Robots Don’t Steal Jobs – People Do

Tom Swift RobotA while back I was having a discussion with a friend about the economy. He complained that robots and mechanization was stealing jobs. I disagreed. Then just last week Dylan Ratigan had a segment on his MSNBC cable show where he talked about how robots are stealing jobs. While I love Dylan and love his holistic viewpoint of the organism that we are, and think he is usually right on, in this case he was dead wrong.

Robots don’t steal jobs, people do.

Let’s imagine a simple work scenario. Let’s say you have a small company; a cooperative with 5 employees, each working 5 eight hour days per week. That is a total of 200 hours of work per week. Now lets say one of the group walks in one morning and says, “hey guys, check it out. I did a little hunting and found this robot which is perfectly suited to do some of the work we do to produce our product.”

Should you be freaked out because your job could be threatened? No. You should be glad that your life just became a little easier.

So, lets say, for the sake of argument, that this robot can be paid for with only a small investment and once up and running it requires very little maintenance. So it turns out that this particular robot can do about 40 hours a week of work that the 5 employees have previously been doing. This is great. In a sane world this is what would happen: The workers, as a group, now only need to do 160 hours of work. 160/5=32. Voila. Everyone gets a day off. You have just entered the world of the 4 day workweek. It really is that simple.

So why don’t we see this. Two reasons pop out to me right now. First and foremost, it’s because most companies aren’t collectives. Let’s say in a similar company to the one above, there are 5 workers and a boss; a boss who prioritizes his or herself over the employees with little concern for their welfare. For that boss the decision is simple. Fire one of the 5 workers, the robot replacing one of them, and all the profit from that robot goes right into his or her pocket.

The second reason is that even in that collective, the workers may choose to continue working 40 hour weeks and with the robot, each would make more money. Now this is their choice. Yes and no. Part of the reason that workers would make that choice is because of the state of the economy and the fact that it is getting harder and harder to make it on the same amount of income. The reasons for this are far outside the scope of this writing but it is essentially because of the same thing. The whole system is topsy turvy and completely out of balance because of the inequities created by those who do not have the welfare of the community at heart.

(see the end of this article for a reference to some information about the disparity between the bosses and the workers and between the wealthy and the rest of us)

I was a teenager in the 60’s. Back then the transistor was just coming into its own. Travel to the moon was a reality. Suddenly color tv was common. Recording devices were improving rapidly. It was a time of innovation. And much of it was available for the consumer to outfit their home or increase their ease of living. I can’t remember now exactly where I remember this from but there was this idea then that in the not too distant future we would no longer need to work 40 hour weeks; less work and more liesure.

We were dreamers. We overlooked one basic human quality. Greed. The bad apples. And that expression, one bad apple spoils the barrel, has never been truer. It only takes a very few people to ruin the game. Money provides tremendous leverage. Just as noise and silence can never co-exist, greedy people, although a minority, with the leverage of money, have the power to really fuck things up for the rest of us.

Robots don’t steal jobs. People do. And if you are tempted to say, “yeah, but the way it is now we all need to work as much as possible and that’s a reality”, well that’s ok. I won’t fault anyone for doing what they need to do to get by, but we can’t get it right if we put the blame in the wrong place.

One last thing. It’s an entirely different thing if you really like to work. And I don’t say that facetiously. I am a champion for peaceful handwork done in a mellow environment at a relaxed pace. It can be very good for the soul and contribute to a good life. I should also say that this article doesn’t address the possible quality differential between robot made products and handmade or closer to handmade work. But, these days most of us enjoy products that need to be made in ways that don’t involve truly pleasant work.

So, in those cases, I make the case. The dreams of the sixties are possible.

The following quote is from an article in the Huffington Post by Bill Quigley.

“In 1973, the average US CEO was paid $27 for every dollar paid to a typical worker; by 2007 that ratio had grown to $275 to $1.”

I’ll bet if we’d heard in 1973 that the CEOs were making 27 times as much as the workers we would have been shocked. The idea of them making 275 times as much is…. is….. – You provide the adjective.

(The picture at the start of this article is from the cover illustration from Tom Swift and His Giant Robot, volume 4 of the Tom Swift, Jr. Series, rendered by Graham Kaye, (c) 1954.)

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Obama Bad

Obama with Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric and chairman of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, a panel Obama created by executive order. (GE paid no taxes last year and has been a major outsourcer of jobs overseas.)



Obama Bad

Shortly after Obama’s election I began to become disappointed with many of his policies, appointments, and approaches. While there were signs of hope early on, it soon seemed to devolve into business as usual. Early on I began to write down some of the things that disappointed me. Little did I know how far reaching my list was to become.

There are people on the left who have expressed disappointment but still “support” him. For me it has gone way beyond disappointment. And there is no way I could possibly support the man.

I hope that with this list, anyone who still supports him, can at least see the breadth of the madness they are supporting. If he was Republican the Democrats would be eating him alive.

Also some food for thought. If he’s this far right while needing support from the left to get re-elected, just imagine when he doesn’t need that support at all.

Please go to the Obama Bad page under “Writings, Poems, and Such” in the menu above to read the list and to download a PDF.

As each item was added to the list I did some research, albeit not deep hard investigative work. I leave it to the interested reader and explorer to do their own research if they are so inclined. It’s just information.

May we find some way to trickle up the decency, justice, and fairness that most of us would like to see flourish in this world.

Be excellent to each other.

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If You’re Not Willing To Commit, You’re Just Taking Up Space

I’m feeling disheartened after Tuesday’s election. Yeah, there was a lot of madness being given voice out there. And some of that madness became lawmakers. Some of it is the evil of greed. Some is blatantly and openly racist. Almost all of it is hypocritical. And some of the madness is of the truly delusional variety. A couple of my favorites are (click to see them) Alan West claiming that he has a security clearance of a level that even the president can’t get and Rand Paul arguing for tax cuts for the rich because we are all one – “there are no poor”. (they both won)

There was an excellent (and fun) piece on the Rachel Maddow show Thursday night about the whoppers that float around the right wing community and are never scrutinized.  As she said there is no internal debunking. There is evidence that these things are not true but it falls on deaf ears. The paradigm of the community of people in that believe-in-whopper world includes the fact that if something is proven false by anybody outside their community, outside of Far Rightville, rather than accepting that evidence, instead it re-enforces their own information, now that the evil bad lefties say it isn’t so.

It’s like they have all the bases covered. It’s kind of a perfect storm; the mentality that anything outside of your clique is invalid. It’s really a high level paranoia. Which is not surprising when one is hypnotized and vulnerable to suggestion.

I once saw a movie, Mirage, where Gregory Peck, one of my faves, was trying to rally a wishy washy friend of his to take a stand. He said, “Wake up Josephson. If you’re not willing to commit, you’re just taking up space.”

That’s what I have to say to the voters who voted Republican, especially those who fell for the appeal of the wingnuts. Now, on the surface you may say, “but they are committed. They felt strongly about something and they did something about it; they voted.” But being committed, by my reckoning has to run a little deeper and be more encompassing.

I once wrote something about the state of the world’s environment saying something about one just taking up space if they don’t commit. A European friend of mine, commenting on that, said she felt that was extreme and could induce a feeling of guilt if you’re not being active in the environmental movement. Which could then lead to a sense of failure and basically giving up altogether, or feeling despondent. Like there is nothing you can do that is going to matter against the great hypnosis of blind consumption and waste and its consequent dross, so why bother.

What’s important here is that commitment can mean many things. We, in simply being alive, are having some sort of impact. And I do believe that being aware of the consequences of our impact is important. But commitment doesn’t have to mean action like spiking trees, or lying down in front of a bulldozer, or even writing representatives or voting. Commitment can be sharing our feelings with friends and people we meet about how things are. Or it can be meditating. Or exuding love energy and appreciation while walking in Nature or taking a deep breath of fresh air. There is energy in our attitudes and orientation. Just being focused on what we believe has the power to effect change.

So, being committed means being awake and aware and allowing your mind and heart to be voices and forces in how you live. As far as just taking up space, I think if you are content being hypnotized by some familiar paradigm and you respond without pause to wording targeted to get your hackles up or to make you complacent, or you’re blindly making choices to avoid the complexity of life, yeah, you are just taking up space.

And, if you have guilt around that statement, well, maybe that’s what guilt is for. To eat away at us a little and tell us that some part of ourselves is not satisfied with where we’re at. (Just try and be clear that the guilt is your own and not what the church, a guru, or anyone else has told you about how you should behave or act.)

For me, this is the lesson of Tuesday’s election. This is not new; in fact “it’s been burning since the world’s been turning”, but the election along with the president’s milquetoast concession that we now need to find common ground and compromise with the new rightwing Congress are an exclamation point. I am an activist by nature. Though I don’t always manifest that spirit in action, I will continue to vote and in some small ways contribute physically. But whether one votes or contributes in another way, I really think there has never been a time on this planet where it was more imperative (meaning imperative as necessary to health and survival; not as a rule or law from above) to commit yourself to living. And to living aware and open; aware of our multi-faceted and dynamic nature and our need to participate.

Yes, I am feeling disheartened. But I also feel charged, like there has never been a time so ripe for something really new. Call me a fool but that’s how I feel.

Be excellent to each other.

See the page poem “Hypnosis, Drip Noses” under the page Poems and Stuff in the menu above.

Finally, check out this. An excellent interview with Jim Morrison by Lizzie James. She asks him provocative questions and he has much to say about personal responsibility to one’s awareness of their surroundings and their own reality. (The interview itself starts a little over half way down.)

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Juan Williams – What’s disturbing about what he said and nobody seemed to notice.

As is so often the case with commentary about politics or society or people’s behavior, the narrative is already defined and when a current event takes place the parameters of the debate, being predetermined, light up and all too often essential points are lost or not even seen. Such is the case with the Juan Williams news story.

As you may know, Juan Williams, the (now ex) NPR employee, was recently on Fox News and talked about his fear or trepidation when he sees Muslims in an airport. He got fired for this. The firing took over the story. But the question behind it was whether he was being racist or was he simply expressing his personal level of paranoia.

Over the next couple of days there were many debates and discussions on tv about this; some taking the he’s just paranoid side and others taking the he is lumping all Muslims together side.

BUT… here is what he said and what nobody seemed to notice.

First, what he said:

“When I get on a plane, I gotta tell ya, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried, I get nervous.”

Click here to see the video.

And what nobody seemed to notice:

He seems to be saying that what scares him is not necessarily that they are Muslims but that they identify themselves as Muslims; that somehow they are flaunting it. And that in doing so they might not have the same priorities or values as, you know, normal American citizens.

It’s like he thinks that when they got up in the morning and were getting ready to get dressed they maybe thought, “should I wear Western clothes today like normal regular people, or should I wear Muslim garb? Yeah, I think I’ll wear Muslim garb. I think  I’ll really get in their face today.”

I think this is the wrong thinking that exposes Juan Williams’ distortion. I use that word because I don’t even want to go to standard labels like the “r” word. I don’t think he has given us enough evidence for that. But there certainly seems to be some fog in his psyche and he clearly has a problem with the diversity of our culture and of mankind.

And finally, even if they were consciously identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, so what. Maybe they love their culture and their religion and those things are important to them. Or maybe they just wear what they do and act the way they do just because that’s how they grew up. Who knows?

So I have no final judgement about whether Juan Williams is a “r”ist. I just think that he needs to mix with the other kids and learn to play better with others.

P.S. – After I wrote the above I scouted around on the web and did find out that I was not alone noticing the garb flaunting aspect of the story. Gina Burgess at The Everyday Christian website had this to say:

“Juan Williams was asked for his opinion and he gave an honest answer, ‘Seeing people dressed in Muslim garb and blatantly pushing Muslim agenda scares me.’ Hey, it scares me silly, too.”

Whether Juan Williams actually said the above quote or not I don’t know. That wasn’t what he said in the segment I saw where my quote of his comes from. But the everyday Christian certainly picked up on the agenda thing, whether they imagined him saying that or not.

I suspect she would also be terrified by seeing someone choosing to have long hair and blatantly pushing their hippie agenda. Or how about those women choosing to wear dresses and blatantly pushing their feminine agenda. Scares the bejesus out of me.

I am also disturbed by the fact that the writer has the audacity to consider themselves an everyday Christian. Were I a Christian I would take offense at that.

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