Tuesday, January 10, 2012

So are robots getting all the good jobs?

"It's a Man vs. Machine Recovery

Companies have been buying technology instead of hiring, and Okun's Law is broken"

"The U.S. produces almost one-quarter more goods and services today than it did in 1999, while using almost precisely the same number of workers. It’s as if $2.5 trillion worth of stuff—the equivalent of the entire U.S. economy circa 1958—materialized out of thin air.

Although businesses haven’t added many people, they’ve certainly bulked up on machines. Spending on equipment and software hit an all-time high in the third quarter of 2011. “Huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less,” vaporizing jobs for everyone from steelworkers to travel agents, President Barack Obama warned in December.

So are robots getting all the good jobs? This year may provide the answer as the economy gathers steam. Most economists, cheered by 540,000 hires since Labor Day, say technology inevitably destroys some jobs even as it ultimately creates new ones. But with more than 20 million Americans still jobless or underemployed, others worry that something fundamental has changed. “What’s different now is the speed and scale of what’s happening,” says Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Center for Digital Business. Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, co-authors of the recently published book Race Against the Machine, argue that the economy is in the early stages of a “Great Restructuring” that is hollowing out the labor market and exacerbating inequality.

Nonsense, say economists including James D. Hamilton of the University of California at San Diego. There’s nothing new about machines replacing people. In 1900, 41 percent of Americans worked on farms. Today, thanks to labor-saving tractors and combines, the figure is less than 2 percent. Yet ex-farm workers found new jobs. And as manufacturing grew leaner in recent decades, factory workers—or their children—migrated to finance, health care, computers, and other growing industries."

Read the full article at its source: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/its-a-man-vs-machine-recovery-01052012.html?chan=magazine+technology+channel_news+-+global+economics 

Significat curriculum connection - Kurt Vonnegut's Novel "Player Piano"  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Player_Piano 

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