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260 of 276 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, concise, and compelling, October 13, 2010
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This review is from: The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future (Paperback)
Other reviewers have summarized the book in detail, so I won't. I'll just emphasize the bottom line:

Machines are fast approaching humans in terms of *mental* labor capacity, not just *physical* labor capacity. In the past as machines took over much of our physical labor, we were then free to turn to more valuable mental labor. But once machines take over much of our mental labor, then what do we turn to for employment?

The author makes a very compelling case that this situation will arise, and likely within the next few decades. And he also lays out some rather bold suggestions to delay the shock of the resulting high unemployment and allow us to transition to an inevitably new type of economy as smoothly as possible. Though, even with these suggestions, I expect this transition is not likely to be smooth.

This book is a very important, frank discussion of a pending time-bomb for our precious mass market economy. Read it and recommend it to others. And think about how you and your family and friends will manage the forthcoming transition.
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 11, 2011 10:29:24 AM PDT
The Natural says:
Interesting ideas here. As a few reviewers have pointed out, it seems like the thesis falls into two traps: the Luddite argument against technology and the Keynesian argument for full employment. Does the author guard against these in any way?

Posted on Nov 20, 2011 11:33:34 PM PST
Adel Anwar says:
DESCRIPTION VS. PRESCRIPTION

The facts in the book are great. The interpretation of the facts are to be distinguished when the remedy is offered.

Jobs will be displaced. This has happened in every age of man. That is not a revelation but it is good to get it from him. His remedy is the worst "evil
". This is the problem between those that give good description [e.g. about I.Q or the state of a nation] and then give the worst remedy [e.g. Hitler: to cure Germany, his remedy is Statism and ethnic cleansing. Even allies did NOT mind his remedy, but they minded the fact he invaded others and threatened England]. Rifkin is of equal evil, like Stalin suggesting a social system. Be ware of evil, because it is Not like in the movies coming at you in one-go. It slowly creeps up like a toad in boiling water, like a virus. Any Statism is evil.

What is the 'cure' ? The fact one must recognise changing times in one's job. AND therefore expand one's skill set to areas of potential value, particularly watching trends. One must learn. One must experiment by offering value to others. One must adapt and change if it is not working. That is the key.

Secondly: in every generation it is IMPOSSIBLE TO PERCEIVE what the future [technology] holds, otherwise people would be doing it. Planes could NOT fly. It took the Wright brothers to invent it. It took a while and others TO COMMERCIALISE it. The key is laissez-faire free economy where people CAN create value and because they retain their wages, so they have enough to invest in new ideas.

Finally: consider this. If mass jobs disappear but new technology appears, then people without jobs can not partake and purchase the offers output by these new technologies. They would not have enough money!

Therefore it would either mean:
1. No more new technologies [companies going bust] OR

2. Smart people using new technologies to create value for others such that these others had enough money to grow.

Example:
Gary Valnerchuck offers wine critique. His customer base does not pay him a dime for that! He is a millionaire. Promoters pay him. He also makes money from selling the fact he has a huge customer base [different business]. He is already living in the world I am talking about above.

By the way, I have never said I can - and no one can - predict all the new technologies and jobs of tomorrow. But I have inducted that INEVITABLY there MUST be new jobs, and this has ALWAYS taken place! There MUST be new jobs BECAUSE :

1. There are virtually infinite problems. Wherever there are problems there are those offering solutions. This means value. This means jobs and customers (who purchase the solution to their problem).

2. Those who solve problems get richer [MR. A]. But that develops COMPETITION [MR.B]. Therefore for MR.A to keep ahead of the curve he must use his profits to hire and produce more solutions [more problem solving]. In order for MR.B to get ahead he too must do that and/or do it cheaper than MR.A and/or loan a lot of money to be as big as MR. A in one leap, and then pay back the loan by selling the product-or-service cheaper OR BETTER (e.g. Apple) than Mr. A .

In sum total, whatever the state of change in an economy:

A. VALUE CREATION is INEVITABLE.

B. This means customers (who purchase the value) and production/business (who produce the value).

C. It may mean people start off in boutique (e.g THOMAS EDISON) but they and/or others grow into large businesses (e.g. GE:General Electric) that hire many others.

It doesn't matter about the "age of man" [information age or other]. The above is, was and always must be the way - there can be NO TECHNOLOGY without purchasers [directly as customers who pay OR indirectly as advertisers, but these advertisers themselves MUST be able to sell their products to customers].

Absolute final point. Whenever there are POOR/ER people, there IS A MARKET PLACE! Even poor/er people MUST eat, drink [water and/or other items], have medicine to buy, etc. IN one way [capitalist business is the main way] or other [social business like MOHAMMAD YUNIS, Nobel Prize winner] , there is growth [note: social business is part of CAPITALISM and NOT socialism. A social business man like Yunis is MASSIVE PROFIT-MAKER for self, AND the social company that reinvests it].

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2011 11:33:42 PM PST
Adel Anwar says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2012 4:45:20 AM PST
louis pappas says:
somewhat clumsily written, but contains a few kernels of interesting information.

lou pappas

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2013 9:36:45 AM PST
Sherwood says:
I appreciate the effort it required to offer these thoughts, but if you had studied our job creative past you might have recognized that many of the thoughts you express about our future are amply recorded in our past.

There is but one answer to the increasing use of robotic characters in the work place and it is - be prepared. And if you know where to find the teachers who will prepare you, give a thought to replacing those who have not helped.

Posted on Mar 17, 2013 3:11:11 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 17, 2013 3:16:17 PM PDT
Let's interject some specifics. The third industrial revolution is starting.
1. The first one was produced by the steam engine, and started in Britain.
2. The second one started in the US and was produced by Edison, with his electricity and Ford with his mass produced automobiles.
3, The third one is just now building up speed in the US, and will be caused by
3a. Computers, of course, and
3b. Complex machines controlled by computers.
The defining moment for 3a was when IBM's computer "Watson" defeated the two human contestants in the Jeopardy contest. Watson will be used for medical diagnosis and is already working on a cure for the cancer caused by asbestos.

The defining moment for 3b hasn't come yet, and I'm not so arrogant that I would predict the future, but it will probably involve the following elements:

1. Big data on a supercomputer like Watson.
2. AI involving statistics on big data.
3. Assembly lines being controlled by such computers, or more generally, intelligent machines that implement and produce consumer products with market value.

One example might be a prototype maker that would design and set up short production runs of specialty manufactured goods. It would turn out, say, a thousand items one week, and then go on the next week to design and manufacture a thousand copies of a different product. Such custom manufacturing might lend itself to an intelligent assembly line that included 3a and 3b.
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