Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Luke and Maddie revisited

Econtalk interviews Adam Davidson about his recent Atlantic article on US manufacturing. Adam says he "is good at math and computers" and is a "certified Mac (Apple) technician" but is sure he "couldn't do Luke's job". (Luke is a skilled machinist who has to test tolerances, program a half million dollar cutting machine, visualize spatial relationships, use calculus!, etc. For this he is paid a bit over $50k per year.) What fraction of Maddies (unskilled workers) could, given access to training?

(An interesting remark could be made about M,V,S cognitive profiles, but I will refrain.)

If you listen carefully, you'll notice that jobs for Maddies are as threatened by robots as by foreign competition.

Jack and Diane (John Mellencamp, 1982)

Little ditty 'bout Jack and Diane
Two american kids growin up in the heartland
Jackies gonna be a football star
Diane debutante backseat of Jackies car


Little ditty, 'bout Jack and Diane --
Two american kids doin', best they can


Yan Shen said...

(An interesting remark could be made about M,V,S cognitive profiles, but I will refrain.)

I won't. At the risk of belaboring the point, let me just re-emphasis what commenter Half Sigma earlier stated.


"I believe that verbal IQ is more conducive to value transference
economic activities, while mathematical IQ is conducive to value
creation economic activities. This is why, even though Asian and
European nations have similar overall IQs, the much higher mathematical
IQs of Asians makes them better at creating value, while Europeans are
better at transferring value. Thus, Japan is known for its useful
products like automobiles, televisions and other electronics, cameras,
etc. Europe is more known for overpriced luxury goods. Even when
Europeans sell cars, they sell overpriced luxury cars like BMW and
Mercedes, and then there are super-high-end brands like Rolls Royce,
Porsche, and Ferrari."

Guy_Brodude said...

I could handle the math (I think), but the spatial reasoning might throw me for a loop. I've never had my SR aptitude tested, but I would assume I'm average or below-average.  And I feel like, of the big three components of intelligence, SR might be the least amenable to significant improvement through practice?

Bobdisqus said...

I am calling BS on the “use calculus” as part of the normal responsibilities of even a senior setup guy. Go to Monster put in “CNC Machinist programmer” read a few
Sure they love a guy that can as it shows he is smart.  It just is not part of the everyday work world he will function in.  Standard products has a bargain in Luke.  He has the M horsepower to move beyond what he is doing now.  I suspect a hundred people have told him go back to night school and get your engineering degree and you can add half again to double what your making.
Of the hundreds of thousands of employee’s at Foxcon what percentage knows calculus? Of that, what percentage uses it in their day to day work? 
Sure going down the road it gets automated Shenzen or Saginaw.  Let us guess, that in another 25 years manufacturing employment is around the same level as farm employment (low single digits).  The question is what policy best serves the interest of the United States during that interval.
“Manufacturing employment as a share of total employment in the United States has been declining over the past 60 years. In 1950, nearly 31% of nonfarm workers were employed in manufacturing. Since then, the share has been dropping three or four percentage points per decade, falling to 28.4% in 1960, 25.1% in 1970, 20.7% in 1980, 16.2% in 1990, 13.1% in 2000, and 9.1% in 2009.

steve hsu said...

I actually agree with you on this -- I think Adam was probably confusing analytic geometry with calculus. It's a shame Russ didn't pick up on it -- I was generally in shock at how little intuition these, um, highly verbal, guys had for making real stuff.

Adam was also confused at points about why Luke's job isn't in China. It has to do with labor vs capital costs and not with availability of Luke's skill set in China. People with Luke's abilities are plentiful in China -- literally 1/5 the cost!

Bobdisqus said...

I am not a farm worker, or a factory worker productivity has removed those as an option.  I have an IQ of 85 and a good work ethic.  What advice do you have to make this guy a productive American? Learn Calculus?

DB510 said...

Re Steve's comment on M/V/S profiles: 

I would advise any naive undergraduates of one thing -- 

Life in IT (or any STEM field, really) is truly a special kind of hell for those who have no interest in, or, as it came to be in my case, an intense loathing of, the work.

I majored in CS, not out of any genuine desire to delve into the intricacies of sorting algorithms (I always found math and science tedious, at best), but because of the starting salaries, along with the assurance that it would always be in demand (You can do anything!). I hated every minute of every class during undergraduate!  

Graduated three years ago, and got a development job paying 65k a year in ‘flyover country’.  Detested it with every fiber of my being, and probably spent most of my time there devising exit strategies (not only from the company, but to make a clean break from the STEM field totally). Finally jumped ship (now out of the industry altogether) last fall, taking a pay cut, but no longer grinding my teeth down to nubs, shouting obscenities during my commute...

Bobdisqus said...

Yes, geometry, trigonometry, non calculus based statistics and SPC this is the math world of the shop-floor.  This leaves a significant fraction of the population as candidates for these jobs.  The programming is an additional hurdle that trims a few off from that.
Credentialism pushes this towards an associates or tech school certificate where in the past there would have been more learn on the job expectations.

tractal said...

Well, Half-Sigma's quoted reasoning is terrible. Its beyond terrible, actually. Its unspeakably bad and doesn't even need comment. 

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