Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Unemployment: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

with 6 comments


Americans mostly don’t realize it yet, but a tidal wave of unemployment is building on the horizon. This is because a second wave of unemployment due to industrialization is going to roll over the USA. The first wave was in the 19th and early 20th centuries when factories and tractors put countless millions of workers out of work in traditionally labour intensive occupations like weaving and farming. The result was a massive growth in cities around the world, and ultimately what we call the “modern world” in the west. While huge numbers of jobs were lost in fields involving manual labour, the growth of factories and the rise of the middle class ensured that ultimately industrialization was a good thing. At least until the 1980s when the middle class started losing ground, but I digress. It’s going to get much worse in the USA with tens of millions of jobs disappearing in the next few decades:

  1. Driving. The robotic car is now a reality. It won’t happen overnight, but virtually all occupations that involve driving are going to go. Truck drivers and bus drivers will be the first to go. Delivery people, taxis, and pretty much all other driving occupations will follow. Trains and airplanes won’t be far behind. Why pay a chopper pilot and a news guy when a drone can do the same thing?
  2. Clerks/checkers/baggers. Automatic checkout lines are becoming common in the big chain stores, this trend will only increase. Toll booth operators are soon to be a thing of the past. Basically any time a customer hands someone money, that job is at risk.
  3. Farming and landscaping applications. Tractor drivers and just in general people who operate equipment will slowly be phased out. Robotic lawn mowers are already being used on golf courses. Machines to robotically weed fields are in development.
  4. Answering phones. This is already well underway, but soon enough all phone calls will be handled by software. Even the guys in call centres in India will be out of work. And sales calls will eventually be replaced by robots, especially the low grade ones where they are targeting seniors and such. If someone’s job is to make or take phone calls, their job’s days are numbered.
  5. One can add to this list things like prisons, schools, and the Post Office … all of which will likely be privatized within the next decade. And cutting staff is the first and last thing that happens when corporations take over a private function.

I am sure there is plenty I am missing. There’s other factors to be considered. brick and board businesses moving to an Internet base will continue to happen. Lastly, many of the above jobs when they go will also put other people out of work. Robotic truck drivers will only be buying gas at truck stops for starters. A whole history and culture of truck stop waitresses, cooks, and other people providing service to truck drivers will be gone. And of course there will be indirect job losses, every time someone loses a job, they have less money to spend and other businesses suffer. On the flip side, some new jobs will be created building and servicing robotic technology. Even without drivers trucks will still need regular maintenance and repair. Still, that won’t last forever, we’ve had robotic car washes for decades, robotic repair and maintenance facilities will eventually be built.

My main point here is that simply in the natural order of things, industrialization and robotics are going to destroy huge numbers of traditional jobs in the decades to come. This is the elephant in the room that the rich and powerful take pains not to bring up. Because they and their government minions are working very hard to ensure that when these jobs are eliminated, that the salaries get redirected into the ever increasing coffers of the rich. There are plenty of things government and society could do to encourage a healthy middle class, small businesses, and self-employment … but alas the opposite is the case. Instead they have concentrated on convincing people that the destruction of the middle class is because of immigrants, unions, welfare cheats, and the like. In effect convincing people to support policies that are actually making them poorer and the rich richer.

The next few decades are going to be interesting indeed.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is a bread line during the great depression. The men are all obviously welfare cheats and scammers, look, most of them even still have hats and shoes! Democrats no doubt.)


6 Responses

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  1. Possibly some of these things will come to pass but it’s equally possible some wont. I remember in the 1950’s a survey of the East Coast Town of Skegness in England predicted that the area would need sixteen more hotels seven additional cinemas and one new railway station, by the year 1990.This was to keep up with tourist demand. It was fashionable to predict the 90’s back then. Well, in actual fact the holiday jet with access to far off places at discount prices, altered the whole prediction beyond recognition. The sixteen hotels failed to materialise there are no cinemas today in skegness and the railway is all but closed. Nearer to our present time may I remind people that Mrs Thatcher was concerned that computers would give people more spare time than they could handle. It was a genuine worry taken very seriously by the government of the day.

    You can drive yourself and others mad with predictions on this that and the other but in the end fate has a way of taking her own time, in her own way. A sudden unexpected climate change either to extreme cold or extreme hot, could alter things considerably , a virus that reduced the world population by two thirds or more ( something that is very possible although not fashionable to mention ) would catapult the entire planet into chaos, and of course let us not forget the possibility of space travel taking people to new homes on other planets. Of one thing you can be sure, nothing will happen before its time but you have my permission to frighten yourselves to death contemplating all the possibilities.

    barry waterfield

    May 13, 2013 at 11:53 am

  2. Don’t forget doctors, nurses, teachers, janitors etc,etv

    Douglas Macary

    May 13, 2013 at 12:49 pm

  3. Well somebody has to run/fix the robots, guess the nerds/techs will be of extreme value as most folks can’t figure out how to run their toaster.


    May 13, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    • Reminds me of this book- E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops.

      “It is a chilling, short story masterpiece about the role of technology in our lives. Written in 1909, it’s as relevant today as the day it was published. Forster has several prescient notions including instant messages (email!) and cinematophoes (machines that project visual images). ”


      May 13, 2013 at 1:20 pm

  4. Doug,

    Have you come across any articles or literature indicating what the rich and powerful have in mind for the increasing numbers of economically useless people?
    Since money is simply a unit of accounting and can be created out of thin air (banks do it all the time when they generate a loan, most of which is NOT drawn from existing reserves) it seems plausible the government could similarly issue money into existence and hand it out to everyone to spend as they see fit. If rich people can accrue millions in interest simply by breathing, the rest of us should be able to cadge a grand or so every month in a similar manner.
    As for what to do with our time, perhaps release from the imperative to produce will allow us to once again tend our (metaphorical) looms.


    May 14, 2013 at 8:44 am

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