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Wednesday, June 24, 2015 12:40 PM

Driverless Car Attitudes: Who Wants Em? Societal Disruption Coming Over Robots?

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In response to First Self-Driving Truck Hits the Road Already, Nevada License AU010 I received an email from reader Stephen who welcomes the day driverless cars take over.

Stephen writes ...

Hello Mish

I am looking forward to being to just sit in my car, and read or take a nap.  Then again I am 60. When I was a teenager I loved driving.

I liked the ability to get to where I wanted to go without having to get someone to take me. I also liked driving just for the fun of it.

In contrast, when I talk to my teenage nieces and nephews they are not as passionate about driving as I was when I was 15 and 16. They would rather be able to text or play a video game while the car is getting them there.

On the truck side I agree with you, but I see little written about the unloading and delivering part of the equation. Once the trunk arrives, it has to be unloaded.

Also, I recently I bought a washer and dryer.  The company delivered it to my house, unpacked it outside,  brought it inside, up to the 2nd floor, hooked it up.

What scares me about robotics in general is the trend leaves a significant portion of the population unemployed. If the economic underclass becomes too large, and I believe we are pretty close to that point right now, society may break down.

We need to find ways to evolve our education system and other social systems, to prepare everyone for jobs that require flexibility and thinking. Everything else will become automated.


Changing Attitudes

I too, liked to drive, and still do. But most if not all of my 60ish friends would just as soon not drive. Some won't drive at night because of night-vision problems. Others are nerve-wracked over traffic. Some others would rather read or relax.

The little association I have with millennials suggests they would rather text or watch a movie than drive. Heck, some I know will text someone in the next seat up in the bus rather than strike up a conversation, whereas I have sent less than 20 text messages in my entire life.

Anecdotes are not data, but it also appears to me that most aging boomers and millennials would in general be at least as happy not having to drive than to have to drive.

Last Mile

In regards to deliveries, I have written about the issue many times. It's the long-haul truck jobs that will vanish first. Local deliveries, especially those that involve heavy lifting will require a person. Eventually the driver will go away, even if the "lifter" stays.

Local delivery jobs will go to the young and the strong, not the skilled driver.

What Can Be Automated, Will Be

Steven is correct. What can be automated, will be automated. I have discussed this as well. It is one of the big problems the Fed faces. All of this technology is very deflationary. Yet the Fed wants to force prices up.

It's a very losing battle, as higher prices increase the desire of businesses to automate sooner rather than later. The cheap borrowing cost of money is an added incentive.

Not All Doom and Gloom

In spite of the above, it's not all doom and gloom on the jobs front. I am sure there will be another technology or energy breakthrough that will create jobs.

Throughout history, that has always been the case.

Horses gave way to cars, hand picking cotton to the cotton gin, candles to electricity, passenger trains to planes, etc. The internet created tens of millions of jobs.

My fear is not that all jobs will vanish, but rather there is a major war over energy, jobs, or protectionist meddling before we get to that point.

Fuel for Societal Disruption

Central banks and their inane war on CPI deflation, untenable student debt, massive pension issues as boomers head to retirement, and rising income inequality (for which the Fed is also to blame), and increasing use of robots (before the next job wave begins) provide fuel for societal disruption.

Warmongers in Congress itching for a military showdown with Russia and protectionists seeking a trade war with China could indeed provide the match.

On the warmongering front, also consider Warmongering Jackass Proposes Forced Servitude by Millennial to Fight Isis.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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