Monday, November 27, 2017

Chasing down the BOM's

This post was prompted by a plaintive cry of vehicles which are
"manufactured almost entirely without human input, sold online with no human input, and ultimately driven without human input. They would seldom crash, and need virtually zero maintenance."  The implication is that Workers disappear and with them their Incomes and with that, their Taxes....

Lets chase the BOM down on each of these.
  1. Manufacturing is the end product - metal-bashing and assembly of a plethora of components, every one of which has been: Designed, Prototyped, Materials Mined, Transported, Refined, Shipped, Cast, Moulded, Machined, Painted, Warehoused, Sold, Financed, Transported again, all before getting to the TSLA factories. Every single one of those activities has their own BOM, into which humans are an essential input. Who else Brands, creates a compelling website, decides on Finance, writes up the Contracts, Programs the CNC tools, Builds the manufactories, and passes the bills for payment. I've been involved in automating finance-related jobs out of existence for forty years, and quelle surprise, there is still wetware at the root of most of finance activities.
  2. 'Online' is the visible result of literally person-centuries of clever coding, marketing ideas and entrepreneurial individuals (Jack Ma...). It's wetware all the way down for the Ideas. As to the 'automation' possible, well, Compilers, which take away the burden of writing in binary, have been around since the 1950's, yet, quelle surprise, IT in general is part of the STEM explosion in careers.
  3. 'Driven with no human input' is an aspiration, not a fact. Caterpillar has had self-driving mine trucks for three decades, yet wetware is still employed to spot them for loading, and to dump them at the top of the haul road. And self-driving in winter ice, snow, fog and other very common North American road conditions is certainly gonna create work for panel-beaters: because ABS, vehicle dynamics adjustments and environment detection are useless in such conditions, as many tourists discover up our NZ ski access tracks....
  4. Last I checked, TSLA vehicles have Tyres, Suspension, and other moving parts which wear. So zero maintenance is another myth. There may well be less mechanics. But then where are the buggy-whip makers and wagon wheelwrights of yesteryear? 80% of employment in developed countries 150 years ago was agricultural. Now 2% is. What happened? Yes, too many barista and aromatherapista.....

In short, we need not worry about Workers and their Income just yet. Heck, even Bicycles need Mines, Refineries, Ships, and Tyres to supply their very simple BOM's. Mines need Miners and before that Stone-gazers who can look at an outcrop and say ' yup, there's Cu, Fe, Sn or Pb in that there Rock'. I'll stop now but y'all get the drift....(mining pun right there)

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