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OT - The future of work?

PeteM

Diamond
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Location
West Coast, USA
I just stumbled across a talk by this guy: Shadow Work: The Unpaid, Unseen Jobs That Fill Your Day: Craig Lambert: 9781619025257: Amazon.com: Books

His main point is that most of us spend several unpaid hours a day doing jobs that someone else used to get paid for.

We've increasingly become our own secretaries (Word), accountants (Quick Books), and travel agents (Expedia). We pump our own gas, pack our own bags and checkout ourselves at the grocery. We even buss our own tables at fast food places while some places are trying to replace the wait staff with tablets. We find our own stuff in stores (or just order online), play bus driver for our kids in many school districts, and maybe dispatch our own taxis (Uber). We're our own product experts and consultants, searching online for answers to everything, with advice either provided for free or paid for by the usual suspects.. Even high tech work isn't exempt. Many of us spend a couple hours now and then as our own IT experts (Googling some error message). We go to doctors mostly for second opinions, having checked our own symptoms first. And in each visit to that doctor, we spend the first 15 minutes in the waiting room as our own data entry clerks.

One of the more telling arguments for me was with "free" services like Facebook, loyalty programs, Twitter etc. Some folks "donate" a couple hours a day on Facebook, liking this, adding friends, and so on.. But it's Zuckerberg that's making the billions. While many of us aren't on things like Facebook, we may sort through MSC 30% promotions, check LinkedIn, or just post to PM. I had an medical experience where a startup wanted my DNA and that of everyone else who had a good response to a cancer drug. The author likens this to the old age of oil extraction. There were these giant pools of oil for the taking; and the main cost was extracting it. Today we have giant pools of consumer information, also worth billions, and the main cost is extracting it. Only this time we and our personal data are the "oil."

I didn't hear various illnesses being discussed by the author, such as dementia, but more and more of us are spending person-years of our lives as unpaid nurses, drivers, form filler-outers, and so on. More unpaid labor. Women, of course, have been complaining of unpaid child-rearing and homemaking labor for years. But not so long ago, a family could live on a single income. These days we need twice as many jobs (both spouses working) to stay even -- with both spouses picking up the upaid labor portions.

All this is a bit different than the do-it-yourself ethic many of us grew up in. When we built or remodeled your own homes WE actually got paid for it in terms of saving tens to even hundreds of thousands of dollars. When we fixed our own cars (back before auto companies thought of themselves as proprietary software companies), we had direct savings. Now, when we toil away wandering through Home Depot, at a self-checkout counter, or in building Facebook's more perfect understanding of the buying habits of 1+ billion people, the rewards flow disproportionately to the owners of the automated systems. Even if the benefits are split 50-50 with the customer, there's still the customer doing the work for free and someone else out of a job.

The point was also made that capable people used to go from jobs in the mail room or as a secretary up the ranks to CEO. What happens when there aren't any mailrooms or secretaries left; just email inboxes we manage (for free) ourselves?

This isn't an anti-technology rant. I don't see us turning back the clock on automation and information systems. They ought to be freeing our time for better things. Is is, however, a question of how do we deal with all those jobs that have disappeared or in the process of disappearing? These jobs aren't coming back, not even in China.

At one level, there's still plenty of work yet to be done. The streets in too many towns have potholes and litter. Pipes, bridges, and schools need replacing. Kids need more attention, earlier in life. There most be a score of high priority do-betters: healthier food, better healthcare, more R&D in dozens of fields, more time with out kids, appliances that don't crap out in 30 days, packages that arrive undamaged, new planets to be discovered, and on and on. Problem is, the average person has neither the time (all that unpaid labor) or the money (the general depression of wages in this new economy) to pay for all that.

So, what's the answer? What do we do in an age of fewer and fewer entry level jobs -- and even knowledge work becoming automated? The glib answers might be "education" or maybe "motivation" but the costs of an education are rising and college grads with average skills may still fall short.
 

pmtool

Cast Iron
Joined
Jul 10, 2011
Location
Portland, OR
One day the government will just have to give everyone a basic wage and a i phone just to keep the peace. I guess in some ways they already do.
 

Chip Chester

Diamond
Joined
Dec 13, 2007
Location
Central Ohio USA
A lot of those things I don't mind doing if I have the time, and can realize a savings in dollars or schedule.

But I have this "old guy" aversion to things like self-checkout. Yeah, occasionally it could save some time, but I'm not real interested in working for multi-billion dollar corporations for no money. When store droids "invite" me to use the self-checkout, my response is always, "Sure. What's the employee discount?" Since there never is one, I choose not to be an employee.

Wonder what would happen if I injured myself on their equipment while working for them?

I'm sure I could gripe some more, but dinner's ready!

Chip
 

smalltime

Banned
Joined
Jan 10, 2010
Location
Kansas City
how do we deal with all those jobs that have disappeared or in the process of disappearing?

We don't deal with them, we move on.

New jobs will appear, they always do.

Teaching is the key. Parent teaching is REALLY key.

We teach our kids that showing up every day, on time is REALLY important.

We teach our kids that having a job is (gasp) a competition. If you do better than Sally, you get ahead. If you are a fuck off, but manage to do it for ten years, you're still a fuck off and will not advance (unless you work for a unionized employer, then you're ok to be a fuck off)

We teach our kids that you need to look out for yourself FIRST. If you are fortunate enough to have time or money left over, then you can donate it to those in need.

We teach our kids that government is good for some things, but not ALL things.
 

machinistrrt

Hot Rolled
Joined
Aug 15, 2008
Location
near Cleveland
A lot of those things I don't mind doing if I have the time, and can realize a savings in dollars or schedule.

But I have this "old guy" aversion to things like self-checkout. Yeah, occasionally it could save some time, but I'm not real interested in working for multi-billion dollar corporations for no money. When store droids "invite" me to use the self-checkout, my response is always, "Sure. What's the employee discount?" Since there never is one, I choose not to be an employee.

Wonder what would happen if I injured myself on their equipment while working for them?

I'm sure I could gripe some more, but dinner's ready!

Chip




It's not a gripe- it's the capitalist way.

The problem is the "captains of industry" have decided that you're too stupid to figure it out.
Myself, I always ask for a discount for performing someone else's job, and since that involves money, they never agree. I also won't permit them to run my purchases through that self checkout-if those things aren't used, they won't be.
 

EFARM

Plastic
Joined
Nov 19, 2014
So are you suggesting that if you were Zuckerberg and did the work to develop Facebook, You would give away your work for free by using all the profit to pay everyone that's ever logged onto or liked something on Facebook?

You should get what you earn. Zuckerberg found a market and delivered a product, so He earns the reward. He shouldn't have to pay a penny to anyone he didn't agree to pay. If you have a problem with that then don't use Facebook

Same with self check out, if you have an issue with it, then don't use it. The way I see it I'm going to the line that will get me out the door the soonest. So why spend an extra 5mins in line to be checked out when I can do it myself immediately? Is my time worth nothing?
 

jscpm

Stainless
Joined
May 4, 2010
Location
Cambridge, MA
This is a consequence of taxation and other forms of wealth transfers.

In a true "market economy" with no subsidies, no handouts and no protection what happens is that a small number of people become wealthy and employ everyone else, essentially as their servants. So, you have busboys, gardeners, accountants, butlers, maids, waiters, cooks, etc etc.

In communist or socialized society where money is taken away from the people who earn it and given to random people, everyone earns similar amounts of money, so there are no servants, everyone must take out their garbage, cook their own food, water their own lawn, etc.

Welcome to communism. Get used to it, it's going to get worse, a lot worse.
 

HuFlungDung

Diamond
Joined
Jan 19, 2005
Location
Canada
We don't deal with them, we move on.

New jobs will appear, they always do.

I can't see that the new jobs are also good jobs, though. The purposeful intent of automating industry is for the sole purpose of downgrading the technical know-how of the individuals required to maintain product output. No one in their right mind is going to automate their industry so that their workers get a bigger piece of the pie in the form of 'more interesting' or 'higher paying' jobs. It will always be two (perhaps mediocre) jobs being merged into one temporarily higher paying 'singleton' position. Then two of those will get merged into one and so on. It is a steady decline of educational requirements for those being sought to fill the positions (that cannot be automated cheaply enough, for now), while a few higher educated individuals are required to keep things running at the top levels.

So now you've got this requirement for training a relative few 'ultra-educated' people to maintain and operate automation, while the pool of low paying jobs grows ever larger. I don't foresee a rosy future, at least for so long as we are a voracious consumer society.
 

Chip Chester

Diamond
Joined
Dec 13, 2007
Location
Central Ohio USA
Interesting example, that Facebook.
Zuckerberg did 1/3 of the work to develop it. And the product he produces is data and eyeballs for advertisers. (Remember, if it's free, you're the product.) I'm sure it would be no surprise that I don't use Facebook at all. In fact, a few forums like this are as close to social media as I get... You could say I'm mostly anti-social. Many do.

And yes, the Milicron Mega-corp makes money off my participation. Based on PM's value to me, I'm fine with that.

Chip
 

Miguels244

Diamond
Joined
Mar 27, 2011
Location
Denver, CO USA
I don't mind self checkout.
I positively hate, that as an engineer, I am expected to make travel plans, chase purchase orders, and any one of a dozen stupid jobs that take time away from doing my job.
 

John Welden

Diamond
Joined
Mar 21, 2009
Location
Seattle
I don't mind self checkout.
I positively hate, that as an engineer, I am expected to make travel plans, chase purchase orders, and any one of a dozen stupid jobs that take time away from doing my job.

Been there done that. The company wants to pay your engineering wages to do low skill work and they wonder why they aren't getting ahead.
 

mkd

Stainless
Joined
Jun 8, 2013
Same with self check out, if you have an issue with it, then don't use it. The way I see it I'm going to the line that will get me out the door the soonest. So why spend an extra 5mins in line to be checked out when I can do it myself immediately? Is my time worth nothing?

I don't mind self checkout.
So we went from general stores, where the clerk retrieved goods and rang you up to Dept stores to now Big Box stores.
personally if find it infuriation to walk into a Home Depot or Walamart. Can't find crap.... or an "associate" to help find said crappy chinese product.
you guys are OK with this spirious "progress"? i'm not a lemming or happy with it.

I suppose you guys also pay to have 500 cable TV channels piped into your house chock full of commercials where an average hour spent flipping through channels will find 70% of this airtime on commercials?!?!?!?!
make a mistake at self checkout and big brother and his cameras will see you in court for shoplifting.
this is not progress

to the OP, nice Magnum Opus:bowdown:
 

Scottl

Diamond
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Eastern Massachusetts, USA
I don't mind self checkout.
I positively hate, that as an engineer, I am expected to make travel plans, chase purchase orders, and any one of a dozen stupid jobs that take time away from doing my job.

Yup, years ago there were supporting staff so that engineers could concentrate on the more technical details of their job. Technicians, secretaries, design drafters (including CAD) would handle the smaller details that did not require advanced engineering. The engineer provided oversight.

I remember when a CAD draftsman told me that engineers would never draw their own schematics - boy was he wrong!
 

ewlsey

Diamond
Joined
Jul 14, 2009
Location
Peoria, IL
I'm here to tell you that it's 100% possible to still live the "old way".

If you want to have a knowledgeable guy ring up your purchase and tell you where to find something, head down to the old, cramped, disorganized hardware store in the rough part of town. You probably won't find a convenient place to park your 9 passenger 4WD SUV that you drove by yourself. You won't find 75 different styles of ceiling fans unless you want to look through a paper catalog (the humanity!) and wait two weeks for the one you order to arrive (jesus, 2 weeks?). Also, you can be guaranteed that you will spend somewhere between 20 and 150% more than you would at the big box store for the same exact product.

It's the same across the board. No matter what you have convinced yourself about the rich getting richer, you doing more work generally means less money coming out of your wallet. Right now, I'm spending my time to post information on this website for others to read free of charge. No one is compensating me. The compensation I get is that others with more knowledge than me are also posting here and I get to read it for free.

I think the better question to ask is not "should we do all this unpaid work ourselves?", but "why the fuck are people today so god damn lazy?" I mean jesus people are lazy. Walk around the parking lot of a department store and see how many shopping carts are just left out in the middle. The store provide the cart so you don't have to carry your shit. Then they provide cart return areas all over the parking lot so your lazy ass doesn't have to walk all the way back to the store. But, people are too lazy to even push the cart to the return area.

Every time someone complains to me how hectic things are now or how hard their job is, my eyes just glaze over. It's all bullshit. People will do anything to get out of doing some actual work.
 

John Welden

Diamond
Joined
Mar 21, 2009
Location
Seattle
Even the worst off people in the USA don't have it that bad. Even the homeless idiots that stand out begging all day don't have it that bad. They certainly aren't starving. You have to be a pretty big dip shit in this country to not figure out how to get food shelter and clothing.

I get tired of hearing about how overworked people are and that they don't have enough free time. Cry me a river. There is too much pissing and moaning in this country. A lot of people think they're tired, but that ain't F'in tired. People are lazy and don't want to work so they complain about how tired they are. Bull shit.

My great grandparents worked in coal mines for 16 hours a day. Try that and then come tell me about being tired. Go get a job with some Mexicans that put roofs on in the middle of the summer. Then come tell me how tired you are. My grandpa was a carpenter and worked his fuckin ass off and NEVER complained. None of my grandparents complained, ever. As to my parents, I've never seen anyone in my life out work them. My dad is a fuckin animal. My mom could out work people half her age. They could both easily be retired right now but they choose to keep working. They like working.

Despite having absolutely F'ed health, I got ahead in life by working hard. I could easily be on full time disability right now. Nope, I'm not a lazy ass fuck that wants to sit around all day just because I could. I was in special ed from 1'st to 12th plus I was held back one year. I have no college education other than some vocational classes for machining, but I out worked everyone around me and made it to an incredible job as a mechanical designer. I make really good money and work for one of the best companies in the world.

There is lots of opportunity out there for people that want to work hard. Quit complaining and go get after it.
 

EFARM

Plastic
Joined
Nov 19, 2014
I suppose you guys also pay to have 500 cable TV channels

Actually, I get my 5 TV channels for free over the air

As for self check out, its a good thing that camera will also show me scanning every item. If I'm not honest or missed that the machine didn't read an item or told me to re-scan an item, then that error is on me and I should pay the consequence. If your too paranoid about something like that then use a clerk. If a clerk isn't available then go somewhere else. Its all about responsibility, if the store doesn't make sure the machine functions correctly or in a logical manner then any errors are on them. If I don't know how to use the machine then I should take some responsibility and ask for help so I know how to use it in the future or just use a clerk.

I would like to shop local but a lot of times I cant. The only store in town I can get an end mill, reamer, or raw material at is Fastenal. Not exactly a local store, and they usually don't have it in stock at the store. If I want a true local store then is a 30min drive to The Yard Store where the only end mills they have are USED, but aluminum selection is awesome. If I want a new end mill I have to go 45mins and there all they sell are unbranded China HHS. So McMaster it is for tooling. Ask the local hardware store to carry endmills and the response you get is "Who's going to buy them? You and the one machine shop in town?"
 

Oldwrench

Titanium
Joined
May 21, 2009
Location
Wyoming, USA
Time is money, and the older you get the more it's worth. I am willing to pay for services that save my time, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime so I don't have to watch commercials. And like somebody else said, PM is about all the "social media" I need, as long as the advertising doesn't obscure the window or start bogging the site down.

The self-checkout at Walmart takes longer than the manned checkout because inevitably something won't scan or somebody makes a wrong move and it starts going bong, bong and freezes until an attendant comes over. And forget telling the automated scanner you have a price-match coupon, it won't listen. Personally I would rather have the human interaction with an employee, and it's still marginally faster.

Buying stuff online is a timesaver. It's nothing to do with human interaction, it's about the item generally being available from stock, cheaper than your local source, and mostly free of sales tax. While it has led to the demise of many mom-and-pop stores, it has also led to many more jobs at UPS and FedEx, including all the people who build and maintain their fleets of airplanes.

I don't mind doing all my own drafting and correspondence. With modern software it's not the time-consuming chore it was a couple generations ago. No erasers, no ink eradicator, no Wite-out. OK, there's no pool of stenos or typists at any company anywhere, and no office machine repair shops. Although it is hard to trace the lineage, those occupations did evolve into other forms. The hotshot machinist who in 2016 runs several CNCs by him or herself would have run a group of screw machines in 1966. The required knowledge of cams and form tools has been replaced by a required knowledge of inserts and programming.

Work will still exist in the future, and will probably demand a similar proportion of our time, right up to the limit we can stand...just like it does today. It will just take forms most of us can't see from where we stand.
 

PeteM

Diamond
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Location
West Coast, USA
. . . Work will still exist in the future, and will probably demand a similar proportion of our time, right up to the limit we can stand...just like it does today. It will just take forms most of us can't see from where we stand.

I suspect most of us on PM probably enjoy work and actually relish long days as long as we have some sense of autonomy and mastery. We also don't mind, maybe even enjoy, much of the "shadow work." So, I'd think you're right that, for us, work will demand a similar proportion of our time.

What I'm not so sure of is what it will mean for the next generations of kids or society at large? Some random observations:

- There's some evidence that our hunter-gatherer forbears only worked a few hours a day, if they were located in an abundant area. Pick some berries. Do a bit of hunting. Knock off with the extended family for rest of the day.

- Back in the 70's I remember "pundits" like Laura Conigliaro (she followed the robotics industry) as well as the ordinary press saying we'd soon to working only 20 hours a week and the big problem would be figuring out what to do with our free time. What actually happened is that the work hours for families went up and work hours for some went way up (think GE under Welch in the 80's or the likes of Microsoft-Apple-Google-Facebook today). Others, with fewer skills, lost higher paying jobs (auto etc.) and ended up with lower paying jobs or (since 2008) maybe part-time jobs.

- Today, the combination of physical automation, then outsourcing, and information technology seems to be creating structural unemployment, especially for kids and for those without skills. I have a nephew, bight kid who just graduated with honors with a computer science degree from a pricey private college. He's fairly motivated, but being a Montana kid also wants some time to hunt, hike, spent time with his girl friend etc. It took him 6 months to find a job (and, yes, he was looking) and it's as a contract worker in Washington, DC. For kids with no honors, no degree, and no pricey college diploma it's likely more difficult.

- Just looking at the demographics, a lot of the anti-immigrant sentiment is coming from poor whites recently displaced from (or fearful for) their jobs. They blame the Mexican illegals. While that may be part of the problem, it's also automation, outsourcing, info tech, shadow work and the like that is reducing the pool of jobs available to them. There's likely a somewhat parallel story with the urban poor (many black), who find it hard to get a job.

- We've got the whole Piketty deal about inequality somewhat on steroids with automation. If I own a business and want to expand to growing markets, hiring a US worker may look less attractive than three other options: outsourcing to a low wage country; buying machines to do the work; or getting customers to do some of the "shadow work." Those are all options that weren't feasible around 1950. Even if we think all those things are perfectly OK (and in some cases, they probably are), it still means fewer entry level jobs and more inequality.

- Tim's response a bit earlier was along the lines that having a job is now a sort of fierce competition, where his kids have to work smarter and harder than most everyone else. While that will probably work out for his kids, for some kids it also sounds just a tiny bit like the box office smash of 2012 -- the Hunger Games.

So, I wonder where all this is headed. To me, meaningful work is a fundamental part of being human. Yet, the way things are structured right now it seems something will eventually have to give.

1) Do we accept higher unemployment, especially for some "underclass" and leave them to fend for themselves? A sort of survival of the fittest?
2) Do we starting paying for jobs, much like public works during the Great Depression, to allow fuller employment?
3) Maybe everyone works, but fewer paid hours, somewhat like either hunter-gatherers or the 1970's fantasies of an automated world?
4) Job sharing (e.g. in Germany) is another way of "doubling" employment, but at lower wages.
5) Maybe we stumble into some wars, employ more soldiers, and trim the population back a bit?
6) Maybe the next great industry follows clipper ships, railroads, autos, aircraft, and computer-aided everything to employ millions more?
7) Maybe everyone still works, and long hours, but we find a mechanism to pay for better infrastructure, schools, health care, etc.?
8) Maybe the voluntary simplicity thing has more people doing more for themselves, needing less income to get along?
9) Maybe there's a renaissance of small business, freer to create good new jobs?
10) Maybe we turn back the clock on families -- putting multiple generations back at home -- fewer breadwinners + home businesses?
11) Maybe something else or all of the above?

I suppose my guess would be closest to "all of the above."

FWIW, a 70 year old neighbor sent out one of his periodic self-deprecating rants yesterday. I normally hesitate to pass on anything Arn writes, it's all off color. But this one seems on topic. Arn complains that he can't get any respect. Crappy machines at checkout, long waits for customer service from India. Frustrated, he said he went to a massage parlor.

Problem was . . . it turned out to be self-service.

Not sure if the world's oldest profession will disappear -- but it does seem we're in for some changes. I'm also skeptical that either the social democratic notion of some minimum wage for everyone willing to work -- or the conservative notion of just trying harder really address the issues ahead.
 








 
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