Automation allows labor to be used in new ways

Regarding the Aug. 30 article "Coming Soon: Robo-greeter": The article states, "automation causes unemployment." This is only half true: Automation renders some tasks obsolete. However, the fear that technology will cause the skies to fall has motivated anticapitalist Chicken Littles for centuries. This viewpoint overlooks the fact that automation releases factors of production for reemployment elsewhere and exerts downward pressure on prices. If markets are sufficiently free, entrepreneurs will find new ways to use labor.
Art Carden
St. Louis

The article states, " 'Smart systems,' computers that can do relatively routine tasks well, are beginning to gobble up jobs ranging from check-out clerks at Home Depot to airline ticket agents," and goes on to describe what must be done to mitigate the "ill effects" of such technology.

Contrary to the implication in the article, self check-out allows Home Depot customers to pay for their purchases and leave the store as much as 40 percent faster than before. We also redeploy the hours once used for cashiers back to the sales floor by adding customer-service personnel. The result is a win-win for the customer and a positive impact on local economies as jobs stay within the store.
David Sandor
Director of Public Relations, Home Depot

Hiring a black coach shouldn't be news

Regarding the Sept. 2 article "For new black coach, a historic step in college ranks": As a black American born in the 1940s who has experienced discrimination and racism firsthand, I feel that hiring the first black football coach in a conference's 71-year history should not be a big story in 2004. History tells us that things in this nation will take forever to progress. The Thirteenth Amendment that freed the slaves was passed in 1865, and then the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, finally opening doors for blacks to enjoy the rights guaranteed to all citizens.

Why did it take 100 years for this to happen? The answer is control. What was slavery about? Control.

Our nation is very rapid in its ability to collect taxes, and very slow in its efforts to develop equal human rights.
Lawrence D. Pierce
Austin, Texas

Debunking the bird-brain myth

Regarding the Sept. 2 article "Intelligence? It's for the birds": Geese are perhaps the perfect example of birds with an extraordinary social sensitivity. Geese flying in formation are a remarkable demonstration of teamwork. As geese flap their wings, an uplift is created for those behind them and the flock has a 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew alone. When the lead goose gets tired, she or he rotates back into formation and another goose flies at the point position. Meanwhile, the geese flying in the rear honk to encourage those in front to keep up their speed. And when a goose gets sick or is wounded and falls, two geese follow him down to help and protect him, staying until the goose is able to fly again or dies before catching up to their flock or joining another.
Mark Hawthorne
Rohnert Park, Calif.

Though they constitute most of the animals killed for food in the US, birds are not protected under the federal Humane Slaughter Act. It is assumed that they don't really suffer, and that they are too stupid to know what is happening to them. Birds are also omitted from laws monitoring laboratory abuse of animals. Let us hope that scientific findings on avian intelligence affect the way human society treats the sentient and intelligent animals who are from the class Aves rather than Mammalia.
Karen Dawn
Pacific Palisades, Calif.

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