Automated jobs could reduce tax revenues

I don’t know how accurate these figures are but it is an interesting argument: people might worry about losing jobs to automation but what about losing tax revenues?

The United States is in danger of losing more than one-third of its tax base thanks to increasing automation in both manufacturing and service sectors. Self-driving vehicles, self-serve kiosks, increases in manufacturing and energy production efficiency, and declining retail numbers all contribute to what is likely going to be a significant problem in the coming decades…

Conservative estimates put future job losses at 20 million with some estimates going up to as high as 70 million. When someone loses their job, they stop paying taxes, while their employers stop paying payroll and other types of taxes at the same time. Compounding the issue is the fact that many people who lose their jobs start to depend on the economic support of the government, along with their families…

A growing population and dwindling jobs will result in much higher levels of unemployment in working-age adults than we see now. To top it off, the number of people on either side of the working-age spectrum (under-18, over-67) are growing substantially. Something has to give at some point, whether that means the advent of a basic income system or substantial corporate/capital taxes, the transitional period we are currently in cannot last forever.

Something to keep an eye on. I could imagine this causing particular problems at the local level as less federal and state money is available at the same time that residents may have a harder time paying property taxes and other local fees.

Coming soon: more fully automated parking garages

Adding more automated parking garages could lead to more saved time and space:

Right now in the U.S., 22 garages already are using automated systems to store and retrieve vehicles, and it’s starting to scale up. Ground is breaking soon on a parking structure for a mixed-use development in Oakland, California, and it is claimed to be the newest such fully automated structure in the San Francisco Bay Area—and one of relatively few to allow public access (it will be visitor parking) and to be unmanned. The structure’s footprint is just 1600 square feet, the size required by seven surface-parking spots, yet it has 39 parking spaces over seven levels.

What it amounts to is virtually a dumbwaiter for cars. You drive the vehicle past a height sensor, then through a garage doorway and onto a platform—which itself is on what look like the tracks you’d find at an automatic carwash. Following instructions on a screen, you exit your vehicle, and visit a kiosk to get a ticket that you use to retrieve the vehicle upon your return. The system rotates the vehicle, loads it onto an elevator, and then stores it away on the appropriate shelf, potentially several stories up or down in a narrow-footprint building.

Retrieval, according to CityLift, the company behind the development, takes less than two minutes after inserting the ticket.

This summary is missing one key piece of information: how does this work financially? Putting more cars into less space should generate more revenue but this technology could be costly to purchase and maintain. In other words, how attractive would this option be to developers and owners of parking lots and garages?

I wonder how this might alter an experience I had in an underground garage in Chicago earlier this year. This particular garage was long and narrow with the lengthy side going away from the entrance. When we drove into the garage, it wasn’t much of a problem: we found the attendant and he had plenty of time to go find a spot further back in the garage. However, our return after a large sporting event concluded was more problematic. One side of the garage had cars stacked two deep, the other side had them stacked three deep, and the one attendant was running back and forth to bring cars up to the front of the garage. We were fortunate to be closer to the front of the line but I’m sure others behind us waited over an hour to have their car retrieved. Two minutes retrieval would be a significant help in this situation as would having fewer cars total in the garage (this helps with a rush of people coming in or out at the same time).

McMansions show disconnect between “worker[s] and automated tool[s]”

A new book suggests McMansions are the result of automated home design:

The author of the new Building a Timeless House in an Instant Age is well-qualified to criticize. He’s a nationally recognized authority on historic design, and architecturally correct moldings and millwork. From 1991-93, he attended North Bennett Street School in Boston, the nation’s oldest trade school – one that’s evolved into jewelry making, bookbinding and museum-quality historic preservation…

“If you look at the Pyramids, you understand the Egyptians by what they were building,” he says. “McMansions are not really what we want to say about ourselves.”

They are the products of a mechanized disconnect between worker and automated tool, even between architect and computer. “Most architects draw by hand and then enter the drawing into AutoCAD, and there’s a separation between the hand and the head,” he says. “It’s the same thing with craftsmen looking at their computer while a router cuts the wood.”

What’s lost is the classical sense of scale and proportion – and a cultural heritage.

“There’s a separation that’s taking place that’s not good for us – we’re falsely assuming that were improving as we go to AutoCAD,” he says. “The beauty is in the human quality of the hand-cut piece, but a machine puts an impersonal imprint on that.”

It sounds like this is less about McMansions and more of a critique of automation and mass production. McMansions may be the symptom of mass produced homes but they weren’t the first. Similar complaints were leveled against the Levittowns and early mass suburbs which were viewed as too uniform. Those early mass homes were partly the result of changing technology: earlier American homes were built with beams, requiring heavier pieces of wood, and constructed mostly by small-scale builders or the homeowners themselves. The balloon-frame home opened things up to mass production since it relies on uniform pieces of wood.

At the same time, balloon-frame homes don’t necessarily have to be built to look like or to be the size of McMansions…