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    Connecting the Pieces

    Will Our Robot Overlords be Warm and Cuddly?

    Connecting The Pieces
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    Polls and news stories reveal student loans for millennials are in the tens of thousands of dollars, the only jobs to be found are in the service sector and the rise of the robots!

    The young American woman, who had done everything her parents had told her to do throughout her life, sighed as she surfed the job websites. Submitting her resume yet once again, she wondered how many times she had done that very thing over the last several weeks. The young girl, who at 23, was not so young, really, had graduated a year before with a degree from a top-ranked university, but still had not been able to find a job in her field. Oh well, she thought, it isn’t just me, as many of her friends and university classmates were also unable to find their dream jobs.  Looking at the clock, she suddenly switched into go-mode, as her boss at the coffee shop would be angry if she was late. And she couldn’t be late, because she really needed the job in order to pay her student loans.

    Now, if these problems sound familiar, that is because many millennials across America are facing the same situation. Large student loans, working in service sector jobs and not being able to start a career in their field of choosing are the new normal these days and looking forward, it doesn’t look like it is getting any better. An online survey of millennials, defined as those between the ages of 18 and 35, by research agency TNS on behalf of Citizens Bank, found “59 percent of those polled have "no idea" when they will be able to pay back their student debt. The survey revealed that the average student debt was just a little more than $41,000. That's significantly higher than the national average amount of debt for college graduates, which the Department of Education determined is almost $30,000”.

    But it gets even better — some millennials didn’t even knew how much debt he or she had: “15 percent of those polled by TNS said they weren't sure what their student loan balance was, and more than a third didn't know what the interest rate was on this debt.” The online poll went on to note that — “The majority of millennials said they regret taking out as many loans as they did, but a third took it a step further, saying they wouldn't have attended college at all had they known the extent of the costs in advance.”

    Listening to Barack Obama’s talking points, it seems as if the economy is in recovery. Or has even recovered. Democrats are proudly waving the “job creation for 60 something straight quarters” flag, as if they couldn’t see the growing number of tent cities around the country and are mocking claims by Donald Trump that the real unemployment rate is nearing 40%. In fact, recent stats from the BLM note that in February, just slightly less than 215k jobs were added to the economy, and this figure beat January’s gains, as 193k jobs were added in the first month of the year. Sounds pretty good, right?  Well, on the face of it, the job stats do sound pretty good. Great even. Except when we start to look at what kind of jobs are being created.  The BLS noted that — "job growth occurred in health care and social assistance, retail trade, food services and drinking places, and private educational services" — all of which are the lowest-paying wage groups. So there we have it. Jobs at coffee shops, bars and at malls are where people are finding work these days. Not manufacturing or engineering or really in anything value-added. Just service jobs, basically requiring a person to ask — “Want fries with that?”

    So, while the labor market is imploding in the United States, and the West, in general, the working class people are getting hit with a twofer. A recent story published by Reuters has noted that — “About a dozen trucks from major manufacturers like Volvo and Daimler just completed a week of largely autonomous driving across Europe, the first such major exercise on the continent.” That’s right, the rise of the robots. Although a blurb about google self-driving cars are mentioned here or there in the news, in Europe, robots are taking over the trucking industry. Or will be in the nearest future.

    The article from Reuters continues by noting — “The trucks set off from their bases in three European countries and completed their journeys in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. One set of trucks, made by the Volkswagen subsidiary Scania, traveled more than 2,000 km and crossed four borders. The trucks were taking part in the European Truck Platooning Challenge, organized by the Dutch government. The trucks are connected by WiFi and can leave a much smaller gap between vehicles than when humans are at the wheel. Platooning can reduce fuel use by up to 15%, prevent human error from causing accidents, and reduce congestion. It also can reduce expenses”.

    It isn’t just the use of bleeding-edge technology from European countries that are driving the stake through the heart of the working class. The Defense One website just ran a story that noted that — “The U.S. military christened an experimental self-driving warship designed to hunt for enemy submarines, a major advance in robotic warfare at the core of America's 21st century strategy. That’s right. Traditional military jobs that anyone young enough could once do, like being a sailor, are also being written out of history.

    The Defense One article goes on to note — “The 132-foot-long (40-metre-long) unarmed prototype, dubbed Sea Hunter, is the naval equivalent of Google's self-driving car, designed to cruise on the ocean’s surface for two or three months at a time — without a crew or anyone controlling it remotely.” Essentially, a drone for the sea. The article ends on a sour note when it highlights the reality of the situation — “That kind of endurance and autonomy could make it a highly efficient submarine stalker at a fraction of the cost of the Navy's manned vessels.” See? It is all about costs once again. Why pay a person to do a job when a robot can do it better and cheaper!

    As the Western economy continues to slowdown, as numerous indicators note, people are beginning to be replaced by robots, in order to save costs. Although we can’t know for sure what the future will bring, more than likely, it won’t be the utopia that has been envisioned by many sci-fi writers. More than likely, it will be more like the dystopias envisioned in recent movies coming out of Hollywood. And we should all be so grateful that our overlords will maybe, quite possibly, give us our daily rations of food, and allow us to have a roof over our heads. As George Orwell once wrote in Animal Farm — “No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”

    So, what do you think dear listeners — “Will our robot overlords be warm and cuddly?”

    millenials, robots, unemployment, self-driving car, US military
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