Tuesday, May 31, 2022

What Happened To All The Telephone Operators

Any kind of quick displacement - due to technological/capital investment shifts or, you know, TRADE POLICIES - can lead to job displacements that aren't quickly fixed by the magic of the market. But the process of automation has been going on for a very long time, and somehow new jobs manage to replace the old ones. 

ROBOTS ARE TAKING ALL THE JOBS was popular as an explanation during The Great Recession, because "insufficient fiscal stimulus" was never an acceptable explanation. That, along with "young men don't want to work because video games are good now." Once employment mostly rebounded, that switched to ROBOTS ARE GOING TO TAKE ALL THE JOBS. This accompanied the belief that we were about to achieve the singularity, and AI would change EVERYTHING.

A lot of this was inspired by the repeated promises that self-driving cars were almost here. And, well, we see how that worked out. "If robot brains could drive, they could do just about anything," the reasoning went!  True, actually, but the bizarre focus on "robotaxis" as the best profitable application of our new sentient overlords should have clued people into the fact that such robot brains were not about to arrive.

Don't think uber's problem was ever "the drivers cost too much," though labor costs are what managers obsess about because it is what they think they can control.

AI has been almost here every few years for decades and I have some bad news about that.

Telling people that "truck driver" would soon not be a career probably has not helped our current inflation predicament!

THE ROBOTS ARE COMING explanation is back now, because they will soon need another explanation for the mass unemployment they are trying to cause. Demand the Fed raise rates, see unemployment, blame nonexistent robots.

For a brief period it looked Powell would buck my prediction that The Fed will never allow people to get another raise again. Not clear yet, but that prediction is looking better again, sadly.