Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Will our Robot workers need four year degrees?

 One of the ideas about the causes of the great depression was that the very efficiency that drove the original growth, also worked to keep unemployment down when demand began to improve.  Through technology, companies were able to meet new demand without bringing in new workers:   A barrier that was finally broken with the demand surge of a rearming Europe getting ready for war.
Some are repeating this discussion, with different technologies, and the labor-arbitrage of a global economy thrown into the mix. The headline of this post mentions robots, but in today’s world telecommunications and transport efficiency may be the greater culprits as worker off-shoring works its way up the chain.
This puts the workers dilemma in a bit of a quandary, as our previous post on Robot's Taking Over noted, we need less and less people to do the same work.  And the work they are doing is requireing higher and higher levels of education.  So there is a press to get more educations.  But at the same time, the more highly educated workers are competing with workers from all around the globe. 
This of course brings up the issue of "what exactly is a college education worth?"
November 22, 2010 econfuture

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism has a good post on the declining economic value of college, and the looming danger of massive student loan defaults.  Shockingly, a full 50% of college graduates are winding up underemployed:
Half the recently-minted college grads are in jobs that do not require a college degree.
The economic (as opposed to social and personal) value of higher education is exaggerated. The widely-touted College Board claim that lifetime earnings for college grad outpace those of mere high school grads by $800,000 does not stand up to scrutiny. The author of the 2007 study which the College Board relied upon disclaims that estimate and says $450,000 is a better figure. Mark Schneider, a vice president of the American Institutes for Research, who used actual earnings data of graduates ten years after college, and allowed for other factors such as taxes, pegged the difference at $280,000.
And these estimates are averages. Students who are drawn to fields such as architecture, which require advanced education but are not terribly well paid, will fare less well.
Unfortunately, I think there is every reason to believe that the problem will get worse.  Technology will increasingly be leveraged to automate the knowledge worker jobs that are often taken by new college graduates, and this is likely to hit especially hard at the entry-level.
I also think the future impact of offshoring is underestimated. We cannot escape the reality that  intellectual capability within the population is subject to a normal distribution. This implies that, collectively, India and China have more smart people…than the United States has people.  In the future, technology will make it even easier for the millions of people on the right flank of Asia’s bell curve to compete directly with Americans for knowledge-based jobs.
To which we can add the following (hat tip NC)
National Inflation Association, 7 May 2011
The National Inflation Association (NIA) is pleased to officially announce that it will soon be releasing its hour long documentary 'College Conspiracy', which will expose the U.S. college education system as the largest scam in U.S. history. NIA has been producing 'College Conspiracy' for the past six months and plans to release the movie on May 15th. NIA members will be given the first opportunity to watch this must see documentary, which we hope will change the college education industry for the better.

NIA expects 'College Conspiracy' to take college education by storm and expose the facts and truth about tuition inflation to prospective college students. Almost everybody applying to college has heard the oft-repeated statistic that Americans with college degrees earn $1 million more in lifetime income than high school graduates without a degree. This is one of those statistics that gets repeated so many times that just about everybody accepts it as fact, but nobody actually does the research to confirm whether or not it is true. 'College Conspiracy' will prove once and for all if indeed this so-called statistic is true or just a myth

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