Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

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Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#1  Postby iamthereforeithink » May 05, 2013 7:48 pm

....But if the Luddite Fallacy (as it has become known in development economics) were true, we would all be out of work by now—as a result of the compounding effects of productivity. While technological progress may cause workers with out-dated skills to become redundant, the past two centuries have shown that the idea that increasing productivity leads axiomatically to widespread unemployment is nonsense.

But here is the question: if the pace of technological progress is accelerating faster than ever, as all the evidence indicates it is, why has unemployment remained so stubbornly high—despite the rebound in business profits to record levels? Two-and-a-half years after the Great Recession officially ended, unemployment has remained above 9% in America. That is only one percentage point better than the country's joblessness three years ago at the depths of the recession....


More here
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#2  Postby FACT-MAN-2 » May 06, 2013 2:38 am

iamthereforeithink wrote:
....But if the Luddite Fallacy (as it has become known in development economics) were true, we would all be out of work by now—as a result of the compounding effects of productivity. While technological progress may cause workers with out-dated skills to become redundant, the past two centuries have shown that the idea that increasing productivity leads axiomatically to widespread unemployment is nonsense.

But here is the question: if the pace of technological progress is accelerating faster than ever, as all the evidence indicates it is, why has unemployment remained so stubbornly high—despite the rebound in business profits to record levels? Two-and-a-half years after the Great Recession officially ended, unemployment has remained above 9% in America. That is only one percentage point better than the country's joblessness three years ago at the depths of the recession....


More here

How can it possibly be "nonsense" that increasing productivity leads axiomatically to widespread unemployment? If it can be realized that one person can do the job of 20, aren't 19 people at least threatened with unemployment?

Employment in advanced economies has already undergone a huge transformation in which good paying manufacturing jobs have been outsourced to cheap labor and those who had worked in manufacturing industries are now employed in much lower paying service sector jobs, if they have a job at all.

Could it be that unemployment has remained high simply because there's not enough work to go around?


America's Youth Unemployment Rate Is One Of The The Worst Of Wealthy, Large Economies: Report

Posted: 05/05/2013 2:55 pm EDT
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/0 ... 19671.html

In the constant race to be the best America is falling behind other large, wealthy nations in at least one major category: Employing the nation’s youth.

In 2000, the United States had the lowest unemployment rate for 25- to 34-year-oldsamong countries with large, wealthy economies. By 2011, America had one of the highest youth unemployment rates compared to its peers, according to a New York Times op-ed by David Leonhardt, the paper’s Washington bureau chief.

How did the table’s turn on America’s youth? As unemployment soared during the Great Recession, young people -- with and without college degrees -- were forced to compete with more experienced candidates suddenly out of a job for very few openings. The result: Nearly half of the nation’s unemployed are under the age of 34, according to a report last month from public policy organization Demos.

And it doesn’t seem like things will get better for America’s young people any time soon. Demos found that the U.S. economy will have to create more than 4 million jobs before young adults will be employed at levels similar to those before the recession. In addition, 16.1 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 were out of work in April, according to Generation Opportunity, a nonpartisan youth advocacy group.

Of those young people that are employed, many are working in jobs they’re overqualified for. More than 40 percent of those who graduated college in the last two years are working in a job that doesn't require their degree, according to an Accenture survey cited by CNNMoney. In addition, 284,000 college graduates had minimum-wage jobs last year.

And many are contending with high levels of student loan debt. Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. households had college debt in 2010, according to a Pew analysis from last year.

While the young people themselves are bearing the brunt of America’s youth unemployment problem, the rest of us will likely also have to face its consequences.Studies have shown a clear link between youth joblessness and a boost in crime rates.

The days when everyone worked for a living are probably coming to an end. We'll let the machines do the work and spend our time tending them and inventing new ones and otherwise enjoing life as truly free people, free of debt and free of toil, free to create and free to invent and free to explore and to do research.

I can't for the life of me figure out what's wrong with that kind of future.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#3  Postby Loren Michael » May 06, 2013 3:58 am

iamthereforeithink wrote:
....But if the Luddite Fallacy (as it has become known in development economics) were true, we would all be out of work by now—as a result of the compounding effects of productivity. While technological progress may cause workers with out-dated skills to become redundant, the past two centuries have shown that the idea that increasing productivity leads axiomatically to widespread unemployment is nonsense.

But here is the question: if the pace of technological progress is accelerating faster than ever, as all the evidence indicates it is, why has unemployment remained so stubbornly high—despite the rebound in business profits to record levels? Two-and-a-half years after the Great Recession officially ended, unemployment has remained above 9% in America. That is only one percentage point better than the country's joblessness three years ago at the depths of the recession....


More here


The answer seems like it's at least partially contained in the OP:

...if the pace of technological progress is accelerating faster than ever, as all the evidence indicates it is, why has unemployment remained so stubbornly high...


...technological progress may cause workers with out-dated skills to become redundant...


That is, technological progress is accelerating faster than ever, so more and more workers with outdated skills are becoming redundant (and education isn't picking up the slack). I doubt that's the whole picture, but I also doubt it's an insignificant part.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#4  Postby Loren Michael » May 06, 2013 4:40 am

Ah, having read the rest of the article though, I think that there's going to be a gradual shift from knowledge workers of one sort to another. They'll move up the chain of know-how as machines start consuming the labor at the lower levels.

Things that machines can't do in the foreseeable future absent a singularity-type event are interpersonal jobs - waiters and chefs, yoga instructors and personal trainers, dance and piano teachers, etc - and creative jobs. I think that if unemployment is to generally stay below 10% in the distant future, it will largely be because of a migration to those areas.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#5  Postby Loren Michael » May 06, 2013 11:23 am

Never mind.

We're doomed.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#6  Postby iamthereforeithink » May 06, 2013 4:21 pm

FACT-MAN-2 wrote:How can it possibly be "nonsense" that increasing productivity leads axiomatically to widespread unemployment? If it can be realized that one person can do the job of 20, aren't 19 people at least threatened with unemployment?


Because it is not a zero sum game. Better technology increases productivity, but also creates new jobs that didn't exist earlier. Of course, it might seem like a zero sum game when seen within the narrow context of a particular kind of work. Example - Blacksmiths going out of work with the advent of the pneumatic hammer. So yes, a pneumatic hammer than required one operator to do the job of 20 blacksmiths resulted in 19 losing their jobs. But the pneumatic hammer also led to the creation of new kinds of industries and new kinds of jobs that more than replaced the blacksmiths.

So the Luddite fallacy as formulated in its original form is clearly just that - a fallacy. However, that's not the problem right now. The problem, as the article seems to suggest, is that we might now have reached a stage where productivity gains are accelerating at an exponential rate, whereas consumption continues to grow linearly, if at all. This is an unsustainable situation, because there aren't enough consumers for the newly created or newly freed up productivity. To use a manufacturing analogy, this is akin to a factory owner creating a lot of unused and unusable capacity. Initially, he realizes a lot of savings because he is producing more with fewer machines. But lets say the market for the product is not growing and everyone else in the business has realized these savings too, such that there are no takers for the machines he has freed up. Then he has just created a lot of waste that will ultimately be destructive for his business, as also the market as a whole.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#7  Postby FACT-MAN-2 » May 06, 2013 4:31 pm

Loren Michael wrote:Ah, having read the rest of the article though, I think that there's going to be a gradual shift from knowledge workers of one sort to another. They'll move up the chain of know-how as machines start consuming the labor at the lower levels.

Things that machines can't do in the foreseeable future absent a singularity-type event are interpersonal jobs - waiters and chefs, yoga instructors and personal trainers, dance and piano teachers, etc - and creative jobs. I think that if unemployment is to generally stay below 10% in the distant future, it will largely be because of a migration to those areas.

Such jobs can't amount to more than five per cent of all jobs in a contemporary economy and most don't pay enough to support a family, which is why most locals won't do them, which leads you to think that in-migration will see they are filled.

Wonderful.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#8  Postby FACT-MAN-2 » May 06, 2013 4:35 pm

iamthereforeithink wrote:
FACT-MAN-2 wrote:How can it possibly be "nonsense" that increasing productivity leads axiomatically to widespread unemployment? If it can be realized that one person can do the job of 20, aren't 19 people at least threatened with unemployment?


Because it is not a zero sum game. Better technology increases productivity, but also creates new jobs that didn't exist earlier. Of course, it might seem like a zero sum game when seen within the narrow context of a particular kind of work. Example - Blacksmiths going out of work with the advent of the pneumatic hammer. So yes, a pneumatic hammer than required one operator to do the job of 20 blacksmiths resulted in 19 losing their jobs. But the pneumatic hammer also led to the creation of new kinds of industries and new kinds of jobs that more than replaced the blacksmiths.

So the Luddite fallacy as formulated in its original form is clearly just that - a fallacy. However, that's not the problem right now. The problem, as the article seems to suggest, is that we might now have reached a stage where productivity gains are accelerating at an exponential rate, whereas consumption continues to grow linearly, if at all. This is an unsustainable situation, because there aren't enough consumers for the newly created or newly freed up productivity. To use a manufacturing analogy, this is akin to a factory owner creating a lot of unused and unusable capacity. Initially, he realizes a lot of savings because he is producing more with fewer machines. But lets say the market for the product is not growing and everyone else in the business has realized these savings too, such that there are no takers for the machines he has freed up. Then he has just created a lot of waste that will ultimately be destructive for his business, as also the market as a whole.

So the entire proposition rests upon the notion of "full" demand, which can do more be predicted than the man in the moon and has in fact been in the toilet for a very long time now.

Talk about a mess.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#9  Postby iamthereforeithink » May 06, 2013 4:52 pm

...as also the fact that productivity gains are being realized in EVERY kind of job at a rate that far outstrips cumulative consumption growth of all kinds of products and services. So the cumulative potential supply of all goods and services is growing much faster than the demand for these products and services. I posted this link earlier in another thread about how UTC continues to lay off a large proportion of it's workforce, even as its profits and stock price are at an all time high. UTC is realizing productivity gains that the world doesn't really need, but are yielding short-term benefits and short-term shareholder value for UTC all the same.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#10  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » May 06, 2013 4:58 pm

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYu1qW8Dctk[/youtube]
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#11  Postby FACT-MAN-2 » May 07, 2013 2:27 am

iamthereforeithink wrote:...as also the fact that productivity gains are being realized in EVERY kind of job at a rate that far outstrips cumulative consumption growth of all kinds of products and services. So the cumulative potential supply of all goods and services is growing much faster than the demand for these products and services. I posted this link earlier in another thread about how UTC continues to lay off a large proportion of it's workforce, even as its profits and stock price are at an all time high. UTC is realizing productivity gains that the world doesn't really need, but are yielding short-term benefits and short-term shareholder value for UTC all the same.

Well, since that's what the game is mostly about (short-term benefits and increased short-term shareholder value), I guess that's just fine and dandy, and to hell with the workers who've been layed off.

And where does all this lead? What's the end game? On the whole, are people's lives made better?
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#12  Postby Loren Michael » May 07, 2013 2:44 am

FACT-MAN-2 wrote:
Loren Michael wrote:Ah, having read the rest of the article though, I think that there's going to be a gradual shift from knowledge workers of one sort to another. They'll move up the chain of know-how as machines start consuming the labor at the lower levels.

Things that machines can't do in the foreseeable future absent a singularity-type event are interpersonal jobs - waiters and chefs, yoga instructors and personal trainers, dance and piano teachers, etc - and creative jobs. I think that if unemployment is to generally stay below 10% in the distant future, it will largely be because of a migration to those areas.


Such jobs can't amount to more than five per cent of all jobs in a contemporary economy and most don't pay enough to support a family, which is why most locals won't do them, which leads you to think that in-migration will see they are filled.


What are you basing this 5% figure on, and what are you basing these assertions about payment on?
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#13  Postby Loren Michael » May 07, 2013 2:48 am

FACT-MAN-2 wrote:On the whole, are people's lives made better?


Considering the past two hundred years, economic growth and human welfare track very well together.

Yes, people's lives are made better.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#14  Postby FACT-MAN-2 » May 07, 2013 5:28 am

Loren Michael wrote:
FACT-MAN-2 wrote:On the whole, are people's lives made better?


Considering the past two hundred years, economic growth and human welfare track very well together.

Yes, people's lives are made better.

I say dream on pal.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#15  Postby Loren Michael » May 07, 2013 6:06 am

FACT-MAN-2 wrote:
Loren Michael wrote:
FACT-MAN-2 wrote:On the whole, are people's lives made better?


Considering the past two hundred years, economic growth and human welfare track very well together.

Yes, people's lives are made better.

I say dream on pal.

I say the data supports my position.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#16  Postby FACT-MAN-2 » May 07, 2013 8:46 pm

Loren Michael wrote:
FACT-MAN-2 wrote:
Loren Michael wrote:
FACT-MAN-2 wrote:On the whole, are people's lives made better?

Considering the past two hundred years, economic growth and human welfare track very well together.

Yes, people's lives are made better.

I say dream on pal.

I say the data supports my position.

LOL! You would, except you'd be wrong.

Does this data support your position?


Working Poor Face Long Odds: 'You Have To Just Wait Your Turn, But That Turn May Never Come'

Posted: 05/07/2013 3:23 pm EDT | Updated: 05/07/2013 3:29 pm EDT
By Saki Knato
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/0 ... 65476.html

The Kentucky Fried Chicken where Joseph Barrera works stands at a busy intersection in the working-class Brooklyn neighborhood where he grew up, down the street from some auto body shops, a few rice-and-beans joints and a White Castle. Until the day Barrera found himself mopping up the grease that had spewed all over the restaurant's basement, he was confident that his $7.25-an-hour job represented the beginning of a career that would lead him out of the neighborhood and into a middle-class life.

He believed KFC's website, which claimed that the company helped workers go from "finger lickin' good to GREAT!" He believed his manager and boss, who assured him that if things went well, he'd get a promotion and a raise and would eventually earn an opportunity to take over his own restaurant. And he believed his father and mother and grandmother and uncle and everyone else who had ever told him that if he worked hard and saved money, he'd get ahead.

Then came the explosion of the grease trap, a machine that separates grease from the drainage that flows into the sewers. Grease splattered all over the basement floor and walls; a manager asked Barrera to clean up the mess. Barrera agreed, figuring that he'd prove himself worthy of a raise. The company had recently promoted him to shift supervisor, adding to his responsibilities. But Barrera was still waiting for the extra pay that was supposed to come with the new title. He spent two days scrubbing down the basement with ammonia and bleach, determined to show his boss that he deserved more than what he was making. But the raise never came.

Barrera is a wiry, restless 22-year-old who belongs to the fastest-growing cohort of American workers -- people who go to work every day but earn so little that the government classifies them as poor. His experience at KFC underscores a reality faced by millions of Americans: Despite the American truism about hard work being the key to success, more and more working people are effectively trapped in poverty-wage jobs with few opportunities for advancement.

"People often talk about how we're transitioning to a new economy," said Dorian Warren, a professor of sociology at Columbia University who studies low-wage work. "But we're there already. And it's a very different type of economy than what we had in the immediate post-war period, when there were middle-class jobs, there were job ladders that people could move up within a company or an industry. Those days are over."

By the government's definition, a married person with two kids who lives on $23,283 a year or less is poor. By that standard, someone who works full time but earns $10.60 an hour can be considered working poor, a classification that describes about 10 million Americans. The working poor cook burgers, deliver pizzas, fold shirts, help people pick out shoes, cut grass, answer phones, move boxes in warehouses, organize items on shelves, and take care of children and the elderly. Contrary to the outdated image of the neighborhood kid hustling for "pin money" at the local McDonald's, low-wage workers are mostly adults, not teenagers. Few receive health insurance or other employee benefits, and the government often subsidizes their wages, providing them with food stamps and other benefits.

During the course of the downturn now known as the Great Recession, which saw the official unemployment rate peak at 10 percent, the economy lost more than 8 million jobs. Sixty percent of those jobs paid between about $14 and $21 an hour,according to the National Employment Law Project.

In the 39 months since the job market hit bottom in February 2010, the economy has added nearly 5.9 million jobs, while the unemployment rate has dropped to 7.6 percent. But as of last summer, around 60 percent of those new jobs paid about $14 per hour or less, NELP found.

In other words, since the recession officially ended, lower-wage jobs have grown nearly three times faster than jobs that pay more.

While more and more Americans try to get by on these wages, many of the major employers of low-wage workers are reaping big profits. Between 2007 and 2011, the corporation that owns KFC saw its profits rise by 45 percent. McDonald's had an even better run, posting a 130 percent profit surge in the same period.

Continued ...

Americans are in debt up to their ears, a $trillion in university tuition debt alone; they drive cars they don't own (the bank owns them), they iive in homes they don't own (the banks own them too) and they are made to breath filthy air and drink polluted water and consume contaminated foodstuffs, while paying exhorbitant fees for their television and Internet access. More than a million and a half Americans filed personal bankruptcy in 2011.

More than 20,000 Americans die in hospitals each year from mistaken treatments.

More than 10,000 Americans die each year in accidental gun shootings.

And you think this is all just fine and dandy and that people's lives are made better each passing day by gains in productivity.

Sorry, I don't buy your Kool Aid.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#17  Postby FACT-MAN-2 » May 07, 2013 11:28 pm

I'm sure these California farmworkers think their lot is being improved. Not!


Farmworkers Fired For Leaving During California Wildfire
Posted: 05/07/2013 3:47 pm EDT
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/0 ... 31660.html

Picking strawberries is tedious, backbreaking work. But when the Camarillo Springs wildfire filled the sky with smoke and ash last Thursday, farm laborers found that their already difficult job felt impossible to do safely.

The conditions made breathing difficult for at least 15 workers at Crisalida Farms in Oxnard, Calif. -- just 11 miles south of Camarillo. But when they decided to seek shelter indoors from the wildfire's smoke, laborers had to make a choice between their health or their job.

"The ashes were falling on top of us," said one worker to NBC LA in the video above. "[But] they told us if we leave, there would be no job to return to."

True to the foreman's word, when the laborers returned to work the next day, they found out they'd all been fired. That's when the United Farm Workers union stepped in.

Even though none of the laborers were union members, they reached out to UFW rep Lauro Barrajas for help. Barrajas met with the farm's upper management and reminded them of this old union rule: “No worker shall work under conditions where they feel his life or health is in danger."

The Camarillo Springs wildfire ended up scorching about 44 square miles of land and is still is not completely contained six days later.

Gotta keep that productivity up yunno!
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#18  Postby Loren Michael » May 08, 2013 12:14 am

FACT-MAN-2 wrote:More than 20,000 Americans die in hospitals each year from mistaken treatments.

More than 10,000 Americans die each year in accidental gun shootings.

And you think this is all just fine and dandy and that people's lives are made better each passing day by gains in productivity.

Sorry, I don't buy your Kool Aid.


I'm sorry, what does any of that have to do with my claim?

I talk about a trend, and you bring up two isolated data points.

Do you not understand what a trend is?

EDIT: And without some kind of elaboration, it's not clear how your second post either serves the topic or serves to rebut what I said.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#19  Postby Jakov » May 08, 2013 11:31 pm

I'm very interested in this topic and have been for a while now. Robots potentially have the power to abolish tedious, repetative and boring labour.

Here's some more reading material
http://theleisuresociety.tumblr.com/pos ... a-linkfest
http://libcom.org/blog/wrong-work-two-p ... k-03012013
http://www.communistrobot.com/index.php ... &article=1


iamthereforeithink wrote:
....But if the Luddite Fallacy (as it has become known in development economics) were true, we would all be out of work by now—as a result of the compounding effects of productivity. While technological progress may cause workers with out-dated skills to become redundant, the past two centuries have shown that the idea that increasing productivity leads axiomatically to widespread unemployment is nonsense.


We arn't all out of work because the market re-adjusts itself. The number is workers is the same with fewer jobs so wages and conditions must fall until a new equilibrium is reached.

An annoying thing is as wages fall, the incentive to implement new kinds of automation falls as well. This is another reason why we have a duty to unionise. By artificially raising the cost of our labour we motivate the market to invest in new kinds of robots.

Chomsky makes the point that automation, being a high-skill scientific endeavour recieves most of its blue-sky investment through the state-capitalist route. It's well known that many NASA, CERN and pentagon research ends up being used in the private sector.
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Re: Difference Engine: Luddite legacy

#20  Postby Jakov » May 09, 2013 12:11 am

FACT-MAN-2 wrote:
iamthereforeithink wrote:...as also the fact that productivity gains are being realized in EVERY kind of job at a rate that far outstrips cumulative consumption growth of all kinds of products and services. So the cumulative potential supply of all goods and services is growing much faster than the demand for these products and services. I posted this link earlier in another thread about how UTC continues to lay off a large proportion of it's workforce, even as its profits and stock price are at an all time high. UTC is realizing productivity gains that the world doesn't really need, but are yielding short-term benefits and short-term shareholder value for UTC all the same.

Well, since that's what the game is mostly about (short-term benefits and increased short-term shareholder value), I guess that's just fine and dandy, and to hell with the workers who've been layed off.

And where does all this lead? What's the end game? On the whole, are people's lives made better?


Climate change screws up the planet. :coffee:


Because robots are a kind of capital, accumulation can reach untold levels. Traditionally the capitalist way of getting rid of surplus labour was to start a war and make the working class kill each other. I don't think that will happen this time because of nuclear weapons.

One way to keep the unemployed masses happy is some kind of tax-and-spend solution, perhaps high unemployment benefits or even a guaranteed citizens income where the state pays an income to each citizen regardless of their work status, funded by taxation on robot-owning capitalists.

Of course another way is violent revolution where the unemployed masses seize the robots, operate them themselves and share the surplus equally. A capitalist economy is not fit for autonomous robot industrialization. A socialist economy however is perfectly suited for the implementation of a fully robotic workforce.


The entire world, all of humanity, can be elevated to live a life of luxury with robots doing all the industrial labor. With menial labor taken care of, education and creative endeavors would become paramount, freeing humanity to develop its greatest faculty: the human mind. This social reform into a utopian state is only possible with the proper implementation of robots. It should be the goal of every able minded individual to curve the world towards this robot revolution. Even before robotic technology reaches economic viability social reform is needed to insure that people know the benefits of robotic industrialization. This is a call for humanity to advance, just as we’ve advanced from caves to homes, as we’ve risen out of feudalism and forged Democracy, as we’ve gone from manpower to horse power to machine power. It is time for a new age, the culmination of everything learned and done before it, and the end of human labor. Oppression, inequity, war, poverty, these can be things of the past with the proper implementation of robotic industrialization. The full realization of humanity is upon us, it is time to advance!


The above is a little too optimistic for me, but still very gives us some tantilising ideas.
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