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  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   40 min 33 sec ago

    FDR was a creature of his times.  I'm a creature of my own - the present.


    Employment as a paradigm will change, is changing.  Used to be that capitalism used to demand some differential between wages paid and actual value to justify hiring anyone.  Exploitation, Marx called it.  Value-add is the current buzzword.  Same thing.  Exploitation isn't bad, though there is a species of Idiot Liberal who still thinks Marx is still scribbling away in the British Library.  Exploitation just means someone's making enough money to pay you to do a job worth doing.


    People aren't paid for what they do.  They're paid for what they know.  So what if Foxconn is hiring a zillion robots?  You're all worried about those workers doing meaningless jobs, well, we're not quite done with the meaningless job yet.  But we're getting close.


    Here's how this is going to work out:  until Africa has been industrialised, those meaningless jobs will continue to go in search of exploitable workers.  But once Africa is on the grid, the meaningless job will die a miserable death and good riddance to it.  But we're not there yet. 


    People handle exceptions.  They're far better at it than the robots, mostly because quality resolves to the perception of quality.  Shoddy workmanship means manufacturers are cutting corners.  People won't tolerate bad quality, not even in Africa.


    Watch Africa.  It's already the destination for shiploads of our discards.  All those resale stores where you donate clothes and such?  Most of that stuff ends up in Africa and Central America.  Only a tiny fraction of it ends up on the racks at Goodwill.  Africa's so full of these discards, it's reached the point where even the Africans don't want their kids running around in worn-out clothes.  That stuff ends up being turned into rags or paper.  Same applies to old electronics.


    Africa is coming online.  So is India.  It's mostly wireless at this point but that will change, once fibre and microwave have penetrated far enough into the bush.  All major African cities have cell phone service.  It's changed the nature of commerce already:  entire villages will send one guy with a truck to the big marketplace and call back with sales, so all the farmers know what's going on.  Used to be that everyone had to go to town and spread out his okra and yams on a mat.  That era is gone. The cell phone allows for price discovery, the key to efficient markets of every sort.


    China's going into Africa in a big way.  They're intent upon exploiting Africa exactly as they were exploited by the Americans and the Japanese.  But it wasn't so long ago when it was the Americans who were exploiting the Japanese.  I can remember when "Made in Japan" meant shoddy knockoff.  But before then, it was the American workers who were being exploited.


    Labour hasn't lost leverage.  Sure, the meaningless job can run away faster.  But the world is round.  Eventually, the meaningless job will run out of Away to run to, as America ran out of frontier.  Nice myth, the frontier.  But soon enough, that's all it will be.


    Liberals need to grow the hell up and quit spouting all this psychobabble about Being Human.  Humans take risks and they exploit each other as thoroughly as possible.  They're busily ruining this planet, befouling the water and the soil and the air.   They don't care because they don't have to care.  Yet.  But once Africa comes online, they'll be Out of Frontier and their grubby little faces will be rubbed in the consequences of their shortsighted greed. 


    Capital is a human invention and nobody has yet improved on the concept of money.  But the nation state is not the final arbiter of the value of money.  That would be the market for money.  And that market is outgrowing the nation state.  When Africa has been fully penetrated and its citizens online, there will be no more Cheap Labour to Exploit and there will be a new paradigm of labour.  The nation state is presently losing all meaning.  Either it will begin to work on behalf of the humans or it will be replaced by the corporations, who really do care about sales and profits and yes, their customers, for they understand human needs and desires, none better.  They will cast an eye upon the Shoddy Workmanship of Government and they will apply a few principles of Kaizen to it.  The future will look more like the Hanseatic League, where traders and merchants will rule the world.

  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   1 hour 42 min ago

    Now I mostly do QC/QA robots, pushing kaizen type efficiencies into defect detection.  People are still better at QC, at least handling the exceptions.  A robot can find a problem but it can't diagnose it, find its root causes.  I do capture that sort of thing in expert systems.  But really, the machines are only as good as their operators.  Bucho-san the line supervisor is interested in getting 1800 units in boxes every shift.  My experience has been moving factories out of Japan to the USA.  The Japanese like American workers.  When the machine goes down, an American won't just stand there like a pig looking at a wristwatch.  He'll recycle the machine, get a coat hanger and fix the damned thing, in short, the American will give a damn where the Malaysian or Chinese worker won't. 


    Should tell a story here about 12 cell phone QC workers.  I was doing three bots, freeze-thaw, power-on diagnostics, vision system panel check, call placement, speaker test.   The QC workers thought they were gonna be replaced.  They weren't.  They merely moved into kaizen defect detection and actually worked with me on the expert system, training it .  All of them got a raise, none lost their jobs, more were hired.  Their input led to a major redesign of the amp and speaker.  Humans are not going away.   They're needed, more than ever.

  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   1 hour 55 min ago

    All they needed was a big lump of cash on the asset side of their books.  They didn't spend a dime of that money.  They didn't even lend it.  A bit of it melted, not much, essentially all of it was repaid.  Had we gone to the Helicopter Approach, we would have ended up with massive inflation, which didn't happen, precisely because it went to the banks.  The money didn't go to the stock market, either.  The old investment houses are now hiding under bank incorporations and are now regulated as such, subject to stress tests and the like.


    But in fact, many corporations did get emergency money.  Things were so bad, everyone was lined up at the Fed discount window, getting enough to make payroll. 

  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   1 hour 57 min ago

    but I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle.


    You are right in that machines do need operators and techs, they need supply from the warehouse and so on. In my experience of the manufacturing industry 95% of the line workers I've seen fired have gone because the jobs have gone to lower wage economies in the east and most of the automation work I did was aimed at increasing yields and detecting defects as early int he value chain as possible. 2nd on the list was probably work around track and trace and third in terms of hours were probably safety improvements for workers.


    But we did also get rid of people by adding automation (in an attempt to compete with the east). I can remember one project right away where we doubled the number of vibratory bowl feeders at the start of a production line and piped in some detergent chemicals from a central store rather than dropping a 3m3 block of them onto the floor every few hours. This meant fewer trips for the stores guy s out the the floor and fewer interventions for the operators to replenish supplies. That translated to one fewer stores guy and, along with some other changes, one fewer operator per line.


    Of course the kind of assembly we were doing could not be done by hand. The machines were always there at every step of production, but more automation did mean fewer operators.

  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   1 hour 59 min ago

    The workers simply move up the ladder to feeding spools of ICs and diodes and caps to the robot.  You stick to what you know.  AI and robotics pay my bills.


    Here's what happens to the older workers who used to sit in the soldering stations.  They do QC/QA work.  They aren't inhaling solder fumes any more.  Now they sit over a microscope and inspect the DUT.  Nobody's happy until they're failing 5 percent of the production.  There's still plenty of work.  Even in QC, the older workers supervise the robots.  Nobody is rendered redundant. 

  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   2 hours 9 min ago

    I wonder if their record would look a little better if they'd taken to the helicopters for increasing the monetary supply rather than sending it all to the banks and the stock market.

  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   5 hours 26 min ago

    The 17 year old cheerleader bus driver and the tie-wrap incident were both real,  although they were different years.   It was the first time I'd seen a tie wrap, and the part where it couldn't be loosened was the surprise trick - that's how they got the guy tied to the seat without a huge scuffle.


    Also JFTR,  the schools I went to had a rule exactly like yours:  in any fight where both guys were throwing punches,  both got a paddling and/or detention,  no exceptions.  This whole concept MA and MSE have where the student tells his side of the story and there's some kind of attempt at judgment just didn't exist.

  • Reply to: I call it: "Open Thread With Two Goats Wearing Sweaters"   6 hours 19 min ago

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  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   7 hours 57 min ago

    Part of an anti-truancy campaign, something about how bombshell good looks and chiseled, heroic jawlines (I'm speaking here of male and female drivers, respectively) would get kids to stop missing the bus. That was the theory anyhow. Eventually they had to can the program: too much drama. But that was nothing compared to the driver's strike. The superintendant hired scabs who happened to be performance artists. Well, it turns out they were in cahoots with the strikers from the get-go, and long before the higherups caught on, us kids were deep into the act, beating ourselves with cabbages, lying down across the sirloins in the Winn-Dixie meat cooler screaming Rachmaninoff tunes, hanging a Che Guevara sex doll from the flagpole (the interrogations went on for a week, but they couldn't break a single one of our agents), staging an impromptu bring-your-pet-to-school day, putting on a one-act play version of Paths of Glory where we all wore football uniforms (go Echidnas!) and the actor playing Colonel Dax had a combover that made him a dead ringer for our principal. 27 of us brought prostitutes to parent-teacher day (volunteer of course: working ladies are surprisingly generous patrons of the arts). I don't think the truancy numbers budged at all.

  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   8 hours 30 min ago

    Lot of good they did too. There were fights and scuffles on every day of the week ending with y. I would be blown out of my socks if we managed to dig up, say, 100 high school codes of conduct from 1965-1975 and didn't find more than 60 variations of "fighting is not allowed and may result in suspension or expulsion." 

  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   8 hours 35 min ago

    on this site in quite a while. I'm going to have to save this one.

  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   9 hours 3 sec ago

    Should have been Scalia, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan on the losing side.

  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   9 hours 2 min ago

    On the other hand, wealthy, deserving people can hire very expensive lawyers and get away scot free. Ever so glad I didn't have kids.

  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   9 hours 5 min ago

    of the 4th Amendment chipped off today.


    For the police:  Thomas (author), Roberts, Kennedy, Breyer, Alito.

    For the people:  Scalia (author), Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Ginsburg



  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   9 hours 48 min ago

    Not in the sense of firing an assembly line worker and ordering a humanoid to punch in at 8 every morning and stand in the same spot doing the exact same thing.


    But the factories running pick-and-place machines pretty much drove the maquiladoras with rows of women out of the business of populating PCBs.  Same thing with wirebonding IC dies into packages.  Thousands of other examples.  You know this.

  • Reply to: Privatisation, the panacea.   10 hours 10 min ago

    without paying a Patel,  unless you want to sleep in your vehicle.  They seem to own most hotels now.

  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   10 hours 23 min ago


  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   10 hours 36 min ago

    of what he wrote about the Great Depression.  You might not agree with him about it, I don't pretend to be able to explain the Great Depression.  I do think Bernanke did about as good a job as anyone of explaining it.  And I'm tired of making this point for the umpteenth time.  In a choice between your credibility, my credibility, Milt Friedman's and Bernanke's cred on the Great Depression, I'm going with Bernanke. 

  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   11 hours 16 min ago

    His speech in honor of Milton Friedman was an embarrassment to the profession:


    Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.

    Best wishes for your next ninety years.


    Then the guy watched as the Fed showered money down during a depressed economy and ... the banks just increased their reserves. 


    Let's not pretend the issue is more complex than it is: it's obvious he's been significantly mistaken and like so many conservatives hasn't shared his belief revision with the public in light of the Great Recession.

  • Reply to: One Hundred Years of Open Thread   11 hours 45 min ago

    In that discussion you claimed that 30 years ago there were rules about fighting, and that wasn't the case either.