The Times, They Are A Changin’

Been reading A LOT of articles about automation the last several weeks. ChatGPT blew me away. I read that it can now write college level essays and pass the bar exam. Maybe lawyers will get replaced by machines much like factory workers have been replaced by robotics for decades now. Saw an article just this afternoon that McDonald’s is now opening restaurants serviced completely by robots.

Naturally, some people are complaining about automation. Seems like it’s mostly older people who never worked in fast food in the first place. Personally I think it’s about high time we automate most of these things. I hated working in fast food, mainly because of the disrespect I got from the public and my bosses. The low pay didn’t help either. I used to get anxiety attacks every day before I went into work the summer I worked fast food. Used to vomit from this anxiety. Naturally my parents didn’t care. But, then, neither ever worked in fast food.

Even the Chinese are now automating and outsourcing a lot of their good paying factory jobs. Things like that tend to happen when workers start demanding higher wages and higher quality of life. Just youtube “Laying Flat.” It isn’t no longer just the Western countries with disinfranchised young people. I liked factory work even though I never could adapt to working overnight five nights a week and sleep during the day. I turned in my resignation once the powers that be at the factory refused to transfer me to day shift. I liked factory work because the pay was better, I didn’t have to deal with the public, I got more respect from friends and family, and they let me work with power tools. I probably would have never had to go on disability had I been able to keep that job, at least until the heart failure showed up. But my bosses refused to transfer me to day shift. Since we weren’t unionized, I had no one backing me up.

But, factory work has gone the way of the dinosaurs, at least for most people in the USA. Most people I know who work fast food and retail do so out of a lack of options. College is no longer affordable and a degree no longer guarantees anything besides student debt that cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. I know that the trades are being heavily pushed now, but I fear that even those wages will collapse within twenty years much like the wages of office jobs because the market will get oversaturated. It may not be the case now, but wait a few years. The trades are starting to make the same mistakes the colleges did twenty five years ago. Granted, it will take several years to play out. But, we will have a glut of plumbers and electricians if college continues to be unaffordable without debt or office jobs continue to require college degrees. I gives me hope that some tech companies no longer require college degrees. But even they are heavily automating. Why else would Google and Amazon be laying off thousands of workers even with high profits? Even McDonalds and Wal Mart are going heavy into automation. It’s the robots, stupid.

Most people I know are not happy about automation. But, then, most people I know aren’t happy already. First they complain about the “damn kids” wanting 15 bucks an hour to flip hamburgers. Now they are complaining about machines taking those jobs. Used to be a carpenter could support a family of six kids, own a house, not need a degree, or need the wife to work outside of the house. Not the kids’ fault that wages haven’t kept up with inflation for over 40 years. Not the kids’ fault that there is a shortage of affordable homes. Do you know why kids are opting out of marriage and family, they can’t afford families. It ain’t because they are lazy and stupid. You can’t manage what you don’t have to begin with. Same “damn kids” wanting 15 an hour to work fast food would have been working unionized factory jobs in large numbers with pensions and health insurance in the 1950s. The kids haven’t changed, the world around them is.

I guess I’m one of those adults who has empathy for young people. I worked hard my entire life yet I was still damned as a slacker and entitled by my elders even in grade school. I hated it. I still have bad memories from it. That is why now that I’m an elder, I refuse to complain about kids. I vowed I would never pull that kind of crap that was pulled on me if I ever made it to old age. Besides, elders and kids have hated each other for thousands of years.

Personally I welcome automation and AIs. Most people I know hate their jobs. So why be afraid when a machine can do it better? Probably because of the loss of identity and income. But that kind of crap happens when you wrap your entire identity into what you do for money and bosses outsource and automate jobs every time workers strike for higher wages. The bosses and consumers don’t respect the workers even more than the workers don’t respect the jobs. I get so damn sick and tired trying to explain this to people. I lost my career and family to mental illness through no fault of my own much like people lost jobs due to outsourcing and automation. Yet people like me are seen as a leech on society because we don’t do a dead end job that pays poverty level wages that can already be done better by a machine. Hell, I have a friend in Denver who makes over 50 grand a year and yet she can’t afford even a one bedroom house. My grandfather never made more than that yet retired a millionaire. The times changed. We adapt or become historical road kill. God knows I had to adapt to a life without work and a family and my own home. Yet I made my peace with it.

I had this seventh grade teacher who loved to crow on about the “cold cruel world” and how much being an adult was going to be awful. Personally, I’m enjoying my adulthood a hell of a lot more than I ever enjoyed being a kid. And that is even with schizophrenia, bad knees, and heart failure. Just because she hated her job, she thought every kid was damned to be the same way. Granted most people I know hate their jobs. I can understand why with the low wages and disrespect from the public at large and the lack of loyalty from employers. In some ways, I thank God for being disabled in my twenties as opposed to later in my life. I wanted to go into pharmacy when I was a teenager. I’m glad I didn’t make it. Pharmacy is one of those jobs that will get automated before too many years. Some hospitals already have robots refilling prescriptions. And many people get their meds mailed to their houses through distribution centers I imagine are automated. In short, I think if I had to lose my career, it’s best that I did in my twenties when I was still physically healthy enough to adapt. I didn’t have a career or a family due to my schizophrenia. It was brutal going through the adaptation process. But at least I won’t be losing a job when I have kids and am too old to adapt. Not getting married and not having kids because of my illness were the best things I ever did.

We already have the technology and know how to automate millions of jobs and still give unemployed people a resonably decent standard of living. I’m living proof. I just think our politics, economics, and attitudes towards work and life balance haven’t caught up yet. I love studying economics, but I have rarely heard any economist talk about automation and AI. Captialism succeeded beyond Adam Smith’s wildest dreams. It’s succeeded so much that we can now automate a good deal of the work. Sure, some jobs in the trades and medical won’t be automated for a long time. But we simply no longer need 80 percent of workers in factories or farms like we did one hundred years ago. Our politics, economics, education, and social norms haven’t caught up to the science and tech we already have. And laws against AI research won’t work. It’s no longer just the US and Europe that have good tech. That genie left the bottle a long time ago. Isolation and turning our backs on the world will only guarantee the nations that do this will lose the future. We ignore the rest of the world at our own risk. We ignore technology at our own personal risk. People complaining about automation are historical road kill and not even delaying the inevitable by one day. And I hope machines take most jobs if it makes the cost of living lower. Besides, I’ve listened to people gripe and moan about how much they hate their jobs my entire life. Happiest people I know are children and retirees. I wonder why. Thank God I can’t work. End of rant.


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