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Is Your Job an Endangered Species?


Feb 17 2011, 07:15 AM (Post #1)
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Interesting Article. Some highlights:

QUOTE
So where the heck are all the jobs? Eight-hundred billion in stimulus and $2 trillion in dollar-printing and all we got were a lousy 36,000 jobs last month. That's not even enough to absorb population growth.

You can't blame the fact that 26 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed on lost housing jobs or globalization—those excuses are played out. To understand what's going on, you have to look behind the headlines. That 36,000 is a net number. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in December some 4,184,000 workers (seasonally adjusted) were hired, and 4,162,000 were "separated" (i.e., laid off or quit). This turnover tells the story of our economy—especially if you focus on jobs lost as a clue to future job growth.


QUOTE
Forget blue-collar and white- collar. There are two types of workers in our economy: creators and servers. Creators are the ones driving productivity—writing code, designing chips, creating drugs, running search engines. Servers, on the other hand, service these creators (and other servers) by building homes, providing food, offering legal advice, and working at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Many servers will be replaced by machines, by computers and by changes in how business operates. It's no coincidence that Google announced it plans to hire 6,000 workers in 2011.

But even the label "servers" is too vague. So I've broken down the service economy further, as a guide to figure out the next set of unproductive jobs that will disappear. (Don't blame me if your job is listed here; technology spares no one, not even writers.)

• Sloppers are those that move things—from one side of a store or factory to another. Amazon is displacing thousands of retail workers. DMV employees and so many other government workers move information from one side of a counter to another without adding any value. Such sloppers are easy to purge with clever code.

• Sponges are those who earned their jobs by passing a test meant to limit supply. According to this newspaper, 23% of U.S. workers now need a state license. The Series 7 exam is required for stock brokers. Cosmetologists, real estate brokers, doctors and lawyers all need government certification. All this does is legally bar others from doing the same job, so existing workers can charge more and sponge off the rest of us.

But eDiscovery is the hottest thing right now in corporate legal departments. The software scans documents and looks for important keywords and phrases, displacing lawyers and paralegals who charge hundreds of dollars per hour to read the often millions of litigation documents. Lawyers, understandably, hate eDiscovery.

Doctors are under fire as well, from computer imaging that looks inside of us and from Computer Aided Diagnosis, which looks for patterns in X-rays to identify breast cancer and other diseases more cheaply and effectively than radiologists do. Other than barbers, no sponges are safe.

• Supersloppers mark up prices based on some marketing or branding gimmick, not true economic value. That Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner Two-Tone Date for $9,200 doesn't tell time as well as the free clock on my iPhone, but supersloppers will convince you to buy it. Markups don't generate wealth, except for those marking up. These products and services provide a huge price umbrella for something better to sell under.

• Slimers are those that work in finance and on Wall Street. They provide the grease that lubricates the gears of the economy. Financial firms provide access to capital, shielding companies from the volatility of the stock and bond and derivative markets. For that, they charge hefty fees. But electronic trading has cut into their profits, and corporations are negotiating lower fees for mergers and financings. Wall Street will always exist, but with many fewer workers.

• Thieves have a government mandate to make good money and a franchise that could disappear with the stroke of a pen. You know many of them: phone companies, cable operators and cellular companies are the obvious ones. But there are more annoying ones—asbestos testing and removal, plus all the regulatory inspectors who don't add value beyond making sure everyone pays them. Technologies like Skype have picked off phone companies by lowering international rates. And consumers are cutting expensive cable TV services in favor of Web-streamed video.

Like it or not, we are at the beginning of a decades-long trend. Beyond the demise of toll takers and stock traders, watch enrollment dwindle in law schools and medical schools. Watch the divergence in stock performance between companies that actually create and those that are in transition—just look at Apple, Netflix and Google over the last five years as compared to retailers and media.

But be warned that this economy is incredibly dynamic, and there is no quick fix for job creation when so much technology-driven job destruction is taking place. Fortunately, history shows that labor-saving machines haven't decreased overall employment even when they have made certain jobs obsolete. Ultimately the economic growth created by new jobs always overwhelms the drag from jobs destroyed—if policy makers let it happen.


Full Article Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405...eTabs%3Darticle

My comments will appear in the next post.

This post has been edited by HAHAHA: Feb 17 2011, 07:15 AM
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Feb 17 2011, 07:24 AM (Post #2)
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This article is interesting. To me, it presented a few interesting points.

1) The future will be technical. If you aren't learning a degree such as computer science, you will be automated. Software can of course, not create itself so that will need developers. Everything else? That can be taken care of, though there will still be the need for politicians, doctors, lawyers, marketers - just less, and those who are qualified to do such will be required to do them well.

2) The future will have quality control problems. Software development and engineering are not perfect, and quality will be a problem I think as software is made. Yes, it will get better over time, but as the Windows and Mac operating systems show us...its not going to be the best. If we devote our entire lives to automated services, how well can automated services take care of us? Can we entrust our world to technology?

3) The government will undoubtedly interfere with this, but have very little to say because technology will always overrule. Will we have an Egypt here in the United States? I'm not sure.

I think as we progress into this next decade you're going to see a greater value in those who can creatively think, whether that thinking be nested in technical disciplines or something like marketing/graphic design/art. Granted the process has always been this way but there will be an even greater emphasis. I know for me, I'm going to get a computer science degree. I know that I wanted one anyway, but this only increases the need.

What are your thoughts?
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Feb 17 2011, 04:39 PM (Post #3)
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Referring to your second point - it is exactly that kind of loss of quality control that will keep the demand for service workers high enough to the point where these jobs won't completely disappear. Especially with jobs like Medical Doctors.

I think that this author really jumps to conclusions - especially with his argument about Medical Doctors being replaced by clever computer software. Our most clever computer software can't replace a Medical Doctor - I mean, we JUST created a computer that could play Jeopardy, and now we're going to rely on them completely to diagnose cancer and save our lives? Maybe way in the future, but definitely not within a decade, or even two decades.
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Feb 17 2011, 05:55 PM (Post #4)
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Quick comments:

1. If you can do more (produce more) with less (fewer labor inputs), why not? Let's take the whole country to be a single person who does everything. If you can work 30 hours to get the same salary, why work 40 hours?

2. There's going to be substantially less demand for doctors, lawyers, accountants especially—basically all the "protected classes" right now that make above-normal rates of return because of the artificial barriers to entry (like medical school, law school, CPA, etc)

3. The future will not have any more QC problems than before. Think about it: Why do you believe that in the future technology designed by skilled workers will be less reliable than the unskilled workers it replaces? For example, your tax accountant might make some careless mistake and add up your numbers wrong, but TurboTax will not make an arithmetic mistake.

AI is my favorite discipline in computer science, especially NLP (natural language processing). I have great expectations for how it can transform the world.
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Feb 17 2011, 06:08 PM (Post #5)
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1. No disagreement

2. Ok

3. Ok

How will NLP transform the world? You mentioned this shaping the world of law on my Facebook post. Can you elaborate?

You know how I also know you are an engineer, Jinghao? You rally against things that involve the application of human interaction - lawyers, doctors, accountants. stongue.gif

(Take that as a joke, though do know that your desires are to remove the human touch from a lot of society..resulting in maybe, Wall-E?)
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Feb 17 2011, 06:10 PM (Post #6)
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QUOTE (HAHAHA @ Feb 17 2011, 10:08 AM)
1. No disagreement

2. Ok

3. Ok

How will NLP transform the world? You mentioned this shaping the world of law on my Facebook post. Can you elaborate?

You know how I also know you are an engineer, Jinghao? You rally against things that involve the application of human interaction - lawyers, doctors, accountants. stongue.gif

(Take that as a joke, though do know that your desires are to remove the human touch from a lot of society..resulting in maybe, Wall-E?)
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A lot of the work for those roles—law, medicine, etc—happen behind-the-scenes. Of course we'll still have some humans acting as the interface—if you prefer—but I'd prefer to see charts and reports presented to me by an unbiased doctor. (Jinghao's DiagnoseMe Pro [tm])
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Feb 17 2011, 06:48 PM (Post #7)
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And where will you be getting that diagnosable information from? How will you know what is right from what is wrong?

Don't get me wrong, but even TurboTax isn't 100% perfect either.
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Feb 17 2011, 08:30 PM (Post #8)
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QUOTE (HAHAHA @ Feb 17 2011, 10:48 AM)
And where will you be getting that diagnosable information from? How will you know what is right from what is wrong?

Don't get me wrong, but even TurboTax isn't 100% perfect either.
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1. That's irrelevant to this discussion. We're talking about computability.

2. Again, the same argument you made against Watson. So what? It's better than any human you can get at that price.

Let's step back for a minute. Read what you've written here and on your Facebook wall. You claim that I don't "discuss the other side". You make so many claims that signal lack of research and understanding. It's apparent that you aren't even trying because you're just frustrated and you're trying to justify a decision you made in the past by saying "Oh it won't be THAT bad...". You are arguing against a future that is inevitable. When the cost of automation falls below that of an equivalent human, that human's current role will be extinct. That's a simple truth.

Some things are up to opinion, but the advance of AI is definitely not something you can neglect. I see it as a great thing, when humans are there to do what humans are best at—being creatively creative (not just "creative"), being builders, and advancing society. I mean, who really wants to be a servant anyway? Nobody actually believes that screwing the nuts onto the Ford is a real accomplishment in life; so a mechanical arm can replace him so he's free to do something more stimulating.
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Feb 17 2011, 10:50 PM (Post #9)
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2. Against Watson, it was the best Jeopardy competition we could find to sign up. Who is to say there was not any better.

I'm done discussing this issue with you. You believe what you choose to believe, and think that engineering is the solution to everything. It's what you've chosen to take on the past five years, and I've observed that. Its not a personal decision for me to make to say to myself, "Oh things won't be that bad" - what on earth gave you that assumption? To think that all of the sudden I'm going to half ass it out of my life? If so, screw you. All I've made in trying to discuss this article with you is the mere fact that I think you've shortsighted the issue by assuming that automation is the end-all be-all solution to everything when CLEARLY there are examples shown to you within the Facebook post that refute your points - your refusal to acknowledge them is what brings us here. If you refuse to acknowledge them there is no room for debate, and since that is so, I will cease replying to any of your comments until you do so.

I'm curious to see what others have to say here.

Good day.
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Feb 17 2011, 11:55 PM (Post #10)
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There will be flying cars in the year 2000!
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Feb 18 2011, 01:12 AM (Post #11)
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QUOTE (HAHAHA @ Feb 17 2011, 02:50 PM)
2. Against Watson, it was the best Jeopardy competition we could find to sign up. Who is to say there was not any better.

I'm done discussing this issue with you. You believe what you choose to believe, and think that engineering is the solution to everything. It's what you've chosen to take on the past five years, and I've observed that. Its not a personal decision for me to make to say to myself, "Oh things won't be that bad" - what on earth gave you that assumption? To think that all of the sudden I'm going to half ass it out of my life? If so, screw you. All I've made in trying to discuss this article with you is the mere fact that I think you've shortsighted the issue by assuming that automation is the end-all be-all solution to everything when CLEARLY there are examples shown to you within the Facebook post that refute your points - your refusal to acknowledge them is what brings us here. If you refuse to acknowledge them there is no room for debate, and since that is so, I will cease replying to any of your comments until you do so.

I'm curious to see what others have to say here.

Good day.
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You have an incredible ability to simplify discussions to absolutes: "assuming that automation is the end-all be-all solution to everything". Yet you claim that I don't acknowledge "room for debate." It's because everything I say just bounces back that I don't even bother.

And just to clarify: There was nothing you said that "refutes" my points. You may believe they do, but you are picking at something orthogonal to my entire argument. I don't bother arguing with Youya either; I just let her believe what she thinks is right if a discussion is not enough to open up her mind.

But I really do hope you open up your mind and imagination, and see what's POSSIBLE.
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Feb 18 2011, 01:16 AM (Post #12)
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I do know what's possible. Like I said, I agree with you on a lot of things you say. I think its time YOU open up your mind too, Jinghao - hiding your disdain for me through verbosely written responses is not exactly helping your cause.

QUOTE
There will be flying cars in the year 2000!


O rly?
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Feb 18 2011, 01:17 AM (Post #13)
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QUOTE (HAHAHA @ Feb 17 2011, 05:16 PM)
I do know what's possible. Like I said, I agree with you on a lot of things you say. I think its time YOU open up your mind too, Jinghao - hiding your disdain for me through verbosely written responses is not exactly helping your cause.
O rly?
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I have no disdain for you.

Let's summarize: I discuss the possibilities in the future. You express doubt. Which is more open, leaving possibilities open, or closing them to doubt?
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Feb 18 2011, 01:34 AM (Post #14)
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How about both?
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Feb 18 2011, 02:11 AM (Post #15)
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I think this depends on how far in the future we're talking about. 50 or 60 years from now, I could see AI potentially taking over the jobs of doctors. But in the near future...no.
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