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Smart Systems Threaten More Jobs Than Outsourcing 251

Posted by michael
from the replaced-by-a-very-small-shell-script dept.
fbform writes "A strategy consulting firm called Strategy Analytics has announced that outsourcing to India and other countries is a small threat compared to having IT jobs replaced by 'smart systems'. Quote from a different news-source: 'higher value-added jobs - involving identification, assessment, conclusions, decisions, and recommendations - will continue to be lost to systems with increasingly intelligent capabilities'." Such as this one.
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Smart Systems Threaten More Jobs Than Outsourcing

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  • Maintenance? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by simp (25997) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:41AM (#9541716)
    Great. And who will keep these clever systems up and running 24h * 365days? And who will troubleshoot it when it malfunctions?

    The more complicated the systems are the more people are needed to keep it running.
    • Re:Maintenance? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They will build another smart systems to maintain those smart systems. And then another systems to maintain the ones that maintain the others. And so on.

      Ok, ok, I don't speak English.
    • Well, I suppose maintenance will be done by turtles. [the-funneled-web.com]
    • by NSash (711724) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:13AM (#9541810) Journal
      And who will keep these clever systems up and running 24h * 365days?

      Yeah, because we know that tech support will never be outsourced.
    • Indians...
    • Re:Maintenance? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mritunjai (518932) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:51AM (#9542057) Homepage
      How long have been living in your cave ?

      If these "smart" systems happen to be running *NIX, then practially 90% of maintenance can be done remotely. So it doesn't matter whether admin is located in room next to server room or half way across the globe.

      The rest 10% job deals with hardware problem, and last I looked all enterprise grade hardware had self diagnostics built in. So if your next-gen "smart" system says drive is kaput, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to replace it... a janitor can do that!! Add to that these next gen smart systems will have MUCH better HW diagnostics and redundancy and you can see that admin job go non-local too!
      • Re:Maintenance? (Score:3, Insightful)

        If these "smart" systems happen to be running *NIX, then practially 90% of maintenance can be done remotely. So it doesn't matter whether admin is located in room next to server room or half way across the globe.

        Most likely, the supply of qualified admins is already in use, so I don't see outsourcing to be a serious problem.

    • The more complicated the systems are the more people are needed to keep it running.

      This is generally true of systems humans have built in the past, but is not true of complex systems in general. For example: human bodies are some of the most complex systems that exist, and they essentially maintain themselves.

      Once humans get better at designing homeostatic systems, something which major firms like IBM are working towards with their "autonomous computing" initiative, we'll see the amount of people requi

  • Hurry! (Score:5, Funny)

    by dignome (788664) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:42AM (#9541721)
    It's not too late to destroy the machines. I'm content with going back to the cave, who's with me!
  • I think we're safe (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aussie_a (778472) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:44AM (#9541727) Journal
    Considering the fact that Computers have more sickies [slashdot.org] then people I think we're safe for the time being.
    • Not if they use macs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by goombah99 (560566) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:08AM (#9541793)
      Sorry to be a Mac zealot for a moment (actaully my linux machines out number my macs 60 to 1). But its a well known fact that It departments always have fewer mac people than PC people than their ratio of mac to PCs would account for. The reason is of course obvious, macs dont have as many problems, users can solve their own network/driver/security/printer issues. Since they can install their own external drives (formerly scsi and now firewire) and they come with a higher level of trim like firewire and video than stock PCs, the owners empircially dont have to upgrade their macs and they tend to have a practical lifespan 25 to 50% longer (see studies by TRW and GULF).

      PCs in the workplace are what Robery Cringley (I, Cringley) calls the IT dept full employment act. At my own workplace where PC techs outneumber macs techs 20:1 even though the number of macs to PCs is closer to 1:5, they once tried to force everyone to adopt a common platform and guess which one they voted on?

      My mac does have sick days occasionally, but I dont envy PC users. My Linux computers are all just servers. So they really dont get much stress from constantly installing applications or doing thinks that cause them to red-line their disk usage. Thus they are as solid as a rock and never go down (same is true of my g4 mac servers). However they do get out of date on their patches and I truly worry about all the services I might have turned on that I dont know about. I'm not a good enough sys admin to trust myself to know if say Apache needs certain port maping and RPC sevices so I cant just go turning everything off. My solution is to firewall them and get a better sys admin to stay on top of the needed patches.

      while my macs also have some "extra" srevices turned on I'm reasonably assured they were designed in a coherent fashion. When I turn on off a service the firewall automaticall closes those ports too. Since mac packages dont (normally) spray install files all over your system into places like /etc /usr/ /opt /bin and /sbin it makes removing things really easy and prevents cruft build up. (this by the way is why I will not install that loathsome gnu-darwin package: it for example even replaces /bin/make !!!)

      Maybe this is what they meant about smart systems replacing IT techs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:46AM (#9541730)
    Look out for /etc/crontab

    It will take your job from you!
  • This is just silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Henrik S. Hansen (775975) <hsh@member.fsf.org> on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:47AM (#9541737) Homepage
    Could this negativity please be stopped?

    It is not a problem that repetitive tasks are being done by a computer. That's what they're for.

    In other news, factory robots are a bigger threat than outsourcing. Let's do everything manually, there's more jobs that way.

    Stop your whining and adapt. It's fucking pathetic.

    • We have a winner! And it only took slashdot 10 minutes to to generate, in its own entropically darwinian little way, the obvious answer that technology is designed to do shit for us, and that the story submission, as written, is an obvious troll.

      (Thanks for your help Mr. Hansen, there'll be a little extra karma in your account this week.)
    • by Alsee (515537) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:17AM (#9541825) Homepage
      Factory robots? That's nothing! There has been a roughly NINETY EIGHT PERCENT loss of employment in the farming sector. The very heart of the economy - growing food - used to provide the employment of nearly 100% of the population. Now a mere 2% of the population can still find a job employment growing food.

      -
    • by h4rm0ny (722443) * on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:20AM (#9541840) Journal

      Stop your whining and adapt. It's fucking pathetic

      I'll bite.

      Broadly speaking, we have a society that is divided into those who 'own' and those who don't. For the majority of society, that is not the owners, life is structured around working to survive.

      When something is done in a new and more efficient way then in a sense, society benefits. However, those who really benefit are 'owning' segment of the population, not the 'workers.'

      New technology has repeatedly caused a great deal of suffering as it makes people redundant. So when you say,
      Let's do everything manually, there's more jobs that way.
      Well that's exactly true. The problem is not that society is not benefitted by new technology but that the benefit is not shared around.

      Modern Western society has long since passed the point where everyone is required to work the majority of their time to survive. The model of people doing this has long since collapsed in terms of essentials and it's only kept going by mass-consumption of goods we don't really need (mostly status oriented) and services.

      Nor is this progression at an end. It should be especially obvious to the /. crowd that the standard for what is difficult to automate will continue to rise quickly for the forseeable future.

      Of course, we can't hold back progress for the sake of mass employment. The only good solution is for the profits of innovation to be shared out more easily.

      But in the spirit of ending this negativity, which I fully agree with, it seems to me like society might be adapting. Perhaps not in terms of the skills which you meant, but in terms of how people work. For example, people are increasingly opting for less financial rewards in their jobs, such as greater flexibility and increased holiday, and this is a great plus because it means sharing the work out wider. Many more people are working in education too, which is a plus.

      I hope to live to see the three-day week become an accepted standard. ;)
      • When something is done in a new and more efficient way then in a sense, society benefits. However, those who really benefit are 'owning' segment of the population, not the 'workers.'

        I'm not sure that distinction really exists. 'Workers' only work for money. And they then use that money to purchase and own things. So, anyone who works, also owns. Consequently, if efficiencies benefit owners, then they benefit workers.

        • Re:This isn't silly (Score:4, Interesting)

          by h4rm0ny (722443) * on Sunday June 27, 2004 @10:20AM (#9542310) Journal

          I'm not sure that distinction really exists

          Well I'm afraid that in my attempt to avoid writing a huge treatise on economics, I used some pretty clumsy definitions.

          The distinction I was trying to draw was between those who have to keep running to stay where they are, and those who can sit back and watch the money coming in. A small scale example would be landlords and tennants. Some pay rent, and some recieve it. In a very broad sense (but a real one also) we are all landlords or tennants within society. the factories and the farms are owned by groups that are small in comparison to the size of society as a whole.

          And they then use that money to purchase and own things

          The distinction is between buying a new pair of shoes, or investing in property or a company. Someone doing the former wasn't what I meant. Someone doing the latter is clawing their way out of the worker category and into the owner category. Although this example shows that the groups are not clear definitions that an actual person has to fall into or out of. I'm just modelling how society works at a higher level.

          When you say that efficiencies benefit the owners, therefore the workers and therefore society, I disagree.

          Benefiting society? Yes - you need another society to compare it with, but between one that has cars and one that has horses, you can see the disparity of power. (Of course you should consider things like quality of life etc.)

          But workers? Messier. The benefit is traditionally the falling cost of goods. Plot that benefit on one line. the negative is the lowering reward for a worker's time. Plot that on another line. See where they cross? Now at what point does the balance become a bad one for the 'worker?'

          I say that this point has been reached for the average person.
          • Re:This isn't silly (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Okay... let's plot:

            According to the US bureau of Economic Analysis, REAL per-capita disposable income has risen EVERY SINGLE YEAR SINCE 1949. Check the data yourself: http://econstats.com/grplist1.htm#nipa

            So not only has our society benefited by the reduced cost of living that comes with cheaper products, it has benefited by the increased purchasing power of every citizen.

            Look at the facts, not some trite manifesto printed in the 1800s.

            How can you not see the irony of your whole argument? YOU ARE POSTIN
          • The distinction I was trying to draw was between those who have to keep running to stay where they are, and those who can sit back and watch the money coming in.

            Again, I'm not sure that such a distinction really exists. No one can sit back and just watch the money coming in. In the tennants and landlords example, at first glance it looks like the landlords can just sit back and collect. But it ignores the fact that they are indebted to a mortgage. It ignores the fact that the landlord is responsib

    • I think lots of IT jobs will be lost to automation. But only the incompetent IT workers will lose their jobs. Because automating things is what we do for a living.

      Suppose you need to do some complex job of editing a lot of files. What does a competent programmer do? He writes a Perl script to do it. He's automating a task, which would take a person a lot of time to do. He *could* ask his manager to hire an assistant, of course, but he doesn't. A competent programmer is someone who automates his assistant's

      • Because automating things is what we do for a living.

        Exactly. I asked a similar question during the last big Slashdot debate on outsourcing:
        Why is it OK if I write code that eliminates the need for 100 people and so increases a company's bottom line, but not OK if I outsource those 100 jobs and have a smaller positive impact on said bottom line?

        The silence in response to the question was deafening...
    • Why not adapt by enlisting in the Army. From what I can see, that's where all the job growth and investment is taking place.

      Why take the low-tech labor intensive approach to creating wealth when tons of wealth are just sitting there in other countries for the taking. You get to cut out all those profit-consuming design , development, and manufacturing jobs...and focus your efforts in the "wealth-extraction" phase....which is really the only important pase of any operation.

      Come-on guys (and gals) ....adapt
    • Basically, job thieves have figured out a way to distract people from what they are doing by pointing the finger at other industries.

      Actual Maintenance will require warm bodies to do the repair work.

      And it is not like you could have a human in change of a robot economy. You can't just fire all the humans and replace them with slave labor robots. And have the robots all buy and send things from each other and you for your profit. Despite efforts of financiers to do this to people.

      Any robot smart enough to

    • And when everything gets automated, the only things left to do are:

      (1) Invent new things, as it has always been
      (2) Maintain the old things
      (3) Laze around leisurely doing nothing.

      But with over 6 billion people in the world, and rising, I doubt the world will have enough resources to support even 1% trying to live their life in leisure, having nothing else to do...

      But that's just idle speculation by me. What do you think will happen when humans have practically nothing else to do?
    • Smart systems which maintain themselves. I am all for that. It could actually help me make more money ;-)

      See here is the problem, in my mind. There are actually several things that a system administrator is there for. These include basic things such as creating user accounts, and more advanced things such as managing the security/availability by deciding that software to patch. Many of these decisions cannot be easily automated. But the easier ones can be.

      This means that the bar is raised for the le
  • by fleabag (445654) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:48AM (#9541738)
    The article may be right about call centre jobs; there are some applications where machines do as good a job as people - though this is not true in customer service applications. A good example is the app British Airways uses for flight information - you tell it the destination and approximate time, and it tells you whether the flight is on time - and it works incredibly well. However, this is not a "customer service" application - if you are phoning up with a complex problem, no computer on earth will be able to help you.

    From the perspective of the IT worker, I think that the impact on them will only be beneficial - if intelligent machines can be made to work, then they will be based on intelligent software, which someone has to write/maintain.

    As an aside, I remember seeing a presentation from Oracle in about 1994-5 about clever automated database tuning technology, and that all those expensive DBAs would be a thing of the past. When I was at work last week, they were all still there, working damn hard too...
    • I agree since I work for a telecommunications company that has a huge call center. We're looking to implement IVR type technologies to not only cut back on the number of call center reps we need, but also to better serve the customer by providing bill information, trouble reporting/status, automated payments, and other information that would normally occur via a CSR.

      These IVR type technologies still require an IT person to set up and manage them, so I don't see the loss of IT jobs being threatened as much
      • And then the call center people get hired back when customers loudly complain about the IVR system not doing what they need. Call me a cynic, but I just don't see something like this working for anything but the most basic info, like providing someone their account balance. This can be done by existing phone menu systems. I for one would rather push buttons than talk to a computer. I see this as another trend, like outsourcing call centers to India, which will work for some things but not most.
    • by mangu (126918) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:18AM (#9541827)
      Sometime in the 1700's, or maybe earlier, steam engines had a person who operated the valves. Today, do you feel like the camshaft in your car's engine is taking away someone's job? Well, it is. Some day some people lost their jobs to camshafts. Then came the coal stokers, who lost theirs to conveyor belts. And so on, even IT people will lose their jobs to automation.


      It may not come in our lifetime, or not before we retire, but software creation and maintenance will be fully automated.


      But think about the benefits: you can't get a job as a steam engine valve operator anymore, but you can afford a car. Every job that's lost to automation is one more job that people can get done for them at a lower cost.

      • It may not come in our lifetime, or not before we retire, but software creation and maintenance will be fully automated.

        Of course they will be. The jobs will be in creating and maintaining the machines or programs which automate the creation of software.

        From the viewpoint of a mid-20th-century programmer entering machine code instructions with a toggle panel or punched cards, this has already happened. What is a compiler?

      • The problem is not Supply, it's Demand. Unemployment is on the rise, and if it gets lower, it will be by artificial measures.

        Nobody needs 3 billion guys working. The problem is mostly big corporations can compete, because they offer scale, lower costs and standarization. But they don't share the gains except for the people that work in diamond shaping and 5 stars hotels.

        Democracy works as a contract as long as citicens can survive.

        ANyway, I am positive that a solution will have to come, nobody wants the
  • by ljavelin (41345) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:48AM (#9541741)
    From the article:

    the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research arm for the U.S. military, is leading a project to develop a vehicle that can navigate a desert for at least 10 miles without a driver. Prototypes have gone as far as seven miles, successfully moving around cactuses, boulders and other obstacles.

    Wow! These guys are right, my job is on the line. DARPA's "10 mile desert navigator" (isn't it 100?) got a whole 7 miles. So now the ONLY OBVIOUS conclusion that I'm going to be out of a job??? Geez, this author sure does seem stupid.

    What a trashy article. If it's not fit for publication, why is it fit for Slashdot? Oh yeah, this is Slashdot, where we talk about articles that really aren't fit for publication....
    • What a trashy article. If it's not fit for publication, why is it fit for Slashdot? Oh yeah, this is Slashdot, where we talk about articles that really aren't fit for publication....

      You must be new here.
    • DARPA's "10 mile desert navigator" (isn't it 100?) got a whole 7 miles. So now the ONLY OBVIOUS conclusion that I'm going to be out of a job???


      As Michael Faraday [anglik.net] once said, a newborn baby can't do anything but cry and turn milk into shit. So the ONLY OBVIIOUS conclusion is that he will never be able to do anything, right?

  • The other choice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lachlan76 (770870) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:50AM (#9541747)
    Trying to stop technological processes in the pursuit of extra jobs is pointless, because it will hold back the economy in general. Would we be better you think haveing a blacksmith make car parts by hand in his small workshop, or can we do things better with a robot with ±0.01mm tolerance.

    Jobs maintaining these creations will always exist, because they wouldn't be able to administer themselves.

    "I view this in the same way as the first flight of the Wright brothers," Cohen said.
    Such advancements eventually find there way into businesses, which means someday fewer jobs driving forklifts and delivery trucks.


    Does this mean that the writer believes that air travel is a bad thing? Does anyone think that we should do a harder, slower, more expensive and less reliable way so that more people have jobs?
    • Trying to stop technological processes in the pursuit of extra jobs is pointless, because it will hold back the economy in general. Would we be better you think haveing a blacksmith make car parts by hand in his small workshop, or can we do things better with a robot with ±0.01mm tolerance.

      Who says that letting the market dictate its own future necessarily means "progress"?

      Let's say that blacksmiths make car parts by hand in small workshops; there are millions of blacksmiths, but few cars because th
    • by cluckshot (658931) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:35AM (#9541919)

      To get a bit serious... there has been an intersection between the upward curve of job distruction by technology and the flattening of the upwards curve (now possibly down) of the generation of new jobs because of computers. Actually the effect has been more profound outside of the EU and USA than inside. It is starting to hit inside the EU And USA.

      I could bore with statistics and I am sure no matter what nobody would be persuaded. We have finally reached the point at which large segments of society etc are simply being dumped as obsolete trash at a rate too high for them to adapte to the newer demands if they exist. Even the US Federal Reserve is starting to observe this and getting concerned. It isn't fun!

      The rate of productivity rise is now globally at about 14% per year and rising. This is corresponding to an absolute dumping of masses around the world and is a substantial contributor to the issues behind the "War on Terror."

      I don't forsee some magical uptick in jobs like the opimistic view holds nor do I see the apocolypse either. However we are faced with the reality that most of human needs and wants will be taken care of without human work. This produces a serious set of issues regards the distrobution of the results of this production and the value of persons in the world we are headed into. It is these last two issues that need the serious discussion and look at.

      How do we maintain the value of persons in such a society and not foster antisocial and anti civilization behavior? How do we reward people? Surely it cannot be based on the fact of their grandfather's position. Property rights as important as they are, become a form of colonial hostile government in such a condition. How do we manage these.

      One thing that is absolutely certain is that the concepts of the "Work Ethic" and such as well as "Free Enterprise" are not particularly applicable to this brave new world we are building. We are facing a set of descisions that is profoundly difficult and are into what are essentially uncharted waters.

      I don't want to hear the ignorant claims of some Libertarian or Conservative or Liberal who takes on their partizan line here. Lets start talking about how we should solve the problems and not arguing that they do not exist or that the old structures are still working. They are not!

      • by h4rm0ny (722443) *

        Property rights as important as they are, become a form of colonial hostile government in such a condition.
        Oooh, you communist you.

        I agree with you for the reason that almost everything you said is logically derived from what we can see around us. What I have to add though, has to do with this:

        I don't want to hear the ignorant claims of some Libertarian or Conservative or Liberal who takes on their partizan line here.

        Society is dividing up quite unpleasantly into different groups. Tout what you'
      • is a substantial contributor to the issues behind the "War on Terror."

        How so? Unless you're referring to Western countries purchasing Middle Eastern oil, I don't see how a rise in productivity of American and European companies fuels the terrorists.
    • What if whatever you do, and 90% of your skill become unneeded. Inmediately, you will find yourself asking for money on the streets or janitoring places.

      I agree we cannot hold progress, but if progress is paying us less (real income), then it will not work. High productitivy today focus a lot on paying less salaries and second, automation, while lowering costs (which is good), also increases the pool of unemployed. The consecuence? More people fighting for jobs, and that means that even if you are a rocket
    • by Dutchie (450420)
      Does anyone think that we should do a harder, slower, more expensive and less reliable way so that more people have jobs?
      --

      No matter how hard it is for me, being a technology freak myself, I think I am going to have to answer this affirmatively.

      Technologists, mea culpa, always have the urge to make 'things' more efficient. 'Efficiency' in the traditional meaning however could be translated, roughly, as 'Try real hard to use as many resources that we CANNOT miss (oil, energy, materials in some cases) to do
      • Don't forget that having a job, no matter how trivial such a job might be, could give somebody lesser than yourself a very good feeling about himself, being able to support his family, his children.

        Except that the guy in your example doesn't have a job, he has welfare. If I'm an employer and you tell me I can't use a computer but instead have to hire a less efficient worker, that's no different at all from letting me keep the computer and forcing me to pay the guy cash. You can talk about the "good feelin
  • With all the 'strategy firms' making outlandish claims lately regarding IT individuals needing to have fear of being replaced by a machine (that is gonna be maintained and admin'd by who again?) . . . it makes me wonder if its just some IT nerd hatred bubbling up . . . Maybe these 'strategy' firms have a lot of employees that were tired of having their grading curves blown when they took a 'real' class back in school . . .

    Maybe an open source project should be started oriented around automating strategy a
  • by Anonymous Coward


    Truth is the technology threatens us computer geeks the most.

    I have a book underneath a bunch of crap in the garage. "Unleashing Windows 98".

    Some people spent weeks studying, learning about Windows 98 and master it. Who gives a shit about it now?

    Everything you know, everything you think that you can do that is special will be done quicker and better by a 5 year old pressing a few bright buttons in a machine that you will end up designing and maintaining.

    It's not so much that what you know will become o
    • Everything you know, everything you think that you can do that is special will be done quicker and better by a 5 year old pressing a few bright buttons in a machine that you will end up designing and maintaining.

      Does that mean I can have George Jetson's job when I grow up?

      Now that's a future worth to look forward to!
    • Actually, IMHO it just means we might as well start doing more complex stuff, now that the basics are done well enough.

      Yes, at some point people paid good money to have programs not only written by hand in assembly, but also translated by hand in hex/octal/binary. Machines were too expensive to be used for such mechanical tasks as converting assembly to hex. (No, literally.) Then the assembler started doing that for you.

      Yes, at some point the only way to get good performance out of a C program (at least o
  • by xYoni69x (652510) <yoni.vl@gmail.com> on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:52AM (#9541752) Journal
    I guess we'll be seeing a lot more of this shirt. [thinkgeek.com]
  • by dido (9125) <dido@impe r i u m .ph> on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:53AM (#9541754)

    Never send a human to do a machine's job...

  • As if this [officeplayground.com] will work, it doesn't even have pass the buck ;)
  • http://www.heritage.org/Research/TradeandForeignA i d/wm467.cfm [heritage.org]

    Myth #3: Outsourcing will cause a net loss of 3.3 million jobs.

    Fact: Outsourcing has little net impact, and represents less than 1 percent of gross job turnover.

    Over the past decade, America has lost an average of 7.71 million jobs every quarter.[4] The most alarmist prediction of jobs lost to outsourcing, by Forrester Research, estimates that 3.3 million service jobs will be outsourced between 2000 and 2015--an average of 55,000 jobs outsou

    • You cite the Heritage foundation for outsourcing facts???

      Let me guess, you use NewsMax to get your news, adn the Aberdeen group and Tocqville foundation for your linux related information.

      Loser.
    • 1% or even 3% (what I heard) of layoffs (turnover) doesn't mean that outsourcing is not a problem. It could be 0% and outsourcing could still be a problem. It's the amount of new jobs not being created locally because they're being created overseas. So you really want to take a look at the number of those jobs.

      The percent of layoffs due to outsourcing is only significant if layoffs are still a problem. So, you have a roughly 1% increased chance of being laid off due to outsourcing. But the other 99%

  • Who will develop those smart systems that will take people's jobs? While systems smart enough to replace software developers are still under development?
  • Somebody watched Star trek once to often.

    "Computer make me something, I don't know what but you understand don't you?"

    The only smart things that computer does are those that computer knows the question. If question is not correct and answer in his database then computer isn't as smart as you'd think. Let say chess, extensive database and one question only, what to do in this position.

    I don't know how smart systems would react to problems that would arise, like hdd crashed or similiar, but I know one thin
  • For more than the obvious reason that a system (or organization) shouldn't rely on self-assessment.

    Anyone with experience in Microsoft patching solutions care to run Microsoft self-assessment tools (even if it is originally @stake software)?

    How many self-assessment tools (with AI being as "sophisticated" as it is) would be able to properly develop it's own risk assessment? Risk Assessment methodologies themselves are still somewhat "adolescent" IMHO - OCTAVE, NIST, and COBIT all leave something to be des
  • hee, hee (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:00AM (#9541772)
    My first civilian job, I worked with a tech writer
    who would make technical illustrations by *manually*
    deleting centerlines and such from AutoCAD drawings
    before exporting the images. Said it was great
    mindless work to rest his brain.

    When I showed him how to turn off layers, his eyes
    got huge. "Don't tell anybody that! We'll lose our
    overtime!"
  • then the fingerprinting scanners matter be able to get smarter [slashdot.org]

  • It used to be that a computers 'usefulness' was measured not in terms of MIPS, or Desktop Dominance, or "user base", but in terms of Decisions made.

    Any successful branch of a computer program, determined by its Logic Design, is a "Decision".

    Think "Yes" or "No" trees in any flow diagram: this was a "Decision".

    IBM used to promote their machines as having "made 150,000 decisions a day". These weren't just program branches, but real business decisions - e.g. "Is this account overdue?" - Yes == one successfu
    • The whole point of a metric is to be a standard of measurement. But is no standard for what determines a single decision. Real business decisions have all sorts of little assumptions and decisions built into them. Having vendors going around selling systems on their ability to perform x number of decisions in a day would be pointless, since it is an entirely subjective thing.

      People have tried to take a stab at this. Thats what the TPC benchmarks are for. But as almost everyone in IT knows, those benchmarks
  • by mikael (484) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:06AM (#9541789)
    The fight over technology vs. jobs has been playing out for 300+ years, since the invention of the Jacquard loom in the early 1800's [computer.org].

    Joseph Marie Jacquard's invention was fiercely opposed by the silk-weavers, who feared that its introduction, owing to the saving of labor, would deprive them of their livelihood. However, its advantages secured its general adoption, and by 1812 there were 11,000 looms in use in France. The loom was declared public property in 1806, and Jacquard was rewarded with a pension and a royalty on each machine.


    Here's another example:

    Our city currently has a shortage of 300+ tax drivers particularly during graveyard shifts. The taxi drivers union has proposed that cabs could be fitted with GPS and route-planning software, but the council refuses saying that any potential taxi drivers must pass the official exams (demonstrating their ability to have memorised "The Knowledge").

    Introducing technology would create more jobs, and there is no danger of loss of earnings, since the council regulates the fares that taxis can charge.
  • by WillWare (11935) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:10AM (#9541803) Homepage Journal
    Marshall Brain, who did the How Stuff Works website, has given a lot of thought [marshallbrain.com] to this stuff, and written a short novel [marshallbrain.com] exploring a couple of possible scenarios. At the end of the novel, which is about the thorough automation of every possible job, there are three kinds of lifestyles available: some people live imprisoned and jobless in a welfare housing development, other people (who were already rich when the automation started) live luxurious cloistered lives in gated communities, and some people have chosen to put aside the pre-automation have-have-not distinctions so they live in a paradise where automation serves everybody equally. In the novel, the last group is isolated in Australia.

    Brain chose polar extremes for artistic purposes, and to peg the ends of the sociological spectrum, so it's more an exploration than a prediction. But it's a very interesting and worthwhile read. If automation does displace almost all jobs, I don't think the current legal and financial system will do much to protect those of us who aren't super-rich.

  • "Smart Machines" that were placed in charge of buisness decissions at MS earlier this year have begun slautering inocent programmers in the streats. Leading to mass unemployment, and a boom in Linux development. This has let the machines to begin slaughtering every humman they see, as they can not tell the difference beetween cool jocks, and nerd hackers. Droid replicas of the Californian Govenor (though looking slightly younger) have entered the capital and begun demanding an expansion of the DMCA or el
  • Social Change (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bruha (412869) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:11AM (#9541805) Homepage Journal
    We are quickly approaching a point where many jobs could be done by machines or AI systems yet governments refuse to consider what to do with the problem of mass layoffs due to this effect.

    If you want to consider what would happen then think of how Saudi Araibia would handle running out of oil or a sudden technology that would allow the world to quit using oil completely. They've already asked what the world would do to help them. I doubt anyone answered though.

    The point is were a mainly a capitalistic world and that type of society is incapable of comprehending a world where there's not such things as cost/profit. Europe is transitioning to a socialist type government but still it's inherently based on capitalist's who just wave the banner of socialism.

    A Republican or Democrat cannot see past the people financing their elections and it's one of the biggest flaws in our democracy now that the rich and corporations are the only influence in our political system. Our forefathers never envisioned corporations or the super wealthy and thus no protections from these types of influence were built into our government. Thus until we change our ways in the end we'll be stuck with a government that wont go out of the way to help those who lose their jobs.
    • We are quickly approaching a point where many jobs could be done by machines or AI systems yet governments refuse to consider what to do with the problem of mass layoffs due to this effect.

      But, as others have pointed out, this has already happened several times over. A few generations ago, almost all of us worked in an industry (agriculture) that now employs a miniscule percentage of the worforce. And yet we don't have 90% unemployment....

      --Bruce Fields

  • This is the same reaction that has been given to new technology since the start of the Industrial Revolution, if not before.

    Starting in the nineteenth century, a wave of time-saving devices and new manufacturing processes allowed a few workers to complete jobs that had previously required the laborous attentions of a multitude of skilled craftsmen. For one example out of many, consider the difference between clothing that was either simple and home-made or expensively tailored by a professional seamstr

  • It's true. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 91degrees (207121)
    Just look at how many people the steam engine put out of work! Nobody worked in mills after they were mechanised. Well, apart from all the people who tended the machines of course.

    Strange really. The industrial revolution seemed to lead to more employment. Not less.

    Must be a totally different situation though. It's a well known fact that the world only has a certain finite number of jobs (which is apparently the same argument used against immigration), and if you create a new piece of technology,
  • I was going to comment that computers cannot do creative work like writing TV scripts, but then I realized that Eliza could write a better script than most of what's on TV.

    -
  • I've thought about this issue for a long time...

    As technology advances, and burgeoning industries like computer vision and robotics continue their frantic pace towards matching human performance, it's inevitable that automation will replace humans in most service jobs (food, cleaning, construction), much like it has done in manufacturing.

    The result of this will be nothing short of catastrophic. There will be a massive unemployed workforce lacking skills past what automation/robots can provide. The chasm b
    • Re:what to do? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mangu (126918) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @10:24AM (#9542350)
      The chasm between the haves and have-nots will will widen.


      But even the life of the have-nots will be better. The poorest beggar in the world today is safe from smallpox, which even the richest people died from in the past. And even a refrigerator box is better than whatever shelter a beggar could get a hundred years ago.


      Do we become a socialist welfare state


      Something like that. What made communism inviable was the fact that wealth is finite. When productivity increases enough, people start giving things away. We get "free" email accounts with 100Mb capacity because the investment per account is just $0.10. Food productivity is so high that the goverment must buy and stock some farming products to raise the price.


      The future I see is one where few things will be valuable. Real estate is one of them. Corporations are trying to raise the value of intellectual property, but I think it's obvious they will fail in the long run. For a while, arts and sports will be valuable skills, until art becomes fully automated and anyone can become a super-athlete, thanks to medical progress. In the end, we will either have the ultimate communist state, where wealth is distributed evenly by law, or we will the ultimate feudalist state, where the only wealth is owning land, acquired by inheritance. But the poorest serf will have a much better standard of living than any of us has today.

  • As I sit here on this fine weekend as a computer operator...surfing the net and reading Slashdot, I know that my job could easily be wiped out if someone were to clean up the redundancy around here and place more faith in automation. The same is true with the new swipe cards making the Commissionaires (a.k.a. security guards) down the hall start to sweat, b/c their job of letting people in the building is starting to make less sense.

    However it's ironic that b/c it's a government position that "they" stil
  • This article does raise a valid point that unlike outsourcing to India which is a temporary problem(eventually wages in India will be comparable) outsourcing to technology is an ongoing process and the bigger threat. The only option is to keep upgrading yourself if you choose to stay in the tech field or else become a manager/sales professional of some kind (It will take a long long time for computers to learn to lie as effectively as humans)

    P.S. For those who are going to take up issue with the outsourcin
  • by mjh (57755) <mark.hornclan@com> on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:36AM (#9541929) Homepage Journal
    This is an old fallacy. It's basically the belief that there's a net loss of jobs when something more efficient than human labor replaces human labor. If you're only looking at half of the picture, it looks like there's a net loss. But the mistake is only looking at the immediate consequences and not looking at the longer term consequences. In the long term, efficiency creates more jobs. Don't believe me? Read this. [grift.com] Or this. [libertyhaven.com]

    If you still believe that creating an efficiency is wrong when someone loses their job as a consequence, then you must also believe that using a computer is wrong, because you could clearly have hired someone (possibly lots of people) to deliver your communications instead of relying on automation. And for that matter, why use a car, when doing so has caused the unemployment of so many buggy drivers and horse . And for that matter, why use buggies at all. A single person can only travel so far on foot before needing rest. To get your messege to the entire world, you could employ many, many more people if you insisted that it be delivered by foot.
  • Unemployment (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Frogg (27033) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @10:09AM (#9542198)
    "Unemployment is a benefit of any technologically advanced society." (?Robert Anton Wilson)

    The sooner we realise that, and stop treating it as a problem, the better.
  • Another viewpoint (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Trailwalker (648636)
    Employment is not the true goal for anyone. It is a means to an end.

    For many years, I enjoyed six to nine month backpacking trips. I did thruhikes of major trails, wandered at whim through the national forests of America, and enjoyed what I considered a happy way of life. I had to work only few months over winter to finance these activities.

    Others prefer overbuilt houses, accumulation of material objects, or whatever else they desire. They have made a choice, and tied their lives to the whims of thei
  • Give me a break (Score:2, Interesting)

    by coldtone (98189)
    The only jobs that computers have replaced are the crappy jobs that people don't want to do. Now I know that everyone wants a job, and wants to make good money. The jobs I'm talking about are the ones that no one would ever do for free, and only do it because it pays good money. For example if I opened up a company where I paid people to eat dog poop, but I paid them $1000 an ounce, people would line up to take the job.

    These are the jobs that are being automated and replaced by machines, because people don
  • Obligatory links (Score:2, Interesting)

    by michaelmalak (91262)
    1. Vernor Vinge's singularity [caltech.edu].
    2. "Memorable quote [imdb.com]": The Skynet Funding Bill is passed. The system goes on-line August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.
  • Ive been saying this for years, that all the hardware engineers and system programmers are working themselves out of a job.

    Plus the fall out will take out many others in the 'support' fields. ( even non-comptuer related, other industries are doing the same thing )
  • old argument (Score:2, Insightful)

    This is an old argument that history keeps proving wrong.

    Using machines on farms put people out of 16-18/hr/day back breaking work. Oh, no, stop the machines.

    The cotton gin will put all the people picking seeds from the cotton out of work. Oh, no, stop the machines.

    Using machines in manufacturing will lead to devastatingly low employment. There won't be enough employed people to buy the products. Oh, no, stop the machines.

    Visual Basic/Smalltalk/Powerbuilder allows non-programmers to build their own app
  • In the late 90s Microsoft released a Zero Administration Kit and thousands of Sys Admins were put out of BAH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.... oh man I couldn't even get through that sentence... wai t wait lemme try again using Turbo Tome a program that can write books all by it BA HA HA HA HA HA HA... Oh I kill me.

    **Posted by Auto-Post 1.6
  • by infornogr (603568) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @11:46AM (#9543098)
    What you fail to see is that maintenancing a new machine that does some task is almost always more intellectually demanding than the original task. Also, it will never require as much manpower to repair the machines as it would have required to do the task without them. So if ten people are dispensing drinks to customers at some commercial location, and those ten workers are replaced by vending machines, you still need a vending machine repair person, but you don't need _ten_. Also, that person will require some increase in intellectual ability over the average seller of soft drinks, because fixing the machine is simply more complicated a task. Admittedly in this example the cognitive threshold is very low, but where you might be able to hire a borderline retard to sell drinks, you can't hire one to fix vending machines.
    Let me put it this way: If the company's implementation of the machine doesn't put people out of work, why are they implementing it? If I'm already paying ten people to do a job, why should I buy a fancy robot and then still be paying ten people to go around fixing it? You can be certain that as machines replace jobs the number of human workers will go down, and the ones that are left will be the ones smart enough to be able to do things that machines can't.
  • If you do more work with fewer people and/or resources, that's a good thing. It's why we don't have elevator operators or icemen any longer. I'm old enough to remember when banks opened at 10am and closed at 3pm because the human beings had to do the backoffice paperwork by hand. Does anyone mourn the loss of those jobs? Stopping or inhibiting technological progress in the name of "saving our jobs" is just dumb.
  • In the second wave, workers in customer service, help desk, directory assistance, and other support activities in businesses will be replaced by computers that have enough intelligence to handle repetitive tasks that occur during human interaction.

    I'm pretty sure the myriad of automated customer service tools used by many of the customer service lines I call regularly, which will either handle my request itself (such as checking my account balance, etc) or at the very least direct me to the appropriate
  • is no match for natural stupidity. I'm sure no matter how good the machines / software get, managers will still make stupid decisions based on the 2 page MS add they saw in 'Time'. I think with the current and perpetual state of management incompetence gurantees us technical types job security. Almost everyone still uses Windows, people have to have there custom Office apps, depsite all the horrendous problems with Windows. Every few years someone who's just a writer sprays about how everything is about t
  • by kaoshin (110328)
    Several of us had a discussion about a similar topic at work the other day. Helpdesks set up IVR's and such to reduce their call volume. They still get calls and are still undermanned. The difference is they need fewer idiots doing basic tasks. My group was working on a self healing workstation project, which would potentially reduce the workload on the onsite technicians. The difference is they need fewer idiots doing basic tasks.

    Everytime someone tries to implement something that is going to automat

  • Programmer

    A: Looks for job
    B: Works
    C: Finishes job
    D: Goto A

    In the long run, theres less jobs to be had, and more people looking for jobs.

  • We have all become so innundated with the career path mythos that we forget that the reason that most people work is to pay the bills. Given the choice, most people would much rather sit on the beach than answer phones.

    If machines are able to decrease the amount of mundane work that we need to do to generate wealth is a good thing in general. True, in our present system, the people who are displaced by the machines lose financially. But the solution is not to cut off the head of the goose laying the golde

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?

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