Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Last Call For The Robot Revolution

Whoever the next president is starting in 2017 will have to deal with the rise of office automation as millions of office jobs (and in particular pink-collar jobs) are replaced by technology over the next four years.

Are the robots coming to take our jobs? Advances in any tech that aids in automation always come with questions about the jobs they take versus the jobs they create, but the World Economic Forum warned in a report published on Monday that advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and other modern technologies are currently likely to lead to a net loss of 5.1 million jobs worldwide by the year 2020.

"Without urgent and targeted action today to manage the near-term transition and build a workforce with futureproof skills, governments will have to cope with ever-growing unemployment and inequality—and businesses with a shrinking consumer base," the report states in its introduction.

The workforce number estimate, which is based on surveys and data provided by 371 companies' chief HR officers worldwide (whose combined workforces include over 13 million employees in 15 "major, developed, and emerging economies"), includes numbers for different industries' gains and losses. The biggest loser, according to the WEF, will be in the office and administrative job sector to the tune of 4.76 million jobs—due to "a perfect storm of technological trends that have the potential to make many of [the job roles] redundant," the report states. Other fields with major expected losses include manufacturing and production (1.61 million) and construction and extraction (497,000).

It's not all bad news, all this new technology will mean new jobs, particularly in STEM fields.

Meanwhile, the report's authors believe that employment demand in the engineering and architecture sectors will see a big boost, as specialists will be needed "to create and manage advanced and automated production systems." Job numbers in the "computer and mathematical sector" will actually benefit from seemingly negative trends like geopolitical volatility and privacy concerns—meaning that bigger, out-of-touch companies will hire more data-crunching specialists so that they can adapt to modern disruptions.

On the technological side, the WEF's survey points to increased reliance on the cloud as the biggest driver of hiring change, as opposed to robotics—though respondents also believed that robots' impact on hiring trends won't really begin until 2018. On the demographic side, the survey's respondents cite flexible work environments as the most impactful trend, thanks to more advanced mobile technology access across the globe. This trend in particular is a major reason the report expects such a dive in office and administrative hiring.

And that's the key.  Mobile technology and the 24/7 workplace, combined with more and more companies going to telecommuting and flex-time, mean companies will expect an on-call workforce available anywhere, at any time, from any place.  Note too that the real caveat is "jobs lost by the 15 largest economies" and while that does include India and China, one has to wonder if that means telecommuting jobs will be offshored from those areas to countries not on that list, places like Central and South America, Central Asia, Eastern and Southern Europe, and the big one, Russia.

The other point is that these are going to be pink collar jobs, traditionally held by women. Drilling into the report, the places that the US is expected to lose jobs are in the Healthcare and Energy sectors with slight growth in the office sector, but it's China and Europe that will see these office jobs go the most, with big growth in India.

We'll see how this all shakes out in the end, but that's a healthy chunk of jobs worldwide that will go away and won't come back.

The Other Side: Berning Up The Charts

Republican pundits seem really, really interested in seeing Bernie Sanders as the Democratic candidate, the way our side seems very eager to see Donald Trump running for the GOP in 2016. John Podhoretz suddenly loves the guy after Sunday's debate.

On health care, Clinton seemed to walk into a trap. She found herself defending the charge made (by her daughter!) that Bernie Sanders would dismantle ObamaCare.

He made incredibly short work of that by saying that he voted for ObamaCare and simply wants it to be the opening step toward what he calls “Medicare For All” — meaning a single-payer government health care system.

Once again, the fact that Hillary wasn’t comfortable taking that idea on directly shows the weakness of her anti-populist approach. She would say only that to raise new health care ideas would open a can of worms in 2017 that would give Republicans a way to abolish ObamaCare.

That criticism makes no sense. After all, the scenario she was addressing would involve Sanders having been elected president and sitting in the White House — which would mean he would have veto authority over any such Republican action and that the country had decided in 2016 to move farther to the left in any case.

Sanders raised $37 million last quarter, more than Clinton did and with more individual donations than any candidate before him in American history. That has strengthened him as a candidate and it emboldened him as a debater.

Hillary’s defenders will doubtless be spinning frantically over the next few days, but anyone who says she won last night is either deluding themselves or trying to delude you.

Now, let's go over this here.  J-Pod seems to think Medicare for all is a winning hand for Bernie, and seems to believe his large number of individual donors makes him "strong" and emboldened".  He really wants Bernie Sanders to beat Hillary Clinton, someone he seems to think will soon be indicted by the FBI anyhow.

If all this strikes you as weird, backhanded, and just plain suspicious, there's a good reason for that, and as Martin Longman points out, trusting your instinct on Bernie's chances in the general may be a smart move.

So, what we’re seeing here is that Sanders might be able to win the Democratic nomination while bearing the socialist label, but that it’s not exactly a big plus for him. And we have little evidence to show that he’d find easy rowing in the general election.

I’m not sure that Gov. John Kasich is justified in being so confident that Sanders would lose all 50 states, but I also don’t think David Atkins is justified in his confidence that Sanders would do just fine and have no negative impact on down-ballot races.

I think Atkins wrote a well-reasoned piece, and I’m not going to rebut it in full here. What I will say is that Sanders hasn’t been put through the meat grinder yet. He may look more electable than Hillary in a couple of recent polls and his policies may poll well in the abstract, but that’s just preliminary data that should be encouraging to Sanders’ supporters but shouldn’t give anyone the idea that these questions have been settled.

Socialism is still a dirty word, even if it isn’t anywhere near as dirty as it used to be, and even if the post-Cold War kids aren’t conditioned against it. If Sanders is the nominee, the Republicans and their big business allies will spend north of a billion dollars trying to make “socialism” less popular than Windows Vista.

Maybe this anti-socialism campaign will have no more effect than Jeb Bush’s spending seems to have, but there is a difference. Jeb is one candidate in a crowded field, not the nominee facing off against a single Democratic opponent.

And, then, since political reporters never lose their jobs, most of them are old enough to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and good James Bond movies. They think that they know what this country will and won’t tolerate, and it won’t tolerate socialism via Vermont.

I'd love to see Bernie win *if* he could pull off his agenda.  But unless we get a Dem House and 60 solid Dems in the Senate, it's going to get blocked.

And I see Republican really, really, really want Hillary to lose.  That tells me something.

Elegy For The Turned Out

It's not the "Trump Democrats" that should worry all of us in 2016, it's the folks who don't vote and see The Donald as their best chance yet of burning the whole system down and replacing it with authoritarianism.

Ted Wade hasn’t cared about politics enough to cast a vote in a U.S. presidential election for almost a quarter of a century, back when he supported Ross Perot’s independent candidacy in 1992.

But Republican Donald Trump's 2016 White House bid has motivated Wade to get involved and he plans to support the real estate mogul in Nevada’s nominating caucus next month. Trump is a "non-politician" who can fix the "chaos" in Washington, he says.

About one in 10 Americans who plan to cast a vote this election will do so for the first time in years, if ever, and Trump holds a decided edge with them, according to polling by Reuters/Ipsos. (tmsnrt.rs/1SgeLvi)

These voters offer Trump a pool of voters who could be decisive either in the Republican primaries or a general election. They could be crucial for Trump in early-voting states such as Iowa and South Carolina, where his nearest rival, Senator Ted Cruz, is putting pressure on Trump and enjoys a strong base of support with more traditionally conservative voters.

In Reuters/Ipsos polling from June to December 2015, 27.3 percent of these “new” voters said they would vote for Trump, higher than his poll numbers among independents and Republicans who regularly vote.

By way of comparison, Cruz captures just 3.4 percent of these voters. And Senator Marco Rubio of Florida snags only 4 percent.

“I’m tired of the chaos between Democrats and Republicans and want to give somebody a try who I think can make a difference,” said Wade of Trump.

The 51-year-old has already switched his affiliation from Democrat to Republican and even attended a Trump campaign event in Las Vegas. He has told his three older children to get involved in the elections, although he did not say whether he wanted them to vote for Trump.

Trump, the Republican front-runner, has made targeting “lost” voters such as Wade a focus of his campaign. His anti-immigrant rhetoric and protectionist trade proposals have helped him to fashion a message tailored to reach Americans alienated by the endless enmity between the political parties and who, because of declining economic prospects, may feel like neither party has done much for them.

Those "lost" voters who never trusted politicians but trust a dangerous demagogue like Trump? They know exactly what they want, and Trump has made it permissible to say again.


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