Episode-1680- Listener Feedback for 11-23-15 — 11 Comments

  1. Interesting stuff about the universities. One blogger that’s been following it pretty closely is Rod Dreher, and today’s example is.. woah.

    Note, TAC isn’t exactly your run-of-the-mill Fox News style conservative outlet.

    A few observations..

    1) It seems this is enabled less by the faculty and more by administration. Yes, there are faculty out there teaching some abhorrent things, but I think a lot of instructors are actually worried about where this is going because I think most are sincerely interested in the free exchange of ideas, while administrators can’t seem to create enough additional administration positions to handle the grievances those exchanges create.

    2) I don’t think this stays limited to academia. As Dreher or someone else has mentioned, these are well-respected universities that churn out the elites of our business world. The people screaming at a Yale master today might be working in HR for Google in 4 years, and running the place in 20.

    3) Even if most of the SJW silliness stays within academia, they will have sufficiently managed to strike fear in most graduates’ hearts to effectively evangelize without having to get a ‘real world’ job.

  2. On the asphalt shingles having a negative effect on plant growth I thought I’d share a story of interest. I’ve got a trailer garage type structure roofed with that stuff and I shit you not, there is a line of death directly under the edges of it where the runoff hits the field. It’s a narrow line of death, perhaps 2 inches wide or so, but there is zero vegetation within that line.

    • I think that’s due to the force of the water coming off the roof, not anything in the water. I could be wrong, but I’ve seen that below lots of roofs (of different roofing materials) without gutters

  3. I’m an automation guy…

    There are some misconceptions which people need to correct in their conception of automation.

    Automation is focused on High paying jobs.
    Nope. Most companies pay their low wage workers collectively more than all their executives combined. In addition, people need supervision, human resources etc. The target is the low paying job. That’s the biggest budget item in terms of salaries, has the greatest margin for error allowable in terms of the work done, and is often the easiest to automate.

    Automation cannot recreate the skill of an expert.
    False. I can tell you, I’d rather have a computer preform surgery on me than a person. The level of precision is unmatched by any human capabilities. I’d rather have a computer represent me in court than deal with a lawyer.

    Automation is too expensive for most companies.
    False. It’s actually cheaper to hire a coder to automate an individual job than it is to train a newly hired person, even if the person is already an expert.

    Automation will not replace jobs dependant on “people skills”.
    In fact these jobs are the first to go. It has been alleged that machines could not replace people until they passed the turing test and were indistinguishable from people. As it turns out, it’s the ways that machines are different that makes people like them. Studies have shown that most people under 40 prefer to deal with a computer kiosk or automated system than deal with a real person. The self-checkout at the grocery store won’t look at you funny if you have a hemorrhoid cream in your cart. A vending machine won’t spit in your food or use the restroom and forget to wash. They don’t have a “bad day” and get an attitude with you. You don’t need to worry about their “feelings”. They’re not indecisive. Text to Speech means they can speak every language… Those who have grown up with the technology really do favor it to human interaction for conducting business.

    Manufacturing jobs are the hardest hit.
    False. Most companies make more than one product and make revisions to the product requiring constant re-tooling. Yes, the low level assembly line stuff, and feeding material stock is being automated. Most would be surprised however by how much of what they buy is still made by a person. Even though this can be automated, it’s not always practical to do so. Most of the jobs lost in manufacturing today are due to outsourcing or competition who is outsourcing and undercutting every bid.

    Some jobs are resistant to automation.
    This one is true. Jobs which rely on a diverse skillset will be difficult to automate. A handyman for example will need to know plumbing, electric, basic HVAC, and will have to work on non-uniform structures, built to different codes, with a wide variety of problems. A heart surgeon is easy to replace with a machine, but a general practitioner is much harder to replace. The wider the range of skills you apply in your job on a daily basis, the more difficult it will be to replace you. Experts and idiots will lose work, but most of us are somewhere in the middle and will be difficult to fully replace.

    Jobs that won’t last another decade:

    Paralegals. This profession is nearly extinct now. There are some hold-outs, due mostly to the owners of legal practices being unfamiliar with technology and uneasy about it’s use. Basically, the people in charge were educated and moved up the ranks prior to the computer revolution, and this is a foreign concept to many of them. As they retire, this profession will be gone completely.

    Pharmacists. This is a matter of liability, as mistakes with prescriptions are a huge cost. Computers can dispense medications with far greater accuracy, and do it very quickly. The biggest reason for the continued existence of pharmacies now are state and federal regulations written before the idea of automating the job was fully conceived. It will take a while for regulations to change, but by 2025 I think there will be very few pharmacists left. The fear of automation is causing many young people to write it off as a potential career, which will create a need to be filled with automation.

    Cashiers & tellers. Bottom line, the machine won’t steal from the till or waiver in the face of an armed gunman. If handling cash is required, it makes sense to automate. The technology has existed with ATMs for decades. People are used in these jobs now primarily because they can be tasked with other duties and a human presence is a deterrent to customer theft.

    Travel agents. This is a dead profession already.

    Secretaries and personal assistants. Appointment making, dictation, responding to public inquiries… your phone can do all these things. Right now they serve mostly as a proxy to less tech savvy employers, utilizing word-processing, publication and spreadsheet software on behalf of those who haven’t learned these skills. The other reason is for proof-reading and fact-checking in cases with confidential information which cannot by law be outsourced.

    Bear in mind, automation is not new. We’ve always done it. There were people who’s job it was to grind grain by hand. Then came the flour mill and displaced those jobs. Laundry maids were common, but now even the poor in this country usually own a washing machine.

    What has changed is merely the relative speed of these advancements. Previously, one could carve out a living in a single profession for their whole life. Since the 1980’s it’s been projected that the average American changes their entire career 3-4 times in their adult lives. The rate of change is accelerating, that number is likely higher now.

    Keep in mind, not all automation is industrial or professional. Much of it filters down to your home life. The washing machine is a great example. It was common for housewives to spend half a week doing the laundry for the household. The elimination of that chore through automation is largely what enabled women to find careers. It may reduce your income as you strive to compete for cost with a machine. However, it also makes it possible for you to buy a car for $30,000 rather than $90,000. That creates more drivers, which means more DMV jobs, road workers, traffic cops, gas stations, body shops…

    There seems to be a natural economic istosity with automation, where the jobs are not destroyed but rather expanded (albeit in other segments of society). This can be devastating for those with specializations, causing significant individual hardship. However society has traditionally always been improved as a whole by these changes. Whether that continues to hold true given the recent explosion of automation remains to be seen. There are strong arguments on both sides.

    Your best defense is to hone a diverse set of skills which can be applied to multiple fields. Self employment is an asset here. Never stop learning. The days of “graduating and moving into the real world” are behind us. While you don’t need to be enrolled in a school your entire adult life, you should but cultivating multiple skills at or above a college level continuously throughout your entire adult life.

    BTW – Those who say there are jobs in automation itself… I was laid off. My job title was automation and training, and I was so good with the automation, the company decided people didn’t need to be trained anymore, lol. Much of the work in automation is itself automated. I have other skills, so I can take it in stride, laughing at the irony of the situation. But if you have only one primary skill, and nothing else that will replace your present level of income through a different vocation, you should be terrified. The only job I don’t see as an easy target for automation would probably be prostitution, which may explain why it’s considered world’s oldest profession Hookers rejoice! You’re safe. Everyone else diversify your skillset.

  4. Automation – One of my sons works for a solar panel company. His job is to automate parts of the process, each part once implemented saves the company the cost 25+ employees. Challenge is each design change requires change in automation. Manual labor less time to have design changes in production. Automation still coming.

    Textbooks – already students can rent books, use ebooks, often books which are just pages you add to a binder (for $150+) But the new money maker for the education industry are key codes so you can do your homework online (program grades your homework for the professor-more automation) These codes often expire each semester. Not something you can buy used, share with another student etc. These key codes can be more than the cost of the book itself.

    The out-of-state university my daughters are going to gets more expensive each year because attendance has increased 20% each year. Housing costs way up, textbooks, lab fees etc. Attendance increase is due to the state having a scholarship program for their high school students which pays for much if not all of their tuition. Thus more students, many less prepared. More remedial classes which aren’t necessary for degree.

    Construction equipment – Guy who lives behind some property we own has a backhoe just sitting behind our shop. He said we could borrow it and his tractor if we want. He is currently building a home. My husband isn’t comfortable borrowing expensive equipment from someone we barely know. I understand. We will get to know them better. He and his dad have about 40 acres and are considering turning it into pasture (much of his land is open with forested edges). I’m thinking how best to explain silvopasture to them. They already own the equipment and it is sitting there idle.

  5. Nail on the head about the university system. It’s so bankrupt in concept and in practicality. “Cost too much, value too list”. Couldn’t agree more.

    I mean man thinking about how much I paid….. I could have a house….. owed to no one….

    • Regarding the Amazon jobs. My first “real” job was working at Lowes over nights. I actually highly enjoyed it. I always thought that overnight working when you’re working inside a box store, it’s just the best. You can just get work done, no customers, no real oversight. Awesome. Then you go home sleep, wake up and you have the middle of the day to get anything done (nothing is closed).

      If I was a high schooler today, or just post highschooler 14-16 bucks an hour at Amazon… I’d do that. (If i wasn’t building a business).

  6. I have one major disagreement with this episode that left me seething, and I’m surprised that no one else out there picked up on it.

    Jack, you said that you considered architecture to basically be a subset or type of engineering. Well, I work as an engineer and I’ll tell you that you don’t ever want to say that in the company of a group of engineers. In my experience of 14 years in engineering and construction, architects are seen as primarily glorified artists who are little more than an oversized pain in the ass to most engineers.

    BTW – I’m kidding about the “seething” part. But if you ever find yourself in the company of a group of engineers who have dealt with architects in the past, chances are that they won’t have a very favorable opinion of architects, and they definitely won’t want to be lumped in with architects.

  7. Several of my kids are engineers and one is finishing up architecture school.

    My architect student puts in many, many more hours than her engineer siblings, often going with little or no sleep. She has also spent more time on site doing actual construction than all of her brothers with engineering degrees combined, learning how to use heavy equipment, designing, welding, some fancy computerized metal cutting tools, everything from site survey, clearing land, presenting designs to client, (clubs raised money so they could build for a non-profit), pour foundation, build using as many recycled things as possible, complete build in just a few short weeks. It is a smaller architecture school and may be unique, seems only fair that they build what they design to know first hand what is involved. Tough semester, little time, they also got project management skills.

    Hers is a small architecture school, the university mostly engineering. It may be unique with their design/build projects. She has more CAD type experience than her engineer siblings except for the mechanical MS one. Whether to go on for her professional license is up in the air. But we do know there seem to be more options for engineers, more available jobs, internships, etc.