this is a good thing
field work on large agriculture farms does not have the appeal of working on your own permie farm
encouraging people from other countries to come here to basically do slave labor shouldn't be encouraged
teaching people in their own countries to make a living by becoming permies should be the goal
As long as the technology is appropriate to the task and ethically (read: environmentally and socially friendly) produced, I think anything that could empower the family farm or homestead is a great idea.
And hey, if you can get a Brix reading device on the arm that will read nutrient content to determine ripeness, all the better.
My preferences in technological enhancements to permacultural systems usually range to the environmental sensor net area, but harvest is a logistical pinch-point where it comes to bringing produce to market. This kind of thinking could be advantageous.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
I can't say the I agree with you that robotic replacement of the human workforce is an admirable goal.
Ask the unemployed checkout person how they feel about all those self checkouts now popping up in the stores. I refuse to use them because #1- I would be supporting the firing of people from their jobs #2- I would be doing the checkout work for free so that the store can save money. Have you noticed that you don't get a discount for using self checkout nor get a coupon for future buying savings because you used the self check out? No. Only the store wins. Employees and customers lose.
There are plenty of examples of robotic or computerization that eliminates job opportunities. Yeah, it's modernization but there's a cost -- unemployment. With the world population growing, the world needs more job opportunities, not less. Not that I'm totally against robotic labor. Not at all. But the move to robotic labor replacing even the low level jobs is worrisome to me.
Switching to agrarian lifestyle will help certain individuals, but surely not all. Most people don't really want to live such a lifestyle. And many a young person who embraced returning to the country life have since abandoned it once they experienced the poverty and minimalistic aspects of it. So they head back to the cities and to their low level entry jobs that are being replaced by robots.
I'm not a complete curmudgeon, but the move to eliminate jobs for a growing world population has me concerned. Oh you say that there are not enough people to fill ag jobs? That might be because the wages, conditions, and benefits aren't acceptable. Here in Hawaii, some corporate macnut and coffee farms local to me lost their migrant pickers because of Trump's change in policies. So they had to look locally for employees. Wages offered suddenly made a hefty jump to $12-$14 an hour plus health insurance. These big farms were no longer able to exploit imported migrant day workers. Yes, there will be trickle down effect with retail prices perhaps becoming a bit higher, but essentially the corporate farms will simply not be able to skim off profits to give their executives hefty bonuses. I hear that some of these farms plan to switch to mechanized harvesting, thus eliminating the local employees too. Robotic workers are coming to the farms. More people will again be unemployed.
It's never too late to start! I retired to homestead on the slopes of Mauna Loa, an active volcano. I relate snippets of my endeavor on my blog : www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
I'm not sure how I feel about it. Our minimum wage is $14-15/hr, a recent increase, so all workers get decent money. We have a lot of immigrant labour around here and it's a way for people to come here, make much more than they would at home, and take that money with them. I think that if there were enough local people to fill the jobs, we wouldn't be bringing in immigrant labour. Harvesting is hard work and many Canadians want nothing to do with it, so what do you do?
When they first started putting in the self checkouts I was surprised with how many cashiers liked them because, like Su, I think it will mean unemployment for them. I do like using them, though, because I can get out faster, bag my things properly, and sometimes I just want to get in and out without chatting.
Hiring people is a serious pain in the ass and I can only imagine it's much worse trying to hire immigrant workers because you don't know what you get until they show up. Managing people is also a pain in the ass, so there's a lot to be said for robots from the employer's point of view. I really like setting up systems that work with little input after the initial set-up but I'm not sure that what I want to do is conducive to robots, but I can understand the attraction.
I don't have any issue with business owners trying to make and keep as much as they can. I know just how much work goes into self-employment and I don't begrudge anyone making bank. I don't think anyone HAS to work a minimum wage job, but most people aren't cut out to run their own business. Those that can always have the opportunity to do their own thing. If you don't want to make minimum wage, get an education that will get you a job that pays better, or find something else. Humans are incredibly intelligent, resourceful and creative. If you aren't happy with what's offered to you, do your own thing. We all know it's not easy, but it sure can be rewarding.
A piece of land is worth as much as the person farming it.
-Le Livre du Colon, 1902
I think of it this way - I make wood furniture(hypothetically) by hand; I use chisels, hand saws, brace and bits, etc. I can make 1 chair a day. Unexpectedly, my wife gave birth to twins and I now can no longer afford to live on 1 chair a day. I need to hire someone to grow my business, between the two of us, we can make 3 chairs a day - my cut comes out as 1.75 chairs-worth of profit, which is great, but still not enough for my unexpected triplets. Then, I hear about an amazing new device - the band saw - with this I can make 12 chairs a day! What's this, a Router table? 20 chairs a day!!
Now my unexpected quadruplets will be fully taken care of, and I even get to spend more time with them!!
- This is how the business owner can rationalize not hiring employees; not saying it's what they actually do, of course, but you can see how mechanization to rapidly increase profit is desirable, whereas employee driven growth may happen more inefficiently(but is still viable).
So what about the potential employee that never got hired? Won't the economy of this hypothetical community collapse if the woodworker doesn't hire any employees?
It will only fail if that potential employee NEVER realizes "hey, that woodworker needs more wood to make more chairs - I can grow/fell trees and be his supplier!" or "wow, that bandsaw is pretty cool, I should buy one and start a butcher shop! I can break down 50 sides of beef with that saw in the time the butcher takes to do 5!"
you may say this example is too simplistic, or that it doesn't take enough outside factors in to consideration, but I think this is the crux of the matter:
Innovation, courage, and determination is some of what it takes for businesses to succeed; if you aren't willing to work on these, you'll always be just an employee. Do you have the courage and determination to develop the first "robot" in your industry?
Experimenting and growing on my small acre in SW USA; Fruit & Nut trees w/ annuals, hoping to get Chickens, rabbits, and in-laws onto property soon.
Long term goal - Furniture & Luthier Stay-at-home farm dad.
We currently live in a world where most people are "workers" and somebody else owns the "means of production" making the "job" essential to ward off starvation. Lots of superefficient robots are an existential threat if you are a worker of this sort.
But of course one of the things we know as permaculturalists is that even a small plot of land can be enormously productive with a super efficient gardener working it using permaculture methods -- so productive that, Gert-style, you might not need much or any "job" to meet your needs. Remember that permaculture is an ideology of abundance. Basically becoming a small time farmer is one way to own a bit of the means of production and escape the job trap. But it takes a lot of skills and labor. Learning the skills takes time and not everybody is fit/able enough to do the necessary labor. And if you want to mechanize with current tech, you need to scale WAAY up and get big expensive machines that don't make sense for a small plot.
Enter tiny smart robots. If you can offload some of the skills and some of the labor onto tiny smart robots, they can help you work a small super efficient small plot, Gert-style. The kind of 1-acre plot that anybody can reasonably hope to afford/finance. And because tiny means (eventually) cheap -- like the drones mass produced for $100 at Walmart now -- you'll be able to afford these tiny smart robots. Now *anybody* can own some of the means of production at a human scale, enough to escape the job trap, enough to eat and feed a family and shelter and clothe and trade for a few minor luxuries. Job? At that point, why would you want one?
Tiny cheap devices that work are only a threat if they are owned by the guy that used to pay you a wage. But if they are yours, and they do something that benefits you, they're wonderful. The solution seems obvious: make sure the second scenario comes true, not the first.
Whether we like it or not, robotics is coming, and it's going to replace most of the workforce. And the way things are going, the winners are not going to share with the losers.
Middle classes disappear globally and as prices are rising in the cities, rents and property alike, large swath of people are just returning to the land where life is cheaper and they can grow food. People who cannot do robotics/AI/science/economics/idealists, older people, less educated people, less clever people, friendly people, unadapted people, nature loving people, artists etc,etc.
Correct me if i'm missing something.
It would be great if all these people adopt the permaculture life style, that's dreaming. But what else they're going to do? The haves have legal teams to dodge taxes, the disappearing middle classes can't pay taxes cause there aren't any jobs left
I see chances.
Creating edible biodiversity and embracing everlasting abundance.
For some, this tech could mean the difference between keeping their independence/ self reliance, and giving it up. In an aging society, there soon won't be enough teenagers to hire cheaply, to help the possibly disabled, 'little old lady, next door', when she needs to pull in her harvest, do her weeding, etc. If she can't find said teenager, and can't afford to hire a migrant worker and their family (a VERY expensive & catch-as-catch-can proposition, btw - my uncle does it), and she just can't do it all herself, she isn't like going to be able to continue doing it, at all. She will gradually depend more and more on the grocery store, stretching her fixed income to the breaking point. If, on the other hand, she could purchase - or lease - something like this, for about the price of hiring someone else to do the work, for a season, she is fat more likely to keep her self-sustaining lifestyle, and her dignity.
There are absolutely downsides, but there are upsides, too. It's all in how the tech is used.
The only thing...more expensive than education is ignorance.~Ben Franklin
This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. Now it's a tiny ad:
100th Issue of Permaculture Magazine - now FREE for a while