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The end of Jobs is Near and Capitalism as we Know It is Over

The end of Jobs is Near and Capitalism as we Know It is Over

by Giulio PriscoSeptember 1, 2015

More and more news headlines and opinion pieces predict the end of jobs and the end of capitalism as we know it. The logic is simple: technology destroys more jobs than it creates. Automation is rapidly becoming cheaper and better than the labor of both blue and white collar workers, which therefore will be replaced by industrial robots and computer programs.

The number of new jobs that are created to develop new technologies is nowhere near the number of workers that the new technologies will make unemployable. For some time, skilled workers in sectors that require creativity and a personal touch will be relatively safe, because they can’t be replaced by automation – yet. But advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) are likely to permit replacing nearly everyone with cheaper machines.

This is not a “weak signal” – a small trend hidden in the noise that some intellectual claim to have spotted – but a damn strong signal that everyone can see. The first “unmanned” factory is now operating in China, and companies are replacing stock analysts with computer programs. The end point of the trend is clear – someday in the next few decades nearly everyone will be out of a job in the traditional sense.

“Within 10 years, we will see Uber laying off most of its drivers as it switches to self-driving cars; manufacturers will start replacing workers with robots; fast-food restaurants will install fully automated food-preparation systems; artificial intelligence–based systems will start doing the jobs of most office workers in accounting, finance and administration,” writes technology and business expert Vivek Wadhwa on The Washington Post. “The same will go for professionals such as paralegals, pharmacists, and customer-support representatives.”

All of this will occur simultaneously, and the pace will accelerate in the late 2020s.

Capitalism in the traditional sense won’t survive the disappearance of jobs.

A new version of capitalism that benefits all

CapitalismCapitalism has been under attack from the left, including left-libertarians, for decades. In his recent visit to South America, Pope Francis strongly denounced capitalism and called for a “structural change to a global economy that runs counter to the plan of Jesus.”

But calls for social justice have had very little effect so far. What changes the equation now is automation technology, which eliminates jobs and therefore destroys the ground on which traditional capitalism stands.

The question is, what to do with the masses of unemployable people. The raw logic of capitalism would suggest to let them starve, but hopefully that can’t happen in a modern society. The only viable alternative is to give everyone a guaranteed basic income with no strings attached, no ifs and no buts, sufficient for a modest but decent life. Wadhwa says:

The idea is to give everyone a stipend covering living costs and to get government out of the business of selecting what social benefits people should have.

How to implement the idea is still unclear, both the legacy political right and left hate the idea, but basic income seems really the only viable option. With basic income, many former wage slaves will become free agents with the time to pursue what they really want to do, including useful activities difficult to justify with the harsh logic of traditional capitalism, which could result in important benefits for society, difficult to quantify but important nonetheless.

Wadhwa conclude that we need to be prepared and to develop a new version of capitalism that benefits all.

Images from Spaces Gallery/Flickr and Wikimedia Commons.

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  • Petar Posavec

    Creative aspects cannot be automated?

    This is too laughable.

    The ignorance of some people…

    Here’s something that might change their minds:

    Lonf story short… creativity is simply speaking connecting seemingly ‘random bits’ of data together.

    Humans take a while to get into it.

    Computers can sift through seemingly random information far faster and come up with a variety of patterns that Humans cannot even hope to match.

    And the thing is… they are doing it RIGHT NOW.

    Stop playing the delusional postponing game by trying to artificially prolong Capitalism and wallowing in ignorance, and GET WITH THE TIMES.

    Instigate a transition into a Resource Based Economy

    • ultramanjones

      While true on many levels, strangely enough, the “risky” careers of days gone by will become the only careers that can only be championed by humans. I am speaking of acting, dancing, singing, playing in a band, etc.

      While certainly robots will be capable of doing all of the things mentioned above and far more, people just won’t be interested in PAYING to see them perform, while the development of human talent for the joy of it, and the joy it brings to others, will still be a form of currency. If things are handled in the right way, this could be a great Star Trek the Next Generation type scenario for all parties involved. But who will pay to watch poor people dance in rags? Why do I say that? Well…

      As far as the Resource Based Economy goes, unfortunately, when the robots take over all of the jobs, the robots will not be owned by the public; they will be owned by a handful of rich families, just like the slaves of the past. Robots are nothing more than inhuman slaves. Now tell me, how did the ownership of slaves by the rich benefit the poor? It never has, and there is no reason why it will in the future unless we rest control from our Corporate Feudalistic overlords. Resource based economy is by NO means a thing that the world will evolve into “naturally” or even at all, ever. Ever heard the phrase, “Let them eat cake.”?

      Not to be hyperbolic, but Sky-Net seems a more likely outcome than industrial robots leading us to an enlightened form of economics.

      Have a better one.

      • Petar Posavec

        This is why its up to us (the general population) to instigate change.
        When you look at things realistically, you cannot maintain Capitalism under heavy automation, because most people (the workforce) would be out of jobs in 5 to 10 years.

        When purchasing power of a sufficient amount of people goes down to minimum or 0, that’s when the collapse sets it.
        People are far more receptive to new things (such as RBE) when they lost everything they hold dear (or most of it) from the current system.

        Regarding Star Trek TNG scenario… that was actually based off Resource Based Economy – but since Roddenberry didn’t attend all Fresco’s lectures at the time, he didn’t understand entirely on how it would work, or he knew but the network executives found it ‘too out there’, so they kept various aspects from the present system.
        But currency doesn’t seem to be used by Humans in Trek – and why would they need it with all the automation and technology at their disposal?
        They only seem to use it with cultures that still use money or a currency based economy – mostly they resort to trading/barter in such situations… but I would imagine they do this mainly for good relations as opposed to getting resources (since the Federation would reasonably be creating superior synthetic materials that can be made in sustainable abundance with no damage to the environment).

        • ultramanjones

          Thanks for the reply to the reply. It appears we agree on much, however…

          It is unfortunate that the pushing and shoving has already been going on for quite a long time. Kind of like slowly boiling a lobster in water that starts out cold, the general population has slowly been getting more and more accustomed to their overlords. Most people have no idea who is really in power.

          In addition to this, there is a significant portion of the populace who believe that they can somehow preserve their “individual liberties” without having a strong government. It’s really ludicrous when you think about it. The government is the ONLY entity in a representative democracy, or democratic republic, or the like which has the power, or interest, to protect individual liberties. The government cannot be the enemy in this scenario, and it must be refocused on protecting the general populace, not the fat cat powers that be. But what are people arguing about and thinking about? Religion and race relations and gay rights and abortion and shit that frankly is a problem for the people themselves to figure out, through the power of civilized society. Distraction after distraction after smoke screen. Slight of hand and misdirection of thieves is all it serves to be. Allowing the real enemy to suck out the marrow of the nation in the form of wealth, jobs, influence, and intelligence. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of Ayn Rand conservatives believe that no government is good government and throw wrenches in the gears of every positive change or labor movement that emerges. How dare we put more “regulations” on business they say. Corporations are people too. They are laws people. Stop calling them regulations…

          If we don’t realize that the fight is between the states and corporations and the states are the people’s dog in this fight, then everything will go to Hell in a hand basket long before any real action is taken, and it might just be way too late, once 1984 is all around us. Corporations are already suing whole countries through “international tribunals” and winning. What can the people do when international corporate juggernauts get people diseased, killed, raped, pillaged and exploited all in the name of profiting billions, while our only weapon to stop them is fining them a few million dollars? This is NOT a situation or world where the robots will be working for “the people”. It will take a major revolution and our chance at a peaceful one is quickly slipping away. If we don’t eliminate the current concept of corporation, we might as well start building the Death Star.

          In short, while we are fighting WITH our government, the corporate feudal overlords are solidifying their hold on international power. This includes robots. The first step is recognizing the problem. We are not there yet.

          Oh how I wish we had the intelligent population that exists in the world of Star Trek. What a dream. Call me cynical or just call me 45 years old. I jumped out of the boiling pot a long time ago and I can see from this vantage point that there are still a whole lot of educated people boiling away. Lets hope something or someone shakes the out of it.

  • Peter Jolliffe

    There is no question automation is going to take over more and more jobs…but seriously how can it NOT make sense to start ‘sharing’ the jobs that are left and everyone working less…there is no reason for ANY unemployment if jobs were shared…the machines could take over all the ‘jobs’ they want and all that does is mean everyone gets to enjoy working less….not tons of people unemployed while the rest are still having to continue to work 40 hours or more a week…. How can it possibly seem better to solve the unemployment problem with a UBI?

    • Martin Peel

      Most people do not want to work at a dead end job for 40 hours a week – let humanıty enjoy ıts tıme on the planet whıle robots do the work.


      The UBI would be probably resulting in people choosing part-time as they don’t need to work full time to support themselves.

  • TSRX

    People who make this technological unemployment argument have this propensity to talk about inevitability, as if automation is some deterministic, autonomous process. The economy isn’t run by robots just yet; it’s run by capitalists, and there is little reason for them to do something that goes against their own interests, if that really is the case. Automated companies are also less flexible/agile and non-automating firms will almost certainly exploit that rigidity/inertia.

    Much of our economy could have been automated ages ago. What happened instead? Capitalists opted to use cheaper human labor. Don’t make the neoclassical mistake of assuming that capitalism is all about production and productive efficiency.

    • Martin Peel

      CHEAPER human labour.

      • robert

        Labor dumb ass

        • Martin Peel

          Labour. Learn to speak English dumb arse.

          • robert

            LABOR!! I live in the USA and we don’t use frog spelling unlike the stupid English.

          • Jason Reynolds

            Oh yes, you live in the USA. Therefore your way is right, and everyone else is wrong. Grow up.

    • Hla

      Not only that, but if capitalists use only machines, they will not have people to buy their stuff, that is another reason why the still use human labor.

  • Jim Brown

    What a pointless and uninformed article.
    The author doesn’t know what capitalism is,
    and is also not aware of the fact that capitalism
    DIED way back in the early 1900’s.
    We now live in a fascist dictatorship
    owned and completely controlled by
    a very small group of bankers.

    EVERYTHING is going to remain perverted until
    they no longer print ALL the money they want, at will.

    Search YouTube for
    Larken Rose on removing mental malware,
    Dollar Vigilante,
    The Kaiser Report.

    The small details and wacky aberrations discussed in
    this article miss the point completely.

    • englishvinal

      Keiser is spot on … very incisive and good. Larkin Rose wouldn’t listen to good advice and spent a fair amount of time in JAIL… (success at prognostication?)…. Jeff of Dollar Vigilante scammed a LOT of people out of a LOT of money for land that he didn’t have title or water rights to in Chile…..

      Stick with Max Keiser.

      • Jim Brown

        You speak as if being jailed by a group of completely
        brainwashed jurors and a psychopathic “judge” means
        that the ideas that Laken talks about are somehow invalid.
        I guess you’ve never been attacked by the road-pirates
        with badges and guns.
        I have, and it was just because I just couldn’t believe that what
        I was studying (law) was actually only a ruse used by
        organized crime to lend credibility to it’s criminal actions.
        Sometimes you need to see things first-hand before
        you can believe that it’s for real.

        And as for Jeff Berwick,
        you obviously have no clue about what happened in Chile,
        and, in any case, even if the whole thing was a scam,
        it would have zero bearing on the truth and excellent
        philosophy presented almost daily by Jeff and
        his brillant, exelent guests.

        What makes you so smart and righteous that you can
        go around slandering people who are
        actively DOING SOMETHING that
        will make the world a better place?????

        Until you have educated your self to the point of being able to
        make a positive impact on the problems that we all face,
        please only ask questions,
        and leave out your personal, (and way off base), opinions.
        They only make you look foolish.


      I’d say that it’s the result of capitalism. More and more money concentration. Because it’s simple now, if you have money already, it’s a lot easier to make money.

  • Anders Storsveen

    “The only viable alternative is to give everyone a guaranteed basic income with no strings attached, no ifs and no buts, sufficient for a modest but decent life.”

    There is to much focus on the amount being low, and the quality of life it would afford being “modest”. The amount need to be set so the basic income plus the total income earned by work matches our productive capacities. There needs to be a balance.

    If we set the basic income at a low level, and there aren’t enough available work for the people the earn enough to consume what we produce, we’ve designed a failed system.

  • Max Hernandez

    The article misses one critical point: Human nature. There is no limit to human desire.

    Free up the time of everyone and most will find something ‘cool’ to do instead. Like invent a new product or service. Develop it. Market it. Design and program the machines to make/offer it.

    And the cycle starts all over again.

    It’s called progress. Civilization has been doing it for millennia. True, they didn’t use machines, so the cycle was much slower and more expensive. But it was still there.

    The power of ‘cool’ will save us as long as there is a free market to pay for what it produces.

    Because machines can’t make ‘cool’.

  • Snowdog

    This essay is just pure biased speculation. You have no idea how capitalism will evolve. Capitalism is freedom of choice; nothing more; nothing less. Capitalism doesn’t let people starve. It lets them be free to help others voluntarily. You cannot replace creativity with a machine. In the end, we may all be owning our own machines, and pursuing our own dreams, but nothing like this can happen if you pursue the same goals that have been pursued for over 100 years through socializing the means of production.