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Register What Are You Waiting For Please Read And Make A Refission For You Warren Buffett, who ought to know, recently told shareholders of his investment company, Berkshire Hathaway, that the development of driverless cars poses a real threat to the insurance industry Buffett cares a lot about insurance, because he s got billions invested in it But he might have broadened his concern to encompass the entire economy Because the emerging application of robotics poses a real threat to the future wellbeing of our country and the world In Rise of the Robots, Silicon Valley software developer Martin Ford lays out the case for that claim in a balanced and temperate way that s all the scarier as a result.If you re tempted to think that this threat will emerge only in the distant future, think again Take a look, for example, at a May 22, 2015, article written by John Markoff, the brilliant New York Times technology reporter Markoff explains how research underway at the University of California, Berkeley, is speeding up the development of robotics at an unexpectedly rapid rate Roboticists said that the value of the Berkeley technology would be in quickly training robots for new tasks and ultimately in developing machines that learn independently, Markoff writes Machines that learn represent the Holy Grail of robotics However, on a contrary note, Markoff explains in a subsequent article in the Times, A Reality Check for A I., that nobody needs to worry about a Terminator creating havoc anytime soon The article cites the growing consensus among roboticists that machine human collaboration is far likely to yield results than a stubborn focus on autonomous, multi purpose machines.With repeated references to science fiction as fantasy in contrast with today s emerging reality in artificial intelligence AI , Ford cites advanced work in the field now underway both in academia and in companies such as Google His treatment of the subject is as thorough, detailed, and well researched as might be expected of the most experienced technology reporter Rise of the Robots is a solid piece of work and should be taken seriously by policy makers and technologists alike.The jobless future of Ford s subtitle is already well underway As evidence, Ford cites a recent report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics In 1998, workers in the US business sector put in a total of 194 billion hours of labor A decade and a half later, in 2013, the value of the goods and services produced by American businesses had grown by about 3.5 trillion after adjusting for inflation a 42 percent increase in output The total amount of human labor required to accomplish that was 194 billion hours despite the fact that the US population gained over 40 million people during that time Two decades ago the social commentator Jeremy Rifkin wrote a controversial book titled The End of Work The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post Market Era Rifkin foreshadowed Ford in predicting that the ultimate impact of automation would be the loss of millions of jobs In response, he advocated steering jobless workers into rewarding volunteer positions in healthcare, eldercare, the arts, and other fields to remake society in a humane manner and redefine the role of the individual Ford s prescription for the treatment of this emerging disease is far detailed and believable, beginning with a guaranteed minimum income, negative income tax, or some other configuration of tax policy to ensure that no one would go hungry or homeless in a world with paid employment for only a favored few.Rise of the Robots examines the increasing impact of automation not just in displacing unskilled or low skilled workers but in hollowing out the middle class, putting such well paid professionals as radiologists and lawyers out of work a development that is well underway today However, Ford makes clear that outsourcing to India, the Philippines, and other developing countries is only the first phase of the phenomenon the repetitive work that has fled overseas will soon be shifted to machines instead, putting Indian and Philippine professionals out of work as well. This is a remarkable book, not least since it is so lucid the writer has a good grasp of IT and economics and this makes for some uncomfortable reading I was in a meeting the other day with about half a dozen other people all academics and I mentioned I had been reading quite a lot lately about technology and employment and I was becoming quite concerned that we are about to face a kind of jobs apocalypse Mostly, the people in the meeting thought I was crazy One of them said she had read something from the 1980s that said the exact same thing and yet, the tragedy predicted never came to pass I was going to mention Hume to her who once said that just because the sun rose yesterday and the day before and the day before that, doesn t prove it will rise tomorrow But her confidence surprised me.The idea that the economy always produces jobs on the back of technological change that the Luddites were wrong and they will always continue to be proven wrong has become received wisdom I think it might come as a bit of a surprise to people that organisations like the IMF put out a working paper this year with the title Should We Fear the Robot Revolution The Correct Answer is Yes by the way, I didn t add the part of that title that are in parenthesis, that was the IMF themselves The OECD also put out a report on The Risk of Automation for Jobs in OECD Countries A comparative analysis which estimates that 9% one in eleven jobs in OECD countries are at threat of being lost to automation and that this is presented as a good news story in the report, because it is a reworking of a now classic 2013 report from Oxford University which estimated that 47% of all jobs in the US were at risk of being lost over the next couple of decades to technological change I ve recently reviewed a book by the founder of the World Economic Forum which argues much the same thing.The point I m trying to make here is that these organisations aren t particularly fringe, nor are they the sorts of organisations that are run by left leaning economic conspiracy theorists or pessimists renowned for constantly seeing trends pointing to a crisis of capitalism These are organisations that are about as close to the heart of the system as it is possible to get.This book provides as clear an explanation of why we should be worried that this time might be different as I ve read so far The major problem identified is that this time the jobs that are being replaced are from the middle of the employment hierarchy, and these are being devastated in ways we have only seen happen to jobs at the bottom being lost before One of the remarkable shifts in the economy to happen was at the end of the 1800s when agricultural jobs were replaced by tractors This produced a huge shift, in the US economy in particular, but as the farm workers moved to cities they generally found jobs in manufacturing, which eventually had better incomes than they had previously enjoyed But this was a shift from low skilled employment to another low skilled job Many of the job transitions likely to occur this time around will be from medium skilled to low skilled jobs, as the jobs in the middle disappear And what will make this worse is that those leaving the middle skilled jobs are likely to be quite highly educated with at least an undergraduate degree As the author says at one point here, we don t really have an employment ladder, but rather an employment pyramid But even this metaphor is only partly right, because soon the apex of the pyramid will be floating in mid air, with no way to reach it from the base In the US in particular, the ability to move between castes is now virtually non existent and the author makes it clear this is only going to get much worse The US has less social mobility than anywhere else in the developed world The American dream has been a myth for quite some time, but then myths prove to be remarkably resilient and almost entirely impervious to conflicting data.This polarisation is significantly different from the impact of previous technological advances And it is made much worse by the fact that since we have been convinced that the best way to ensure a middle class life style is to have a middle class education, many of those people who would have expected to have had a job in the middle of the employment hierarchy are being shifted down toward the bottom, and so they will be saddled with college debts they will be unlikely to ever pay off.All of this also comes about while effective demand in the economy is being crushed The author says the likely impacts of this have been a bit of an open secret for some time To quote the bit I found particularly disturbing By 2005, the trend toward increased concentration of both income and spending was so obvious and relentless that a team of stock market analysts at Citigroup famously wrote a series of memos intended only for their wealthiest clients The analysts argued that the United States was evolving into a plutonomy a top heavy economic system where growth is driven primarily by a tiny, prosperous elite who consume an ever larger fraction of everything the economy produces Among other things, the memos advised wealthy investors to shy away from the stocks of companies catering to the rapidly dissolving American middle class and instead focus on purveyors of luxury goods and services aimed at the richest consumers He points out that this is unlikely to be sustainable and as demand for goods and services collapse among the middle classes, it isn t at all clear how the economy will continue to grow.The problem is that he also doesn t see there being much hope of a sudden surge in jobs In fact, quite the opposite given the employment potential from new industries I m going to quote the whole first paragraph of Chapter Seven YouTube was founded in 2005 by three people Less than two years later, the company was purchased by Google for about 1.65 billion At the time of its acquisition, YouTube employed a mere sixty five people, the majority of them highly skilled engineers That works out to a valuation of over 25 million per employee In April 2012, Facebook acquired photo sharing start up Instagram for 1 billion The company employed thirteen people That s roughly 77 million per worker Fast forward another two years to February 2014 and Facebook once again stepped up to the plate, this time purchasing mobile messaging company WhatsApp for 19 billion WhatsApp had a workforce of fifty five giving it a valuation of a staggering 345 million per employee The simple lesson is that 21st century companies are Capital and not Labour intensive Perhaps there is something everyone is missing, but it simply isn t clear where the mass jobs of the future are going to come from And worse, this trend has already been going on for decades One of the big growth areas has been health particularly related to an ageing population, but since most of these people will not have any savings it isn t clear how they are going to be able to afford these expensive services.Another problem is that the developing world might have missed the boat to develop Because production is becoming so capital intensive, the benefits of being a nation with cheap labour are diminishing If factories aren t particularly employing anyone it isn t much cheaper to not employ Chinese workers than it is to not employ American ones And so we are witnessing reshoring of industries, but without employment growth This is likely to mean that one of the major ways that under developed nations have used to lift themselves out of poverty might be about to pass them by This isn t unlike what is happening to the poor in developed nations unable to get work, watching the jobs they once were able to do to get into the job market being taken by people with higher qualifications than they are ever likely to obtain, they are being squeezed out of the labour market with no way back in.And all of this is happening at a time when the rich and powerful have access to remarkable levels of surveillance to make sure we don t get out of line you know, if you wanted to write a dystopian novel, you wouldn t even need to make anything up It is important to remember that the US already has the world s highest per capita prison population something in itself that already speaks to the lack of need for employees in the economy This book presents a terrifying vision of our immediate future And while none of this is inevitable, to change the direction we are going in will take effort than we seem to have been able to muster in relation to other crisis points For instance, he suggests a universal basic income as an essential first step but this would be so far outside of the interests of those benefiting the most from the current state of the world that it would be hard to imagine them giving this to us without a fight after all, it would only happen if the rich agreed to be taxed enough to pay for it If I was a betting man, my money would be on of the same This is a very interesting book and presents sides to these arguments than I have been able to in this review Again, I didn t come away from reading this feeling terribly confident in our collective futures. The premise of Rise of the Robots is simple technology is accelerating so rapidly that automation is on the verge of taking over not just straight forward physically oriented jobs but also brain power jobs as well in such fields as law, healthcare, journalism, engineering, and computer programming Similar sorts of warnings have been around since the time of the Luddites So it s easy to disregard these warnings as one dystopian prediction of the technological future e.g Where s the flying car we ve been promised for so many years The haunting worry is that history is not always an accurate predictor of the future Just because civilization survived the industrial revolution and the information technology revolution so far doesn t prove that the future will be pleasant.The author, Martin Ford, makes a convincing case that this time is different His proof Economic trends indicate that the jobless future is already occurring The inflation adjusted average salary of the American worker has not increased since 1973 The only reason household income has fared better is that women entered the work force in the years since then Recovery from each recession has gotten slower and less complete Long term unemployment is rising, and wealth disparity is rising When businesses recover from recessions now they often do not hire back as many people as they laid off because they have means to do the same work with fewer people thanks to technology Martin Ford maintains that these are all early trends supporting the book s observations about the affect of technology on the future of the world s economy.Half of this book is about economics, and the other half is about advances in computer robotic technology Together they provide the convincing message for the reader that yes, this time is different Any job that has a smidgen of routine or predictability is fair game for computer robotic technology Even jobs that appear to require creative input are fair game e.g There s a computer program that can write articles about sporting events that includes human interest stories complete with interview quotations The logical conclusion is that massive unemployment and income inequality are very real possibilities as and jobs traditionally performed by people disappear If middle class jobs keep disappearing as wealth piles up at the top, Martin Ford predicts, economic mobility will become nonexistent The plutocracy would shut itself away in gated communities or in elite cities, perhaps guarded by autonomous military robots and drones In Rise of the Robots, Ford argues that a society based on luxury consumption by a tiny elite is not economically viable More to the point, it is not biologically viable Humans, unlike robots, need food, health care and the sense of usefulness often supplied by jobs or other forms of work Ford does propose a solution a guaranteed annual minimum income combined with proper incentives to encourage work if available But no amount of money can compensate for the loss of meaningful engagement The following is not from the book Our only hope is that computers and robots of the future will be so extremely intelligent that they will be able to develop a satisfactory solution to let humans feel as though their lives have a purpose Maybe the robots can be equipped with a crank handle which will give a human operator something to turn while the work is being done by the robot. Martin Ford is a Silicon Valley software entrepreneur and to put it simply, a polymath He did not without reason win the 2015 Financial Times Best Business Book of the Year Award Rise of the Robots Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future is the first book in the 21st century which succeeds to combine the impacts of technology and economics onto mankind It therefore rightly deserves to take the book award from the 2014 winner Capital in the 21st century, because Thomas Piketty s analyses of wealth accumulation is an important building block of modern economics, but only half of the picture Ford makes it complete and gives us an unparalleled outlook of which scenarios lie ahead Ford himself provides a synopsis of his work which leaves not much to add on Jobs remain the primary mechanism by which purchasing power gets into the hands of consumers If that mechanism continues to erode, we will face the prospect of having too few viable consumers to continue driving economic growth in our mass market economy He shares this assessment of the overall economic development with US billionaire Nick Hanauer, University of Connecticut professor of ecology and evolution Peter Turchin and of course French economist Thomas Piketty But Ford also dares to weave the looming unemployment scenario caused by increasing automation into a larger picture, which by some readers like Guardian journalist Jerry Kaplan is perceived as yet another apocalyptic message from robot hell I can t understand why Ford s almost messianic effort to draw the reader s attention to the probably single most important economic problem of our era, the distribution of wealth and the potential destruction of wealth through cybernation, should not receive a positive overall review FT s Edward Luce gives full credits to Ford s work, but he still concludes his solution to be idealistic Ford s answer is to pay every adult a minimum basic income or a citizen s dividend There is logic to his remedy but not much realism My forecast is that cars will fly before that happens My guess is, that it might be not so long until cars will actually fly Rise of Robots takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride through the latest technological achievements in automation, visual and audio recognition, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles and molecular manufacturing Yes, all we have seen in the Star Trek episodes will eventually be possible Ford continues his synopsis as such As this book will make clear, advancing information technology is pushing us toward a tipping point that is poised to ultimately make the entire economy less labor intensive However, that transition won t necessarily unfold in a uniform or predictable way Two sectors in particular higher education and health car have, so far, been highly resistant to the kind of disruption that is already becoming evident in the broader economy The irony is that the failure of technology to transform these sectors could amplify its negative consequences elsewhere, as the costs of health care and education become ever burdensome Niall Fergusson argued in his 2011 oeuvre Civilization The West and the Rest, that six novel complexes of institutions and associated ideas and behaviors distinguished the West from the rest and were causal for the Eurasian world dominance for the last 500 years These killer applications are competition, science, property rights, medicine, consumer society and work ethic I was always of the opinion that technology as a product of science is a much underestimated driver of progress and in particular in China the main factor for pushing millions of people out of poverty within a few decades only even so if we acknowledge the quasi absence of property rights I have to admit though, that the consumer society was never so much on my radar, but Ford s book confirms Fergusson s thesis that it constitutes a superior pillar of civilization I believe thought that we will have to ask us in the close future if not now, if there is not a seventh element missing to take our civilizations to the next level Republican atheist Fergusson is completely oblivious to this element Ford s writing is clearly driven by this element, but he does not dare to name it For the sake of giving this seventh element a name, let s call it empathy Technologists and economists are rational people who are by professional code not allowed to talk or write about the non scientific or even religious, but as a befriended Buddhist entrepreneur told me recently we are not only at the tipping point of a technological revolution which will shatter the labor market as we know it, but we are also at a tipping point of how to perceive ourselves Does man think of himself essentially as good or evil And can he turn this self perception outwards to make this world a better place to live in Economic terminology like access to labor market and access to the consumer society is well understood in spiritual doctrines The Christian Great Commandment Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself or the ethic conduct of the Buddhist eightfold path call for such economic thinking and behavior Ford quotes the liberal economist Friedrich Hayek a society that has reached a certain level of wealth can afford to provide for all Does this imply that even the godfather of modern liberal economics embraces a basic guaranteed income Hayek s term Great Society comes remarkably close to the Christian understanding of the second commandment in particular if paired with his idea of an evolving government role nevertheless it is not Marxist in its essence A basic guaranteed income would only provide a minimum material equality, but never an intellectual or spiritual one With advancing cybernation future governments are enabled to provide such a minimum subsistence Ford did the maths and argues that it pays for itself So what do we wait for That cars fly The only question that remains unanswered but is substantially discussed by Ford is which accompanying measures are required to implement a basic guaranteed income Would large swaths of the population turn into ignorant and obese consumers Wait, isn t that already the case in some industrialized nations We are told that the Peltzman Effect will most likely lead recipients of a basic income to risk taking and one of the consequences would be entrepreneurs something existing entrepreneurs might be afraid of Self improvement and enterprise start up classes might therefore become a viable instruction content even so if the devaluation of credentials continues als the author describes Living in one of the globe s largest urban areas, I am especially attracted to the impact of a basic income on rural areas People would most likely move back into abandoned villages and could both invest their energies into landscaping and self need agriculture Urban spaces, which have by many been dubbed death zones in case of emergency, would benefit from reduced economic pressure due to unsustainably high housing, schooling and medical pricing So, spread the word, in particular in China that Marxism 2.0 has arrived Technocrats both good and evil minded will love it. Rise of the Robots begins with a survey of the technology landscape an over clocked world where change seems to follow Moore s Law doubling in speed every couple of years Ford paints a picture of the capabilities of robots and the dismal economic climate for humans that has existed since the mid seventies real wages are declining wealth is being concentrated in the hands of 1% of the nation half of all college graduates are not finding work that can use their college education even highly skilled professionals are being replaced by automation the top 5% now accounting for 40% of all purchasing and he asks whether tech firms which pride themselves on disruptive technology will disrupt the entire system This is a great question the entire system is indeed heading for a collapse But Ford does not seriously explore the nature of the system and he is certainly not looking for serious solutions only bandaids.Ford examines the service sector jobs left to American workers and refutes the notion that they are training grounds for young workers to learn valuable workplace skills It turns out, actually, that 90% of fast food workers are over 20, the average age is 35, their median hourly wage is 8.69, and most of them qualify for welfare programs costing taxpayers at least 7 billion a year And still the fast food chains are looking at new technology to replace half of their employees with automation Ford writes that we can expect similar encroachments of robotics into wholesaling operations, retail, and agriculture Yet, like men waiting for their turn in front of a firing squad, most workers today already see the writing if not the blood on the wall What Ford is telling us is nothing new.From the beginning of the computer age, even its creators foresaw the threat of human obsolescence Norbert Wiener argued in a 1949 New York Times piece that there is theoretically no human task that a computer cannot learn and duplicate In the Sixties, President Johnson convened a panel to write one of those government studies destined to molder in a filing cabinet this one about the Triple Revolution occurring in the United States human and civil rights advances in weaponry and cybernation or cybernetic automation The report concluded that, without oversight and planning, the nation will be thrown into unprecedented economic and social disorder But economic planning is for Commies and sissies and besides, the nation now had an oil crisis, stagflation, Iranian hostages, Sandinistas to fight, medical students to rescue in Granada, and corrupt ex friends to punish in Panama The Reagan years marked the beginning of attacks on labor, the rapid ascendency of pro business advocacy in government and what in retrospect was a new austerity regime being imposed on American workers Ford lists seven trends he sees responsible for the misery of workers stagnant actually decreasing wages decreasing share of the national income by workers and increasing share by corporations inequality declining labor force participation despite women being forced to augment family incomes long term unemployment and lack of job creation soaring wage income inequality declining opportunity and underemployment by college graduates and the rise of McJobs and loss of full time jobs with benefits.Amazingly, Ford ascribes all these developments to technology And he feels obliged to explicitly discount three other contributors globalization outsourcing and offshoring financialization the turn from factories to hedge funds and politics trickle down market fundamentalism in Congress and rabid pro business lobbying from without.Although Ford s own graphs show a plunge in the percent of manufacturing jobs from a height of 32% in 1952 to a low of 8% in 2012, his discussion centers on the percentage of foreign products Americans buy from foreign corporations He writes that the plunge in manufacturing jobs began before NAFTA and, hence, globalization was not the cause However, labor historians might disagree with Ford Textile workers, for example, remember the loss of their jobs to Mexico in the Fifties and Mexicans remember the loss of these very same jobs in the Sixties to Asia Globalization cannot be linked solely to trade agreements and Ford mistakenly labels globalization a modern phenomenon Even the first economists, like David Ricardo, had it very much in mind.Ford correctly nails the obsession with profit taking and the abandonment of job and product creation However, he writes that it is important to realize that growth in the financial sector has been highly dependent on advancing information technology No doubt the hedge fund guys need their high speed computers and trading networks But Ford does not mention that the financial sector s growth is largely the result of reckless deregulation and the invention of questionable financial products like the ones that nearly crashed the economic system in 2008 and necessitated massive taxpayer funded bailouts These companies, deemed too big to fail, were not permitted to reap what they sowed They were hauled off the edge of the abyss, guaranteed continued rapacious profits, and their CEO s were still remunerated handsomely despite their questionable ethics and performance For one brief moment the curtain dropped on the wizard and those who did not avert their eyes saw how obscene profit taking was and how income inequality is actually generated Meanwhile, the average citizen consumer who represents 65% of economic growth in the United States was left to fend for himself The recovery plan both parties championed was not only unfair, it was irrational it rescued the wrong people.Ford grudgingly acknowledges the political climate that banned unions, attacked worker rights, deregulated businesses, dropped or eliminated taxes on the wealthy, sent an army of lobbyists to Washington, made sure corporate press shills printed op eds from right wing think tanks, and foisted all the economic risk on taxpayers and working people Ford writes that, even in Canada where unions are healthier than in the U.S., income inequality is rising the implication being that it s not political But Ford doesn t mention the Tory government of Stephen Harper in the same breath, or the fact that some provinces of Canada Alberta, for example are as non union as the American South.Ford concludes that information technology stands alone in terms of its exponential progress Even in nations whose political environments are far responsive to the welfare of average workers, the changes wrought by technology are becoming increasingly evident What nations is Ford referring to Are there really any powerful First World nations that do not espouse labor crushing austerity programs or champion trickle down economics The IMF, global banks, the G8, and global trade agreements have made sure the world is safe for Capitalism Greece is not suffering because of technology.He moves on to a discussion of comparative advantage in which businesses and nations choose to forego opportunity X for a profitable one, and permit those who can do X inexpensively to do so Robots, Ford says, mean never having to say I m sorry, I ll pass on that opportunity because they can be programmed to do anything Ford describes long tail distributions, which describe employee profit relationships In 2012 Google made 14 billion with 38,000 employees GM made 11 billion with 840,000 His prediction is that most corporations of the future will have to look like Google, and this in turn will force people out of stable full time jobs into the informal economy, the Uber economy, in which people pick up work where they can Ford cites Jared Lanier, claiming this is essentially the model in the Third World, and that it is precisely what accounts for the erosion of the middle class But Ford does not describe how a strong middle class makes a nation politically stable He makes the throwaway point about citizens having a moral right to share in the benefits of technology especially since much of it is funded or seeded by taxpayers So presumably the public deserves a few tech jobs and discounts when buying Tang.Ford loves factory tours We are introduced to sportswriting bots, data mining apps, marketing analytics, machine learning, language translation, neural nets, genetic programming, cars that drive themselves, project and productivity management software, AI, complex modeling, smart searching, customer management, online ordering, cloud computing, specialized robotics, and programs that write symphonies We learn that computer delivered educational and machine reading tests have not delivered on early expectations Medical diagnosis, on the other hand, using massive repositories of case studies, pharmaceutical data, and symptoms, has been a useful tool in the hands of medical specialists Ford, however, gushing over the possibilities of delivering family medicine by robot, runs off the rails when he advocates para medicals lesser trained medical professionals, similar to paralegals, whose job it will be to run the medical robots that talk to human patients.There is an odd tendency among humans to think up complex and stupid systems, then double down on them by devising yet complex and stupid solutions to the systems shortcomings Ford s is one such example Another is the predicted use of elder care robots in Japan because, Ford says, the Japanese are too xenophobic to hire foreigners to take care of their elderly.Many uses of technology like the use of IBM s Watson to diagnose and manage types of leukemia are lumped into robotics in Ford s book for example, his mention of glucose sensors for diabetics If this is the face of robotics, then my old mercury based thermostat is as well Both are basically sensors linked to controllers Google Nest and Google s contact lens are examples of how the company is developing consumer products to enable it to creep into the lucrative medical market These are new products and, if anything, will put people to work somewhere likely outside the U.S But they are, as yet, not robotic threats to human jobs.Ford s discussion of medical overcharging 6,500 CT scans and 200 aspirins does not address the issue of greed Instead, he portrays these practices as necessary maneuvers to cope with that 5% of medical patients who, he says, account for 50% of all expenses He teases us that AI software running on a tablet in a doctor s hands will make diagnoses and devise cost effective treatments However, who would not expect the software to cost physicians 1,000 a month and have to run on otherwise standard Android tablets, but costing 5,000 each Gouging is so entrenched in medical software that it would surprise no one that such an exception for a single AI product would ever be made particularly when many physicians nowadays are investors in their own labs Ford proposes creating a single payer health care system which can mitigate the gouging He suggests a private management consortium modeled on the old national ATT phone system a sanctioned oligopoly His ideas include auctioning off operating licenses as if he had never heard of the problems the FCC has run into with bandwidth spectra But my question is why Why is he trying to design a new health care system on the heels of the first one ever created, and one that could be dismantled after the next election And what does all this really have to do with robotics Cars are another story Self driving vehicles are almost here, and they belong to two family trees one is the traditional family car from Detroit, Japan, or Bavaria, plus a host of self driving and self parking options the other is the Google car, a no frills vehicle that will eventually not even have a steering wheel Many options for these new vehicles are possible, but Ford sees, eventually, a world of commercial car fleets For a monthly fee you would have car service, pickup and dropoff capabilities, and vehicles would cease being status objects simply another commodity like cable TV or high speed internet These fleets would be owned by companies like Google, Avis, Hertz and Uber Ford slyly suggests that the changes wrought by driverless cars would be the ultimate in disruptive technology Imagine the uproar when Uber s cars start arriving without drivers As fleets consolidate, the number of taxi drivers, muffler and brake guys, auto body shops, car dealerships, detailing shops, and car washes will shrink dramatically As fleets of cars grow, the fleet of auto guys will fade into obscurity only to be replaced by a much small number of highly trained technicians in the fleet garages Ford did not touch on some of the privacy issues of concern with cars today particularly that cars gather tremendous amounts of personal information on their drivers and can actually be hacked during operation Or that vehicles will no doubt also become part of our new surveillance landscape.In fact, the privacy and civil liberties implications of robotics and automation are entirely absent from Ford s book.Expanding the context in which technology changes are expected to occur, Ford paints a picture of the fragility of the middle and upper middle class including the top 5% which constitutes an affluent upper tier, but one easily broken by the loss of two salaries He discusses debt, education, aging, and labor force participation The bottom line is our national prosperity was once dependent upon a healthy middle class, and the middle class is anything but healthy nowadays Most people already understand this.When Ford turns his attention to the Singularity and the general kookiness of Ray Kurzweil, it s initially an amusing story until we discover that Kurzweil s pseudo religion of eternal life via cybernetics is widely supported by, and shapes, Silicon Valley The use of new technology at micro levels nanotechnology will create, he writes, chemical and mechanical miracles that will prolong life and function like the alchemist s bowl, synthesizing entire meals from amino acid glop at least so sayeth the prophets of the future with their billions to spend experimenting on the rest of us.In his final chapter, Martin Ford takes a stab at creating a new paradigm for economies in which, as Sun Microsystems founder Bill Joy puts it, the future doesn t need us In this future, the highly educated are not really needed Not surprising they never were Even today, between 20% and 50% of college graduates are overeducated for existing jobs in industrialized countries Ford questions the conventional wisdom that throwing vocational education at today s burger flippers will magically create a climate for technologically related economic growth He describes the job market as a huge pyramid, with the technical and business elite at the top graduates of graduate programs and not just people with graduate degrees, but people from prestigious universities The kind of people whose survival would be assured by sticking them in a secure vault in a granite mountain somewhere in case of nuclear war or an asteroid Ford laughs at the expectation of finding technical jobs for everyone The person who would have worked on a farm in 1900, or in a factory in 1952, is today scanning bar codes or stocking shelves at Walmart So, historically, there has been a reasonable match between the types of work required by the economy and the capabilities of the available workforce The conventional wisdom is that, by investing in still education and training, we are going to somehow cram everyone into that shrinking region at the very top of the pyramid Ford s bleak prediction is like End Times only a small multitude will be saved during the Apocalypse and make it to heaven The rest of us are doomed.Ford makes much everything, actually of the speed of technological innovation and sees this as the primary driver of the threat of the working class or working aspirants But technology is a very fast but relatively small wind up mouse in a room with a huge elephant no one wants to talk about That elephant, of course, is Capitalism It takes 255 pages for Ford to mention the word the economic system imposed on people in nations where technology is regularly used against them He writes, The progression toward ever automation is not an artifact of design philosophy or the personal preferences of engineers it is fundamentally driven by capitalism The only difference today is that exponential progress is pushing us toward the endgame Changing that would require far an appeal to engineers and designers it would require modifying the basic incentives built into the market economy If Capitalism is a race for market domination, then a supermarket chain cannot survive its equally technologically savvy competitors unless it eventually replaces all its cashiers with automated checkouts Fast food restaurants cannot survive the demand for the cheapest possible food unless they eventually replace their humiliatingly attired employees with vending machines or burger stamping robots Mass retailers like Walmart cannot mercilessly crush their competition unless they reduce or eliminate warehouse workers, retail workers, transportation workers, and replace American seamstresses with Bangladeshi children living in shacks and working in fire traps twelve hours a day But the need to win at all cost exacts enormous social costs costs that, under Capitalism, businesses and their wealthy owners and investors refuse to pay This is why, as Ford points out, Social Security is abused as a permanent safety net This is why most Walmart and fast food employees collect welfare benefits at a cost of billions to taxpayers when many of these same corporations are paying no taxes at all Ford sees the dysfunction He just doesn t have the stomach to really change it.So what is Ford s solution since he seems to think that Capitalism is the only form of economic and social organization A basic guarantee of income Hand out croissants to the peasants so they won t revolt He cites Friedrich Hayek, the ultra conservative economist, who saw this as an interim measure right before pulling the plug on all social support systems Ford writes that, without doubt, conservatives are not going to like this idea I would suggest that neither Libertarians nor Social Democrats nor even Socialists are going to like the idea very much because citizens are completely at the mercy of a government that can giveth or taketh away such benefits Worse, Ford envisions a society of free agents, where everyone is scrambling to go out and participate in the market He thus betrays his own Free Market fundamentalism He s for the Uber economy Besides, there is no such thing as an entirely free market And if the top 1% owns 90% of the nation s wealth, how is guaranteed income really going to help the bottom 99% The super rich will still have their billions and their disproportionate access to influence and politics No, if we are being honest a monthly allowance is really just to keep the proletariat from rioting.I have a low tolerance for timely, insightful, and pioneering books on social issues that seriously pull their punches, especially when they ignore the most egregious features of the problem they are examining Rise of the Robots is such a book I am very grateful to the friend who let me read his copy and for the fact that I did not have to buy one myself. The Rise of the Robots shows what are the jobs of the future and reflects many doubts about the future of the job market People hope and imagine that the current industrial and technological revolution will eliminate some of the jobs, nevertheless, positions will be created in order to deal with new possibilities and innovations So, when we talk about technology we talk about the positives in terms of growth and the ability to enhance productivity Unfortunately, Martin Ford, the author of the book argues that this time, it is not the case He is quite pessimistic about some of the things that robotics and AI might bring to mankind As new technologies and the development of artificial intelligence accelerate, machines take over not only low skilled work done by people that don t have a lot of education Today s machines are much sophisticated and capable to climb the skills ladder As a result, they are a threat to white collar jobs including many of the kinds of jobs that University graduates take So, the book presents some challenges that we need to think through The reality is that technology is going to have a very significant impact on the job market on an unprecedented scale Sceptics will point out that this is something that has happened throughout history and that s certainly true but we re now getting machines that can, in some limited sense, at least begin to think like people and can take on intellectual tasks as well as manual tasks This is not about robots in car factories that have replaced blue collar jobs It s about software that can do something relatively routine, repetitive and very easy to automate Such software is relatively cheap, in comparison to physical robots and scales across all kinds of jobs of the future.Now, let s state that such machines and software is developed to enhance our level of life, our productivity and, ultimately, income This is where historical data from the US provided by Martin Ford are a bit scary Wages peaked for production workers until 1973 At this time it was 763USD a week adjusted for today s dollar Due to the introduction of automation, wages have been decreasing and productivity increasing Because of this, inequality has steadily grown since the 1970s Between the years 1993 to 2010, than half the rise in national income directly went to people who are the top 1% of earners in the United States.In other words, if productivity goes up and people directly responsible for this have less purchasing power, the whole gain goes to owners and shareholders Of course, this is some simplification as we have to take into consideration globalisation and the fact that a lot of jobs are being moved overseas to bring cheaper labour Nevertheless, further statistics in the book reflect that today, only the highest incomes are actually if you like to read my full review please visit my blog Frankly, this is some scary shit The robots are coming for our jerbs I highly recommend this book to anyone under 30 and especially under 20 , as it will be y all that face the full ramifications of this book s predictions Hopefully most of us old farts will be retired and enjoying the care of robot nurses and doctors by that time.Machine learning algorithms are going to heavily impact white collar jobs the same way robotics heavily impacted blue collar factory work If your job involves repetitive work, it will be in jeopardy of being replaced by robots Full stop Not even the creative arts will be free of the impact If half the predictions in this book pan out, we re looking at a permanent and massive shift in our society. Update September 2018 previous updates after my review I lost track of this review, otherwise I would have written this update in May 2018.A few paragraphs down, I point out that there was a video that came out in June 2015 that showed robots failing amusingly see it here At least they tried Robot epic fails compilation from DARPA Robotics Challenge They can t open a door without falling down They sometimes fall over just trying to walkIt was hilarious, and I m sure a lot of folks took that to heart don t worry about killer robots Just climb the stairs and you re safe And how have things changed Well, take a look at this video from a mere 35 months after that previous one Humanoid robot runs through the park by itself Before you get too dismissive hey, running through the parkThat s not so toughcheck out the sequence that starts at about 21 seconds in, and ask if you could do that Stairs clearly aren t a problem any Where you gonna run now, human In the coming years, your job is very likely to evaporate That might meannow , or it might mean twenty five or thirty years But unless you re extraordinarily unusual, it ll happen.I m going to start by giving a few examples.Take the profession of accountancy I m oversimplifying, but pretty much what an accountant does is match an entity s financial information to the appropriate laws and rules, and then provide analysis of how well those match up, and maybe fill out some forms Guess what There s nothing in there that a software program couldn t do In fact, many people that don t make a lot of money already use such software to file their taxes, and every year that software gets a little sophisticated, and a lot of techie folks use software that leaves all the other accountants doing less and less, year by year The profession of accountant will likely be almost completely extinct within a decade long before we see those autonomous cars everyone keeps talking about.Let s look at a something much tougher, like a barber or hair stylist The job there is to examine the client s features, ask questions about what that client wants, and suggest a style that is both feasible and desirous, and then cut hair to that style Right now, that is about as far from what a computer could do as any profession in existence.Why, though Well, first, speedy dexterity isn t something that robots are too good at, except when they can be programmed to do precisely the same thing, over and over again, in which case they do much better than meager humans And comprehension of a complex visual scene is another really tough computational problem But if you ve been following the pace of progress, you know that it is only a matter of time before the robots get there.There s a video floating around showing robots failing amusingly but miserably, and with silly music, so we can feel superior during a DARPA challenge that folks are getting a kick out of Recall, however, how very recently the idea of a robot walking around on two feet would have been absurd Now we laugh because they sometimes fall down while trying to open doors or climb stairs or get into cars Given the many millions going into research, how long do you think that will last A vast database could already be built of head shapes, facial and hair features, just by looking at the treasure trove of images already accessible via the world wide web AI that learns which of those are considered comical and which attractive would still be a challenge, but is probably an easier task than programming Watson was for IBM Programming a hair cutting robot with the knowledge of what set of snips will create the desired look would be even easier, since it could be endlessly simulated purely in virtual space.Yeah, it will take years before we see this happen, but that just means it will be at the tail end of the tsunami instead of at the beginning, where the accountants are already feeling vulnerable This makes me wonder, how many out of work accountants will be able to get jobs as hair dressers There are some jobs that, as far as we can tell, are completely out of range of the robots and their AI software, but that number will get smaller and smaller over the decades, as engineers learn to make the software sophisticated and the hardware it runs on continues to get faster.The real sweet spot for humans is to be truly creative That doesn t mean anyone in a creative field gets a pass, however AI is already composing quotidian music and doing the rote job of journalists Being really creative means knowing when and how to break the rules in a way that is fundamentally unexpected A computer never would have created John Cage s 4 33 , for example.The work of Thomas Kuhn, whose The Structure of Scientific Revolutions made the word paradigm the clich it is today, illustrates this Most science, like most creativity, exists within a paradigm that people in the field understand Most normal science , like most normal creativity, doesn t bust out of that paradigm Highly sophisticated software can be taught that paradigm, and how to explore its domain, and how to evaluate whether the result of those exploration are consistent with other highly regarded results.How this revolution is progressing is what Rise of the Robots Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future is all about Now, you might be skeptical This does sound, after all, like the Luddite Fallacy, doesn t it If you don t know the term, it refers to the time at the beginning of the industrial revolution when crafts folk that used hand looms to weave cloth tried to keep the innovation machine looms from making them redundant The fallacy part is because there have always been compensatory effects some people lose their careers, but the gains in technological capacity and productivity make other forms of production possible, employing even people.So why is this time so different Because what the machines are replacing is different The simple machines replaced work that was dirty and dangerous In the past century, sophisticated machines replaced work that was dull those robots that bolt together auto bodies, for example, replaced large numbers of men who used to get pretty good wages for doing an unremittingly boring job.But today, machines are replacing our minds, not our muscles More importantly, it is very unlikely that some vast new field of economic activity will suddenly appear on the horizon that will employ all of the workers made redundant once machines are stronger and faster, accurate and precise, patient and at least as smart, what kind of job would that be If you need convincing, here s an analogy Once upon a time, humans used animals to do our brute labor It actually took thousands of years for us to arrange that, of course Before we d invented the wheel, animals could carry stuff on their backs Reliable wheels were actually quite a stunning leap forward Eventually, animals could do most of our hardest labor, except where our brains made us adaptive to change or subtle details.But think about what happened when we invented the steam engine The first practical steam engine came along as a stunning number of other developments right near the end of the eighteenth century which is related to those Luddites were rioting a few decades later Even though it took millennia for us to learn to use animals, in most ways we d retired them within a century The key point is that even though those animal muscles could have still been used, there were effectively no jobs for which they were actually better than machines.That s where our brains are about now.Now, there are still people that don t believe this is going to happen For example, in the essay How Technology Is Destroying Jobs, a professor of engineering at MIT states For that reason, Leonard says, it is easier to see how robots could work with humans than on their own in many applications People and robots working together can happen much quickly than robots simply replacing humans, he says That s not going to happen in my lifetime at a massive scale The semiautonomous taxi will still have a driver Really By all indications, autonomous vehicles are already safer than human drivers Although there are still tricky situations where they could make disastrous choices, they d still probably have a better overall safety record than us, and they ll be getting better we won t, except with their help So why would that taxi company want to pay to have a fallible human sitting there, bored, to second guess the computer It is true that people and robots working together can sometimes do better, but in far too many cases that will be a fairly short interim period, until the software engineers understand what humans are contributing and replace those final aspects economics will create huge incentives to get the human out of the picture.An article in the Harvard Business Review attempts to push those complementaries , too It lists five augmentation strategies.First, step up Head for higher intellectual ground.What s the flaw here Well, the top of the pyramid would be a great place, but there simply isn t much room there The example given is that, instead of using a biochemist to do a preliminary evaluation on a candidate drug, let the computers do it, and have the biochemist pick up at the point where the math leaves off The difficulty is there is already a researcher doing that, and the computers are replacing the dozens of lower tier chemists that are doing the simpler work It s like telling a sous chef to step up and become the restaurant s chef de cuisine That might work for a very small number of very talented sous chefs, but it won t work on any large scale at all.Second, step aside Use skills that can t be codified.One example used here is even absurd than the biochemist example Apple s revered designer Jonathan Ive can t download his taste to a computer Obviously, we can t all be Jony Ive But what about that accountant that was mentioned at the beginning Can t they learn to use personality skills to be better at interacting with the clients Sure but won t all the accountants want that gig And being the human face of the software might be a safe job for quite some time, it does reflect a de skilling from the original job This is also the category for those truly creative types that can consistently deliver outside the box thinking that the programmers can t predict, and can t be found in correlations within huge datasets.Third, step in Be the person that double checks the software for mistakes.An example given here involved mortgage application evaluation software that rejected former Fed Reserve chief Ben Bernanke s mortgage application because it couldn t properly evaluate his career prospects on the lecture circuit This will be a pretty sweet job category, but it isn t because the software will continue to make mistakes It ll be because the software is taught to recognize unusual situations, and automatically funnels them to human assistants Like the human co pilot of an semiautonomous taxicab, there will be a lot of financial incentives to make this a very rare job, though.Fourth, step narrowly Find a sub sub sub speciality that isn t economical to automate.The example in the article shows clearly how narrow these opportunities are imagine being the person who specializes in matching the sellers and buyers of Dunkin Donuts franchises Yeah, all the real estate agents who hate Zillow.com would love to be that guy, or his equivalent I like my example better you know all those Craigslist advertisements for Two Men and a Van to help you move furniture The new version of those is going to be the two workers with the robotic stair climbing mule They ll help city dwellers move from apartment to apartment, with one worker upstairs loading the donkey and another downstairs offloading it It certainly will take a long time for the robotic economy to replace every little niche.Finally, the fifth strategy is step forward Write the software that puts your friends and neighbors out of work Writing this AI will probably be quite the growth industry for years to come Unfortunately, it s a pretty specialized type of programming And even unfortunately, there are plenty of programmers in other specialties whose jobs are starting to disappear For example, setting up a website for a company used to be quite a labor intensive and remunerative gig, but now there are plenty of automated suites that do the lions share of that, leaving only a job for the rarer stepped up or stepped in person to finish the job There s going to be plenty of competition in software field, too, as the simpler jobs are automated away.What you ve undoubtedly spotted in those five categories is obvious while there will still be jobs in existence and even some new ones the numbers just won t add up When tens or hundreds of thousands of people in a field find their jobs being de skilled or simply eliminated, the competition for those that remain will be nasty Which will drive wages down, ironically There s a lot in Ford s book I really recommend it Or, if you re already mostly convinced and plan on skipping it, check out this clever and snappy fifteen minute video, especially the portion at 3 31, on luddite horses One thing I want to point out that he got somewhat mostly wrong, though, is in his portion on Artificial General Intelligence, or AGI It is common for non specialists to engage in inappropriate metaphorical thinking when talking about AI and robots The overwhelmingly vast majority of AI and robots that we re seeing, or will see for a long time, is functional AI it was designed to fulfill a specific productive function That is radically and fundamentally different than the research going into AGI, which has the goal of creating software that is as flexible and cognitively complex as the human mind generalized intelligence.Just because they re both computer programs doesn t mean that they have much in common Both IBM s Jeopardy winning Watson and Google s autonomous driving software are software programs that run on computers, but if you asked Watson to drive your car, or quizzed one of Google cars with a Jeopardy question, you ll get no satisfaction That might seem obvious, but far too often the end product of AGI is magically given all the skills of any software program ever written Ford, for example, says on page 232, A thinking machine would, of course, continue to enjoy all the advantages that computers currently have, including the ability to calculate and access information at speeds that would be incomprehensible for us You really should pretty much ignore chapter 9.Chapter 10, on the other hand, is crucial The coming century is going to be bad enough with all that Climate Change brouhaha, without the world trying to figure out how an economy works without many or most people having jobs Science fiction authors have been forecasting dystopian futures for a long time the one lying behind the story in Peter Watts Rifters trilogy is especially harrowing , and we re really going to want to avoid that You ll quickly note that raising the minimum wage doesn t help in fact, it creates incentives to automate that much quickly Plans that provide a guaranteed minimum income make sense, although anyone familiar with the political climate in the United States won t give that much chance of happening.Frankly, I ve been telling anyone I care about who has kids to make sure they ve got the know how and land to garden, but I m pretty sure I m considered an alarmist.We ll see Previous updatesUpdate August 2015 Check outWho Owns the Robot in Your Future Work Life , from the Pacific Standard magazine This is part of a series of news essays concerning the Future of Work Update October, 2015 And the New York Times has a nice article on how AI will supplant auditors in searching for tax evasionComputer Scientists Wield Artificial Intelligence to Battle Tax Evasion Elon Musk s Tesla car company are quietly being designed to work as fully autonomous vehicles Check out the analysis atElon Musk s Sleight of HandUpdate later October 2015 Something pretty close to the top end of the human cognitive spectrum might be the skill of seeking a pattern in a mass of chaotic data Oh, sorry that s another trick a computer seems to be able to do much easily than us SeeSystem that replaces human intuition with algorithms outperforms human teams This is a top class, broad look at our use of machinery to do our work in the past, present and somewhat scary future We look at how co operative strategies such as the co ordinated build, factory, design teams and production line speeded up our work and production But today we have better tools to make the tools that make the machines, and we have faster, smarter computers We are even approaching machine intelligence in some areas, and as I write the chess and go champions have been beaten by computers So maybe a chess computer can t do your job But the skills and speed can do some jobs, and they are on the increase In the past, when people were freed up from manual work ditch digging, lino type setting they trained for higher requirement jobs like accountancy and law, radiology and piloting The author Martin Ford explains that all these jobs are being shared by machines at present, and if your job involves looking at a screen and clicking, you will be out of work quite soon Even if you are an accountant or a bomber pilot In February 2015 a parliamentary report to the UK s House of Lords estimated 35 percent of UK jobs will fall victim to automation within the next twenty years Medical computers or robots are taking pharmacy jobs assessing X rays as accurately as humans and learning with every scan diagnosing strange ailments and providing mobile screens for doctors to make bedside visits in a big hospital without going walkabout Doctors cost money and health services want to cut back while serving patients Computers can work 24 hours, can learn and don t get sloppy or look for pensions and holiday pay Marketing computers are storing data about customers and web browsers to target them for adverts Like the now well known case of the supermarket in America which received a complaint from a father of a teen girl she was getting marketing for pregnancy products from the store Turned out the store s computer knew the girl was pregnant before she did Targeted ads are economical Law much of document trawling, whether house conveying, court material searching or previous case checking, is done by computers This will increase, because lawyers are expensive See doctors Education Courses are often offered on line now and some exams can be taken online with verification Major colleges are disinclined to confer degrees in this way, because they want to charge for taking the courses and limit access to their degrees, particularly to be sure that the person taking the exam is genuine But material is being streamed so it can used year after year, reducing need for lecturers, while post grad students are not needed to help with virtual lectures And with a reduction in the jobs available, a degree is no guarantee recession means graduates are serving coffee or stocking shelves, or not in work Employers can pick and choose, and can offer only part time work to reduce their responsibilities Take a second degree Great if you were not already paying off that student loan And there are no jobs for people with two degrees either Why Ford explains Because work is being sent offshore Not just garment making or phone assembly India and China with huge populations have, looking at the bell curve, highly intelligent people than in the UK and USA They can work on line Customers may not be happy with the call centre staff who don t have a clue, but companies would not pay high wages to call centre staff in your country anyway Fast broadband is responsible, and in the case of financial trading this means moving your office to next door to the stock exchange or buying in to a faster cable than your competitors On business share trading Automated trading algorithms are now responsible for at least a third of transactions in the UK However in the US the proportion is much higher, with some estimates putting it at 70 percent These sophisticated robotic traders many of which are powered by techniques on the frontier of artificial intelligence research go far beyond simply executing routine trades In a 2013 paper published in Nature, a group of physicists identified an emerging ecology of competitive machines featuring crowds of predatory algorithms and suggested that robotic trading had progressed beyond the control and even comprehension of the humans who designed the systems Scared You should be I am a tree surgeon and while machinery does lumberjack work, I still don t have work, because my domestic customers do not have money They don t have jobs Ford tells us that creative jobs will be usurped by degrees but not all of us want to attend a robot concert, so creativity will be the highest type of work required The very smartest people will have a significant advantage, and they won t hesitate to look beyond national borders I recommend this book to economists, programmers, forward thinkers and anyone who is wondering why they can t find work or what degree to take.

  • Kindle Edition
  • 354
  • Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future
  • Martin Ford
  • English
  • 09 June 2018
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About the Author: Martin Ford

Martin Ford is the author of the two books Rise of the Robots Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future 2015 and The Lights In the Tunnel Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future 2009 both dealing with the effects of automation and mass unemployment He is the founder of a Silicon Valley based software development firm, and obtained a computer engineering