Locklin on science

AI is not eliminating jobs

Posted in econo-blasphemy, machine learning by Scott Locklin on February 9, 2019

Midwits keep asserting that “AI” is going to eliminate jobs. They say things like “those jobs aren’t coming back because of AI” (or screws or whatever other dumb excuse: but they’re real sure about those jobs not coming back).  These are not statements of scientific or technological fact, or even a reasonable prediction based on present trends. These are ideological political statements. “AI” is a soundbite/fnord excuse for not doing anything about the policy problems of the present.

The ruling caste of American tech and FIRE lizard people continue to make these statements, not because they are inevitable, but because this is their desired future. Their preferred future is a population consisting of powerless, preferably drugged up serfs on the “universal basic income” dole, ruled over by our present ruling class of grifters, rentiers, pyramid scheme salesmen, watched over by a surveillance hellscape.  The lizard people would like to continue our present policy of de-industrializing the country, breaking what little labor negotiating power US citizens have, and atomizing people to their raw protoplasm. It’s almost like a Freudian slip. Don’t bother agitating for any rights, slave, we soon will have electric Golems and won’t need you!

The most murderous drug dealers who ever existed … Google’s AI dude thinks they’re great! https://twitter.com/JeffDean/status/1093953731756867584

Oh I am sure the Google doofs would like to develop and control some strong AI, and perhaps a robot maid to replace Juanita. I, too, would like to have a magic technology which gives me infinite power, and a robot maid to iron my shirts. If I were a Silicon Valley oligarch rather than a humble nerd, I might develop delusions the pile of C++, Javascript and tech drones which made me rich could become a Golem of infinite power. Personally,  I would build rockets. At least I could get away from lizard people who want to turn the world into a soy dystopia.

If these clowns really believed that “AI” were something actually like an “AI” which could replace humans in general tasks, they’d use it to replace computer programmers. At one point in history, people believed CASE tools would eliminate most programmer jobs. How’s that working out for the AI geniuses at Google? They can’t even automate devops jobs; devops being one of the most automatable roles in tech companies. Devops tasks don’t seem much different from a computer strategy game.

Google’s “AI” team can’t do this useful thing, which, even by my lights, actually seems  achievable. Yet somehow, google boobs think they’re going to violate Moravec’s paradox and replace drivers. Think about that for a minute. It’s becoming clear that autonomous vehicle “technology” as sold to people for the last 10 years is basically fraud, and is still stuck in the 1980s when Ernst Dickmanns was driving around the autobahn with Sun Workstations in his back seat. Demonstrations of this tech always have a human in the loop (remote or in vehicle), because moving automobiles without human control are death machines under most circumstances.

Inside of the UniBwM autonomous experimental vehicle VaMP, at the rear bench where the computing system was installed for easy access and monitoring. This was at the PROMETHEUS demonstration in Paris in October 1994 | Photo by Reinhold Behringer

Even assuming I’m wrong and the media hyperbole is right and full level 5 autonomous vehicles are “right around the corner” Google also has zero business interest in “disrupting” driving. Google is a tech driven advertising company with a  collection of loss leaders. Yet they go after this preposterously difficult, possibly impossible task. Why not disrupt a business they presumably know how to disrupt, like that of the lowly ops engineer? At least this would be good for their bottom line, and it would be a real step forward in “AI” rather than a parlour trick perpetuated by marketing nerds and started by obvious mountebanks.

From a semiotics point of view, this shows astounding hostility to the types of people who drive cars and trucks for a living. Drivers are … ordinary, usually uneducated, salt of the earth people who have a fairly independent lifestyle and make a decent living. Google overlords must really hate such people, since they’re dumping all this skrilla into ruining their lives for no sane business reason. They will almost certainly fail, but man, why would you try to blow up those people’s lives? If this country really wanted to get rid of driving, or considered it a serious problem that there are too many cars on the road, or thought that people now employed as drivers should do something else, we had a solution to this problem invented in the late 1800s.


The other professions  people “think” will be replaced always seem to be low caste irritations or lawyers (lol). You regularly hear “experts” talking about how presently common jobs won’t exist in 20 years because of “AI.”  I’ve said multiple times now that all estimates for delivery of something in 20 years are bullshit. A prediction that a technology will do X in 20 years means “we don’t know how to do this, but we want your money to fool around with anyway.” Controlled nuclear fusion researchers being the most amusing case of the perpetual 20 year rice bowl. 20 years is a magic number, as it’s plenty of time for a technological mountebank to retire; and it’s at least 2-3 generations of tenured academics, which is enough to turn a scam subject like “quantum computing” or “nanotech” into an actual field.

“AI” doesn’t exist. Machine learning is a force multiplier and productivity enhancer for statisticians. If you believe the “automation”=”no more jobs” ding dongs, machine learning should have at least automated away the job of statistician. Yet somehow, the  statistician (aka “data scientist”) jobs are among the best paid and most in-demand jobs out there at present.


The last job category I can think of which was automated away is Flight Engineer on airliners. It mostly went away because of automation of airliners, but it wasn’t even computer related; just normal improvements of systems monitoring and reliability; good old mechanical and systems engineering. Despite 1/3 fewer seats in airliner cockpits, there are now more people with airline flight officer jobs now than ever before. Planes got cheaper and there are more of them servicing vastly more people.

The example of Flight Engineer is how the world works. Technological advances increase human power over nature and makes more things possible. Actual “AI” advances, should any eventually materialize, will work exactly like this.

AI has eliminated exactly zero professions, and essentially no jobs. Since the best prediction tool for a market is generally a random walk, my forecast is, barring giant breakthroughs, this trend of “nothing important actually happened” regarding AI job destruction will continue. If you disagree with me and have an alternate prediction on a normal human (aka 5 or 10 year) timescale, I am happy to entertain any long bets on whatever platform you care to use.


26 Responses

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  1. Muthu Muthu said, on February 9, 2019 at 4:28 am

    A hundred claps!! Simple and sensible logic, delivered in typical Scott Locklin style…wow !

    • Chris said, on February 10, 2019 at 3:59 am

      Nothing sensible in this one. Devil’s hasn’t been completely automated away, because, generally speaking, no one wants to pay for that. I work on project where it is automated, because someone was willing to pay for it. Flight Engineer hasn’t been completely eliminated because factors unrelated to AI drastically increased the number of planes in the air. What exactly is that argument demonstrating? Google surely isn’t trying to automate driving because they are an ad company? Is that really a compelling statement.

      What exactly was presented here that you consider a coherent argument?

      • Scott Locklin said, on February 12, 2019 at 11:45 pm

        How about this: I offered to put up as much money as you can afford against the idea “AI” is replacing jobs. Do you have a falsifiable alternative future where AI removes some large segment of jobs? If so, make the bet.

        • Chris said, on February 14, 2019 at 5:16 pm

          How about it? I don’t have one. Certainly not one that would satisfy your terms for a bet. And neither of us is ever going to collect, so acting as though this is a reasonable request by you doesn’t do much for your credibility here.

          You’ve already pointed out an area where AI has limited the number of jobs of Flight Engineers. The fact that demand for flights and advances in other technology has increased the number of planes in the sky doesn’t alter that fact. I hope this isn’t the kind of statistical analysis that your clients pay for…

          I will admit that I haven’t addressed your key arguments that Americans are fat and that, while living in the middle of a large city with excellent publish transportation, you were able to go several weeks without owning a car. I guess you’ve got the winner with those. Internet points for you…

          • Scott Locklin said, on February 14, 2019 at 7:45 pm

            “AI” has absolutely nothing to do with a reduction in Flight Engineer jobs, as I clearly stated above. Reading comprehension: 0.

            So, you’re admitting you can’t make a prediction as to which jobs will be eliminated by AI on a 5 or 10 year timescale. Why are you here exactly?

            • Chris said, on February 15, 2019 at 3:58 pm

              > “AI” has absolutely nothing to do with a reduction in Flight Engineer jobs,

              Right, it’s a system that reacts to real world inputs and responds by controlling the plane. Over time, its performance has improved by using real-world data to improve the responses of the system. No sane human would ever refer to that as AI!

              > Why are you here exactly?

              I’m beginning to suspect that I made the mistake of thinking that this blog was meant to be a place where adults might discuss and exchange opinions on subjects of your choosing. I now realize that your goal is to publish screeds where you might receive some ego-stroking from others who might already agree with you. Obviously, your feelings might get hurt if someone disagrees with you. I suppose you might refer to this as your ‘safe space’?

              And again, I haven’t even begun to address your winning arguments that automation of automobiles is not possible because Americans are fat, the people in charge at Google are lizards who sell ad space and you once managed to live in Germany without a car for a few weeks. After all, why would a company want to do something that is outside of their core business (I’m sure those of us who remember GE Capital giving people credit cards are just having some mass delusion).

              • Scott Locklin said, on February 15, 2019 at 4:17 pm

                Flight engineer jobs were eliminated in the 1970s. Do you know what a flight engineer did back when the job existed? Obviously not. The replacement of the job “flight engineer” wasn’t AI, as I clearly stated, and your imbecile attempts to imply otherwise just make you look like a moron.

                So, you’re asking me to believe google can’t automate away “site reliability engineers” but can figure out how to teach a video card to drive a car. OK dude. Makes total sense.

                Also, posting insults from planet dumbass while you’re at work is a poor career move. While I’m giving out advice; put the doritos down, fatso.

  2. barry said, on February 9, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    What a delight to read! The techno BS has reached nose level — and the media whores are just lapping it up. That way they can just sit at home and “twitter” and call it journalism! You apparently have other ideas!

  3. craig said, on February 9, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    Thank you for a dose of reality.

  4. She said, on February 9, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    You confuse work with jobs! I am sure some Jobs will vanish, yet not it will change the way we work.

  5. maggette said, on February 9, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    The problem with trains is the “last mile problem”. As somebody who commutes 4 days a week I have to say I wouldn’t mind self driving cars.Many people can’t drive. Period. Mostly the guys who think they are actually rally drivers. They lack any instincts on the laws of physics and have no feeling for risks. They suck at it! Maybe it is the last way evolution can sort out the stupid these days, but I willl die too if the next stupid fuck rams into maggette with 200kmh even though it is foggy as shit and he can”t see a more than 50 yards. I am German and drive a BMW and like to drive fast….when the weather conditions and traffic allows for it without putting myself or others lifes in danger.

    Cars that communicate with each other would solve a lot of problems and make traffic more fluent. And I looked up the main reasons for deadly car accidents in Germany in the couple of years: people driving too fast, too close, drunk and/or try to overtake people when they don’t see far enough for that manovuer.

    Even a stupid algo would avoid that shit. I think even google could do it.

    Regarding jobs: honestly I see a lot of “kinda high skilled” workers go first. Lot’s of stuff in legal departments, accounting etc. could and should be done by machines. I don’t think you need much of AI for it. Lot’s of code yeah, and maybe you could these programs which encode lots of bussiness logic expert advisers (and hence old school IT).

    The Ops guys??? I see that too.

    As long as houses and appartments aren’t normed, your plumber etc will be fine. Learning a good old craft w is a good thing in my opinion.

    • Scott Locklin said, on February 9, 2019 at 10:46 pm

      People can walk; many neighborhoods even outside of urban centers were designed around trolleys or train stations. In America people should; they’re too fat. I managed to survive without a car for almost 2 months in Germany; it was fine.

      Wow; you actually trust software more than human beings. I don’t! I mean, I use it when I have nothing better, or many decisions must be made, but I certainly don’t trust software to do something like drive. Back in the 70s people considered a centralized “autonomous” system based on radar and sensors embedded into guardrails and roads. That would be a reasonable thing to do, though it would require investments.

      • pindash91 said, on February 10, 2019 at 11:53 am

        Hey Scott,
        I generally like your posts, and even agree with the gist of this one, but somehow you are too emotionally charged to argue honestly. (don’t use the term ‘lizard people’, it makes you sound like a stupid anti intellectual which you are not, we both know conspiracy theories are broken because there is no one smart at the top, it’s all about terrible incentives….)

        Seriously, you don’t only trust software when you have have to, an alarm clock is so much more reliable than a person to wake you up, unless you prefer to sleep with a candle between your toes like monks (no source, so probably a myth). I can name many other examples, where machines are much better than humans, laser checking condoms being another.

        Plus I think a lot more rail would be great and gondolas in cities would be supremely cheap to set up and could ease the problem of pulsing that happens when you have burst transit. My ideal transit system still looks a lot like asimov’s tracks of moving pavements of different speeds, but sadly that will never happen.

        • Yukio Sato said, on February 10, 2019 at 5:09 pm

          I agree, this isn’t anything resembling much of a cogent argument, unlike your other posts, though i agree with the substance of this one for the most part. We want more posts like your beating roulette series Scott!

        • maggette said, on February 11, 2019 at 10:19 am

          By Scotts standards I am a horrible mix of marxism and liberal snowflake nonsense….but it happens that I have had extremly interesting conversations with him and learned a shitload of stuff from him.

          I credit his way to be very emotional and opinioated about things as one of the main reasons why I can have very interesting conversations with him.

          And people who really think the author is a flat-earth-lizzard -people conspiracy theorist are IMHO the real anti-intellectuals

          • pindash91 said, on February 11, 2019 at 11:56 am

            Fair. I’ve just never read Scott say lizzard people before. I have no problem with charged language aka (PC nonsense, my first article that got me hooked was the one about nerd dildos not the politest comparison).
            However, the vocabulary of an argument signals where sympathies lie. Compare this article to the one about quantum computing, which was just as opinionated.
            There is something to be said for pathos and ethos even if you are arguing with people who privilege logos.

            • maggette said, on February 11, 2019 at 12:30 pm

              “However, the vocabulary of an argument signals where sympathies lie.”
              Maybe I am a little more “immune” against (or ignorant of) the more subtile ways of expressing sympathies in language, because my english is my second language.

              But I agree, nobody should make no mistake here, Scott wrote for taki’s magazine once. He is very open and honest about his political opinions. He probably isn’t an Alex jones believer, but probably likes the guy just because this dude agitates the left wingers.

              My personal perception of him is that his distaste for a lot of the dishonest and hypcritical crap that comes from self proclaimed “left wing intelectuals” is so intense, that he IMHO sometimes sides with people and arguments that are below his own intelectual standards. So maybe a more emotional than rational reaction.

              Even so he probably doesn’t like to hear it, in that regards he is much like the militant feminists. Both are a understandable, and probably neccessary, overreaction to some kind or form of opression.

              And at the end of the day, it’s his blog, if a left winger snowflake like myself is offended by his writings (and his facebook post with a picture of Željko Ražnatović aka Arkan kind offenden me, I have very close sparring partners/friends of bosnian origin who have family members that got raped and killed by these low-life thugs! I don’t think that is appropriate), I don’t have to read it 🙂

              I just can’t help it, I like him and get more out of his stuff than from a lot of people that I agree with.

          • Scott Locklin said, on February 12, 2019 at 3:29 pm

            I think our oligarchs have reached the level where referring to them as “lizard people” is a fair characterization. FWIIW the guy I probably discuss politics the most with is a member of the Democratic socialists of America, and if he were more of a fan of freedom of speech, and less of a fan of Maoist witch hunts against non-leftists, our political views would basically be identical.

            As for the alleged lack of content here: I am reacting to the endless river of shit articles on “muh AI eliminates jobs” which have reached ubiquity, despite “AI” not existing or eliminating any jobs. What am I supposed to write in reaction to such nonsense? A chart showing number of AI eliminated jobs?

            This is one of those things which has been repeated so often, everyone repeats it as if it were actually true. Saying “no, that’s not right” is worth doing. Often, and with much anger at how stupid and downright evil such statements are.

            • Toddy Cat said, on March 5, 2019 at 4:48 pm

              Aside from being an insult to all decent, self-respecting lizards, I agree completely.

      • Anonymous said, on February 10, 2019 at 6:44 pm

        >Wow; you actually trust software more than human beings. I don’t!

        Lol. I’ve been programming for like 15+ years and I *hope*, fingers crossed, to build a system I can trust. Even if you take something like SPARK which seems to be the best thing available today… Yeah, maybe you can prove that your code doesn’t violate any contracts but can you ask it ‘Wait, how did I get this result?’ And if you can then you’re using some dynamic language that’s good for nothing but prototyping and takes an enormous effort to verify for correctness. And then, on top of that, you get things like hardware bugs because everyone is used to bugs, bugs are good, let’s add them to hardware. My god… I remember a tweet that went something like ‘I begin to understand people who write their own operating systems: at some point everyone breaks.’

        • Scott Locklin said, on February 12, 2019 at 4:09 pm

          SPARK has been on my list of languages to fool around with for some time now (along with an ML variant of some kind). On the off chance you know of a good intro to this, I’d love to know about it.

    • William O. B'Livion said, on February 11, 2019 at 8:48 pm

      > Regarding jobs: honestly I see a lot of “kinda high skilled” workers go first.

      It’s already happened. Secretaries used to be a “moderately skilled job”. You had to be able to take dictation (remember “shorthand”?) type in full sentences using proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. You kept your bosses schedule. You knew where to find stuff he was too busy for. You had to be able to file such that anyone else could find it and dozens of other moderately educated tasks.

      Gone. Replaced by a mix of ubiquitous computing and Expert Systems.

      > Lot’s of stuff in legal departments, accounting etc. could and should be done by machines. I don’t
      > think you need much of AI for it. Lot’s of code yeah, and maybe you could these programs which


      > The Ops guys??? I see that too.

      When I was in High school “Unix Administrator” was not a job title *anyone* in the US had. By the time I retire/die I expect it will be that way again (for values of Unix that include Linux and probably Windows).

      I am in the middle of trying to get out of Unix Administration (20 years of knowledge no one wants to pay for anymore) and into something that will survive another 20 or 25 years without taking a huge paycut on the way.

  6. wooster said, on February 10, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    A driverless car without a human sitting in the driver’s seat may cause some accidents. There’s a decent chance of that. I think the real question is, when will it be as or less likely as a human to cause an accident? Humans aren’t perfect drivers either. How much higher should the standard of safety be for an autonomous vehicle than a human?

  7. maggette said, on February 11, 2019 at 10:13 am

    ” Back in the 70s people considered a centralized “autonomous” system based on radar and sensors embedded into guardrails and roads. That would be a reasonable thing to do, though it would require investments.”

    I think that would be an interesting idea.

    Regarding trusting software: yeah, mission critical stuff is always scary. It is obvious to me that people will get killed in the process. But in the long run I think it is a reduction of risks.

    But I think that’s a very very long way to go.

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