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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

What’s A Human For?



I find the modern factory fascinating.

There’s no one working in there to speak of. And most of the people that do work in there are really just presiding over work, not doing it. They’re valuable in a definable way, but not highly skilled. They have knowledge peculiar to the operation and that’s it. They couldn’t work anywhere else using the knowledge they’ve got.

If you were training someone to do this job, you’d have them read a little bit, watch a few videos, maybe, and then endure ten times that much information all about safety. Workers become extravagantly valuable only if you injure them. Most safety training nowadays is simply to keep workers from injuring themselves through a bizarre set of foolish behaviors, undertaken against the express demands of the employer.

How would you educate a child in expectation that they’d someday fill a job like this? If I was in charge, their childhood education would have consisted solely of being taught to read, understand, and be able in turn to produce plain text; to accurately and quickly work with numbers in their head and on paper; and to pay attention closely for extended periods of time while important things are done. This is exactly, precisely, explicitly, utterly and wholly the polar opposite of public education today.

Some people think humans are for making things, [See: Rowe, Michael] and some people think humans are only good for consuming things. [See: Kardashian, various] When the consuming contingent can’t afford to consume things anymore and the producing contingent can’t make anything anymore because there’s no one left to consume it, there’s going to be big trouble.The robots, however, will remain sanguine.

After  re-reading that last paragraph, I realized I should have written this about thirty years ago. I apologize for the delay. I have to go make something now. Hope someone buys it.

10 Responses

  1. "How would you educate a child in expectation that they'd someday fill a job like this?"

    I am an Equipment Engineer for Automated Material Handling Systems (AMHS). I specify, purchase and maintain machines like these in not the automotive industry.

    Educate them in math, physics, industrial engineering, chemistry or electronics.

  2. You've hit the hammer on the head observing that a great many people, as valuable or not as they maybe, have skills that they can't take very many other places. How exactly do you educate for that? Or maybe you don't. On the job training and experience are all you need…plus a decent brain and good work ethic, naturally.

  3. In the future, factories will have only two employees.
    A man, and a dog.
    The man is there to feed the dog, and dog is there to stop the man fiddling with the machinery.

  4. The real need is for the people who will set up, program and maintain the robots.
    Many "production" people can check their brains at the time clock these days. Medical care (not "health" care) costs increase because there's so little real work left that requires physical activity.

  5. dunno whether anybody noticed, but the one thing the human does to the engine, he puts the logo on. Did you notice the logo didn't stick?
    Some of those robots remind me of the receptionist robot in WALLe. desultorily pecking at a keyboard.

  6. That label peeling up off the cam cover right after it was applied did make me laugh – even the Germans can't make the English build a good car.

    Long live the Lord of Darkness! Those of you who know, know to whom I refer.

  7. Humans are for – designing the car to be fun, practical, reliable, and pleasing.

    To design the factory and the processes within. Then to continuously improve those processes.

    To monitor the parts coming in for quality.

    I worked at a GM factory for 3 summers – they didn't do any of these things.

  8. The machine tenders – operators are in fact highly trained in electrical, mechanical and to a lesser degree software. The machines do not run themselves. They are part of a uniquely choreographed manufacturing process designed tower maximum quality and low costs. After 22 years in robots and factory automation I can say that a good operator can make with OT $100k+. It is not an easy job, although it looks otherwise.

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