Gongol.com Archives: October 2010
Brian Gongol

October 3, 2010

The American Way Modern innovation might be quite the enemy of low-skill job seekers
A Washington Post columnist notes that "Robots are much better at assembling cars than they are at coming up with a marketing plan for those cars." But in fact, the truth is that robotics (and all forms of automation) are rather directly opposed to low-skill jobs, specifically because those jobs don't require much skill. The easier the task, the more likely it is to be a good candidate for automation. We have automatic dishwashers and clothes washers because they are supremely easy tasks -- we don't yet have nanny androids, because changing a baby's diaper is a far more complex operation. Higher-level skills are no longer a luxury for those who want comfortable incomes, they're rapidly becoming necessary. Once cars can drive themselves safely (don't think it's far off -- they can already parallel-park themselves), semi-skilled jobs like truck driving will shift from the column of "something for which there will always be job demand" to the one marked "jobs that won't be around forever." We as a society will be vastly better-off as these jobs migrate from frail and fallible humans -- just like we're already seeing enormous benefits from GPS-driven systems for tractors and combines, which produce straighter rows and use fuel, seed, and fertilizer far more efficiently than even the smartest humans. But the benefits will accrue to those who have higher levels of skill and thus will still be able to market their work while reaping the benefits of investment in the equipment. Those who fail to upgrade their skills will find themselves in a downward spiral of relative wealth. This is exactly the reason why politicians must stop yapping about "creating jobs." Jobs aren't the objective -- wealth is. A wealthy society full of machines that do our hard labor for us would be vastly preferable to one in which lots of people earned high incomes but wasted their time and health doing things that machines could do better.

News Newspapers not as revealers of truth, but as obfuscators of it
Layoffs may be necessary in many traditional newspaper organizations, but they shouldn't conduct the same nauseating public-relations spin that they tell their journalists to try to strip away when telling a story

Threats and Hazards Hugo Chavez wants to arm local militias
(Article in Spanish) Venezuela has every reason to be a wealthy and economically-growing nation, but it's just not going to get anywhere with a belligerent and temperamental president like Chavez in control of things

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