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Robots: the end of jobs, the beginning of plenty

Dave Ransom  |  Issue: December | January 2017

It is finally hitting the national psyche that the rise of the robots means the end of jobs — and maybe of society as we currently know it.

Techies like Martin Ford, who wrote the book “The Rise of the Robots,” have been predicting this for some time. So, for instance, has the League of Revolutionaries for a New America.

But up to now, there has been little coverage in the regular press. That is changing.

“The technological revolution has delivered Google searches, Facebook friends, iPhone apps, Twitter rants, and shopping for almost anything on Amazon,” the Wall Street Journal wrote October 10. “What it hasn’t delivered are many jobs,”

A few days later, the Associated Press headlined, “Robots [are] the real culprit; automation, not trade deals have claimed the most factory jobs.”

General Motors, now makes more cars and trucks than it did in the 1970s with only a third of the workers, it reported. In 20 years, steel production in the U.S. has increased by 38 percent, while the number of steelworkers has declined by nearly 250,000.

And “the robot revolution is just beginning,” said the AP.

This is what is knocking the economy and the society off their foundations, not low-wage competition from China or Mexico — or immigrant workers in the U.S.

It is a source “of the rumbling national discontent that powered the rise this year of political outsiders Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders,” concluded the Journal. “Americans expected larger economic gains from these amazing new machines.”

The amazing new machines actually provide the foundations for a new society, one in which everyone shares the bounty.

Even that is now making it into the mainstream. High-tech inventor Elon Musk told CNBC recently that “there is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income . . . due to automation.”

Of course, that would take a revolutionary change in who owns the wonderful machines. We would have to nationalize them.  And that is something for the workers of the world to unite about.

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