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Walmart Is Cutting 7,000 Jobs Due To Automation (yahoo.com) 256

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Yahoo: The clairvoyant folks over at the World Economic Forum warned of a "Fourth Industrial Revolution" involving the rise of the machine in the workforce, and the latest company to lend credence to that claim is none other than Walmart, which is planning on cutting 7,000 jobs on account of automation. But the Walmart decision may be a bit more alarming for those in the workforce. As the Wall Street Journal reports (Warning: may be paywalled), the most concerning aspect of America's largest private employer might be that the eliminated positions are largely in the accounting and invoicing sectors of the company. These jobs are typically held by some of the longest tenured employees, who also happen to take home higher hourly wages. Now, those coveted positions are being automated. The Journal reports that beginning in 2017, much of this work will be addressed by "a central office or new money-counting 'cash recycler' machines in stores." Earlier this year, the company tested this change across some 500 locations. "We've seen many make smooth transitions during the pilot," said Deisha Barnett, a Walmart spokeswoman.
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Walmart Is Cutting 7,000 Jobs Due To Automation

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 02, 2016 @09:31PM (#52819381)

    The sooner robots replace the workforce, the more leisure time we will have to enjoy life.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mark-t ( 151149 )
      How will you pay for what you need to live without a job, exactly? Or do you think we'll be living in some idealistic world where everything, including housing, is free?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        You'd be looking at a complete paradigm shift when it comes to economies. That is to say, not communism, not capitalism, nor any other economic system of the past. Things like housing could very well become irrelevant, much as not everything you currently take for granted has always been relevant.

        For example: Why would you need to commute if there's no need for it? 200 years ago, nobody bothered; instead where they "worked" was less than an hour walk from where they lived. And since 90% of the population we

        • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday September 02, 2016 @10:26PM (#52819593) Journal

          (Fun fact: That didn't truly begin until Henry Ford started the idea of taking Saturdays off and having an 8x5 40 hour work week to retain quality workers; a concept that many misattribute to labor unions.)

          I'm sorry, but you've got that wrong:

          In the United States, a few limited eight-hour-day laws were on the books shortly after the Civil War. One, in Illinois, was passed in 1867, followed in 1868 by a law covering certain classes of federal workers. But neither law was well-enforced, and in most sectors, working hours of 10 to 12 hours were common. So a reduction in the work week became a leading issue for the nascent labor movement.

          The issue came to a head in 1884, after the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions -- a predecessor of today’s AFL-CIO -- called for all workers to have eight-hour days by May 1, 1886. When that deadline wasn’t met, labor leaders upped the ante by calling for demonstrations. In Chicago, peaceful marches morphed into violence, with an explosion marring a rally at Haymarket Square on May 4, 1886, leaving seven police officers and four workers dead. Subsequent trials, executions and clemencies for the accused made the eight-hour week a top issue nationally and internationally.

          All of this occurred decades before Ford founded his company in 1903.

          Ford didn't implement the 40 hour workweek until 1926.

          http://www.politifact.com/trut... [politifact.com]

          http://www.businessinsider.com... [businessinsider.com]

        • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @12:28AM (#52819955) Homepage Journal

          In some ways the goalposts have moved but not in a simple linear progression. Because of technology, the poor can have cheap TVs and phones. But in trade, they now cannot afford a place to call home. If they tried the popular solution from the middle ages of pick out an un-occupied spot and build a house, the city would come arrest them and bulldoze the place. They can no-longer make a job for themselves by planting on the commons and selling whatever surplus they grow (In many places, you are not even permitted to plant crops on the land you own).

          An income is no longer optional, but the ability to have an income is not guaranteed.

          As has always been the case, the nobility doesn't trouble itself with these things.

      • How will you pay for what you need to live without a job, exactly? Or do you think we'll be living in some idealistic world where everything, including housing, is free?

        If robots are doing all the work, what other alternative could there be?

        • Read the short story "Manna" (free book [marshallbrain.com]). In the story, most countries evolve into a somewhat dystopian jobless society. People get a minimum income, most of that being provided in kind: government housing with free TV and a cafeteria serving palatable food. But no hopes of ever doing better, no opportunities for other activities of leisure, and after a while you can imagine those benefits will get cut: less meal choices, singles will now have to share their room. And you are not allowed to leave the co
        • How will you pay for what you need to live without a job, exactly? Or do you think we'll be living in some idealistic world where everything, including housing, is free?

          If robots are doing all the work, what other alternative could there be?

          Camouflage? [animatedheroes.com]

      • where everything, including housing is free = jail / prison. And they have doctors that do more then the ER and don't say we don't take Medicaid

      • by Cito ( 1725214 )

        A "Star Trek" type communist world without the liberal political correctness does sound awesome where all necessities are free. Course they have "replicators", but one if the books mentioned how money was done away with once people realized a faith based currency was meaningless. Now with that said I know "Utopian" society always falls apart.

        Multiculturalism always fails and has in every society on Earth.

        But here's done Utopian communist examples from an episode of Star Trek excerpt: https://youtu.be/pzqW0 [youtu.be]

      • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
        Robot time is not values, only human time is. As humans get removed from the cost of producing stuff, stuff will get cheaper. It's the transition that hurts. At some point in the far future, almost everyone will be unemployed. One of two extreme things will happen. 1) Everything will work out fine 2) Everything will go horribly horribly wrong destroying society

        During this transition people getting laid off are getting the worst of both worlds, still needing money while having difficulty finding work. As
    • The sooner robots replace the workforce, the more leisure time we will have to enjoy life.

      Uh... no.

      The measure of the US is its economy. So long as the corporations are making ever more profit, so long as GDP is on the rise, then we're doing great and nothing needs to be changed.

      The people's needs count for nothing, it's the corporations and only the corporations that make our country great!

      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        GDP is dominated by consumer spending. It doesn't measure profits, and has nothing to do with profits. GDP is only "on the rise" if people are buying stuff. In some hallucinatory economy where automated factories were spitting out consumer good that no one could buy, then sure, the most naÃve way GDP is measured could suggest it's healthy (but then, how do you value goods on one buys?), but most would say the GDP was collapsing if none of that production was part of the economy.

        The GDP is the people

        • GDP is a measure of production. While it is true that there is significant influence from consumer spending, that isn't the only way GDP is affected, and most certainly the exchange of services also plays its part.

    • This is what's going to happen as people try to force $15 for bottom-rung unskilled jobs.

    • The sooner robots replace the workforce, the more leisure time we will have to enjoy life.

      Maybe for those who own the robots. I can't imagine the money I make from my robots going to pay your rent. That would seem un-American.

    • That only works if the people collecting the savings spread their wealth around and allow us blue collar stiffs to actually take a break without leaving food off our table.

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Friday September 02, 2016 @09:47PM (#52819441) Homepage Journal

    There are many bromides applicable here ... too much of a good thing, tiger by the tail, as you sow so shall you reap. The point is that too often Man becomes clever instead of becoming wise, he becomes inventive and not thoughtful, and sometimes, as in the case of Mr. Whipple, he can create himself right out of existence. As in tonight's tale of oddness and obsolescence in the Twilight Zone.

    closing narration, The Brain Center at Whipple's [wikipedia.org]

    • On the other hand, replacing Brawndo with water crashed the economy in Idiocracy--until they realized it would save them. My analogy breaks down though because we don't know what sweet clear water there is to replace the monotony of a white collar mid-level position. We just know they're going away. Maybe these people can rediscover the joys of subsistence farming or something, and start watering their crops with Mt. Dew.

  • Not really (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Friday September 02, 2016 @10:03PM (#52819505)

    Everything is not rosy with Walmart's penchant to do away with workers. One thing is an exploding crime problem at their stores because there is not enough personnel around. [bloomberg.com] Who wants to go shopping in a crime zone? That and a popular local Walmart has an extremely hard time keeping the store shelves stocked. It's wonderful to have low prices, but I usually am wasting my time going there only to see empty shelves.

    So disposing of workers only goes so far. I simply do not believe that our android workers will arrive in the near future to mitigate these problems created by lack of workers.

    • One thing is an exploding crime problem at their stores because there is not enough personnel around. [bloomberg.com] Who wants to go shopping in a crime zone?

      That just leaves us more room to have mobility scooter races in the aisles. I'm trying to start a new hybrid sport that involves hopped-up mobility scooters and shotguns from he Walmart sporting goods department. You start at the hardware section and run a LeMans-style course around the store and you can use the shotgun (with beanbag rounds, for sa

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      Eventually those stores will go away. They're already centralizing and consolidating, as more and more people shop online there will be less stores necessary. The 'only' problem we haven't gotten over yet is "I need a pound of sugar to finish my cupcakes, run to the store" but between drones and instant delivery couriers, the cost of that will go down as well. There is HUGE overhead in grocery stores, between thefts, accidents and keeping a building not just running but safe for customers and space for us m

      • by raind ( 174356 )
        If we programmed the computers to everyone's benefit then that would be something. http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm
         
      • About 40 years ago in europe we didn't have supermarkets.
        Instead the milk man and the greengrocer would make their rounds and bring cheese, milk, and vegetables right to your door.
        Maybe we will return to that model.
        Maybe instead of a UPS truck there will be a wallmart truck driving around dropping off peoples food orders every morning.
        Of course, you actually have to be home for this to work, or will they just leave it out by the door?
        • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

          Depends on the local crime rate.
          In some areas you can leave packages on your front porch for months and no one will take them.
          In others you will return home to find someone has stolen the screen doors off of your home.

    • Everything is not rosy with Walmart's penchant to do away with workers. One thing is an exploding crime problem at their stores because there is not enough personnel around. [bloomberg.com] Who wants to go shopping in a crime zone? That and a popular local Walmart has an extremely hard time keeping the store shelves stocked. It's wonderful to have low prices, but I usually am wasting my time going there only to see empty shelves.

      So disposing of workers only goes so far. I simply do not believe that our android workers will arrive in the near future to mitigate these problems created by lack of workers.

      Amen! I stopped at a Walmart on the way home from a family reunion a few years ago in an area I assumed should be safe. A friend of mine had warned me about that location since it was near his home, but I thought he was joking. I was afraid I wouldn't make it back to my car. I had my kids lock themselves in the car while I put away the groceries. I never returned there again.

      The Bloomberg article is eye-opening. The Walmart closest to me is a shithole. The shelves are frequently empty and the cust

    • Yes, I'm sure automating away some invoicing and accounting positions from the HQ or service offices will cause the the individual stores to go empty and turn into crime zones.

    • Reminds me of the story of iRobot (or some other robot company). They wanted to make an industrial floor cleaning robot, but cleaning floors involves 3 passes (pouring wax, buffing, and something else). Not wanting to build 3 robots, they came up with one that did all 3 operations in one pass. When they showed off the robot at a trade show, people were much impressed. And then asked "could you take out that computer, and mount a handle so the janitor can push the machine around?". Turns out building sup
  • That store is really unpleasant to enter. Be great if robots could be sent in to do the shopping....

    Oh, wait, that's amazon....
  • by frnic ( 98517 ) on Friday September 02, 2016 @10:37PM (#52819629)

    And there is no economic model to tell us how that is going to work. But, not far in the future - many of us will see it, if we don't kill ourselves off first, all manual labor will be automated. And soon after that there will be no labor required to produce any products - production and distribution will be totally automated. At that point labor will have no value and our world economy will cease to exist.

    • by tsotha ( 720379 )
      We're still a long way from general purpose robots, and even longer from general purpose robots that are cheaper to operate than employing a person. Nobody alive today is going to see this.
      • by frnic ( 98517 )

        Japan is building an autonomous letter farm in a building. Autonomous taxis are now operational in controlled locations. Fast food chains are evaluating autonomous fast food stores. Significant use of robotics in manufacturing has been reality for years. Significant automation in farming and harvesting has been a reality for years.

        Sorry, you are wrong, and change always happens faster than expected. It is not always the change that is expected, but change none the less.

    • by c ( 8461 )

      But, not far in the future - many of us will see it, if we don't kill ourselves off first, all manual labor will be automated.

      Manual labour in controlled and/or homogeneous environments will be automated, yes. Factories, warehouses, farms, transport, etc are all to some degree or another fairly good candidates for this.

      Fixing stuff that's broken, though, will remain the domain of humans for a long time. We simply have too much infrastructure that would need to be heavily rebuilt to make it robot-repairable.

      • by frnic ( 98517 )

        I disagree, I believe it will become cheaper to replace/recycle than to fix.

        I do believe that most of us will not benefit and will devolve into some form of subclass and only the upper class with benefit. The rich will no longer need worker bees to make them money, so they will move away from employee based operations into totally automated production of things they want.

        • The rich will no longer need worker bees to make them money

          As long as the "worker bees" require money to buy the stuff "the rich" make, "the rich" will need "worker bees".

          No, there's not going to be a "subclass", particularly. No more than now, anyway. What there will be is an increasingly large class of people who have the leisure time that "the rich" have now....

    • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @09:01AM (#52820895) Journal

      100% Automation coming soon. And there is no economic model to tell us how that is going to work.

      It won't be 100% automation, it will be 99% automation, and we have a historical example in agriculture. It used to be that nearly everyone had to be a farmer, producing their own food to survive. Now a tiny fraction of the population can run the machinery to produce ample food for everyone.

      So manufacturing and distribution is heading this way too? Great! I'm tired of paying $1000 for a refrigerator... When they get down to $10, you can tell me how horrible near-complete automation is for our economy. I've seen this happening in my own lifetime... The most basic power tools cost several weeks of salary a few decades ago. Now you can buy a complete drill for about 1-hour of minimum wage salary. Clothing used to be an investment, too, and sewing machines were everywhere so rips could be fixed. Now you just throw out anything with any imperfections.

      When this model transfers over to home construction, medicine, and other skilled-labor-intensive industries, we'll be in good shape. Your biggest monthly costs getting driven down to 1% the price will let even the poorest live comfortably. And when you don't have to pack into a few big cities to get a high-paying job to survive, the expensive cities will slowly dissipate. People will disperse to cheaper areas and do some trivial little jobs that never-the-less easily pays for all their living expenses.

      • Sorry, but this is bullshit.
        How are the poor people going to get any money when there is no work? Most of the Jesus people in America would rather see those people die on the streets than to give them "hand outs".
        Could everyone in America be fed, housed, clothed, educated and entertained with only 10% of the people working? Of course they could. But, this will never happen. The religious right will never allow it.

      • As the the other reply to your post said, how are people going to get *any* money if their labor can't be sold?

        Face it, the more jobs get automated, the less labor can be sold for. And when automation gets cheaper in terms of resources than maintaining a person to do the same thing, then the people who own capital will do away with labor entirely.

        Then, people who own "enough" will be fine, and the people who don't own will not be able to labor to make money.

        "But there will always be new jobs" you say? Tha

    • Well, since no one will be employed, it wont much matter what it costs. Rest assured that it will be more than we can afford.
      Then... back to lords and surfs.

    • 100% automation won't ever be a thing as someone needs to maintain and correct the automated equipment.

      I remember working at a biscuit factory one day, and due to a staff shortage I got assigned to a position to I'd never done before. "Supervise the automated strapping machine". My mind was blown, and I nearly died of boredom, but I was being paid $30/h to watch a machine do it's work.

  • Speaking of Henry Ford - a couple of posts above did - the Ford Motor Company many years ago "automated" it's accounting system that required very low level personnel. It was determined that an average debit statement was for a certain dollar amount and the same for credit documents. They also knew the number of documents in a pound of them. The "accountants" simply weighed stacks of the two kinds of documents to determine their respective values. No computers, no thick books of records (spreadsheets) requ
    • The "accounting by weight" method masked significant cash-flow problems in the company that threatened it with insolvency. Fearful a disruption to military production during WWII due to the company's financial state, the War Production Board quietly contrived to have Henry Ford II, then in his 20's, released from his Navy service, so he could return to Detroit and help manage the company.

  • ...up for replacement soon. It's not just the manual laborers that are on the chopping block. We need to be preparing for a world where there is literally not enough work to go around.
    • But that could be such a good thing. We're actually moving towards post-scarcity economies, but we're to stupid to realize it, and the top 1% are too greedy to accept it.

  • Overblown (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JeffOwl ( 2858633 ) on Friday September 02, 2016 @11:10PM (#52819721)
    #1 Walmart employs around 2 million people worldwide. This does not even move the needle. #2 This has been happening for years. First it was the adding machine, then the electronic calculator, then the big computers, then the smaller ones. This should not come as a shock to anyone.
    • Of course it is not a shock. That is the entire basis for the western economy. Eliminate all costs, i.e. jobs, until there is no one left who can afford to by your discount product.

    • No, it is not overblown.
      Stop for a moment and think about the bigger picture. What happens when everything is automated? Where will you work? How will you pay your mortgage? Do you think that engineering cannot be automated? In time, it will be.
      Are you a manager? Do you think all those managers will be needed when there are workers?
      It does not take a crystal ball to see that this is the path we are on.

  • Industrial Revolution counting is a bit of a problem. The first two Industrial Revolutions are pretty much agreed on. The First (of course) from 1770 to 1850, when factories and steam power revolutionized the textile industry and transportation, and the second with the rise of the chemical industry and assembly line production from 1870 to 1914. Widespread use of electricity and the internal combustion engine after 1920 is often considered the Third Industrial Revolution, but some people consider it an exte

  • Doing my part to be a good corporate citizen, I recently agreed to be the "independent" member of a recruitment panel at my organisation, for some mid-ranking accountant positions. I'm not an accountant myself, but our HR rules dictate that one member of any recruitment panel must be from outside the area of the business that's hiring.

    To be frank, I didn't really have the best idea of what accountants did with their days, but over the course of a week of interviews, I started to pick some of it up. And the

    • looking at what the accounting department does at my employer, most those jobs could have been automated decades ago.

  • Accounting and invoicing...

    That's the people that sort stacks of paper, that copy/paste numbers from one spreadsheet to another, that have shorter lines to upper management, that are expected to linger around a company as necessary overhead, that have to be wooed in order to get necessary and over due stuff done and that are never targeted when optimizing. Yet now that are.

    Seems logical. But I had expected blue collar to be sacked first. And that A&I would have been able to delay the chopping block

  • It should read "Walmart is Cutting 7000 Jobs THANKS to Automation"

  • In our time, automation is mostly an excuse for the transfer of wealth and power into ever fewer hands.

  • by pablo_max ( 626328 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @10:35AM (#52821201)

    I know, I know... I am a communist, socialist and all the rest of it, but it makes sense.
    There are 1 basic rule of capitalism. Survival of the fittest.
    It turns out, however, that survival of the fittest is not always the best approach when you want to hold a society together. That is why we have things like anti monopoly rules. The "end game" for capitalism is to eliminate all competition so that in the end, there is only one.
    This of course is massively short sighted, given that most of the population will won't have jobs and then cannot afford to buy your stuff. Especially since most so many people in the US firmly believe that if you lose your job, you should be homeless and starve to death if you cannot find a new job in time. Being good the Christians that they are.
    That is same with automation, It should not be allowed. Can low level jobs be replaced with robots? Of course they can. But what the fuck are the people going to do for work?
    Is everyone going to be a manager?
    Is everyone going to start their own business?
    No, of course not. Instead, those people will go hungry. They will go without insurance. Their kids will not have an education.
    This is bad for everyone.
    Of course, we all know that we are at a point where most food items and "stuff" can be made nearly with complete automation. We can produce enough for every single person to eat and have a place to live and clothes on their back.
    But... We wont. Because those people are lazy, and should die. Right?
    Eventually, that will happen. Or at least I hope. But until that time, those people "need" jobs.
    You do not "need" a cheaper iphone. You only "want" cheaper stuff.
    Next time you shop at a discount store, ask yourself.. why is this item so much cheaper than the local mom and pop shop? What is this really costing me?

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @10:49AM (#52821251)

    So, in the US, we automate agriculture enough to get the workforce down to 2% of the population. Then we automate enough of the manufacturing sector to reduce it to 8% of the population, not including the millions of offahored factory jobs. Then we tell everyone they have to go to college and get at least a 4 year degree to have any hope of a stable future. The vast majority of people at non-top tier universities are doing the minimum required to get a degree, majoring in business or psychology or communications. In the past, all of those people were absorbed into random entry-level positions doing the kind of work Walmart is now automating. It's a ritual - party through 4 years, show up at the campus career center during your senior year, do a few interviews and pick Random Large Employer to work for as a Random Paper Processing Position. What exactly are people proposing that we do with these "C students," who number in the millions and contribute to society through taxes, buying stuff and raising little C students?
    - Most of them don't have the aptitude for tech careers (many of which are being automated as well...)
    - Most of them can't be trained in a skilled trade without asking them to go back through another 4 years of apprenticeship
    - Almost none can become doctors, lawyers, etc. because the competition is so keen to get in to medical/law school
    - They can't be investment bankers or management consultants, because those professions only recruit from the Ivy League

    I know it's no one's dream to process paperwork, but it has traditionally been one of the most stable ways for middle-skilled people to earn a living and have a career. Students starting out as a Associate Paper Processor have the opportunity to become a Senior Paper Processor, then a Paper Processor Supervisor, Manager of Paper Processing, Director of Document Services, and so on. For everyone in corporate IT, think of all the paper processors we directly support, working away in their cubicles. Most are incapable of doing any more than a defined procedure on an input stack of work. If you suddenly say all these people are unemployed, what do you propose replacing their jobs with? When that good salary goes away, the government doesn't get its payroll tax, the unemployed person chooses not to buy a house and therefore doesn't pay property taxes into the system, they choose not to procreate and reduce the birth rate to an unsustainable level. And, they don't buy anything, meaning businesses can't sell the products they make.

    I'm not saying we become Luddites and stop the automation, but we as a whole need to think about what we're going to do with a very large disaffected population. Look how much support Trump has among factory workers who are still unemployed or underemployed even though everyone's being told the economy is in OK shape. I'm one of those people who feels that full employment above all else should be the goal, even if we do make-work for some of it. You can't have millions of people sitting around with nothing to do and no purpose -- it will lead to massive crime over the long run as people get bored and tired of being broke.

  • by twms2h ( 473383 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @11:07AM (#52821315) Homepage

    http://marshallbrain.com/manna... [marshallbrain.com]

    Manna's job was to manage the store, and it did this in a most interesting way. Think about a normal fast food restaurant. A group of employees worked at the store, typically 50 people in a normal restaurant, and they rotated in and out on a weekly schedule. The people did everything from making the burgers to taking the orders to cleaning the tables and taking out the trash. All of these employees reported to the store manager and a couple of assistant managers. The managers hired the employees, scheduled them and told them what to do each day. This was a completely normal arrangement. In the early twenty-first century, there were millions of businesses that operated in this way.

    But the fast food industry had a problem, and Burger-G was no different. The problem was the quality of the fast food experience. Some restaurants were run perfectly. They had courteous and thoughtful crew members, clean restrooms, great customer service and high accuracy on the orders. Other restaurants were chaotic and uncomfortable to customers. Since one bad experience could turn a customer off to an entire chain of restaurants, these poorly-managed stores were the Achilles heel of any chain.

    To solve the problem, Burger-G contracted with a software consultant and commissioned a piece of software. The goal of the software was to replace the managers and tell the employees what to do in a more controllable way. Manna version 1.0 was born. ...

    The first part is a rather depression dystopia. The second part is pure utopia.

  • I'm seeing this automation trend as well in IT. Cloud and software-defined everything is messing with the clear line between software development and systems administration. Unless it turns out to be just hype, and companies decide to keep their equipment onsite (not likely,) only a chunk of systems people will survive the next wave of automation. "DevOps" may be poorly defined now and the stuff of ironic-moustache, skinny jeans wearing SV startup hipsters, but it's definitely more mainstream now than it wa

  • by Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @12:05PM (#52821555) Homepage

    Walmart, and every other major company everywhere, has been replacing employees with technology at this rate--or more--for years.

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