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Digitalization Makes Us Happily Unemployed!

by Stephan Dorner and Claudio Weck Wednesday, Feb. 04, 2015 at 10:58 AM

Political upheavals often precede technical revolutions.. The digital revolution hardly seems to have produced social or political revolutions.. Digitalization penetrates and changes the economy and life of people as the industrial Revolution once did.


By Stephan Dorner

[This article published on 1/11/2015 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

The digital revolution will soon strike the middle class heart of society – when brainwork is also affected by automation. With that the crucial political-economic question of the 21st century will finally move into the limelight.


Political upheavals often precede technical revolutions – the French Revolution urbanization, trade routes and manufacturing, the socialist revolution the industrial revolution together with automatic looms and steam engines.

The digital revolution hardly seems to have produced social or political revolutions, perhaps except for the Arab Spring. In the western world, the political-social system seems as stable as ever. Capitalism, freedom and democracy seem to be the triad in which the seminal neoconservative thinker Francis Fukuyama saw the proverbial “end of history” after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Digitalization penetrates and changes the economy and life of people in all-embracing ways as the Industrial Revolution once did. However the political-social consequences now seem very foreseeable. If I must guess what technological consequence could trigger another possible political-social revolution, my guess would be the devaluation of human work.

“The question is to what extent an automation of thinking follows the automation of muscle power.”


The devaluation of human labor is not a new phenomenon. This was the theme of the Luddites – the machine strikers of the 19th century who destroyed the factories and machines coming into fashion because they saw their work threatened. However while simple jobs were threatened by digitalization, the digital shocks did not cause any earthquakes in the world of work. The pressure on employees with simpler activities grew since the triumph of automatic manufacture with its new peaks in the 1970s. A large part of Europe’s former working class fell into political agony at that time.

“Whole vocational fields are threatened by digitalization.”

The extensive digitalization of the working world is the first technical trend in humanity’s history that makes more than simple human works superfluous. Online banking already ensures a trimming of bank personnel; other middle class branches will follow. Ever better computer algorithms compete with the human spirit. The digital worldwide linkage increases the pressure on well-trained employees like programmers because they must increasingly compete with cheap global competition from all parts of the world. In addition, business models come under pressure through the Internet that lives from the spread of once scarce information and other artistic works.

“Whole occupational fields are threatened by digitalization,” warned Frank Bsirske, head of the German Verdi service union at the end of 2014. “The question is to what extent an automation of thinking will follow the automation of muscle power.” When brain-workers are increasingly replaced by machines, the earlier answer of politics to every upheaval of work by technology will be obsolete. The perpetual mantra “more education and training” no longer functions.


Jaron Lanier criticizes the role of the masses in the digital world.

When the social position and income of brain-workers are threatened, not only Europe’s former working class falls in political agony. The digital revolution strikes the middle class heart of society. The first signs can be seen in the entertainment pages of the middle class. So Germany’s middle class celebrates modern machine-strikers like the Internet- and Open Source critic Jaron Lanier who was awarded the 2014 peace prize of the German book trade amid great applause.

What follows the devaluation of demanding human activities by computers? If we are lucky, the crucial political-economic theme of the 21st century could finally move into the limelight. How will we distribute the fruits of the automation dividends? The overall social-technical progress with less and less necessary human labor makes us ever richer because a growing part of value creation is by machines.


In the past, the owners of the means of production profited above all – the owners of businesses and the managers who decide over the commitments of ever more valuable capital while wage development of workers in western states lags behind the advancing productivity. The result is an expansion of inequality in income and wealth.

Automation and digitalization offer us a tremendous chance for finding a just answer to how the fruits of automation dividends can be distributed so capital owners and high paid managers will not be the only ones to profit.

There is no reason to artificially hold up or delay automation and rationalization. More unemployment would then mean more free time, more value creation and prosperity and no longer increased poverty. The machine-strikers of the 21st century like Jaron Lanier could pack up.


By Claudio Weck

[Artificial intelligence, robotics and future technologies will change many things hopefully for the good. This article published January 12, 2015 is translated from the German on the Internet, ]

Many jobs will presumably be lost through automation and artificial intelligence. The IT branch will be spared.

What will happen when machines take over more intelligent tasks?

Recently I saw the video “Humans Need Not Apply” on Youtube. It raises the question how intelligent machines change our world and shows the present state of technology in robots and artificial intelligence. Jobs will be endangered.

Robots are conceived so they can do all possible tasks, not only one task, for example serve coffee as home workers or employees and do repeated tasks – ever more inexpensively.

In the past, horses were irreplaceable for transport, agriculture and wars and were widely used. However they became unnecessary through cars and trains and their population has fallen dramatically. Something similar could happen to the majority of the population in the future. They will not be needed as workers when intelligent machines can do their work inexpensively.

Many warehouse workers, taxi drivers and train- and ship captains will be replaced by robots and cars that drive themselves. Amazon has already outfitted the first warehouses with Kiva Systems. Fewer lawyers will be needed when artificial intelligence can independently examine bank statements and other business data. Fewer doctors will be necessary when software can scan our whole sickness history and diagnose us better. IBM’s Watson is already helping some cancer patients.

Moreover machines have already taken over in some areas today, for example stock trade computers have already taken over the stock exchange and the writing of stock exchange reports.

There will hardly be any new occupational fields, we heard in the video. What will we do when we are not needed any more in production?


As a person interested in technology, I naturally believe technological progress is inexorable or unstoppable. As reported in the last article, machines will always become more intelligent.

Many jobs will be inevitably unnecessary. Machines are often better and less expensive. But will the future really be so dark in ten or twenty years?

Did the head of the German Verdi service union Frank Bsirske see this video? “To what extent will an automation of thinking follow the automation of muscle power?” he asks. “Whole occupational fields are threatened by digitalization.”

Automation does not only swallow up jobs of uneducated workers! Jobs that required long training or years of study are replaced. What will pilots do when Airbus and Boeing airplanes can fly and land independently? Presumably a pilot will still be kept for security but a co-pilot will be unnecessary.

Here are a few of the 21,000 comments on “Humans Need Not Apply” that that express worry:

Anja Bach via Google: “A large part of human activities have already or will soon die out. How creepy!”

Steckstar: “Sit back and enjoy. If robots do all the work that is needed, even farming work, then for the most part people should not have to work to survive and whoopdidoo everybody can live a nice life.”

Nawtillis Maelus: “Keep in mind folks that the people in power do not value your life one bit. You are little better than cattle to them, all of you, even you engineers and scientists. They view you like you view cows. You are to them what a cow is to you. And you don’t cry when cows are killed to make you burgers and steaks do you?”

Corvid Dude: “Worried about a machine taking your job? Simple solution – become part machine yourself.”

Tyson Brown: “good to be a software developer.”


Mass unemployment by robots is not unknown in film and fiction. In the recommendable Swedish series “Real Humans,” robots are used as household help, sellers, warehousemen and even in the red light district. The unemployment rate is serious and there are only few new jobs for real persons.


My interview with Sven Gabor Janszky, trend researcher of 2bAhead is reassuring. He agrees many jobs are cancelled through automation by artificial intelligence and robots and doesn’t believe in dramatic consequences on the labor market. Occupational fields fall away with either primitive steering of equipment or expert knowledge.

This sounds obvious to me. With Amazon, one can see the latest generation of warehou9se “cars.” IBM’s Watson is recommending medical cancer-treatment methods.

In 2020 or 2025, there will not be enough sellers, brokers, advisors, physicians, teachers and other experts. To produce trust and compile information, the supply of these vocations must be expanded – from the physician to the health coach.

Mr. Janszky argues convincingly we shouldn’t have any worries on account of the demographic conditions in Germany and neighboring countries. In Germany in 10 years, 6.5 million persons will retire without a successor for their job. Therefore we need automation and immigration.

He said, we could “rejoice when machines take work and keep the economy growing.”


Today machines do their simple, indispensable tasks. I believe artificial intelligence will have great effects on our life in the next decades. Critical tasks will be accomplished by machines – and many jobs will disappear through automation.

In the next ten or twenty years, we need not have any fears of a mass unemployment through automation. The weak number of births and the strong economy protect us like the high costs of automation.

Nevertheless many simple jobs will be unnecessary and more demanding jobs will disappear. Education and flexibility are necessary for the jobs of the future.

Even after training or study, everyone should learn new things and look beyond the specialized plate. We report in our new U-learning hub where one can be retrained online.

The question remains must we change our society some time or other? Can we only pursue our hobbies and receive basic income to investigate the cosmos?

P.S. The colleagues of t3n have also investigated the theme and address the disruptive power of the digital revolution. Digitalization makes us happily – unemployed!


Sabina Jeshke : “When Robots Pay Taxes,” December 2, 2014

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