“Will life end for those that are not super rich?”). In short, tomorrow’s average human will be less average than today’s average human. Those average workers displaced by technology will become adept in using and maintaining the technology that replaced them. They will have to adapt to the new workplace that has less labor and more thinking. The good news is that technology is making humans better thinkers and collaborators anyway. Data visualization tools expand our understanding and imagination, the internet and social tools enable collective thought worldwide…this is unimaginably awesome “force multiplying stuff”. The world is full of innovation and opportunity, automation frees up humans to do more of this. We are centuries away from automation leaving no jobs for humans. Hell, we will be off the planet by then!
Hmm, I really don’t have to heart to talk about the efficiency of drones/killing. I have to believe human nature (e.g., compassion et al) is the balancing force against the overall efficiency of war & killing people. And if it’s not then…perhaps we should not live amongst the stars anyway!
Brian: To a certain extent you can see what is happening with the demand for increased wages, and the cost of automation – when you are forced pay $15-20/hour for someone to punch a picture, you start looking for ways to cut costs. You can see it happening, putting kiosks that let the person ordering push the button and get rid of the cashier. With the advent of the government forcing more and more businesses out of taking paper money – you have a perfect storm, where you place your order, swipe your credit card – or cell phone – and you get your burger all by machine – no humans are needed anymore and only screw things up, and more and more places are having the outside order go to India and be sent electronically back to that McDonald’s since that is cheaper than having someone inside take the customer’s order. That is what is happening now – right now they still have humans in the back frying things at some locations, but they are getting rid of the humans in CA where the costs make it prohibitive to have a human due to all of the associated fees that the government is slathering on top of things. Basically, entry level positions are becoming a thing of the past – McDonald’s is seeing it’s profits disappear so it is looking to cut corners as much as possible. So that is one side of the coin, and I see that growing in the future. Most of what used to be “entry” level positions will disappear over the next 5-10 years. The other side of the above trend is that humans are “freed” to do more of what they want when they want – if they can get that nasty how to live day-to-day out of the way. To a certain extent people are working less – since you can’t be taxed on your personal time, so giving less of your money to the government and only working for what they need in increasing and is a trend I see as growing in the future. Look at the people who drive for Uber – they work when they need money, and only when they need money, and a lot of it is “off the books”. I see that trend increasing in the years to come. Now this has other ramifications in that there is less money for infrastructure, and so forth, but when people are earning just enough to “live” how do you “encourage” them to do more, when the taxes make it so that doing more results in less?
You see this a LOT in today’s young men – who are on average working less than ever before, and not marrying or taking on any responsibilities. A man can live on little and doesn’t mind living without a shower and so forth – or showing in the gym- so I see more of this “free-range men” syndrome. Sure there will be people that buck that trend, but it certainly seems to be growing. Men living on the beach in San Francisco are exploding – this is a trend that I think will increase. Sure there will be people who still go the traditional school, and 9-5 but I think they will start looking for less money and more perks – free car, free housing, child-care, etc. – things that can be “written” off or now taxed.
Also, with cars driving themselves we will see more “robots” doing more things that used to be exclusively reserved for humans – I saw a drone fire a gun earlier this week. What will happen when someone uses one to rob a bank? (I expect it in the next few years.) Kill someone? (That will probably be sooner rather than later.) How to you get “forensics” when the criminal is a machine? The government pioneered the use of “drones” and people will run with it – they are already being used for anything and everything. Humans are innovative in ways that you may not want them to be. Of course the government will try to do what they always do – make things illegal, and everyone will ignore it. When everything is illegal – everyone is a criminal. Heck, I saw a thing a few years ago where the average person commits 1-2 felonies every day – yes, felonies. Most of that is due to the stupidity of what is now a crime – I see this continuing…
One area that will explode is the area of 3D printing – they are still doing plastics, but I saw a company experimenting with a type of “liquid-metal” – that will be a game changer. Think about when you can print what you need – need valve? Or something you don’t know what the name is? Print it and use it. They are doing that in a number of places already – auto manufacturing – and that will spread.
Melvin: Let me address Tony’s response first. I was not going down the SLUH road. I don’t feel that people cannot compete or be of use. My reasoning is that automation cost less than paying a human to do the same job. As automation becomes more efficient and cost to automate decrease than more people will be out of work.
I am looking at the future where unemployment is increasing not because we cannot teach people or that they cannot do the work it is just that profit will win in any business so they will let people go. Brian talked about Uber. What happens when Uber uses self-driving cars? Those people that were working when they needed money are now not needed.
I look again at China where there are over a billion people in China. They have an urban unemployment rate between 4 – 4.5%. They do not take into account the 300 million migrant farm workers and there are a number of groups in China that are also not accounted for in their published numbers. Even so we can just look at a company like Foxcom that makes products for Apple and other companies. It employs tens of thousands and is just one of the mega manufacturing companies. As they are able to increase the amount of automation in their factories they will do so. Where will those workers go?
No nation on Earth can count on colonization to alleviate overcrowding and to find another source of trade, new trade that will bring new profit and expansion. Automation can lead to a collapse of the economy. If people cannot work because they are not needed then they will not have any money to buy things to keep the economy moving.
Tony: Hmm, this sounds a bit like the Industrial Revolution argument back in the day. Ok well I guess it all depends on your timeframe, Automation will definitely displace workers but my bottomline is that humans will adapt and move on. I mean this timeframe seems soooo far out…farther out then the industrial revolution. Additionally, we have so much technology that makes the world a smaller community, a community that can better absorb displaced workers. Automation takes time and repeatability, so every industry will not become automated overnight. I just do not see enough automation that will make a dent even close to the industrial revolution.
I do like Brian’s “free range men” though…the graphic alone is pretty funny. Dudes grazing and grifting the country-side. Man, you all are making me think Automation equals the Apocalyse…pretty bleak stuff. I just don’t like the math though; there are so many problems to be solved that need labor and new problems are coming along every day. Automation is a very manufactured thing that takes significant time and planning to move across numerous industries; and we are on the cusp of so many technologies that can change the landscape and job prospects. The automation argument feels like shadow boxing to me…no opponents…the real world will feint, jab and right hook
Brian: Melvin you are correct – Uber is purely a temporary solution – very much like contracting back in the 90’s was – when you could contract to provide something that did X for $Y – the company paying you didn’t pay for your time, but your skills. So if you could do it in an hour, great – otherwise they didn’t care – you had control again and that business model thrived for a while – I made lot as a grad-student during that time. But that situation didn’t last long – quickly the government got involved – too much cash changing hands, and various legalities were put in place to stop it, so that today that type of piece-meal contract work is for all intents illegal, at least in the US although thriving in other countries. It is THE business model in India and places in China for the moment.
But in the US you MUST work for a company – even if you are the company – 1099’s are increasingly difficult and becoming a thing of the past. It’s just a way to up the cost so that fewer people can stay in the game. This country always tries to figure out how to make money off something – because a growing number of bureaucrats are supported by that money. I saw that the US took in more money than ever in taxes this year – think about that for a minute, yet fewer people than ever are working – that is unsustainable, and we are well beyond what the Laffer curve predicted for the point where you discourage people from working (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laffer_curve) Look at how many older companies are now leasing cars for their workers, and I saw one in CA is providing housing if you work for them since they can write it off as a “tax” expense. That is where more opportunities are. I think that is what Uber, and Airbnb are all about – staying ahead of the taxman. Of course, this is a dangerous area as most bureaucrats are – shall we say, less than intelligent when it comes to technology? Or more importantly seeing the obvious ramifications of their laws.
Since I mentioned it, let’s look at AirBnB – that is in direct answer to the high taxes many cities layer on normal hotels, and AirBnb knows it and refuses to release names of the people who are participating in their business model. Why? Because today’s “business” environment for many cities (New York, San Francisco, etc) are unsustainable – it’s obvious, so technology is coming up with ways to dodge the laws and make money while they can – I saw a statistic where more companies are going out of business each year than are being started – which is a first for the US. And it’s been going on for a while. But that only works for so long.
There is an interesting article about China – they replaced 90% of their workforce in a plant and achieved an increase in efficiency of 90% (http://www.techrepublic.com/article/chinese-factory-replaces-90-of-humans-with-robots-production-soars/) That is the way of the future – but where do those 90% who were displaced go for a job? That is the question for the next decade…