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Comment Re:Drama (Score 1) 64

I was going to joke about Nguyen being as common as Smith, but according to wikipedia as much as 40% of the population have the surname.

It is also very common in some areas of America. My daughter attended high school in San Jose, California, and about 20% of her graduating class were named Nguyen. They take up 12 pages in her yearbook. If so many people have the same surname, then it sort of defeats the whole purpose of having surnames in the first place, which was to disambiguate duplicate given names.

Comment Re:Why is this guy still talking (Score 1) 341

If I replace "robots" with "cheap foreign labor", can you explain why so many American manufacturers went out of business (or moved operations abroad) in the last few decades?

Sure. Low-end manufacturing is not something where America has a competitive advantage.

According to your theory, American companies should have been able to continue operating just as before

No. That is not at all what "my theory" is. That would only happen if the relative value of products was exactly the same. But that is not true at all.

because one ton of American steel was still worth exactly one American-made car (or etc).

That is not true at all. The value of steel has gone way down. The value of cars has gone up.

Comment Re:Why is this guy still talking (Score 1) 341

What would happen to them is the same thing that happened to people that continued to weave by hand when automatic looms were invented. If you focus on the very things that machines excel at, you are not going to do well.

But they would only do poorly if there were OTHER THINGS that machines do relatively less well. If they did those things instead, they would benefit from the automation. Or do actually think people were worse off when automatic looms were invented? Because the situation is the same.

Comment For the Bank of Russia it's not even pocket change (Score 2) 51

It's just numbers on a spreadsheet. The Bank of Russia is Russia's central bank and there is literally no amount of money you can steal from a central bank that will harm it. That's because they're the people who issue the fiat in "fiat currency".

The harm is to the economy as a whole, in the form of inflation. In this case we're talking about the release of thirty one million spurious extra bucks into a two trillion dollar economy. Just a tiny bit of inflation, diluted to homeopathic concentrations and applied to everyone who uses rubles.

Of course the bank has to pursue this because it undermines confidence in the system, but this is as close to a victimless crime as any illegal way of obtaining thirty-one million dollars can be.

Comment I find this kind of depressing. (Score 1) 123

I'm all for things that go boom. I love weird, clever little gadgets. I admire a clever and subtle subversion of a system, even when I don't condone its use.

But geez; this thing is not exactly elegant. It uses a fairly basic circuit to exploit the completely unsurprising fact that the interface isn't designed to handle high voltages.

Comment Re:Not much. I do look at data which may upset you (Score 3, Interesting) 253

Attempting to simplify the crises in Syria by pointing at climate change seriously under states all other factors. Hell, one of your own links (the usda one) clearly shows that Syria has been able to meet its needs IF allowed via imports

The USDA link shows no such thing; it shows Syria eating up its reserves as it fails to import enough wheat to make up the shortfall. Yes, Assad underwrote the price of bread, but there wasn't enough subsidized bread to meet demand, forcing people to buy non-subsidized bread which increased in price six-fold. The net bread expenditure went up by 20% in a country where many people spend half their income on food.

I'm not a reductionist; situations like this have multiple important factors. The Assad/Islamist thing had been simmering for decades -- generations really. Had that situation been different, the climate shock might not have destabilized the country. In point of fact bread prices were an issue throughout the Middle East and a major factor in the Arab Spring. Syria was arguably better positioned than most other Arab countries, but the stress of having 5% of your population displaced on top of the deep and old fault lines broke the country apart.

This is precisely how climate shock is going to work. It won't be like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water; it'll be formerly rare occurrences happening more frequently and stressing vulnerable populations. Take sea level rise; cities won't drown slpowly, but what was once a hundred year flood will become twenty year flood. That will stress coastal cities, and the results depend on how stable and wealthy a particular city is.

For example were sea level to rise almost a meter by 2100 (as is now within the scope of mainstream positions), the very wealthy coastal city I live in would go the Venice route and build a tidal barrier, which would conservatively cost at least ten billion dollars. Chittagong Bengladesh, however, will be screwed. My city has twice the GDP of Bengladesh as a whole even though it has 3% of the population.

Comment Re:Why is this guy still talking (Score 1) 341

The difference is that the rate of automation is still increasing.

Nope. This is a myth. The rate of automation is slowing down. Most easily automated jobs are already automated. Most workers today work in services, which are proving harder to automate. So workers today will likely have more time to adapt.

Comment Re:Why is this guy still talking (Score -1) 341

Can you find me such an expert?

Certainly! You can become such an expert yourself in FIVE MINUTES just by reading this webpage. That will give you 4 minutes and 55 seconds more expertise than most of the armchair economists on Slashdot. It will even make you smarter than Stephen Hawking (at least on the topic of economics, but maybe not on quantum physics).

I'd very much like to understand what kind of gainful employment the blue-collar workers of today and white-collar workers of tomorrow can look forward to

Did you read the webpage? If so, then you already know the answer.

But somehow I expect that you did NOT read it, so here is the answer: Imagine a world where the robots exist that can do ANY job currently done by humans. Furthermore, imagine that they are faster by a factor of ten, than any human, at every job. So they can make an apple pie ten times faster than humans. They can weave baskets ten times faster, etc.

Now imagine two workers, Abby the Apple Pie Maker, and Betty the Basket Maker. Before the robots came along, Abby made a pie everyday, and Betty made a basket everyday, and then they traded a pie for a basket. But now, with the robots, pies are only worth a tenth as much, and baskets are only worth a tenth as much, so obviously, Abby and Betty will both starve. Right?

But WAIT A SECOND, while the pies and baskets have each fallen in value by a factor of ten, a pie is still worth ONE basket. So Abby and Betty can just continue life as before. The robots changed nothing.

Of course this is a simplistic model, and real life is more complicated. In real life, the robots are going to be MUCH better at automating some tasks than others. But this makes things better. If the robot can make 10 pies in a day, but only 2 baskets, then a basket is worth 5 pies, and Abby can just switch to making baskets, and she and Betty will both be much better off. This is known as "Comparative Advantage". It is a basic concept taught in economics 101.

So as the robots take over more and more jobs, people will switch to the jobs that the robots are not necessarily bad at, but just less efficient at, and then trade the goods and services they produce for the goods and services that the robots produce. If you say "What if the robots are better at EVERYTHING?" then you should go back and read the webpage again, because you completely missed the point.

Now for the bad news: As robots take over, and more and more jobs are automated, we will almost certainly be better off. But there will be some "losers", and those losers will likely be the same sort of people that are currently losing: poorly educated unskilled workers in 1st world countries. These people are basically trying to compete with a servo motor, and and the motors are winning. We are not going to stop all technological progress because of these people (although we may slow it down for foolish political reasons), so what is the answer? We could try retraining them, but they already got 13 years of free education and failed to learn anything useful, so that is not hopeful. So the most likely scenario is to put them on some sort of welfare until we can get riot control robots perfected.

Comment Re:Nope (Score 1) 341

Economy does not work that way, sorry. Hawking should read from a real economist, like Milton Friedman.

Although I generally respect economists within their domain of expertise, they do have a habit of blithely extrapolating from their models to the unknowable, or even the impossible. For example once I was at a symposium on limits to the Earth's carrying capacity. A physicist pointed out that since life is eventually sustained by solar energy, there are at least thermodynamic limits to the number of people you can support on a single planet. The economist on the panel contradicted him, claiming that the carrying capacity of the Earth was infinite. His justification was that all past attempts to put a Malthusian limit on population growth had run afoul of human innovation.

Now he's correct about summarizing the situation *thus far*, but that's only from a few centuries of economic experience that covers an insignificant fraction between the status quo and infinite population.

Now the real problem with futurism, aside from simply getting things wrong (e.g., the counter-intuitive link between higher wealth and lower birth rate), is judging precisely when something that's bound to happen is going happen. If we *do* continue to increase population, eventually we will reach the point where we won't be able to grow it any farther. But we won't know the precise moment we're going to hit the wall until we actually do.

Likewise unless you take a mystical view of thought, eventually computers are going to get better at it than we are. And when that day comes, we'll be obsolete as thought-workers. However we're very far from that now. What I think will happen is that the nature of work will change so rapidly people will find employment to be unstable. I believe what we'll see increasing levels of intractable structural unemployment: square pegs trying to fit themselves into round holes because the square holes have been filled in.

Comment Re:Milton Frieldman? (Score 1) 341

So.......we just had an article on Slashdot that showed there are more jobs in America now, at the end of the Obama administration, than there ever have been in the entire history of the US. More people working.

First, I'm not about to claim that Trump is going to improve anything for the common man. Having a populist revolt that emplaces a Billionare cabinet...

Yes, Obama got more people to work than anyone else ever. However, middle-class well-being has not correspondingly increased (meaning wages aren't great for a lot of those jobs) and the disparity between the most rich and everyone else has become much larger.

I haven't researched AI job reduction, but I think we could be no more than two decades away from the point where much menial labor is robotic and where professional drivers are for the most part replaced with machines.

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