What are human workers going to do when super-intelligent robots and computers are better than us at doing everything ? That is one of the questions that a new study by Dr. Carl Frey and Dr. Michael Osborne of Oxford University sought to address, and what they concluded was that 47 percent of all U.S. jobs could be automated within the next 20 years. Considering the fact that the percentage of the U.S. population that is employed is already far lower than it was a decade ago , it is frightening to think that tens of millions more jobs [...]
Robert Gordon’s essay “Is U.S. Economic Growth Over?” is very intriguing. His thesis is that technological progress does not always yield the same growth and productivity for each major invention. It could be that some technologies, such as Electricity, Engines, Petroleum and even mundane things such as running water and indoor toilets, may have yielded far greater growth through their introduction that current technologies such as computers and the internet.
These high growth technologies as well as the previous generation of modern agriculture and steam power, were very physical technologies. They took up space and altered space. They needed labor for their development, construction and even use. They reshaped the physical world with railroads, roads, buildings, factories etc.
Are there any new technologies that have this sort of impact? Maybe space travel and genetics, which both could create physical changes in our world (or bodies). New power sources will still be delivered as electricity. Cars may drive themselves, and the design may change, but they are still fundamentally vehicles for personal travel. Factories may become robotic, but will the washing machine they make be fundamentally different?
It does seem in some way that these earlier physical technologies had greater ability to spur economic growth as they required so much labor and capital to develop. Maybe current and future technologies, while exciting, won’t have the same impact on growth.
Robert J. Gordon has a new NBER working paper ‘essay that really should cite Tyler Cowen, since it’s all about a Great Stagnation in U.S. growth. Unlike Cowen, however, Gordon believes that the Stagnation will persist into the indefinite future. The paper is really two essays in one – the first part speculates that most of the big discoveries and inventions have already been made, and the second part identifies social and institutional constraints on U.S. growth. (Here are thoughts on the paper by FT Alphaville and Paul Krugman ). Although there are some parts of the paper with [...]
Great talk by Andrew McAfee who is the co-author of Race Against the Machine. He sees a future where machines are replacing human work at an accelerating rate. It is already happening and will spread to the most unexpected areas of the economy. While it is hard not to agree with his rosy vision of a future where our minds are augmented with digital computing, the hard part is how we get there.
The advent of the industrial revolution was a brutal time of wars, subjugation, immense fortunes and immense poverty as we moved our whole population from agriculture to industry. How can a fundamental change to the economy, of labor providing wages providing consumption, be upended without huge societal upheaval?
Robots and algorithms are getting good at jobs like building cars, writing articles, translating — jobs that once required a human. So what will we humans do for work? Andrew McAfee walks through recent labor data to say: We ain’t seen nothing yet. But then he steps back to look at big history, and comes up with a surprising and even thrilling view of what comes next.
I think Jim Pinto brings up some great points here about the ‘feel’ that people bring to an automated environment. Robots and automated systems are fast and efficient, but they don’t have the adaptability and judgement to handle change and non-standard environments.
What this means for employment is that we increasingly need people who can recognize unusual conditions, react to them and make judgements and decisions. Pushing this down to the factory floor (or the window observatory!) will mean that we need broadly educated and highly capable people. Not a recipe for big employment gains.
While automation typically provides consistent performance, it lacks judgment, adaptability and flexibility under changing conditions. Humans provide the “feel” that makes them the most important element of production and control systems.
Enhanced productivity comes by optimizing the human element. People provide the peripheral vision; they fill in the gaps and create the broader context in ways that machines cannot. This partnership is the man/machine framework.
Yves here. This is a day-late Earth Day post, but the proper stewardship of this planet is a 365-day-a-year duty. Ilargi focuses on one of my pet issues, that too many of the remedies for climate change (and environmental protection generally) rely on the illusion of new technology eliminating or blunting lifestyle changes. But in most cases, this way out is illusory. It takes decades for major new technologies to be adopted widely, and we don’t have that kind of runway as far as greenhouse gases are concerned. Second, many green technology fixes merely squeeze the balloon in one [...]
That’s the problem in a nutshell. There are few manufacturing ventures which are not much safer and more profitable in done in foreign countries with lower labor rates and lower tax and regulatory burdens. If we raised our tax revenue on import tariffs, that would not be the case, or at least not to nearly the same degree. Of course, the corollary to that is that it would be hardest on poor people – although there wouldn’t be as many poor people. __________________ "We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes [...]
We examine how susceptible jobs are to computerisation. To assess this, we begin by implementing a novel methodology to estimate the probability of computerisation for 702 detailed occupations, using a Gaussian process classifier. Based on these estimates, we examine expected impacts of future computerisation on US labour market outcomes, with the primary objective of analysing the number of jobs at risk and the relationship between an occupation’s probability of computerisation, wages and educational attainment. According to our estimates, about 47 percent of total US employment is at risk. This excerpt is from a report published in September 2013 entitled [...]
Baxter is the very model of a modern-day employee. Eyebrows furrowed in quiet concentration, he’s quick to learn skills that can be used to package bottles or move products on factory lines. He’s easy to train and gentle, meaning no safety cage is needed to work nearby. And he’ll toil round the clock to get the job done. He also happens to be a metre-tall (minus the pedestal) red robot, newly acquired by Toronto’s Humber College and made by Boston’s Rethink Robotics, which has sold hundreds of Baxters in recent years. His face – a screen – sports six [...]
Baxter is the very model of a modern-day employee. Eyebrows furrowed in quiet concentration, he’s quick to learn skills that can be used to package bottles or move products on factory lines. He’s easy to train and gentle, meaning no safety cage is needed to work nearby. And he’ll toil round the clock to get the job done. He also happens to be a metre-tall 3-foot-1-inch (minus the pedestal) red robot, newly acquired by Toronto’s Humber College and made by Boston’s Rethink Robotics, which has sold hundreds of Baxters in recent years. His face – a screen – sports [...]
One need travel no farther than the closest supermarket to find a reminder of why American jobs are quickly and permanently disappearing.
If you check out the check-out area, you will find fewer and fewer employees and more and more automated machines. I choose to stand in line and wait for a person to check me out rather than use one of those machines but I appear to be in the minority. As more and more sophisticated machines become available, less human labor is needed. Imagine walking into a fast food restaurant in the near future. There will [...]
It’s time again for our Small Business Trends community news and information roundup. Much of the talk lately on small business blogs and communities is about automation and improving productivity. But there’s plenty about branding and content management too. Enjoy. Automation might seem a universal good for most businesses, increasing efficiency while in the long run driving down cost. But this isn’t necessarily so. Automation firm Mineraltree suggests automation isn’t for everyone. Here’s what to consider. Like other aspects of your business, your social media can be put on autopilot. While this can save you time, watch out, warns [...]
[Archive] Is income inequality ruining the American Dream? Read Carol Graham bit.ly/1qYpqbQ
Project Syndicate @ProSyn Apr 19, 2014 12:18:19 GMT Follow @ProSyn 3 retweets Inequality has been rising at an unprecedented rate in the US, undermining America’s reputation as the Read more at www.project-syndicate.org Tweet Related Tweets
Project Syndicate @ProSyn “The interface between data and education holds the promise of new educational products for improved learning” bit.ly/1eGIMCi 38 mins ago more » Jin-Yong Cai champions new tools to broaden access to high-quality, affordable education. – Project Syndicate If we are to end poverty, reduce unemployment, [...]
It does make me rather cross when the great and good – doubtless living is a splendid multi-million pound home that benefits from rising urban land values – completely fail to understand that it is planning restrictions that causes the problem. Just that, nothing else.
Here’s Adair Turner doing just this :In many countries, the majority of that wealth – and the lion’s share of the increase – is accounted for by housing and commercial real estate, and most of that wealth resides not in the value of the buildings, but in the [...]