Don’t Go To College; All Those ‘Good’ Jobs Are Being Taken By Robots Too

  laugh it up ken jennings

Oh shut the fuck up, robot. Like you have it so hard. Try being a young white male these days.If you went to high school in the past ten years, you may have seen an Ad Council poster hung somewhere that said you will make millions of more dollars over your lifetime if you earn a college degree than if you merely finish high school. Never mind that the same federal government that printed those posters won’t provide you this four years of extra education it seems to find so crucial; in fact, it would be happy to help you go tens of thousands of dollars in debt you will never be able to pay off. But this burgeoning wage cushion the college-educated once enjoyed no longer exists. And soon there will no longer be nearly any magical middle-class “knowledge economy” jobs for college graduates, because robots are coming to take those too. And it turns out the robots are even better at that than they were at manufacturing!

Despite frequent claims, it is simply untrue that we have seen a three decades-long radical increase in employers’ demand for four-year college graduates. The widespread (even before the recession) utilization of college students and graduates working as unpaid (many unlawfully so) “interns” is evidence enough—if employers desperately needed these workers, they would pay them.

In fact, the trends of the last 10 years contradict this story. The wages and benefits received by young college graduates fell over the 2000–2007 business cycle and in this recession. Moreover, the wages of all college graduates have been flat over the last 10 years, with those for men having markedly declined.

Since we are already mortgaging the future of our young people so that Baby Boomers won’t complain about their Social Security, you’d think the least we could do is give the youngs a couple of years experiencing life with a decent job before we turned them into robot food. Hey, they went to college! They prepared for the knowledge economy! They followed directions! Unfortunately, the machines are more knowledgeable.

Paul Krugman:

Anyway, I decided to write the piece around a conceit: that information technology would end up reducing, not increasing, the demand for highly educated workers, because a lot of what highly educated workers do could actually be replaced by sophisticated information processing — indeed, replaced more easily than a lot of manual labor. Here’s the piece: I still think it’s a fun read.

So here’s the question: is it starting to happen?

Yes. Look, our economy is an utter sham, and it needs way less workers for it to run than we are currently giving it, even considering all the job losses the past few years. The only solution for young people is to give up on this stupid idea of “following your dreams” or “liking what you do for a living” and prepare to change jobs regularly to follow whatever hot bullshit industry is currently dishing out the paychecks. The rich simply don’t need workers any more, so cater to their stupid whims when they do give out jobs. Right now, you should go into consulting. What the hell is consulting? Why does it seem to pay so well? EXACTLY.

And then you will go into “brosulting.” And then “international finance brogistics.” And then “robot branding.” And then “giving robots blowjobs.” [EPI via CNBC/NYT]

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About the author

Jack Stuef is your loyal editor and a freelance satirist or something like that. He is a contributing writer for The Onion. E-mail him or whatever.

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123 comments

  1. AddHomonym

    As a (putatively) straight, white (for all you know), college-educated male, I find this alarming.

    1. Negropolis

      That's an awful lot of qualifiers, my friend. So, are we really and simply to assume that you're a gay, asian, high school diploma'ed female?

      1. comptoneffect

        Actually, that was a robot posting from a computer just outside of Shanghai. It looks like we're being replaced by robots, too.

          1. Naked_Bunny

            Oh great. Now I'm going to be hearing Majel Barrett's voice whenever I read your comments.

  2. LionelHutzEsq

    The good thing about computers is that they deal with facts and rules, and therefore have no place in law.

    1. BerkeleyBear

      You think they can't be programmed to lie cheat and steal? You, my friend, are in for a surprise or two.

      Can be and will be done, especially if they can make a standard "click once to answer discovery requests in an abusive way" option on a package that's cheaper than a paralegal or shipping shit to India. If the writing is consistent and close to grammatically correct it'll be ahead of what a hell of a lot of lawyers can produce.

      And somehow, I suspect Robert Shapiro will cash in on it.

      1. Beowoof

        That already has been done, most banks and cell phone billing programs are designed to steal as much as possible from you. Further, when you call about the problem you get into an interminable computer controlled phone tree that always returns you to a dial tone. Ah the sweet sweet feeling of stealing cash from the poor and middle class continues.

  3. V572625694

    Here's the deal: all college degrees are not equal. A degree in Chicano and Chicana Studies has a certain value, and a degree in accounting has another value. See if you can figure out which one has a higher value.

    Unfortunately, the kid with the accounting degree has a head start in solving this problem, as he took some math. Plus he can do the P&L every month.

      1. Negropolis

        In the end, that's all that really matters.

        And, that border fence will come in handy for the Mexicans when this nation collapses in hell-fire and us US Americans go scrambling like rats for Canada and Mexico and Cuba on our shoddy Ikea furniture rafts.

          1. GOPCrusher

            Hate to admit it, but have to agree. Since Nov 2nd, 2010, the United States is on the fast track to a Yugoslavia type ending. And history books will not be kind.

          2. MarshallBanana

            There's a part of me that says "good". Maybe we can split up and rid ourselves of the cancer that's dragging us down.

          3. zhubajie

            I have suspected something like that for a long time, too. It's notthe main reason I live abroad, but it's one reason.

      2. Iam_Who_Iam

        Cuando usted utiliza una computadora para traducir usted consigue los huevos revueltos. También.

    1. zhubajie

      MBA George Bush landed us in two unwinnable wars in pursuit of the Rapture, etc. I, a history/archaeology major, knew it was all bullshit. Which degree was better?

      1. V572625694

        Is there a degree that contains more bullshit than an MBA? (How can you "administer" a "business" without understanding what they do?) Is there a degree that confers a greater sense of I-can't-possibly-be-wrong-because-I-went-to-Harvard than a Harvard MBA?

        As you point out, history has already answered these questions.

        Respectfully
        V572625694, BA, Humanities

        1. zhubajie

          I didn't go to Harvard or Yale, in spite of my GI Bill. I thoughtabout Brown a couple times, but then I'd look at the tuition andthink “No, I'll read books elsewhere.” That's the mark of a gooduniversity: a good, big, library.On 3/9/11, zhu bajie wrote:> MBA = Master of Bugger-all>>

          1. V572625694

            Among the other ways Vietnam vets were screwed was the fact that the WWII GI bill payed all tuition directly to the school, whether it was Hahvahd or A&M Tech, whereas subsequent implementations were a fixed amount paid directly to the service member. Hard to believe now, but some members the raccoon-coat set thought it was a mistake to let all those Italians and Jews and Irish into the elite schools, because they wouldn’t be “appropriate” members of Skull and Bones, etc.

          2. zhubajie

            Well, I'm a Norwegian-Dutch mix, but that hasn't helped me with theelite. Rural upbringing, experience raising food, is real useful foran historian/archaeologist, but didn't help me afford the universitieswith the biggest libraries. Happily, inter-library loan let me usebooks from many universities. After my first major screwing-over ingrad school, I decided to extract as much money in the form of ILL asI could. You have to return the books, but you get to keep the xeroxedarticles.I can say I was on active duty in the Tonkin Gulf when GWB was adrunken deserter!

          3. V572625694

            You should read up on Gustav Hasford. Fascinating guy, author of the (quite excellent!) book that became “Full Metal Jacket” who went to jail for overdue library books. Honestly…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Hasfordhttp://www.gustavhasford.com/

  4. LionelHutzEsq

    And, be honest, if your computer could inject you with nutrients and masturbate you, would you really need a job?

  5. Steverino247

    I've known people with Master's degrees that made shit wages in "counseling" positions that were actually babysitting foster kids. The contract agency took shitloads of money from the government for the placement, but the people who actually worked with the abused and neglected kids made minimum wage or close to it. If they're lucky, they could eventually move to something like child protective services where they got to look at abused kids and smell cat piss for 30 years, then have their pensions become political footballs while they're called "union thugs" by the paid mouthpieces of billionaires.

    1. emmelemm

      Bam! You smacked us with even more depressing reality than Mr. Layne. That takes talent, my friend.

    2. Steverino247

      The really shitty news is those robots will be designed and programmed by engineers from India and built in China. If the Koch Brothers are smart, they'll even have robotic janitors to keep the place clean and their new offices built by undocumented aliens who will be deported the day before payday.

      1. zhubajie

        The Koches are not all that smart. If everyone else is poor, how will they stay rich? Surely they don't expect their Chinese and Indian engineers to be loyal?

    3. BerkeleyBear

      That would pretty much be the major flaw in all aspects of "privatized" social services, which is how most states deliver some portion of their foster care/disability/mental health services. Everyone went to it as a way to cut state benefit liabilities years ago (although they have all kinds of other bullshit terms for it like efficiency enhancing). I know because my wife administers services for a state and hates it, but at this point she's got no real choice in the matter.

      The state typically has to pay a Federally set or approved service rate that's fairly generous, but there's no requirement that the contractor in turn pay employees of any sort jack. So the people who have the absolute shit jobs (literally wiping shit off asses) get paid so little that its all but a gaurantee of a certain amount of waste, fraud and abuse (especiially abuse of patients who can't report it). Yaaay invisible hand, rat fucking the most at risk populations!

      1. thebeatgoeson08

        I have a friend whose daughter is a graduate of an ivy league college who is working in a preschool class for autistic boys at a small private center. She makes $10 an hour to wipe asses and noses, get kicked and hit and spit at, spend many hours acting as the lead teacher (all the responsibility, none of the pay benefits) when her supervisor is unavailable, and catch whatever bug is going thorough the room at the time (with minimal sick and virtually no personal time). She can't even pay her bills without assistance from her parents while the owners of the center(husband and wife team) take home about $500,000 per year. At least she got health insurance after a 6 month waiting period (during which she had several health issues – thank goodness her mother was able and willing to pay the COBRA to keep her on her own insurance.)

  6. johnnyzhivago

    Speaking of employment in America….

    Will someone explain to me why Khdafi looks like such a creep for demanding millions of dollars to leave his job, when failed American CEO's (Fiorina, Hurd, etc…) are rewarded for this behavior…

    1. Negropolis

      I think the difference is that K. Daffy has explicitly ordered his employees to kill resulting in the deaths if thousands of his customers. The corporations only do this on the DL, I hear.

    2. Moonbat

      White collar crime – it isn't "crime crime." Qaddafi got his hands dirty doing all the rape, pillage, torture, and murder personally. Hiring a bunch of MBAs to wreck stuff, instead of doing it yourself, is much the cleaner way to go.

    3. GOPCrusher

      American CEO's are white. And the failed ones, go on to lucrative careers teaching other CEO's how to fail.

  7. Dashboard_Jesus

    not to worry, far as I can see there's still lots of good jobs to be had in the God industry, cuz if we've proved anything for certain it's that humanoids LOVES the Jesus (Allah/ Yahweh/ Krishna/ Thor) those Buddhists are fucked tho, the robots is definitely gonna eat THEM!

    1. Negropolis

      Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus…

      Yeah, the Buddhists are going to get it with their one hand clapping and non-violence and such. But, I wouldn't fuck with the Hindu pantheon of gods. I mean, just look at Kali and Shiva, destroyer of worlds.

    2. HistoriCat

      Step 1 : become a religious leader (thank you internet)
      Step 2 : convince gullible people to listen to you
      Step 3 : profit take home a nice salary from your non-profit religious organization job

      The only downside is that you have to work weekends …

  8. undeterredbyreality

    One thing I know: those robots will never be able to comment on Wonkette!
    One thing I know: those robots will never be able to comment on Wonkette!
    One thing I know: those robots will never be able to comment on Wonkette!
    One thing I know: those robots will never be able to comment on Wonkette!
    One thing I know: those robots will never be able to comment on Wonkette!
    One thing I know: those robots will never be able to comment on Wonkette!
    One thing I know: those robots will never be able to comment on Wonkette!

  9. V572625694

    It's a little worrying that Nobel Laureate Krugman is already writing columns about writing columns.

  10. tessiee

    So, now that we're all unemployed, who is going to buy all the cool stuff these neat-o robots make?

  11. LetUsBray

    Let's get to the question that really matters: How long til a reliable, affordable buttsecksbot hits the market?

    1. donner_froh

      The timeline depends on whether you want a buttsecksbot that gives it or one that takes it.

      Probably want to stay away from beta tests as well.

  12. SayItWithWookies

    Ha — they'll never invent the robot to replace me. No self-respecting hunk of tin and silicates would put up with it.

  13. MilwaukeeKent

    The truly secure job is explaining to the boss what the robot computer just said, that they need, also programming and running said automaton. Explaining what the computer just said or did to the boss, though, is only a secure job until the inevitable day when you explain something the boss doesn't like.
    All in all, get every simple skill you can, from stocking Slurpee machines to mopping floors and flipping burgers.

  14. nounverb911

    "And then “giving robots blowjobs."
    Didn't Jude Law play that role in "A.I. Artificial Intelligence"?

  15. Gunner Asch

    Been like that for a while. I never made a dime off my fancy-pants college degree. It was my Army trade-school-like training that kept me and my family fed.

  16. emmelemm

    Wall-E!

    If all the robots are as adorable as Wall-E, then we're cool. Besides, we can just distract them with Rubik's Cubes, and cassette tapes, and flowers…

  17. Mumbletypeg

    So this is how the Future gets Won. I bet Obama hadn't reckoned the prize to be bestowed upon a legion of bot-twats.
    Except he probably has. The prez is no dummy, and Stuef has summed up here, in terms a wee-tard could understand, what's occurred to every one of us at some point.

  18. MiniMencken

    Let's see, out of a population of 311 million people, 12 million are in manufacturing, maybe 6 to 9 million in agriculture. Those are the only two renewable sources of wealth. A, third, non-renewable source are the extractive industries, mining, oil and gas production and such, which usually fall into the other two categories statistically. The other 290 million are thus in the service sector, retired, in school, in prison and are either net consumers of the GNP or make an income moving money around from one place to another. Seventy percent of the country's oil is imported. The ever-increasing population is competing for the water needed by agriculture. Global warming is making the agricultural sector less productive. The military this year will require $750 billion in order to continue enforcing favorable business relationships between the USA and the rest of the world. That includes over 600 military bases outside of the country. Uhm, where was I going with this? Oh, yes. The economic outlook is rosy for people in the killer and/or attack robot industries.

    1. HistoriCat

      Blowing stuff up and/or killing are pretty much guaranteed growth opportunities.

      You know, when close to 90% of the population is in danger of being superfluous, we are looking at a dystopian, sci-fi future.

    2. MarshallBanana

      YES! My position is secure!

      (Okay, not working on killer/attack robots at the moment, but my skills are quite portable.)

  19. Negropolis

    Hey, so long as I'm provided with an adequate daily serving of high-protein paste of dubius origin (bread), and sated with mindless reality tv shows (circus), I think I could handle hardcore slackerdom. It's not like I haven't before. It may be tough at first to accept a lack of a defined occupation, but through enough soul-crushing idleness, I could learn to lulled into and love a comfortable level of complacency.

    I, for one, welcome our cold, souless overlords, both the wealthy human ones and the robotic ones. The poor could be used for foodstuff, and the once-middle class could be used as low-rent "economic gardners." You know, everyone gets knocked down a notch.

    1. Dashboard_Jesus

      oh thanks for ruining my morning too, shoulda known better than to re-visit the robot post!

    2. tessiee

      The slackerdom part is ok with me; I actually prefer soul-crushing idleness to soul-crushing servitude. It's the whole "no money" thing that's bumming me out.

  20. RadicalProfessor

    Come on now, if you are going to write something depressing at least give us some helpful and trendy career advice. Like "harness the power of social media" or "be your own personal brand."

  21. ManchuCandidate

    It makes me laugh in a dark grim way when I think how a scientific/engineering concept like mechanical efficiency has been perverted by morons with MBAs into a bidniz concept. What makes me laugh even more is that the least efficient industry (finance–how many millions of bank VPs do you guys need? and whose work can be replaced by an uprated Excel Spreadsheet) tells everyone else that they need to be more "efficient."

    Hmmmm, maybe it's time I start up my sexbot company.

    1. BerkeleyBear

      Isn't every pronouncement out of an MBA's mouth by definition a perversion of a law or nature and/or science? I thought that was the whole point of the discipline – finding horseshit, hypocritical rationalizations for basically reprehensible behavior patterned on years of buddy fucking and other bullshit>

  22. cheaphits

    I feel the answer is to just wait for the Singularity to take place in 15 to 35 years – See this – "2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal" –

    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,20

    Hell yeah, the computers can do it faster and better and the advantage will continue to grow and eliminate jobs until we either join them as some kind of cyborg or become software and all live forever and go to the stars.

    I like that plan. So just screw around for a few years, keep your ass alive and then "get with the program", if you will. Enjoy this little intermission as best you can. I recommend lots of sex, drugs and alcohol…maybe some poetry, art, philosophy and politics.

    *Note – I should mention that there is also the possibility the the 'puters will decide they don't need us and will exterminate us all. But what can you do? What will be, will be. In the mean time the best job options are probably "Welfare Queen" or "Union Thug".

    1. ManchuCandidate

      I think the Skynets of the world rather exterminate us. Who needs a bunch of psychotic chronic masturbating apes wasting their precious resources and energies on LiLo or Dancing with the Stars (?)

      That whole idea of the singularity is bullshit. It's just the atheist version of the fundies fucked up rapture (just for the record I'm an atheist) aka "No Nerd Left Behind."

      1. cheaphits

        Yeah, everybody has heard that, but the fact is that computer speeds just keep getting faster, faster and life extension progresses to culminate in what?

        No one really knows, do they? But the point is that people are giving it some thought and planning, which is a good thing.

        And if we are dumb enough to make computers we can't control, well, it's been a fun ride.

  23. Numbat_Dundee

    I'm about to get all self indulgent here.
    1. I live in Australia which has a low rate of unemployment because we sell lots of rocks to the Chinese. (I think they make them into sweaters or Ipods or something.)
    2. While I have a PhD and can't get a job here because I don't teach would-be junior managers how to "downsize"or run psychometric tests on people, I have just landed a job teaching English to rich Chinese in Shanghai who want to send their kids to Yale (and they'll turn up saying "G'Day mate!" which will be funny but what do I care.)
    3. So I has brains and I have sold them.
    4. So they (my brains) will be stir fried rather than deep fried. That's healthier isn't it?

    1. zhubajie

      I'm in similar situation. I live in China, teach English to college students. My PhD makes me more desirable than someone else's 1936 high school diploma. What the future will bring, I don't know, but I've learned that Chinese people never plan ahead, since they don't know the future, either. Eat a good meal, have good friends and a happy family.

    2. Dashboard_Jesus

      (and they'll turn up saying "G'Day mate!" which will be funny but what do I care)

      LOL, I'd pay to see that!

  24. BerkeleyBear

    But the kicker Jack doesn't mention is how you can't just chase jobs like you used to, because every stupid job now requires a certification in some bullshit that will cost you both months to years of time and thousands of Ameros in bullshit for profit loans.

    I mean, shit that used to be the sort of jobs OTJ training was built for like basic network admin/IT support, sonography, nurse's aid – that kind of shit.

  25. deanbooth

    we are already mortgaging the future of our young people so that Baby Boomers won’t complain about their Social Security the rich won't complain about taxes while blaming social programs.

    Social Security is a good thing, like food stamps.

  26. KenLayIsAlive

    I don't know my Marx that well… but wasn't that the basic idea? Robots will start doing everything for the capitalists then the workers will revolt and capture control of the robots, and then we all live lives of leisure with robots doing everything?

    You can start by stealing your rich neighbors Rhoomba.

  27. PopeyesPipe

    At least part of the problem is that education has been turned into "education." Students, all administrators, and most faculty members don't value learning for its own sake. Education is simply a means to a corporate or financial end. The college kids I teach (mostly Freshmen and Sophomores) have been so utterly failed by their public schools that they arrive in college with only a flimsy grasp of rudimentary grammar. They can't write a sentence without committing an awful series of grammatical errors amounting to word salad, but they're sure they'll become doctors or business owners, and they think my class is useless to this end. Further, what's happening at all levels is an abandonment of core principals in favor of things like technology's incorporation into the classroom (as if 1. students need some oldster to tell them how to use the Internet, 2. technology will help them learn how not to be completely illiterate/ intellectually vacuous) and simply pandering to the little fuckers. This is not just in shitty universities or failed high schools . Many "elite" universities and many highly rated public schools are simply in the business of rubber stamping/ praising mediocre educational attainment.

    1. andrewdrinker

      Question: do you ever see your students' handwriting anymore? (I don't know if good ol' pen and paper is still used in college now.) If so, do they all write like 5-year-olds? I've been thinking for the past several years that with modern technology, people wouldn't write much anymore and would never develop decent penmanship (which is soon to be obsolete anyway.)

    2. tessiee

      Agree totally. Somewhere along the line, schools have (not really voluntarily) abandoned education as the corporations have shifted the responsibility and expense of job training to schools and individuals.

  28. mereoblivion

    Hire me! I'll put the con in consulting.
    Hang on. The con was always there, wasn't it? Okay, back to Career Change 101.

  29. hagajim

    Everyone needs to go into Military Industrial Complex 101 – that appears to be where the real $$$ are.

    1. GOPCrusher

      I used to think that when I worked for a defense contractor during Gulf War I. Then G.H.W. Bush declared a "New World Order" and the defense industry collapsed.
      No one or industry is safe any more. Even McDonald's is replacing highly skilled fast-food workers with robots that can dispense drinks.

  30. Gopherit

    Somebody has to dig the ditches. I plan to hold onto my job with a cold ruthlessness reserved usually for the Koch brothers canned union member hunts.

  31. fuflans

    this is snark free and very late but i have thought for years now that we have been v stupid in devaluing the trades and placing so much emphasis on academic-lite white collar / business degrees.

    i personally wish i had studied workworking or something.

  32. Redhead

    "Moreover, the wages of all college graduates have been flat over the last 10 years, with those for men having markedly declined."

    This is what happens when you let a robot (or unpaid college intern halfway through his first upper-level English course) take over your article-writing.

  33. Billmatic

    Best thing is to show stuff like this to college students because 90% of them are still convinced that they're special and going places and that by being a liberal arts major they're going to unlock the secret portal to eternal career happiness and I'm just a sour old loser. So basically, this stuff makes them really angry and confused and most of the time they just recede into denial and try to pretend that there's a high demand for people with history/english/philosophy/biology bachelor's. Or heh, law degrees. LOL.

    It's super amusing. I can't wait for five years down the road when they're sobbing into their student loan bills and I'm also doing the same thing but getting some "I told you so" glee out of it at least.

  34. ChessieNefercat

    This is depressing. Because my college-educated (working on an MS) daughter is the linchpin of my retirement plan (which is a deep-seated hope that she will be successful and able to take me in).

    Because goodness knows my dinky little job won't result in an adequately funded retirement (10 years from now I can look forward to my SS being garnished to pay my student loans).

    Ehhh…

  35. petekjohnson

    "Once upon a time on Tralfamadore there were creatures who weren't anything like machines. They weren't dependable. They weren't efficient. They weren't predictable. They weren't durable. And these poor creatures were obsessed by the idea that everything that existed had to have a purpose, and that some purposes were higher than others.

    "These creatures spent most of their time trying to find out what their purpose was. And every time they found out what seemed to be a purpose of themselves, the purpose seemed so low that the creatures were filled with disgust and shame.

    "And, rather than serve such a low purpose, the creatures would make a machine to serve it. This left the creatures free to serve higher purposes. But whenever they found a higher purpose, the purpose still wasn't high enough.

    "So machines were made to serve higher purposes, too.

    "And the machines did everything so expertly that they were finally given the job of finding out out what the highest purpose of the creatures could be. The machines reported in all honesty that the creatures couldn't really be said to have any purpose at all.

    "The creatures thereupon began slaying each other, because they hated purposeless things above all else.

    "And they discovered that they weren't even very good at slaying. So they turned that job over to the machines, too. And the machines finished up the job in less time than it takes to say, 'Tralfamodore'"

  36. thebeatgoeson08

    Absolutely. She actually really loves the kids and has quite a good natural instinct about how to handle many of the issues. Unlike the "specially trained" people who are in charge.

    She's thinking about trying to get an emergency teaching certificate so she can fill in for the lead teacher when she's out. She would make an extra $100 per day.

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