Thursday, October 18, 2018

Technology "Killing" Jobs? NEVER.

h/t SiG

SiG had a post.
He noted some folks might think technology and "robots" would cut into jobs.
But he himself was skeptical.
Let me drive an oaken stake through that idea, and then nuke it from orbit, just to be safe.

Yeah, not so much.

1) That's not a "robot", it's simply a machine that can do 1 or 3 human-y things whilst being flung through the air. You've basically given the stunt doubles their own stunt doubles.

2) Some reality from 20+ years behind the camera:
A 20-40 person team of construction grips built the contraptions for that set up, over several days. Possibly even several different teams.
Another 5-10 are standing by for the actual shot.
4-5 electricians lighted it.
Another 6-10 SFX personnel operated the mechanical stunt dummy (not "robot").
It took 10 more to build it. And probably for months, and probably the 4-10 other ones, for when that one gets broken, fails, or just shits the bed. (Read the behind-the-scenes on Jaws and the "revolutionary" mechanical shark sometime.)
You had a crane operator pulling down $100/hr. Maybe 2-3.
Throw in security guards, 3-6, 24/7, just to watch the site.
2-5 person camera crew per camera filming that.
(And 1-4 cameras, including maybe even a remote GoPro type inside the maquette's head.)
Assistant director.
A couple of production assistants.
A medic for that off-site crew.
Wardrobe person and assistant, as needed, if you put so much as a hat or shoes on it.
5-20 additional personnel for miscellany I'm not even thinking of.
10-500 CG, editing, etc. persons for post-production.
Accounting, payroll, Teamster drivers, craft service, etc. etc. etc.
And the 50-200 employees at the companies that rented the production everything from soup to nuts to bolts to every last damned thing you saw in every shot, forever, plus the people that originally built it.

And the people at the supermarkets, stores, gas stations, restaurants, and landlords where those people spend their paychecks every week.

{Bonus: See if you can guess why I get pissy as hell when mega-jackhole fucktard state governments (Ahnuld, Moonbeam, and the entire CA state legislature et al, call your offices) let motion picture and television productions slip away to BFEgypt, or force them to because of taxes, because they can't figure out that the entertainment business is a trillion dollar industry in America, and a virtual license to print money here, forever. Which is a rant for another time.}

In short, your animatronic dummy, for a single 5 second shot, employed over 100 people for weeks to months, and possibly five times that many, some for half a year.

Yeah, "robots" are taking over Hollywood jobs.
(So, ask yourself, did the robot shark in Jaws create less jobs at Universal from 1976-present, or more...? I'll wait.)

I spent most of a week, with a 50-person crew doing CGI for Matrix II and III, just to get reference film for CGI use, with 40+ of us at 35,000', doing zero-G Vomit Comet dives, two hops a day, just for background stunts. It included Keanu Reeve's stunt double (his spitting image, BTW, a total professional and one helluva nice guy all around, and the current director of John Wick and John Wick II, along with about a dozen Mandarin-speaking stunt guys who'd just done Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon , so that we could do Neo vs. Kung Fu fight action shots in zero-frickin-gravity for the sequels). So we sent the stunt guy employment numbers literally to 35K', before production even officially started, on those movies alone. You're welcome. Oh, and $420M gross returns, so I think the FX budget paid for itself.

Absolute most fun I ever had at work in Hollywood, and they paid us to do astronaut training NASA used to spend millions of dollars to conduct. (Our entire air crew were former NASA Vomit Comet pilots and flight crew.) And that gig didn't exist in Hollywood from 1900-1998 or so.

And the company that was starting from scratch that week? The one that only existed because Fat Bill was downsizing NASA? They seem to be doing pretty damned well too, and now have multiple aircraft and employ another bunch of people, nearly twenty years later. I was supposed to go on their next L.A.-area flight after the movie work. On 9/15/2001. 9/11 kind of put a crimp in that plan, dammit. (Ray: I'll still fly with you guys anytime, anywhere.) They're now getting $5K a head for a single hop, retail, in a business that didn't exist before they started it.

(Two tips if you ever go up with them (and if you can, you should) straight from me, and the Medical Director of NASA at the time:
1) Dramamine pre-flight. Period.
2) Don't turn your head in the transition from gravity to zero-G, or you'll be puking for days.
Do not question this expertise. You'll pay for it.)

Robotic stunt dummies?

You just tripled production costs, and employed another 100 people, on any movie they're used on, forever.

Please, invent MORE; IATSE and SAG will cream their pants and buy you steak & lobster dinners, forever. And the stunt guys will soak up the easy gigs, and they'll save the spendy machines for the stupid-dangerous dumbshit for productions with more money than brains. So no more jumping off 500' dams, or dangling from cables to get into blown-open 747 cockpits. Boo frickin' hoo.

Back in the day, the pocket-protector dorks promised that "computers would reduce paper records" too.

I doodled and drew for 18 years of growing up on just the reams of discarded paper that they "reduced" for my mom's accounting position with a Fortune 50 company. (This was back before there was an entire industry to store, shred, and recycle it, that didn't exist in 1970 in any way whatsoever.)
And the reduction in a handful of accounting staff was offset by the addition of hundreds to eventually hundreds of thousands of what we now refer to as "IT staff", from programmers to sysops, times infinity.

Job reduction?

Telling me tech is going to reduce jobs is like telling me lawyers will reduce lawsuits.

Stop, you're killing me, and my sides hurt.


MMinWA said...

Inside baseball stories are generally pretty interesting, that one certainly was.

Night driver said...

If you still have channels into NASA, check in with Dr. Polk. WAY SUPER GOOD GUY. He hung up his turn out gear to come up to us for his Internship and then his residencies. Yeah he's a DO...GOOD guy. HEAVY duty MasCal experience and WROTE the EMS Protocols for the ISS. Tell him Chuck (in Cleveland)sent ya.

Anonymous said...

The first thought I had was that they need to turn out more animatronics so we can replace those jacktard robots who keep spouting leftist bullshit. Older brother worked in the biz for a time, I've always had an interest in the "how" those things are done.

Anonymous said...

I've been a computer programmer for over 30 years, and you're spot-on. The secretary at my former church refused to learn computers (and this was in the late 90s) because she'd worked for the phone company and lots of her friends and co-workers "lost their jobs due to computers" Well yeah, once you had computerized switching you didn't need a human being to move plugs around on a switchboard, but if that's the only skill you've acquired you're a sad sack.

Over the last few years there's been SOME reduction in paper produced because reports are sent out electronically. Reports that couldn't have existed 50 years ago because it would've been too time-consuming to gather the data. Reports that WERE printed 20 years ago because we didn't have PDFs.

Folks like me have made a living for 30+ years fixing those reports when they break, changing them when the requirements change, and writing new ones when somebody with more budget money than sense decides "I'd really like to see XYZ". My ultimate was a few years ago I had to spin thru literally scores of millions of data points (it might've been hundreds of millions) to produce four percentages.

Mark D

Anonymous said...

The advent of CNC technology has produced MORE machinists, not less. That's just one instance. Some are operators, some programmers, some both, but it stepped up production BIG TIME when they came into play, and we make MORE stuff now because of them. For every robot working in some Amazon warehouse (I know that might be brought up), you're going to have a LOT of people working ON those robots to keep them going, plus people designing and building the next generation, etc. etc. The jobs will change - like from blacksmith to auto mechanic. Now if our education system was worth a damn, they'd be concentrating more on STEM and far less on genitalia, but your basic school teacher was a C average in college, so that explains that.

SiGraybeard said...

It's probably something only true geeks know, but for at least the last 20 years, robot sales have gone up with the number of jobs. (Reference) Companies can either let sales get away or add robots. Which do you think they're going to do?

“If you can’t compete, you only have a few choices—you send it overseas, you shut down, or layoff.” Automation can keep jobs from ever moving overseas, and often, new technology wins new business, too.

My big thing against Artificial Intelligence is that we really don't even understand how our own brains work and yet we're trying to create new ones. Borepatch had a good piece on some of the idiocy that goes on in trying to train robots in visual recognition. Bottom line: show them a million pictures of something and maybe they'll recognize it, but show the thing in a slightly different way than the picture and they get lost. No baby mistakes a book for a face, but robots do.

"Switch a few pixels here or there, or add a little noise to what is actually an image of, say, a gray tabby cat, and Google's Tensorflow-powered open-source Inception model will think it’s a bowl of guacamole. This is not a hypothetical example: it's something the MIT students, working together as an independent team dubbed LabSix, claim they have achieved."

Good stuff here.

The AI has one advantage: as the researchers figure out the right way to do things, the systems get better over time. OTOH, software has the unfortunate characteristic that over 80% of the time fixing one bug introduces another so it's a never ending problem. So maybe it's possible the software may do what we want by the year 2050 or 2100.

Anonymous said...

SiGraybeard: one of the great truisms of programming is that there are two types of programs: those that are working, but have bugs, and those that aren't working at all. That was hammered into my head in college and I've seen few enough exceptions that they prove the rule

Mark D

Dan said...

Whether or not robots/AI take over ALL jobs is debateable. But automation has and will continue to displace and replace "carbon based units" in the workforce and other venues (think robotic hookers....already for sale). Eventually the technology and intellect of synthetic beings will equal and then surpass humans (if we don't blow industrial society to hell first). We can hope such beings will be benign and helpful ala Asimovs Three Laws of Robotics or SNG's Cmdr Data. Realistically we are more likely to get something more akin to The Forbin Project/Skynet/Terminator. Humanity has proven that we are clever, not intelligent therefore we will happily create and build the instruments of our demise in spite of the obvious risks that such luminaries as Stephen Hawking and others have warned us about.

Aesop said...

Once again:
1) The item in the linked vid is not a "robot".
It's more of a mechanical mannequin.

Yuuuuuge difference.

2) Technology multiplies jobs, it seldom eliminates them.
Yes, you can replace the functions of an order taker and a burger flipper.
Then you need a person to empty the till, lube the machinery, repair the machinery, clean the machinery, build the machinery, update the machinery, load register tape into the order taker, load the burgers, onions, pickles, and sauce into the burger flipper, clean and maintain the burger flipper, calibrate it from time to time,
ad infinitum.
You eliminate 2 simple jobs, you create 64 complex ones requiring even more skilled laborers.

3) Don't even get started with me when something breaks. "If it has tires, t*ts, or moving parts, it's going to give you problems" was an axiom since 1903, and has grown no less accurate over time. (Just less PC.)

Thus you have a world where you can replace some drunken UAW thugs on a GM assembly line and stop making "Monday hangover specials", but guys who can repair automatic transmissions can pull $100K/yr with a GED and a little bit of work ethic.

All tech does is eliminate jobs for stupid people.

So we should probably stop breeding and importing so many of those.

Step One: Welfare payments are tied to your GPA/SAT/IQ scores.

Dropped out before HS grad?
US$1.00/wk for life, max.
Additional 50¢/wk for a minor child.
10¢/wk deduction for each additional child after one.
Work up from there.

Domo said...

Jobs are bad
No one wants a job
Wealth is good, we all want a paycheque

Technology replaces current jobs, which is good, although disruptive if its your job, and frees ups valuable and scarce humans for new jobs.

I used to work for an engineering firm

We had 5 engineers making "boat tails" with powered hand tools, it took 5 engineers a week to make one.
We replaced that with 1 engineer and a big machine, making 5 boat tails a week.
The 4 engineers were moved to other projects that *needed* human input.

"2) Technology multiplies jobs, it seldom eliminates them.
Yes, you can replace the functions of an order taker and a burger flipper.
Then you need a person to empty the till, lube the machinery, repair the machinery, clean the machinery, build the machinery, update the machinery, load register tape into the order taker, load the burgers, onions, pickles, and sauce into the burger flipper, clean and maintain the burger flipper, calibrate it from time to time,
ad infinitum.
You eliminate 2 simple jobs, you create 64 complex ones requiring even more skilled laborers."

Sort of, you might add more roles, but the only way you are adding more actual positions, is if you radically boost output.
Not that long ago, a home fridge (refrigerator) was a rare luxury, now, virtually every home has a fridge, freezer, washing machine, dryer and dishwasher.

Aesop said...

Re: "radically boost output"
Have you seen the lines at drive-thrus now?
And what was the population of the US when few had such luxuries, vs. what it is now?

And btw, when's the last time you threw out food because it spoiled sitting on the counter?


And actually, replacing order takers with well-designed machine interfaces is a net plus, because verbal communication squares the chances for misinterpretation, whereas order input via a good human-machine interface is a binary function: either you ordered that, or you didn't.
And you eliminate the nonsense like the Taco Bell in FL where they didn't speak English.(Then again, if you're ordering at Taco Bell, getting your order is its own punishment.)

The ancillary benefits, like machines not dropping your food on the floor and serving it anyways, forgetting to wash their hands after crapping, not needing labor rules, breaks, and meal times, nor calling in sick, working when they are sick, and not spitting in your food, makes them a positive boon to anyone running a franchise.

As I said, automation only replaces stupid people and low-skill, low-IQ jobs, overall.
But at the same time, if you try to take it too far too fast, you end up with the Jetsons, 24/7/forever, and IRL.

The Freeholder said...

Movies, huh? I wondered what your day gig was.

James said...

Aesop, this is for you, please do not publish.

I contacted some people at the company in KY & MA that makes the "Baxter" robot. My business partner - a retired engineer - and I have a startup that required a rather fancy liner, one of the three items in our doodad that has a patent applied for ( . . . still applying at the speed of glacier). We figured after a successful Kickstarter - maybe January 2019 - we'd get the Baxter training and purchase one bot for fitting/glueing/mounting this liner.

After getting the right guy on the phone, and getting a verbal handshake on a NDA to explain precisely what we needed, he advised that his company's bots could not do the job. At all. In fact, he said that for exactly what we needed, to replace the human finger dexterity/opposable thumb and functional 3D eyes - there are exactly zero robots on earth he knows of that could do what we want. He told us what we knew: train some underemployed teens EXACTLY what we want and pay 'em $12 to$15/hour to get it right, and you're done.


I love and read SiG and you a few times a week (while retired I am on this start-up) and you guys certainly get it about tech. I spent way too long doing networks and system security and just server/desktop mechanics for 3-letter agency drones to believe tech will reduce people like me; in fact, at my age with my health problems I could go back to $90K + right now if I were willing to commute and put up with it again. Uh, no.

Back to the start-up. Great job, Aesop. Please keep 'em coming.