Saturday, May 28, 2016

Robot Labor: Why This is Good for Small Business

If everyone loses their jobs to robots, then what can all these unemployed buy?  This is a subtext to Mish's emphasis on robotization.
Yesterday, Apple’s iPhone maker, Foxconn announced an immediate cut of 60,000 workers to be replaced by robots.
Today, Adidas announced the first ever 100% robot-made shoe.
Robots replaced the horses that once provided the drivetrain in transport.  We still use the terms horsepower and drivetrain when speaking of automobiles.  How will we refer to the number of people a robot replaces?  FTEs?  (Full Time Equivalent)

Did the elimination of millions of carthandlers due to locomotives bring poverty?  No, an increase in efficiency brought more leisure time at the same income level.  Did 99% of buggy whip makers going out of business bring on poverty?  No, those people got jobs building railroad cars.  Did containerization end longshoreman work?  No, wages went up and as costs of logistics dropped more could be traded.  Now the median longshore wage is over $100K per year.  Some make a quarter million.

iPhones will get cheaper as will shoes.  As will McD and Starbucks and Uber as they go to robots.  At the same time, human interaction will become premium.

Design will become premium.  Robots do the same thing over and over very well.  Robots cannot improve design, and there seems to be, in life, X amount of design talent.

Those people who once hand sewed shoes can still do it.  Unemployed, some who love making shoes will work with excellent designers and come up with super -premium shoes.  Lifestyle over accumulation.  They will need people who can market, find customers.  Lifestyle over accumulation.  I need only put on a hand tailored jacket with Levis (ok, and a tailored shirt too...) to get treated as though I am some royalty.  When a robot makes a million shoes, they better wear out fast to recover the cost of the robot and have a revenue stream to maintain the machine.  My shoes last thirty years, and look and fit better than anyone else's.   Of course the cost at least four times as much initially, but it is very economical.

I carry a flip-phone and endure derision from children, because people with smartphones miss too much in life.  There are no features on a smartphone that are net-advantageous.  I doubt there ever will be.  Pictures racing by on a screen does not mean you are going places. I am all Apple all the time because Apple's products are the least bad.  Apple charges too much for equipment that does waaaay too much.  If and when defunct Apple production lines start making things I design for myself, then I'll pay a lot more for a lot less tech.

It takes so little to live so much better.  It's mostly attitude, social conditioning.  Are you socially conditioned from the outside to be a consumer?  Or internally self-conditioned to work for lifestyle, not accumulation?

It's inevitable that among the unemployed some creative will start their own businesses.  They need to link up with the others in complementary businesses to thrive: small materials processors, small manufacturers, small designers, sales reps, retailers...  all people who tend toward lifestyle instead of accumulation.  Yes, countless others will elect to join the fight at the trough, screaming their claims of share allocation ...  but that is a choice.

Self-employment is also self-improvement, personal transformation.  I offer classes in business start-up, highly rated and unlike any others.  Check them out.

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