Thursday, January 31, 2019

America Need More Immigrants? America Does Not Need More Immigrants? That Is The Question!

Proponents of immigration, legal and/or illegal, contend that America needs more immigrants from all walks of life.

We need more hi-tech immigrants to lead the world in innovation.  We need more lo-tech immigrants to do the jobs Americans won’t do.  We need more mid-tech immigrants to fill the service sector jobs that are vacant.  America is suffering from a labor shortage.  The number of posted vacancies exceeds the number of job-lookers.

Two factors are necessary to generate economic growth and a rising standard of living.  One is gains in productivity (innovation).  The other is labor.  Immigrants are necessary to provide labor and some are highly innovative.

Hold on!  Wait just a minute!  Scientists are warning that robots will replace 40% of jobs that humans currently perform in the coming years and decades.  (More on that below.)  If so, then perhaps immigrants should be limited to hi-tech.  But even that claim is dubious.  We can steal hi-tech from China or Russia in areas where they lead America.  Increasing the flow of women and underrepresented minorities into STEM will fuel innovation because Diversity and Inclusion, it is claimed, foster greater excellence in research and education.

Immigrants put pressure on housing prices.  They use more resources in America than in their home countries, which increases waste products, carbon emissions and climate change.

Suppose the forecasts are correct, that robots supplant human workers.  If so, millions of Americans will be unable to earn a living, have little or nothing to do with their time, develop mental disorders from feeling useless, and increasingly depend on public welfare and private charity.  A smaller population will pose fewer problems and lower costs because fewer people will be affected.


First, the benefits of robots.  They do not strike.  They do not demand fringe benefits (health insurance, retirement contributions, education subsidies, etc.).  They do not take time off for vacations, weekends and government holidays.  They do not demand wage increases.  They do not need to sleep.  They do not need to eat.  They do not get angry or surly.  Wow!  What’s not to like?

Robots come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors.  They perform an extraordinary array of functions, some indicated in their names, e.g., chatbots (no nagging or whining), sexbots (never too tired), taxbots (no person-to-person audits), and manufacturing bots (no workplace injuries).

A (Google) search of things robots can do now, and will be able to do in the near future, is amazing.  Here is a partial list, with firms already using some of them and professions where they are becoming more common.  Read here, herehere, and here.

Stockroom Worker (Amazon)
Bartender (Royal Caribbean Cruises)
Soldier (by 3030)
Pharmacist (University of California San Francisco)
Farmer (survey tracts, cut, prune, harvest)
Bomb Squad
Journalist (business journalism reporting facts)
Housekeeper (Roomba Vacuum. Scooba Scrub Floors, gutter cleaning)
Paralegal (document review)
Tellers and Clerks
Car Production (Ford, GM, etc.)
Space Exploration
Remote Surgery and Microsurgery
Duct Cleaning
Crime Fighting
Fix Oil Spills
Investigate Hazardous Equipment
Industrial Welding
Move Heavy Boxes
Mimic Handwriting
Domestic Services
            Make Coffee
            Shave Head
            Robot Pets
            Pooper Scooper
            Cook With Microwave
            Lift Patients
            Chaplain Comforting the Dying
            Patiently Assist Alzheimer Patients with Mild Exercise
Autonomous Vehicles (Cars, Buses, Trams, Trucks, Trains, Flying Taxis)
Competition and Contests
Autonomous Life Forms

Impressive!  In addition, there are likely dozens, perhaps hundreds, of startup robotics in the U.S. and elsewhere.  Robotics is now routinely taught from middle school on.

Hi-tech discovery has already surpassed science fiction in several instances.  Star Trek Captain Kirk’s communicator is a toy compared with the smart phone.  Ditto Dick Tracy’s watch with the smart watch.

Going forward, the challenge will not be finding more workers, but finding things for idle workers to do to and enjoy life, especially as medical advances increase longevity.  More immigrants now to ease temporary labor shortages means a bigger problem later as more and more robots take over producing goods and services.

1 comment :

Brian Villanueva said...

How does capitalist economics work when capital can become labor and thereby saw off one leg of the three-legged stool called the factors of production? As an recovering Austrian, I am rather pessimistic about that. Automation has traditionally augmented human skills: backhoes for ditch diggers, tractors for horse plows, computers for telephone operators. What labor does may change, but the need for labor remains.

A society where most human needs can be met without human labor would be a brave new world: probably a utopia, but by no means assured. The challenge will be providing broad distribution of the benefits of robotic production in the absence of income for most people.

Kurt Vonnegut's first novel was called Player Piano and captures this problem perfectly.