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Subject:  Re: Creative Destruction is a myth Date:  5/15/2010  1:40 AM
Author:  Knighted Number:  327957 of 600683

Middle managers have disappeared like the Arctic Ice in Summer. Their principle functions in terms of data analysis and projections, have been ceded to spreadsheets and they are greeting people at Wal-Mart if they can find anything at all.

The machines are indeed working in place of routine/mundane/repetitive decision makers.

At first, I thought this was entirely a hypothetical question - a possible future "what if?" But it sounds as though you truly believe that a portion of humanity is being phased out of the work force permanently as machines take over like something straight out of the Terminator.

I'm curious what evidence you have that supports your claim? Unemployment rates have been within the same low range that they were at a hundred years ago, barring the current recession which is irrelevant to the topic at hand. Your proposed exodus of low-skill workers from the work force cannot be taking place without evidence of it showing up through a steadily rising unemployment rate.

Attrition from the work force due to automation or other technological advances has taken place since the beginning of modern industry. This has always been a force of good for society as a whole, for the economic reasons already said. Two cases in point that I already briefly mentioned: the agricultural and the manufacturing sectors. To make a long story short, visit this website and look at the graphs. I feel like i've posted this link a million times in response to repeated assertions by people who are under false pretenses that the U.S. economy is losing its manufacturing base and is doomed as a result, but here it is again.

The two sectors which were historically and arguably the most labor intensive and most uncomfortable work settings - agriculture and manufacturing - have seen some of the largest productivity gains anywhere. And in each case, a similar trend has played out.

Employment in each of those sectors once made up over 35% of the US economy by those charts at different periods of time - agriculture at in 1900 and then manufacturing in 1945. In each case, although agricultural and manufacturing output has either risen or remained constant, employment has fallen drastically in those two sectors due to new technology and automation. In each case, both sectors thrived as a result of the new technology. In each case, naysayers panicked about the loss of employment using the same argument about a lack of jobs being present and predictions of a doomed U.S. economy. And in each case, the economy was made better because of the improved technology and automation that provided us with cheaper products, freed up labor for more productive and comfortable jobs, and greatly improved the standard of living for everyone in this country.

The real kicker though is that these two industries have historically had some of the harsher worker environments to boot. Agriculture - slaving away under the sun with back breaking labor for simple subsistence farming for food, which our ancestors spent centuries doing just to survive. Manufacturing - sweating away in cramped, crowded factories doing insanely repetitive jobs non-stop around the clock their entire lives that no doubt drove a number of people insane. Technology has allowed us to create the same products we did in the past with now only minimal human sacrifice and hardship. Honestly, if that isn't the single greatest contribution to the human condition, I don't know what is.
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