Oh dear

Writing in the recent McKinsey quarterly, W Brian Arthur put it this way: “Offshoring in the last few decades has eaten up physical jobs and whole industries, jobs that were not replaced. The current transfer of jobs from the physical to the virtual economy is a different sort of offshoring, not to a foreign country but to a virtual one. If we follow recent history we can’t assume these jobs will be replaced either.”

An economy at full employment has lost jobs which weren’t replaced, has it?

Is it actually necessary to be an ignorant twat to get a job at McKinsey?

Larry Elliot’s also rather failing:

The experience of past industrial revolutions suggests that resisting technological change is futile.

Indeed so. Then:

But there are going to be middle-class casualties too: machines can replace radiologists, lawyers and journalists just as they have already replaced bank cashiers and will soon be replacing lorry drivers. Clearly, it is important to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. Any response to the challenge posed by smart machines must be to invest more in education, training and skills. One suggestion made in Davos was that governments should consider tax incentives for investment in human, as well as physical, capital.

Still this won’t be sufficient. As the Institute for Public Policy Research has noted, new models of ownership are needed to ensure that the dividends of automation are broadly shared. One of its suggestions is a citizens’ wealth fund that would own a broad portfolio of assets on behalf of the public and would pay out a universal capital dividend. This could be financed either from the proceeds of asset sales or by companies paying corporation tax in the form of shares that would become more valuable due to the higher profits generated by automation.

Those past technological revolutions didn’t require such things and we’re all vastly richer as a result of those past technological revolutions. Thus we need a different reaction this time because?

27 comments on “Oh dear

  1. Some governments in various shitholes underdeveloped nations apparently get McKinsey in to help them improve their economy. With the great economic literacy demonstrated above I am not hopeful about the success of such engagements.

  2. “Thus we need a different reaction this time because?”

    Because this time it is simply unthinkable that people whose jobs scanning are taken by machines will be able to do anything else afterwards. They must already be operating at the peak of their abilities, or something..

    Truly the ruling class hate humanity.

  3. What a concentration of really bad ideas we have here:

    As the Institute for Public Policy Research has noted, new models of ownership are needed to ensure that the dividends of automation are broadly shared.

    The main dividends of automation are to the customers. We get those by buying cheaper things. But why should any others be shared at all? Someone invents a robot. Someone else does not. Who should get the profits?

    One of its suggestions is a citizens’ wealth fund that would own a broad portfolio of assets on behalf of the public and would pay out a universal capital dividend.

    What a good idea. We could call this … a pension fund. You know, people put in some money, they buy some shares – dare I say a broad portfolio of assets – and best of all the government doesn’t get to stick its dirty fingers in anywhere.

    This could be financed either from the proceeds of asset sales or by companies paying corporation tax in the form of shares that would become more valuable due to the higher profits generated by automation.

    So basically taking stuff from successful people. So it seems that robots means we still need the same pathetic 19th century socialist solutions to problems that did not exist even then.

  4. But there are going to be middle-class casualties too…Clearly, it is important to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

    So when working class industries close, it’s tough shit. But when middle class jobs are under threat, we must “avoid repeating the mistakes of the past”.

  5. It seems to be saying that everyone is going to be out of work but corporations will become richer. So who is going to buy all the stuff that the robots produce?

  6. …machines can replace radiologists…

    Please show your workings. Who will operate an x-ray machine if not a radiologist? Even an automated x-ray machine can’t guess where to direct the camera in order to take the x-ray. Clearly written by someone who has never seen an x-ray machine, ultrasound or CAT scanner in operation.

  7. I remember reading that some time in the 19th century, the overwhelming percentage of jobs were in agriculture and trades associated with horse transport.
    Now there are hardly any jobs in that sector, but the streets aren’t full of unemployed farmhands and ostlers.

  8. Whilst I agree that the sky isn’t falling in and we’ve been here before, the telecoms and free trade between the west and cheaper economies may be a differentiator.

    Then add the acceleration and lower cost of automation and we may see a rapid equalisation between the expensive and cheap economies.

    Good news for humanity, shit news for middle managers in Swindon.

  9. Ostler. Such a great name. A lousy job, though.

    There was a name for the guy whose job it was to dig the shit out of communal latrines. I’ll be damned if I can remember it, though. Trench something, I think.

  10. “Dunnikin diver.”

    Early days of gunpowder it was also the sort of thing where a royal monopoly might be granted to an area. You get to charge householders for the service on condition that you reclaim the saltpetre.

  11. “…would pay out a universal capital dividend. This could be financed either from the proceeds of asset sales…”

    Er, what?

  12. “due to the higher profits generated by automation.”

    Really? ISTM that thus far, automation requires a level of standardisation, which gives a level of interoperability. This is not a barrier to entry. Hell, it opens up new ways to compete. There might be a first or second mover advantage, where a firm generates or attracts very large amounts of money indeed, but that’s not in itself synonymous with very large margins.

  13. Edward VII discontinued the post of Groom of the Stool, but I see that the military still require such support

    –8. Field latrines
    Commanders will ensure that their units conduct waste disposal. Chemical toilets are the preferred means of disposal.
    FM 21–10 provides information on new portable chemical toilets that the unit can obtain and employ. Larger chemical
    toilets will be brought as far forward in the theater as possible, METT–TC permitting. Field latrines will be maintained
    by user personnel. Commanders will use HNS and Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) to support
    corps rear- and theater-level Soldiers. Disposal of waste will be performed by the Corps of Engineers. Only under
    restricted or emergency conditions should field expedient measures outlined in FM 21–10 and FM 4–25.2 be followed by field sanitation teams or the individual Soldier. The containerized latrine system may be deployed as a stand alone system or as part of the force provider latrine operation.

  14. “Is it actually necessary to be an ignorant twat to get a job at McKinsey?”

    Overheard in an airport lounge:

    “Do you have to be a total economic idiot to work at Company X?”

    “No, you merely have to be a total idiot.”

  15. Full disclosure.

    I shared an office with William Hague when he was at McKinseys working for a mutual client in London back in the 80s. I was not at McKinseys.

    He was a cvnt, who made a few cock ups in his work which the client did not appreciate. Even blamed me for one of his mistakes to get himself out of a hole in his modelling logic when I was not present to defend myself.

    The catch phrase around that office was “don’t be vague, ask for Hague”

  16. Was the ostler required to create the post of barista, burger-flipper or call-centre cowboy? Could anybody no matter how smart in the era of ostling imagine those jobs? No? Well that’s how likely we are to be able to map future employment. And what’s more, it isn’t our job to do so or to worry too much about it.

  17. On the subject of rubbish jobs, I’m glad “tanner” didn’t feature in my careers advice guidance.

  18. “One suggestion made in Davos was that governments should consider tax incentives for investment in human, as well as physical, capital”

    Tax incentives? Great idea, we could allow businesses to deduct the cost of employing and training their workforce in calculating profits.

    What, we do that already?

  19. “Thus we need a different reaction this time because?”

    Because Guardian writers and their friends might be losing out this time.

  20. Even blamed me for one of his mistakes to get himself out of a hole in his modelling logic when I was not present to defend myself.

    Politicians, eh?

  21. ‘Clearly, it is important to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.’

    Wuh? What mistakes?

    ‘Any response to the challenge posed by smart machines must be to invest more in education, training and skills’

    More government is what we need! But that was the agenda before this “crisis” came along.

    So, we have a Lefty trying to overlay his agenda with current events. It’s not about automation; it’s about his agenda.

  22. “machines can replace radiologists, lawyers and journalists”: glad to hear about the last two. About the first: I guess that it’s a reference to automating the interpretation of the images. I don’t find it difficult to believe that that might happen. I hope the “teething troubles” are ironed out before it’s applied to pictures of my insides, though.

  23. I find the recent hysteria about “robots are going to take our jobs” hugely amusing. Given that my core field is industrial automation, and over the last twenty years I’ve probably destroyed a couple of thousand jobs all by myself. And it was a pretty mature field when I went into it. And an ongoing process for hundreds of years. This is supposed to be news?

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