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  • New Jobs Contest! You Could Be a Winner!

    Posted by David Foster on August 1st, 2016 (All posts by )

    In a comment to my post About Those Job-Killing Robots, TM Lutas said:

    If you want to slay the mistaken talk about the end of human employment, hold a contest. Come up with labor demand boosting ideas that we do not engage in today because we either don’t have enough people or don’t have enough money to do it. Weigh jobs that don’t require much intelligence or education as more valuable than those requiring high education/intelligence. Within a year I predict enough entries to be submitted to put the entire world to work multiple times over.

    It is a bit embarrassing to think about things we are too poor to do. This makes these jobs invisible to us today. By creating a contest and an artificial market for these ideas, they become visible and we turn from despair at the jobless future to wondering how we can become efficient enough to afford to do all these wonderful things.

    Let’s prototype the contest here, among friends (and a few special adversaries and maybe even some enemies), and maybe we can roll it out later on a larger scale. The winner will receive a microscopic amount of fame, and also a virtual certificate, not suitable for framing.

    What are the things that we collectively and individually can’t afford–but might be able to afford given higher levels of productivity and national income–that would meaningfully affect well-being and human satisfaction?  Define “things” as broadly as you like.  Consider both things that could become more affordable due to productivity improvements in a specific industry, and things whose creation might not by itself be meaningfully improvable from a productivity standpoint but which people could better afford given an upward trend in overall productivity and income.

    Thoughts?

     

    34 Responses to “New Jobs Contest! You Could Be a Winner!”

    1. David Foster Says:

      To start things off, I’ll make two suggestions, one very broad in scope and one pretty narrow.

      LEISURE TIME. Most Americans who work have very little time for real vacations. This isn’t purely a matter of affordability, it also has to do with the organization of work, but still, there are a lot of people who just don’t have the money for travel, hotels, etc, not to mention not being able to afford to take the time off.

      ELEVATORS. There are millions of people with disabilities of one level or another who could benefit greatly by having a real elevator in their homes. These things are now pretty expensive, beyond the reach of most. Also, there are a lot of commercial and apartment buildings that lack sufficient elevator capacity, resulting in considerable waste of human time.

    2. TMLutas Says:

      Here’s my first draft personal entries list off the top of my head.

      There is a big difference between counting things and estimating them. Counting is a lot more work. We go through this with the census with Democratic calls to eliminate the actual enumeration and put in population estimates instead. So imagine counting out everything that government does, actually evaluating each and every one of them as to how success is measured. You would think that of course this has already been done. You would be wrong.

      Underground electrical wiring in neighborhoods appreciably reduces blackouts. Bury our power lines. It takes a lot of work and is very expensive. Ditto with all the other lines on those poles.

      Replace lead water pipes ahead of schedule. Replace the last of our wooden water pipes.

      Pave all our roads. During the most recent financial crisis, governments actually saved money by unpaving roads and converting them back to gravel.

      Rightsize water systems to shift excess water in areas where it is plentiful to areas where it is in shortage. California is a big example of the problem but certainly not the only one.

      List the navigable waters of the United States. Keep the list up to date and repeat for all the other basic governance terms that we’ve neglected to actually enumerate.

      Trace back the legal and constitutional authorization for all governments and their acts. If a government is not, in fact authorized, it should be authorized or terminated (this is, to our shame, not a hypothetical situation). If a governmental act is not authorized, they need to make it right.

      Identify all laws on the books that governments, in real life, refuse to enforce. Either the law, or the refuseniks need to go.

      The human stuff, like fixing our virtue, poverty, and culture issues, I will save for a later draft.

    3. Jason In LA Says:

      “Rightsize water systems to shift excess water in areas where it is plentiful to areas where it is in shortage. California is a big example of the problem but certainly not the only one.” — TMLutas

      ^^This should be the next growth industry. And not just domestically.

    4. David Foster Says:

      continuing…

      EDUCATION. More resources poured into the public education system would only feed the monster and make it even more monstrous. But more income/wealth in the hands of families would allow them to pay for their kids to go to schools that actually educate. And maybe, someday, sufficient competition would starve the beast enough to make it a little less beastly.

    5. David Foster Says:

      One area in which considerably additional resources could be well-invested is:

      NATURAL DISASTER PREVENTION & MITIGATION. See for example this point about the need for more weather-radar coverage:

      http://www.gongol.com/fft/2016/07/28/

      Also, hardening for earthquakes. And for EMP events, which might be either natural disasters, or human-caused disasters.

    6. David Foster Says:

      Here’s a CEO who decided that all of his employees should be paid at least $70,000 per year:

      https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/could-best-boss-america-michael-wheeler?trk=hp-feed-article-title-hpm

      Most companies couldn’t do this, and I’m not sure how wise it’s going to prove, long-term, in the case of this company.. But from the standpoint of this thread, consider the difference that the additional $ has made in the lives of some of the employees.

      “A story in USA Today this spring reported that Ayssa O’Neal, a 22 year old customer support rep plans to move into a more expensive apartment that will cut her nearly two-hour commuting time by more than half. Her colleague Cody Boorman, 23, has now paid off he’s debts and is contributing $18,000 a year to his 401(k) account. He says that the raise “really did take the stress away in terms of worrying about tomorrow.” He and his wife decided to have their first child earlier than they had planned.”

    7. TMLutas Says:

      David Foster – That more expensive apartment you noted is often empty because somebody else couldn’t afford it. Getting everybody rich is great. Getting everybody working is a different (though admittedly related) issue.

    8. David Foster Says:

      TML…”Getting everybody rich is great. Getting everybody working is a different (though admittedly related) issue.”

      The guy’s company is able to pay higher salaries because it has high labor productivity, just as Henry Ford was able to pay $5/day because of higher productivity. And I’m sure that the $5/day wage drove up the wages for the people in the area whose productivity had NOT increased (say, diner workers and house builders) because of competition in the labor market.

      But Henry Ford HAD to pay $5/day to get people to work on his assembly lines without extreme turnover…because they had other options…farming was still realistic for a lot of people at that time, for example.

      Higher labor productivity will float up wages throughout the economy UNLESS there is overall saturation of demand (the premise of this thread being that ain’t happening, any decade soon) OR wages are being driven down by other factors such as rapid increases in the labor supply, direct and domestic or indirect and foreign.

    9. TMLutas Says:

      David Foster – What do you think is the relationship between labor demand and labor productivity? Is it direct or inverse or some other relationship?

      In my opinion, the persistent unemployment problem is one where labor productivity outpaced labor demand too much. My premise has been that labor demand is, to an extent larger than generally realized, a variable that we can control by admiring and striving to create new labor demand and considering that as a more admirable activity than improving labor productivity.

    10. PenGun Says:

      You got stock in construction, digging equipment perhaps, TM? Certainly infrastructure improvement, especially where it has been neglected can create some work.

      Nothing here even addresses the problem. As it becomes cheaper to use machines for your employees, and it will, then less and less of your work force will be needed for a great deal of what it does now. Employing a few of those people for your pet projects will help very little. The actual work involved in digging trenches and laying pipe has decreased a lot. A good example is logging. Here we have the last of the old growth and the logging of it is tricky, it’s almost all gone though, so now where we had crews of guys with a couple of D9s and a high line, we have feller/bunchers, operated by one guy and the trucks to take away what they cut. a few guys now, where once there were many 10s of people at work. It’s like that all over, it’s not just production line stuff, it’s every damn thing. It will get worse.

    11. David Foster Says:

      TML…obviously, labor productivity will drive down labor demand if nothing else changes. But historically, consumption demand has risen as fast as labor productivity has allowed it to, albeit with various lags and cyclical fluctuations.

      The problem now is that economic growth is being slowed by bad public policies; we have the situation of the Federal Reserve trying to open the throttle on the locomotive while the Obama administration and the bureaucracy are continuing to apply the train brakes. And the dysfunctional public education system, coupled with bad ideas in child-rearing, has created a large class of people who are unemployable or pretty close to same. See for example this:

      http://www.businessinsider.com/dallas-fed-manufacturing-activity-july-2016-2016-7

    12. Grurray Says:

      “Nothing here even addresses the problem. As it becomes cheaper to use machines for your employees, and it will, then less and less of your work force will be needed for a great deal of what it does now”

      Maybe those pipelaying jobs are going away because of more efficient equipment (although I have a feeling a lot of government intervention and regulation has something to with it to). If so, the people who are going to think of new things for them to do are entrepreneurs, private owners, and investors. The solution is making sure there are more companies around, and making it easier to start companies.

      If large scale logging is going away, then turn the land over to private owners. They will figure out the best way to restore the land. Government management was the problem in the first place. When government licensed the land, no one had an incentive to conserve. Not the incompetent government regulator who doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. Not the operators who are encourage to bribe and cheat their way onto land then use more graft to overuse it.

    13. Grurray Says:

      “Entry-level candidates cannot read or follow instructions. Most cannot do simple math problems. What is wrong with the educational system?” one respondent in chemical manufacturing said.

      “The ability to find qualified employees is our largest problem at this time,” a respondent in fabricated metal product manufacturing said. A respondent in textile product mills expressed a similar sentiment.

      Your attitude towards your job applicants has a lot to do with the maturity of your revenue stream. An owner of a startup would never say something like this. He (or she) would take anybody they could get and get them to do the job. I don’t blame these “respondents” for thinking this way. Preserving your market share to maintain your comfortable existence requires you to waste as little time and expense on people as possible. On the other hand, when creating and competing for new markets people are a lot more valuable to you, and you invest more in them.

      Quite frankly, if we want to increase employment then we also need new companies to put these people out of business.

    14. Tyouth Says:

      But more income/wealth in the hands of families would allow them to pay for their kids to go to schools that actually educate.

      David Foster, If we could get past unionism, educational-vouchers would result in better educations, and like most free-enterprise endeavors (compared to collectivist projects), get more bang for the buck.

    15. Mike K Says:

      the people who are going to think of new things for them to do are entrepreneurs, private owners, and investors.

      Interesting to me is the fact that the two candidates for president are an entrepreneur and a professional politician. Actually, Hillary is only a would-be professional poll who has slipstreamed behind Bill since law school. Maybe if she has passed the DC Bar, she could have done better on her own,

      On the other hand, when creating and competing for new markets people are a lot more valuable to you, and you invest more in them.

      My understanding is that two major problems for employers is having applicants pass a drug test and having them show up for work the second day.

      Kids don’t have the work experience we had. I had my first job in sixth grade and worked all through high school, college and even medical school.

      Illegal immigrants fill most of those entry level jobs these days.

    16. Pouncer Says:

      “Entry-level candidates cannot read or follow instructions. Most cannot do simple math problems. What is wrong with the educational system?”

      A sneer at public jobs programs of the FDR type is that the government could just as well hire idle workers to “dig holes on a Monday Wednesday Friday schedule and fill them back in on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday”.

      Which program would do little for the infrastructure but might well be worth doing anyway for the long term affect on the otherwise idle potential work force. Were there such a program, even the illiterate and innumerate would learn (under pressure to keep the job) to:

      Show up,
      at the expected time,
      on the appointed site,
      in the specified attire,
      with the issued tools and equipment,
      expressing, however hypocritically, a good working attitude.

      You know, the sort of qualities a company of recruit/trainees exhibits at the end of a few weeks basic military training. Except, rather than being acculturated to go places, break things, and hurt people, the job corps companies would be learning to, well, dig holes.

    17. TMLutas Says:

      PenGun – Of the 9 different suggestions I gave, 4 are construction related. By my estimation, they are the 4 that will have the lowest labor demand effects.

      To answer your question, no, I don’t have appreciable stock holdings in any of the sectors you suggest. If I were looking to pump and dump, I certainly wouldn’t look to do it here. If you’re going to hint I’m a crook, at least don’t try to intimate that I’m this incompetent a crook. It’s embarrassing to both of us.

      Thieves, like the poor, we will always have with us. Automating their detection is not happening anytime soon. Counting what government does is just identifying the domain size of what needs to be monitored. The work of actually cross checking is endless because a new set of thieves is always making more work.

      Listing the navigable waters of the united states is a prelude to verifying physically that they are, indeed, navigable. That’s a jurisdictional certification that needs regular renewal. How many other things the government does isn’t actually authorized by the Constitution or legislation? You can’t even count for sure than an entire government is actually authorized. If you can find the legitimate authorization for the counties of Hawaii to exist, I’ll stand corrected. The territorial government auth expired with the passage of the Hawaiian constitution. Again, this is an exercise in correcting human folly.

      In no likely world in the future will we be able to automate away human folly or the consequences thereof. But that’s invisible to you.

      Grurray – large scale logging is not going away. Large scale logging of old growth forest is going away. We’ve got more forest than ever and we log more. It’s just that the number of jobs is declining as what was logged 20 years ago was replanted to make logging easy and the logging equipment requires fewer operators today. The solution, though PenGun can’t seem to admit it, is to do new stuff and keep on coming up with new stuff to do. My suggestion was to have a contest to come up with new stuff that people would be willing to pay to have done. It’s a neverending quest for new stuff that is fueled by two permanent human conditions, human folly and human vanity.

    18. Mike K Says:

      ” My suggestion was to have a contest to come up with new stuff that people would be willing to pay to have done. ”

      I spent a few days with my step-son and his family in Oregon seeing how a family that has only one college graduate out of about 20 people is doing in the 21st century.

      A lot is along those lines.

      The step-son is building houses including, at one site, a combined new construction and remodel of a bed and breakfast. The owners are an Oregon state highway engineer and his Texas based computer scientist wife. This is the Oregon wine country and it is beautiful. The B&B is on a high hill with a magnificent view. Around the hill are two huge wineries.

      My step-son’s wife has a sister married to a young man who is an expert mechanic and who has ventured into winery equipment building and repair.

      He is also rebuilding three Model A Fords, one of which is extremely rare. He has completed a fourth.

      Her brother rebuilds antique Porsches in North Hollywood but he has a house (which his brother-in-law built for him ) in the family 48 acre compound. One of my wife’s grandsons works for his uncle rebuilding these classic cars. Another grandson works for his father building custom houses. Rick has three crews working all the time. His problem is getting people who are reliable. His youngest son will probably also end up working for his father full time. He loves reptiles and has an entire room in the house with various critters in herbariums. He also has two cows.

      The family raises their own chickens which, when slaughtered and dressed, look like turkeys they are so much bigger than store-bought chickens. Rick has a freezer full of chickens and two more full of salmon he has caught from his boat. The tool shed where the freezers are has a propane fueled generator in case power fails.

      I am a bit of a pessimist about cities, especially if Hillary wins the election, and this rural part of Oregon looks pretty good. The Model A rebuilding brother has a gun collection that would almost make a good sized gun store.

      There is also a lot of logging going on in this area of Oregon. It looks like most of it goes to plywood.

    19. David Foster Says:

      Grurray….”An owner of a startup would never say something like this. He (or she) would take anybody they could get and get them to do the job”

      Disagree with “anybody they could get.” You can train for skills, you can’t train for character.

      You can ignore missing educational credentials, you can take a chance on experience in fields that are different from the one you’re in, you can not worry about strange apparel habits, you can gladly accept wide varieties in personality type. But someone who is lazy, who doesn’t care enough to come in on time for an interview…or someone who is incapable of listening….is a very bad bet.

      Also, even when it comes to training for skills, there is only so far you can go. Few startups have the time to teach someone how to read or to do simple math.

    20. David Foster Says:

      Youth…”If we could get past unionism, educational-vouchers would result in better educations, and like most free-enterprise endeavors (compared to collectivist projects), get more bang for the buck”

      Yup. Except it is very likely that vouchers will come with strings attached…say, teaching according to the Howard Zinn view of American history. Especially if Hillary Clinton and her ilk have anything to do with it.

      Consider the cost of ‘free’ government money to the integrity of the American university system.

    21. PenGun Says:

      “PenGun – Of the 9 different suggestions I gave, 4 are construction related. By my estimation, they are the 4 that will have the lowest labor demand effects.”

      Yup the only meat in your post. The rest is the same stuff you have been harping on for years, without actually ever doing much about it.

      “In no likely world in the future will we be able to automate away human folly or the consequences thereof. But that’s invisible to you.”

      I’m not even sure what this means. If you mean the machines won’t save us from ourselves, well duh.

      An aside: I spent an inordinate amount of time building dashboards for my web server operations. It was before you could just grab em’ and I rather enjoyed the Python capabilities of an Apache web server on Linux. I could basically call almost any Linux executable from a web page. You know what I used for the graphic, we up, we in transition, we down. Yup traffic lights. ;)

    22. PenGun Says:

      “If large scale logging is going away, then turn the land over to private owners.” That is exactly what has happened. Well contracting of the work is all small private companies now, although a lot of the land is crown land and quite a bit is owned by international corporations.

      This has resulted in little companies with a feller/buncher or two bidding on the work. It has created cut throat business, and injuries and death are way up.

    23. Tyouth Says:

      David Foster, the vouchers would be the parent’s to spend at the school of their choice. If competition were allowed between schools (established and start-ups) good things would happen.

    24. David Foster Says:

      Tyouth…yeah, I understand the theory. How many cases are there in practice where any form of government payment has come without strings attached?

    25. Grurray Says:

      I’m skeptical of these claims about the workforce being too uneducated. Just across the border in Mexico, multi-million dollar operations are going up that employ less educated workers than in Dallas. The truth is that it’s difficult hiring and managing and getting workers to come back tomorrow. Too often many companies are just deciding it’s not worth the trouble.

      If you have a culture with a unifying vision that promotes mutual trust then people will come back and do the work better every day. Chet Richards calls this Einheit, similar to Asabiyyah.

      Six Sigma practitioners have a term called tribal knowledge or artisanal intelligence to describe customs, practices, and methods that are implicit and inherent in groups or organizations. Sometimes it’s described disparagingly as an impediment to systematizing process across silos and hierarchies, but the smart ones try to unlock that knowledge and find a way to use it.

      There is collective wisdom in communities also. It may look like it’s gone, but remnants are still there just below the surface waiting for someone of something to bring it to the forefront. In many of these towns, manufacturers used to be a big part of the community and culture. They were an integral part of the engine that churned out productive workers and productive citizens. Nowadays though, the ones that are left have retreated to the periphery. Whether by choice or necessity, they lost a lot of links with the community.

      When they complain about uneducated candidates, they’re putting the cart before the horse. Just as the most successful companies build a culture with a product, the most successful economies do too. Companies that want to hire good workers must go out in the community and help make them again. If the schools suck, how about getting involved in the school district or school board? Go into the high schools. Start a trade school. Sponsor summer programs. Have a picnic.

      Try something. It won’t take much. Most people do want to be part of communities and culture. Most people want to work hard to preserve them if they’re worthwhile.

    26. TMLutas Says:

      PenGun – Like I said, this work is invisible to you. It always has been. It likely always will be. I think it’s mildly amusing that you think you know what I do and how much progress I’ve made doing it. Do you have a side contract with the NSA? We don’t talk much outside this forum.

      Grurray – The key is HR departments. If employer HR groups get behind a badging system that certifies the skills they find missing in today’s high school graduates, they could solve the problems you say they are complaining about pretty quickly. But the shareholders never seem to be interested in how HR is screwing up in this dimension.

    27. PenGun Says:

      “PenGun – Like I said, this work is invisible to you. It always has been. It likely always will be. I think it’s mildly amusing that you think you know what I do and how much progress I’ve made doing it. Do you have a side contract with the NSA? We don’t talk much outside this forum.”

      Knowing about stuff is my hobby. Your site at http://www.citizenintelligence.org/ is your main site, or was, as you don’t do much, about what you are so concerned with.

    28. TMLutas Says:

      PenGun – Alas, most of what I do day to day is research. I haven’t touched the site in some time because I came to the conclusion that researching, developing, and shipping needed to take up the time I had been spending futzing around with that thing. But of course, the company site on a pre-money solo founder startup is always reflective of what’s actually going on. After all, “knowing about stuff” is your hobby.

    29. PenGun Says:

      You want an aggregator. I have built several and I do understand how much work it’s gonna be. Work, a large amount of it, is needed.

      If you can’t pay someone to build it, you will have to do it yourself. You will need a good knowledge of HTML, as well as familiarity with a useful scripting language. You need the capacity to make enough mistakes to get it right. It’s not easy, and you need a certain kind of pure madness to deal with the complexity of the beast. You’ll need a *nix server, unless you really like pain.

      Research, about what? The various sources have to be tracked down and their particular brand of stupid, understood and dealt with. None of this is anything other than mind numbing amounts of work.

      Get to it.

    30. TMLutas Says:

      PenGun – I do not want an aggregator. Once again, you think you know far more than you actually know. This is a business intelligence setup. It is also a mind numbing amount of work. I work on this every day.

    31. Anonymous Says:

      You are trying to create a database, you can use for your business intelligence stuff. You need to populate that with content useful to your effort.

      As you are doing government oversight as your main thrust, well originally anyway, sets of government data is what you want. You don’t actually run real time, as this is all scheduled release data. So yes an aggregator is perhaps more than you need. Still, it’s the right way, in general.

      I have had a bit of a look round and things are much better than they used to be. The feds are releasing zipped ASCII, which is great and it may be quite easy to just download their stuff and cram it into your DB, for many cases.

      Good luck with it all.

    32. TMLutas Says:

      PenGun/Anonymous – you cannot build a sound system on foundations of sand. Nobody has properly defined the government domain. We have institutions that, in all honesty, do not consider themselves governments but the US Census does. I’ve found that in California, Indiana, Alaska, and most recently Rhode Island. The Alaska and Rhode Island cases appear benign (so far) but the Indiana case is a wink and nod evasion of the Indiana state constitution. It’s for a good cause, such things often are, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous from a government oversight perspective. I’m not tackling really big states like California until I’ve solved some finance and scaling problems.

      We also have institutions that do consider themselves separate governments but the US Census does not. This is also problematic for government oversight.

      Then there’s the weird stuff, like governments that span multiple states (a few school districts do that in trivial ways but also, big institutions like the NY Port Authority). Occasionally the veil gets drawn back when politically convenient, such as the bridge lane closure stuff that tarnished Chris Christie but I find it highly unlikely that the Port Authority is otherwise pure as the driven snow. How many other cases of lapsed governments not noticing that they are lapsed for years on end are out there? I don’t know and am not panicked about it per se, but view it as a signpost warning of really poor practical oversight systems.

    33. PenGun Says:

      Yeah it’s me. Just brought up Slackware 14.2 and all my stuff is default.

      I’d try to get a project going, and with an enthusiastic bunch of open source coders, this would become much easier, as there is just so much detail to get to.

    34. TMLutas Says:

      If you have a mobile data gatherer that actually works on IOS and Android and isn’t a spreadsheet (the likely collectors won’t be technically sophisticated and it’s a BYOD affair) I’m open to suggestions but you shouldn’t duplicate my own work. I’m not open to:
      1. writing my own
      2. Epicollect (the ios client seems to be broken at present)
      3. commercial software that has a per client cost.

      Most of the others I found out there seem to be android only. Open Data Kit looks nice but all the supposed IOS ports end up either being commercial with a per client user fee or nonfunctional.

      As for your stuff all being default, that sort of thing (identity and settings) works better if you’ve got it on some sort of data store that doesn’t reside on the computer you’re wiping. Centralizing it, however, comes with its own problems. There’s no perfect solution.