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Higher wages, entry-level jobs and the Turing test
What's a fair wage?
That depends on whom you ask, of course; minimum wage workers never think they earn enough, and employers always worry about staying in business while dealing with red tape and mandates like the Affordable Care Act, not to mention competition.
On Monday, the Seattle City Council approved a $15 hourly minimum wage that is higher than the $10.74 required by San Francisco and the $9.32 required by Washington State, but will take three to seven years to phase in, depending on the size of businesses and include a sub-minimum wage for teens.
Since it's a city minimum wage, detractors say, a restaurant just outside the city limits will have an unfair advantage over its urban competition.
Proponents point to Seattle's high cost of living, however, and cite Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index figures that show 1968's minimum wage of $1.60 would be $10.86 today if adjusted for inflation.
A campaign to raise the minimum wage is underway in Nebraska, albeit with more modest goals. Workers are fanning out across the state to gather the 85,000 valid signatures required to put a minimum wage issue on the ballot in November.
If successful, the initiative would raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2016. It has been $7.25, the same as the federal level, since 2009.
Proponents such as gubernatorial candidate Chuck Hassebrook say a higher minimum wage will reduce poverty, decrease turnover and increase consumer spending.
His opponent, Pete Ricketts, said raising the minimum wage would force employers to cut jobs and hurt the people it was designed to help. It would also raise the price of goods and services, he said.
Only time will tell who is right, but if the experience of the automotive industry is any measure, higher wages will increase pressure to automate. Many assembly line jobs that used to be performed by workers are now done by robots. Many autoworkers who do have jobs now spend their time making sure robots are functioning correctly and have the parts to perform the actually assembly work.
How long until most low-wage fast-food jobs, for instance, are performed by machines?
Over the weekend, a supercomputer running a Russian-made program, exchanged texts with a group of humans, fooling 33 percent of them into thinking they were chatting with a 13-year-old boy named Eugene Goostman from Odessa, Ukraine.
It was the first time a computer passed the test, dreamed up by London scientist Alan Turing in 1950, seen as a milestone in artificial intelligence.
Do you want fries with that?