you're still employing only one man for every hundred people worth of productivity
You're still making two mistakes. One assuming that every robot is used to kill already existing jobs, and two assuming that for every job lost two more cannot be created. I've already argued to second point in several other posts, but I'd like to try and convince you on the first point where I believe you are mistaken. In this post I argue several points where robots can create a net gain in jobs, some of which cause the loss of no jobs at all. The problem you and others are stuck on is arguing about current robots while supposing a future robot. To this point, all robots have ever done is displace factory workers through automation. This is because they are uniquely suited for this type and work and really nothing else.
But robots of the future will be suited for much more, to the extent that they 1) augment human abilities and 2) extend to endeavors otherwise inaccessible to humans. In these scenarios, you aren't replacing anybody, or maybe a few people, while enabling work for dozens, hundreds, or even thousands by creating jobs were none previously were able to exist. If we're talking about robots of the future, you have to give them more capabilities than just those that replace menial labor.
And it's worse than that, because unlike humans robots lend themselves to modularity - there's no sense in maintaining a vision-systems repair specialist if you can simply unplug the faulty system and replace it with a new one more cheaply.
Again, you are assuming a robot of today for a robot of the future. Robots *today* lend themselves to modularity. Robots of the future? Already we see emergent behavior we can't fully comprehend when a whole system is working together as a whole. For instance (I don't like to go down the sci-fi very distant future path, but since everyone here likes to argue about machines with extreme intelligence replacing humans I'll do so for the moment), consider a robot brain with billions of interacting neurons. Perhaps it's not possible to download and replicate such a thing. Consider robot with some proportion of biological parts. Perhaps such a thing is not easy to repair. I don't know that's just a little sci-fi there.
Back to reality and with respect to vision in particular, we employ many computer vision experts. Robot vision gone wrong isn't just about the camera. When robots are seeing the wrong thing, sure you can replace their vision systems, swap in a new one, but then when it's still seeing the wrong thing, what do you do? It takes a specialist to figure it out. This is the difference between a robot repair man and a TV repair man; one is dealing with a single-purpose solid state device, while the other is dealing with a highly nonlinear system which is interacting with its environment and making decisions on its own. One of the two is exponentially more complex to service.
You only need a human involved for non-obvious problems, which probably means someone who is reasonably well versed in *all* the component systems of at least a specific class of robot
And you expect such a person to exist? Already in robotics we have dozens of specializations.
Not something Joe Sixpack can reasonably be expected to learn to do.
That's why Joe Sixpack doesn't become a surgeon when he's displace from his job, he trains to be a nurse or an orderly, or a sales rep. And as for the technician support staff - how many do you really need?
How many does a hospital need? There are many more nurses than there are doctors and surgeons.
just look at what's happened with customer service in the last decades, it used to be you talked to actual humans on the phone, now you've got to go through several layers of poorly-automated systems designed to handle all the common situations before you'll even be connected to a human.
This is a perfect example of why human-facing automation is still very far off. The push was toward automation in call centers because it saved money. But the result was/is so bad that it pissed off customers. Now live people behind the phone are used as a competitive edge. Most any human-facing jobs out there are safe for a long long time to come; humans are fickle and nuanced, and it takes another human with skills like creative thinking, deduction, inference, and (the biggest one) true empathy in order to meet the needs of another human. Robots may try to (poorly) take these jobs away, but the pendulum will swing the other way when people get fed up dealing with the incompetent robots and humans will again be employed.
Self repairing machines maybe science fiction now, but so were cell phones with internet browsers in 1995
Smartphones were an exercise in making things we already had in 1995 smaller and faster. i.e. largely an engineering task. When you talk about robots that can repair themselves i.e. something which requires creativity and intelligent thought, you're talking about pushing the boundaries of several scientific disciplines far beyond where they are today. That is to say, in 1995 you could definitively answer that yes, it's theoretically possible to create an internet enabled hand held device. Today, there is no theoretical basis for even believing machine learning can *ever* match the reasoning or creative capabilities of a human brain.
If that ever gets significant progress it wouldn't be too far fetched for machines to self diagnose and self repair.
Good luck to them. Hopefully they make some headway by the time I'm 120 and can upload my consciousness to the internet.
I heard a VR software developer say "People overestimate technological change for a year, but under estimate change when you talk about a decade."
And yet self driving cars and true artificial intelligence are always "ten years away".
So its worth to give a bit of thinking on what happens when machine learning is good enough to eliminate current jobs and all possible jobs after that.
The same amount of thinking I'm willing to give what I should do after the sun explodes or the heat death of the universe. Thinking about such things is a flight of fancy, fueled by a science fiction and a popular media depiction of machine learning and AI.
And they'll be designed to make it easy to repair them. Hot swappable modules for each major component. Easily automatized repair. Most broken modules won't be repaired. The goal will be minimal downtime (we had contracts for under 4 hours unscheduled downtime per year). So that means the entire unit, or an entire module is swapped out and the unit is functional again.
You're arguing about the future while thinking about the complexity and capability of robots today, and again (as I argued in another post to you) considering only robots that replace factory labor... which robots of the future will do of course but go well beyond. You think it's as easy as just swapping out components? Maybe my future robot butler keeps knocking over my lamp with its arm. So I swap out the arm and it keeps doing it. I swap out the eye and it keeps doing it. I swap out the brain and it keeps doing it.... now what? This is a common problem that I face every day... debugging and repairing robots is not as easy as "hot swapping" modules because we're talking about machines which interact with their (nonlinear dynamic) world and make choices on their own based on input. Robots of the future that everyone is so worried about will not be your grandfather's robots.
Specialists cost money and are likely to only be used in the initial design, creation, and debugging of the robots
You think the debugging stops when it's shipped? With robots it's an ongoing process.
Our mainframes today already self analyze and even send emails saying they need a specific part replace. Heck- our automobiles tell repairmen what part is broken.
And yet my car has been to the mechanic four times and they still can't seem to get the check engine light to turn off... cars, mainframes... these machines are weaving looms compared to the kind of complexity robots of the future will have. How much of the outside world does your mainframe interact with? How many autonomous decisions does it make? For a machine that sits in one spot and does one job, it's not amazing that it can tell you what's wrong with it.
Dude, if robots didn't result in a net loss of employment, there would be no reason to buy them.
Wrong. First, the decision hinges on a net reduction in *costs* not employment. A net reduction of costs can cause a company to grow, which can result in a net *gain* of employment. Consider a factory which takes 10 workers on an assembly line and 10 workers to manage operations. Robots replace the 10 workers on the assembly line, allowing the company to save money, and open a second robotically-controlled factory which again takes 10 workers to manage.
Second, when you use the words "net loss" you're talking with respect to the company that purchased the robot. What about the company that sold the robot? They need workers too, and they now have money to grow and expand, creating jobs. What about the company that sells to the company that makes the robot? Now they have more money to grow and expand as well. Perhaps the workers fired from the assembly line can now be re-trained and hired elsewhere.
Third, you're neglecting the other D's. Robots are best suited for dull, dirty, and dangerous jobs. Humans are mainly replicable in the dull category, which your post and most other posts here are focusing on. But some jobs are too dirty or too dangerous for humans to manage. Consider nuclear waste disposal. Or bomb/landmine disposal. These are not suitable jobs for humans, and a net gain of jobs can be created for humans who support robots that do these jobs. Or consider jobs that are impossible for a human, like exploring the deep reaches of space or the ocean. Robots in these fields replace zero human jobs and creating jobs for those who support these robots.
Fourth, your neglecting robots that help or augment human ability. Consider an autonomous wheelchair robot that helps an elderly man navigate his town. You've enabled a man who maybe stayed in his house all day to become an active member of society. Again, you create jobs by supporting autonomous wheelchair development and support more jobs by getting this man active and involved in the community/economy and extending his life. Jobs eliminated? Maybe a single support person who used to push him around. Or maybe that person is still around but just doesn't push him anymore.
Or what about robots that fit on to a soldier, allowing him to carry more weight. The soldier is still there, so you didn't eliminate his job, you've just made him better at it. Jobs eliminated? Zero. Jobs gained? Maybe dozens to construct, build, market, and support that robot exoskeleton.
And others (including models that see better than humans and can throw and catch objects and have manual dexterity equal to humans) very close to production.
This is vastly overstated. We have robots that can see and throw and catch well in carefully controlled laboratory experiments, and published results and videos carefully present the 10 successes out of hundreds of failures. I saw a talk in the fall by Marc Raibert, the former CEO of Boston Dynamics. I'm sure you've seen the impressive Cheetah and Big Dog videos. He referenced those and then told us "and these are the videos you don't see online" and proceeded to show us about a dozen clips of big dog falling off cliffs and the Cheetah running in to a parked car at full speed. When you say these things are "very close" to production, I'd still given them 15-20 years minimum.
In 15 years, almost any non-creative job a human can do you will be able to automate at a cost lower than starvation / poverty level wages.
You'd be surprised how many jobs require even the tiniest modicum of creativity and reasoning, and how impossible even the tiniest modicum of creativity and reasoning is hard for a machine. Let's come back here in 15 years and see who is right, eh?
but that seems to be your only counter argument to the concerns others are expressing about the impact on the real job market in future.
Because we're talking about different degrees of "future", one of which is much closer than the other, and is therefore practical to consider while the other is at this point a fairy tale. When you talk about robots repairing themselves, you're talking about first diagnosing the problem, which requires logic, inference, rationalizing cause/effect, problem solving, creativity, etc. Robots of the future will be very complex, nonlinear, dynamic, interacting systems, and most likely will not be able to self-diagnose, the same way even a human cannot self-diagnose most problems. The robots I work with do some very strange things sometimes, and it takes a long time to come to the exact reason *why* it behaved as it did, and fix it, even with an intimate understanding of all the implemented systems. I can't even imagine how impossible a robot of the future will be to diagnose.
Then when you reach a diagnosis you're talking about the actual repair job, which again is a hard job that often requires some creativity and problem solving, something machines are not well suited for. We're not talking about replacing a panel and a headlight on a banged up car. We're talking about complex machines that make decisions and interact with a dynamic world in a nonlinear way. Fixing such a machine will not automatable any more than fixing a human is.
So I've used a couple of words above (creativity, problem solving, rationalization, inference) that hint at some of the deepest most profound questions of human understanding and knowledge. Talking about machines capable of these tasks is some serious science fiction. When we start talking about robots possessing these qualities, let's also start worrying about a robot apocalypse while we're at it.
That doesn't work. Ten people can maintain the machines that do the work once done by 100.
A couple of points here. First, it takes 10 people to maintain today's machines that do the work of 100 people. These machines, as I've posted elsewhere, are highly simplistic as far as robots go. Limited sensing and perception, limited cognition, very limited degrees of freedom, no mobility, specialized actuators, etc. Fixing simple machines is simple. A robot of tomorrow will be much more complex, requiring more people with more specialized knowledge to service them. Much like you have mechanics who specialize in transmissions, or even more aptly doctors who specialize in hearts, you will have robot "technicians" who specialize in perception, locomotion, "brains", electronics, drive systems, etc. Think about how many doctors a human needs, due to their sheer complexity. This is more along the lines of how a robot repair industry would develop.
Now if you could train everyone to be robot maintenance technicians that would be fine (ecological implications notwithstanding), but that's not possible
But not everyone needs to be a robot repair technician, just as not everyone in the healthcare industry is a doctor or surgeon. You've forgotten that a robot technician also works for a company. A robot technician would also be supported by non automatable non-technical jobs (management, sales, marketing, HR, legal... anything with a human-facing or creative component). I could even imagine different tiers of knowledge, where some technicians perform routine maintenance (like a nurse), some technicians simply diagnose (like a doctor), and some technicians repair (like a surgeon). Maybe someone replaced on the assembly line could re-train to a human-facing job that doesn't have to be highly technical. Will there be enough such jobs? I don't know, I can only guess. But I can see the job creation/destroyed ratio is much better than 10/100.
tl;dr - repairing robots is/will be a new *industry* not a new *job*.
The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is the most likely to be correct. -- William of Occam