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Robots will take your bullshit job

Menno van Doorn
March 18, 2015

7 thoughts on “Robots will take your bullshit job

  1. Interesting, BUT whether or not jobs are “bullshit” is not determined by Oxford professors (thankfully). Rather, the “value” of the job is determined by the fair market price associated with the labor involved to cover the activities in the job. At least this is how this works in here in the US. The issue is not so much that “bullshit meaningless jobs” will get automated and disappear, but that the automation of jobs will be indiscriminate (impacting both jobs that Oxford professors deem bullshit and those they may deem valuable) and that hence, since labor will become less scarce, the fair market price of labor will plummet for ALL jobs except for maybe those requiring celebrity status. Then, only few will be left that can afford to buy the Apple watch, which is almost completely made by robots in China. Perhaps Apple can then just produce the gold one.

    1. Dear Kasper, Fascinating future scenario! Some say robot production is going back to the US, mainly because the costs of energy is lower (compared to China). But anyhow. Yes Oxord professors don’t determine, nor does Erik Brynjolfsson (MIT), what will be obsolete, they only analyse and predict. The most difficult question to answer of course is “what’s valuable?” Given indefinite resources, no global warming and enough planets to go to when earth gets to crowdy, the answer can be found in traditional economic theories. Otherwise, it gets complicated. Meanwhile there is a serious discussion going on about a standard income for all. When people don’t have the money, even robot factories don’t make any sense. The money could come from Apple, Facebook and the like (good reed:”Who ownes the Future, Jaron Lanier). Some say these are the new monopolies, although they are free market players. Jean Tirole, a French economist, received the Nobel Price for he Economy (2014) for his work on monopolies in two-sided markets. Traditional theory says prices go up when monopolies run the economy. But Facebook and Google is cheap, actually its free of charge. That’s because the new rules of two sided markets are different. So take the monopoly money form those players, distrubute to the poor and deemed, and let them buy their gadgets 😉

      1. Facebook and Google aren’t free. They use behavioral data culled from users and in effect, sell that to advertisers. Every business requires a revenue source and a product or service to sell.
        Menno, I see no evidence that this scenario has any likelihood of success: “take the monopoly money from those players, distribute to the poor and doomed, and let them buy their gadgets”. Facebook and Google don’t show an inclination to give ANY money away! I think that Kasper de Boer sees clearly.
        Regarding the article, there is nothing beautiful about Airbnb. In both New York City and Berlin, it is causing long-term housing shortages. Nor is Airbnb peer-to-peer; rather, it is primarily used by shady corporate hoteliers to evade safe housing regulation. I wrote about it here, “Airbnb versus Berlin”

        1. I read the NY AG report regarding Airbnb with great interest. The question now is whether “we are merely providing the platform” and leaving the responsibilities of acting within the laws to the “participants” is sufficient argument to continue to collect fees from what is essentially unlawful activity. Does this make Airbnb and other platform providers criminal enterprises? Clearly, the last word has not been spoken about this, but it would be very surprising to me if Airbnb and other similar players will survive the lawsuits that are sure to follow. Reminds me of the early days of file/music “sharing”.
          One other comment: while the “sharing economy” is all very exciting and new, I’m not sure if we are experiencing progress or regression. As far as use of labor is concerned, the first effects of the platform or sharing economy are already upon us and they appear to deliver, at least here in the US, not-so-pleasant results for the average worker who will have to cobble together a myriad of odd internet-based fee-for-serivice tasks (and yes that includes driving an Uber car) to make a living, none of which provides any benefits.

          1. Kasper, if the early years of music sharing is symbolic, we know where it it will end: the spotification of industries. Even our own industry (IT) shows signs of this (Elance/Odesk). The workers on that platform get rated, money back guarantee by Odesk for high rated workers if they would fail. And an every 10 min screenshot to see whether the worker is actually working on his assignment. Good question whether it’s progress or regression. It’s basically about costs, two-sided market effects, making smart use of assets (sharing economy if you wish).

        2. Ellie, you’re right. Facebook is probably not giving away any money. Governments have to come and get it. “Nothing beautiful” about Airbnb? At least they have built the interface to find an apartment. Like Uber has built the best interface for finding a taxi. Beauty is one of their strengths. The impact of all that might or might not be beautiful. But as always, the existing system has its awfulness too. Take for instance MOOCs vs classroom teachers. Same discussion. I would argue a pro/con debate should be for both sides of the market. Incumbants and startups both have their goods and bads. But yes, overall, the positive attributes of start-ups get more attention than the negative.

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