Tag Archives | Unemployment

Are we heading for technological unemployment? An Argument

Altar of technology by zeitfaenger.at via Flickr.

Altar of technology by zeitfaenger.at via Flickr.

This piece was first published on Philosophical Disquisitions We’re all familiar with the headlines by now: “Robots are going to steal our jobs”, “Automation will lead to joblessness”, and “AI will replace human labour”. It seems like more and more people are concerned about the possible impact of advanced technology on employment patterns. Last month, Lawrence Summers worried about it in the Wall Street Journal but thought maybe the government could solve the problem. Soon after, Vivek Wadhwa worried about it in the Washington Post, arguing that there was nothing the government could do. Over on the New York TimesPaul Krugman has been worrying about it for years.

But is this really something we should worry about? To answer that, we need to distinguish two related questions:

The Factual Question: Will advances in technology actually lead to technological unemployment?

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Pyrrhic Victories: Medal of Honor Recipient Unemployed and Struggling With PTSD

The plight of Capt. William Swenson: Yet another shameful example of how the United States government treats its "heroes". Via Christian Science Monitor:
Since he retired from the Army, Swenson has made no secret of the fact that he has struggled with combat stress. He is currently unemployed, though he has applied to go back to the military on active duty status, and says he often likes to escape to the mountains where he can find solitude. He told one reporter he specializes in Pyrrhic victories – wins that comes at such a devastating cost that they are indistinguishable from defeat.
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The Ugly Truth: What the Drop in Unemployment Doesn’t Tell You.

ratrace

It’s the same game, only harder!

The truth is out.  We are living in a time when a shocking four out of 5 U.S. adults will struggle with joblessness or poverty.  This revelation not only flies directly in the face of another drop in unemployment, but reconfirms what many of us had already known, we’re in trouble.

If you find yourself looking for a job, you’re in an over-crowded market where the young and educated are relegated to jobs well below their intellectual station. This is due in part to the heavy competition at the of the top of the job market among the highly-skilled.  Basically, those left out of the jobs they really want are knocked down a peg, creating what Economist Paul Beaudry calls “cascading.”  The top pushes down on the middle and the middle pushes down on the bottom, burying those who are most vulnerable and under-qualified.

This phenomenon stems from what’s been deemed  The Great Reversal.”  That is, there used to be an over-abundance of high-paying jobs that required skill, intellectual capital and education, but now there just aren’t.  In fact, demand for those types of jobs peaked all the way back in the year 2000.  That’s right, even with all this talk of a “skills gap,” the need for high-skill jobs actually stopped growing 13 years ago.… Read the rest

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Did The Internet Destroy The Middle Class?

destroy the middle classVia Salon, virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier puts forth his argument that it is so:

The photography company Kodak employed more than 14,000 people. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. The number of people who are contributing to the system to make it viable is probably the same. Instagram wouldn’t work if there weren’t many millions of people using it.

So there’s still a lot of human effort, but the difference is that whereas before when people made contributions to the system that they used, they received formal benefits, which means not only salary but pensions and certain kinds of social safety nets. Now, instead, they receive benefits on an informal basis. And what an informal economy is like is the economy in a developing country slum. It’s reputation, it’s barter, it’s that kind of stuff.

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What Would A World Without Work Be Like?

What comes next? Via the Guardian, Nina Power argues that work is becoming obsolete:

As with all major institutional entities – law, prison, education – to question work is to tamper with reality itself. As with law, prison and education, it is almost always “never a good time” to talk about reform, or the abolition of existing structures.

But as wages bear less and less relation to the cost of living, it seems as good a time as any to ask if the underlying fantasy is that employers will one day be able to pay their workers nothing at all, because all those issues like housing, food, clothing, childcare will somehow be dealt with in another, mysterious, way.

Against the backdrop of rising inflation, increasing job insecurity, geographically asymmetrical unemployment, attacks on the working and non-working populations, and cuts to benefits – a debate about what work is and what it means has been taking place.

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Jack Welch’s ‘Cook The Books’ Conspiracy Theory

It takes one to know one comes to mind. Tommy Christopher on the tarred former GE CEO’s conspiracy tweet, at Mediaite:

The uninformed perceptions of the voting public giveth, and the uninformed perceptions of the voting public taketh away. After exactly one day of basking in the glow of a hideous-lie-powered victory in Wendesday night’s debate, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was dealt a blow Friday morning when September’s jobs report saw the unemployment rate plunge to 7.8%. Conservatives aren’t taking this lying down, led by Romney booster and former GE CEO Jack Welchwho tweeted that this is all the work of “these Chicago guys.”

“Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers,” Welch tweeted, making the job of Romney surrogates that much tougher by calling them “unbelievable,” and causing a sigh of relief from the members of the bands Styx and Foreigner, who are actually the ones behind the conspiracy to cook the jobs numbers.

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Could A 16-Hour Work Week Save Civilization?

The question is:  If Americans wanted to retain compensation and employment gains between 1987 and 2009, how long would the average American be required to work each week?  Answer:  16 Hours. I was a little reticent to publish this one at first, since it does rather smack of classical Libertarianism (i.e., in the sense of being concerned with "free" time, ergo "liberty"). But then I thought, "What the Hell?"  It's only a thought.  If I give the reader access to all the underlying data they could do whatever they wanted with it and make their own decisons. Would you spend more time at Church?  The average employed American only seems to spend about 45 minutes per week on religious activities.  Imagine how many more God points you could rack up if you had another 23 to play with?...
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Fox News’ Visually Distorted Charts

FlowingData points out a recent graphic from a story on Fox News showing the unemployment rate changes under Obama. The numbers are presumably correct, but do not seem to correspond to the rise and fall of the visual, in which, for instance, 8.6 is a higher number than 8.8 or 8.9. Ah, the “Fox Chart” — what does it mean? Is it a work of postmodern art?

00 Fox

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