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Episode-1880- Bob Brown with An Engineers Take on Automation — 26 Comments

  1. It occured to me after listening to the show that if we think of money as the sum of (access to many resources, including access to natural resources, manufactured goods, other peoples services etc). Then automation may get used as an excuse to alienate large numbers of people from geting access to those resources in the future, but automation itself is not the proplem, the problem is the people who decide to use automation as an excuse to selfish ly grab too much resources for themselves. As consumers we can chose to buy locally from small producers instead of from large corporate resourse grabbers where ever possible.

    • Meh. “Universal Basic Income” here we come. So called “owners” of the machines will barely be better off than “most”, because they’ll be “forced” to “pay” for everyone through UBI. Humanity as a whole will finally be able to idle, leading to creativity and innovation unimaginable currently.

      • I think you have too much faith in humanity. Innovation, creativity comes from necessity, not idleness. Why would someone want to go through the hassle of owning something, so they can pay for someone else’s UBI? I wouldn’t.

        • Perhaps it doesn’t have to be that way. Money is simply created by man, it is an illusion and it only works because people have faith in it.

          UBI could be built on a block chain model, distributed based on needs alone. You could run a UBI based economy with LOWER taxes than we have now, and you could program the system to lock down and never allow excessive inflation.

          Those that wanted to work, do something, own a business, etc, could be taxed lower than they are today, it by the math it 100% could work.

          Oh and it could also create a debt free economy as well. Debt free at the National Debt level anyway.

          I know I know, that can’t work. Well if you understand the current economy is nothing but us printing bonds and using them to acquire fake money from China or Russia or the UK and then them doing so we can create fake money and loan it back, you realize it is far more logical than what we have been doing for over 100 years.

      • “Innovation, creativity comes from necessity, not idleness”
        For some (“most”?). I’ve seen arguments for the opposite though, and I thought they were just as convincing.

        “Why would someone want to go through the hassle of owning something, so they can pay for someone else’s UBI?”
        Perhaps they enjoy serving brothers and sisters in that way. Takes all kinds for the world to go round, so I hear.

        • I think the argument that a UBI would stop creativity is so illogical that making it seems ridiculous.

          Here is why, say it was 2500 dollars a month.

          Okay if someone gave you a life time annuity right now for that amount of money would you retire?

          Of course 90% of those reading this would say NO FING WAY, you might quit your job but you’d not retire. Knowing you could always pay your bills might send you off to try something you always wanted to do but it would not send you off to the couch to live on drone delivered Big Macs.

          Do you know how LITTLE I could work to earn 2500 a month? I could stop doing the show and do say two 5 minute youtube videos a day for a few months and get there likely with adsense. But what do you see me doing, busting my ass every day making this show as good as it can be. Helping others start businesses, building other businesses, why?

          Oh but I am special right? No not really anyone CAN but not everyone does, it is that simple.

          But as to creativity and innovation, those that did amazing things for the world, people like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, etc, do you think if they had been given a couple grand a month guarantee that they would not have?

          I guess for me, knowing what it takes to build something as small as my past companies and say TSP now and the other things I have done I see how illogical this argument is on its face. I also guess to those who have yet been unwilling to do anything like that, they won’t take risks, they won’t work till 3am at times when needed, etc. They just won’t push harder simply because they want to know what could be. I guess people like that would consider this a logical thing.

          The truth though is, the innovators, the creators, they are going to do it no matter what. You could give me a million dollars a month, I wouldn’t stop, I would DO MORE, I would GO FASTER.

          Final truth, those that won’t, are never going to anyway. But some that never will but really want to, might if given the opportunity.

  2. A couple of things for those interested:
    Iran used GPS spoofing to down one of our drones: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93U.S._RQ-170_incident

    This would be harder with a truck as all any drones above toy level would also use inertial guidance and any land based system would use direct measurement of speed and direction to verify location.

    There is a great book that covers the use of self driving vehicles as weapons called “Daemon” by Daniel Suarez.

    Nerdy vocabulary words for the podcast: Luddite and Sabotage https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite
    I had always heard a myth that “sabotage” comes from the Dutch using their wooden shoes (sabots) into the gears of the machines to break them. It is probably false, but still fun. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabotage

    • I’ve heard that story about the wooden shoes too… in a super nerdy place. Kim Cattrall (playing a Vulcan officer) mentions it in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. She uses the root of the word… Sabot, which she says is what the shoes were called. Again, I have no idea if that’s true but makes a nice story.

  3. I’m an industrial automation engineer of over 20 years and I’d like to add a few things to what Bob said.

    The here and now trend is that major automotive manufacturers in my area can’t seem to find enough qualified automation engineers and technicians. If they can’t, neither can anyone else around here. They have invested a lot of money with the state for an automation training center here… Tens of millions of dollars. How long will this talent shortage last? I can’t say.

    We’re not seeing a lot of AI machines from the ground up. Build a machine and attach a computer, load an OS and press start and let it learn just isn’t the norm right now. Could it be? Sure. We are seeing certain machines learn in certain, well defined areas. The advances in machine vision in my career alone are fascinating.

    I am seeing more and more manufacturers including more advanced instruction sets with their controllers. Years ago, timers and counters were basic stuff everyone included. Then PID instructions. Then more advanced stuff. Now one major manufacturer is coming out with instructions basically to run entire sections of machines. While this is a great way to reuse code, it will eventually reduce the need for more automation engineers. Where I think it will blow up is if they eventually open up their add on instruction set like an app store or the WordPress plugin library. Then I think we’ll see a huge decline in need for automation engineers. There’s a lot of apprehension for that right now because this is code that can do millions of dollars in damage or even kill someone, but I think someone will do it eventually.

    I worked for one client for 15 years and I ended up helping to eliminate the jobs of people I knew. Names. Faces. At first it was to help everyone be more efficient in the boom times. Then as demand ebbed, some of those guys got let go. I think this is the way it will continue to be. It was really dirty work. It paid fairly well but I don’t see this generation wanting to continue in those jobs that require them to get their hands dirty or break a sweat.

  4. Jack, Bob said something I thought was pretty profound, he discussed the DEFLATIONARY impact of job losses. You know I am starting to think this is a much bigger issue than what we’ve been taught for years, inflation.

    what do you think, man? 20% of the people with no jobs. The ones with jobs will have salaries being squeezed, more supply less demand means one thing and one thing only, deflation. Price of goods will go down too as labor is the number one cost, by far, for business and now with less human labor, you can manufacture 24 hrs a day too at peak efficiency.

    Seems deflationary to me. Thoughts?

    • Seems people want to believe someone “else” is “in control”. I seem to recall Robert Anton Wilson being quoted saying something similar, except he seemed to look down on believing such things.

  5. I am a software engineer with a degree myself, but software has so many different fields and sub fields and is always changing. I never feel like I have mastered anything because soon a new framework will come out etc .. I have mostly done high end web development for the past 10 years and various system programming for 20 years before that. The academic world can have alot of value in learning stuff, though I am not sure if it’s gotten way overpriced. Either that or if you are going to learn on top of working then you may have to spend all your spare time learning at night etc. If you just go with on the job training, your job may be very specific and your experience fairly narrow. That may be fine for some people I suppose

    That stuck in the middle song along with it’s only rockn roll by the stones where my favorite songs back in grade school when I had a simple radio and did not know what hi fi stereo was ..

    I didn’t like Regan too much and didn’t realize the damage Bill Clinton did until many years later, but George W Bush was the first president I came to really dislike. I had nothing against him personally but I hated everything he stood for. Probably because of everything after 911. I dislike Obama for not changing anything really after Bush.

    It can’t be some coincidence that the middle class is slipping away. Talk about engineering, I feel like people way at the top engineer our society and economy. Middle tier top level people are more collective conscious elite thinking to some extent.

    I also feel like how much oil there is or isn’t is hard to tell and a huge part of it must be that corporations and such have a way to hide that from us. There seems to have been alot of clues that oil prices are set purposely. If they are lower now than they where it’s likely to put pressure on Russia or independent producers. It has always frustrated me that people like Kunstler saying there’s never any conspiracy.

    The plan seems to be to make sure we have fancy expensive green technology with alot of bells and whistles (options) but in the end it may be way over priced and of poorer quality. They would rather do that than look into some serious stuff like nuclear fusion.

    Keeping us dependent on oil to helps the war machine to keep going as oil gives something to have a conflict over ..

  6. Jack re:Lidar people have been able to fool it by spoofing the signature of a human using cheap electronics. So you could basically trick a self driving car into thinking there’s a human in the path of it thus making it swerve off the road and potentially crash.

  7. While I enjoyed Bob’s insight, I was surprised to hear him referring to “Peak Oil”. We’ve been hearing Peak Oil for so long it’s now a cliché along the lines of “Climate Change” and overpopulation.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2016/1005/Small-Texas-company-announces-massive-oil-discovery-in-Alaska

    This small company has just announced a find that “If estimates are accurate…could prove to be one of the largest fields ever discovered in Alaska.”

    Seems to me the biggest cause of “Peak Oil” would be “the complications and general expense of researching oil fields and developing drilling operations, Mr. Musselman made a point of crediting state programs with providing the impetus for Caelus’s foray into Alaskan waters.”

    Thus regulatory issues are probably the biggest hurdle for finding and developing new fields. Allow human ingenuity to work its magic and who knows how long the oil will flow.

    Doesn’t mean we don’t seek alternatives but we’ve been warning of Oil’s death for decades and yet, in 2016, here we go still finding potential huge fields.

    • Yea I am long done with the alarmist view on oil. In 8th grade I had a science text book copywrite 1979 that stated we had 35 years of oil left. NOTE not to peak oil, LEFT. As in all gone.

      Well that book is now 37 years old!

      Do I believe we could have major oil pains because demand exceeds supply by as little as 1-2%. Yes and you know what that will do, further improve efficiency and drive other options faster.

      Economic disruptions, sure, TEOTWAWKI, nope not for that bogyman, not in the lifetime of anyone who is currenly living in my view. If you are my age or older, just put this one totally aside.

  8. I am 100% in favor of a UBI, it’s the ultimate in a voucher system. Give each person 30k a yr and be done with it. No more bureaucrats, social engineering etc. Eliminate ALL other social programs. “here you go sir, your 30k, we’ll see you next yr.” Done and done.
    In fact, this idea is gaining popularity. http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/10/fleischer-presents-the-libertarian-case-for-a-universal-basic-income-today-at-northwestern.html

    However, you know what’s going to happen. Moron’s will squander away their money and then they’ll need more and the left will say, “We can just let them starve…” and so then you’ll have the UBI and additional welfare because “It’s not their kids fault!”

    Ultimately, we’ll be right back where we are today, except with a UBI on top of it.

  9. Regarding automation:

    Here’s a quote from the book Jack recommended last month “Ersatz in the Confederacy:
    “Thomas Hudson, a Mississippi agricultural leader, told a group of his fellow planters that the “inventor of every machine calculated to save labor is a public benefactor.”

    Same can be said today. However, if MY labor is saved, i.e., I’m replaced by a machine, I won’t consider it a public benefactor. But regardless of my considerations it’s going to happen. Thus, what am I doing to prepare???

    Well, listening to TSP!