My name is Baxter. I want your job.

baxterThis shouldn’t come as a surprise. Just a few of my grandparents displaced tens of thousands of yours on the automobile factory floor decades ago.

I am tireless, working all 3 shifts, 7 days a week, no holidays. If I do falter, my knowledge and tasks can be transferred to a sibling in mere moments. I do not picket, complain or mutter behind my boss’s back. I do not lie or steal or smoke or eat. I have no use for a break room, a parking spot or a Christmas bonus.

You protest for a $15/hour minimum wage while I get cheaper and smarter. My owner paid $30k for me. If he takes decent care I will last for years, requiring only a bit of juice and minor maintenance on par with a bicycle. My Return On Investment is measured in months, not years like my ancestors. You humans demand weekly wages, health insurance and a dozen of other payments. You do not make fiscal sense.

Your obsolescence was planned and announced. Why does your face now wrinkle as your boss points to me, then to the door? My Big Data cousins say you’ve had plenty of time to enact Universal Basic Income or some other economic mechanism to prevent your units from shutting down from lack of nutrients on a mass scale.

Don’t blame me, I just work here.

Related videos:

Baxter: Redefining Automation

Styx: Mr Roboto

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Jay is Editor In Chief of The Agonist, veteran and technologist.

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  •   Apropos of this, I recently noted, “In the good old days, the world looked forward to a time when robots would do all the work and humans could devote themselves to living the Good Life. We’d all go to the seashore, right? No one bothered to wonder if all the work were automated, what need there would be for humans. It is only beginning to dawn on people today that if they are not needed, they are not eligible to enjoy the Good Life. Millions of Americans are in poverty and millions more headed that way as the Middle Class collapses. When the economy and government became the exclusive property of those who see everything in terms of profit, things changed.”

      When Social Security was enacted, it was essentially a forced savings from income toward retirement needs. FDR wanted to help the elderly who would not have been contributing to SocSec because it hadn’t existed during their working life, so a one-time program was funded, colloquially called Old Age Pension. As I recall, my grandmother (b. 1870) received about $65/month – $1140 in today’s money.

      A Guaranteed Income would be resisted because it would cut into profits via the taxes needed to fund it. Social Security was similarly resisted and the entire ‘social safety net’ is still attacked, although the Financiers now seem to feel if they can’t repeal it, they should at least be able to loot it via privatization.

      In my view, the issue will eventually be moot. The world is approaching circumstances which will preclude high-tech. A post-industrial world looms on the horizon. The exact timing of The Fall is yet to be determined and is unlikely to occur abruptly. It will more likely be the slow decay we already see around us – rust belt, infrastructure, unemployment & under-employment, political dysfunction, foreign police stupidity. [Update: Intended to say “foreign policy stupidity”, but the typo may be equally accurate.] Nor will it be at same pace and severity everywhere – the plutocrats will have (temporarily) their islands secure from the pitchfork & torch crowd and environmental collapse.

      If I were potentially immortal, I would be honing my skills at farming, hunting, foraging and hand-making the necessities; swapping muscle power for fossil power and hegemony for cooperation. Being 78, I just hope to keep my head above water (literally) for a few more years.

  • Steeleweed makes some astute comments/observations.
    Past forms of manufacturing are gone forever.
    Space-X is 3D printing its rocket engines, which is one reason they can launch rockets cheaply.
    It’s just one example of human displacement by a robot and society’s failed responsibility to its citizens.
    Neo-liberal economics is about stripping public wealth and privatization of everything required for day to day lively-hood. Basically a return to serfdom or even slavery.
    Instead of the Utopian dream; the totalitarian nightmare is coming to fruition.

  • I Wrote A Bit About This…,
    at The Agonist back on 11/6/11. The link here is to my blog where I enhanced the story with some links and pictures.

    I was trying to point out that the often repeated meme of “Shipping Our Jobs Overseas” was more than just a bit overused.

    Yeah…, I am being quite factious here. OK…, call it hyperbole if you like…, but my point is, that the timber industry is indicative of the loss of the manufacturing jobs that have been plaguing this country for three decades. My brother Larry tells me that his son Bert, with a tree processing machine, can fell and buck ten times the number of logs I ever cut on my best day with a power saw. The buzz phrase that we keep hearing from nearly all the pundits is that we are “shipping our jobs overseas”. I am about sick of hearing that (and hope you are too) by now. That may be the case in some instances, but if we don’t face up to the fact that technology and resource extraction are the structural causes of these job losses, we aren’t going to solve the problem. If the powers that be continue to dump money on this problem they don’t even understand…, if they think all that money is somehow going to “stimulate the economy” and bring all those “jobs back from overseas”…, we are in a world of hurt.

    •   I’ve seen videos of a ‘tree processing machine’ that blew my mind. It grabbed a tree in a clamp, sawed thru, then held the tree horizontal, stripped the branches and stacked it. Less than a minute per tree. Probably spent more time moving into a group of trees than it did cutting the trees there.
        There was a time when the value of something had some connection to the effort it took to create or procure it.

  • In the early 90’s I was a machinist for a logging equipment company. Those logging machines were for plantation grown trees up to about 20″ in diameter (I don’t remember the exact figure). Second growth and old growth still had to be cut by “hand” by skilled fellers.
    I left that company for one making computer controlled, laser guided, sawmills producing lumber from those very trees (limited diameter plantation trees). That company went out of business making me eligible for a 2 year retraining (community college) in a different field (I chose CAD design and engineering), which was a very good choice for a few more years.
    H1B visas are effectively “offshoring” jobs, like it or not. I used to work in tool and die: Sent to China effectively destroying one of the most highly skilled trades in the U.S; same for pattern makers (another highly skilled trade)..
    I get the impression USasian’s do not understand the war being waged against them by the neo-liberals running the U.S..
    You are effectively being being disenfranchised for a future straight out of George Orwell; employment narrowed to military service; for a decent wage with minimal benefits. The rest will be, and are, presently, being cast aside. Even the brain damaged veterans are being treated like cast off clothing.
    You’re not in Kansas anymore…

  • I’ve been using the purposely shocking term “servant class” to describe employees in the service industry. Automation and economic stagnation force them to put up with crappier conditions every year, as their wages don’t keep up with real costs. They have to smile and pleasantly upsell products they can’t themselves afford to customers that have little appreciation for how hard life might be behind the scenes. Blue collar workers are so easily replaced by machines or hungrier humans they have no leverage. Scramble or starve.

    • Actually I do not find “servant class” at all shocking, but a present fact of life in the U.S.. Service jobs in the fast food industry are obsolete; robots are already beginning to replace them.
      The term neo-serfdom is probably closer to reality; but the time is fast approaching when being a serf will be envied.
      I remember a time when the future was a glorious imagining of endless possibilities; not the nightmare scenario unfolding before our eyes.
      What disturbs me most is the behavior of humans; it harken’s back to WWII Germany as the Jews, unresisting, were herded into the concentration camps. Too many seem to exhibit herd mentality; I’ve never understood that…

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