Tag Archives: Automation

The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, And Status In The Twenty-first Century

BOOK REVIEW

The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-first Century, Author: Ryan Avent.

By Ryan Avent – The digital revolution actually is probably going to be as transformative as the industrial revolution and the big technologies like electricity and steam that we saw then were. I think this transformation has already begun, and ironically, the evidence of that is in the struggles that we’re seeing across lots of countries that workers are facing in terms of limited growth in wages, in terms of rising inequality.

What my book tries to point out though is that in fact the biggest effect is not going to be mass unemployment. The biggest effect of the digital revolution is not going to be massive numbers of workers who just can’t find any work; it’ll be that the work they find ends up being very low-paying, because the displacement effect of these new technologies is so great, and the economy is asked to absorb so many new workers, that that’s just going to put an incredible amount of downward pressure on wages. That’s the real short-run challenge, I think.

.. The difficulty I think, again, comes in deciding who is entitled to a share of that ownership. If you’re socialising the gains, is that limited to citizens of the country, and then are any immigrant workers second-class citizens? If you don’t limit it, then suddenly you probably have social pressure to shut out immigrants, and then that leaves people on the outside of the country all the poorer. more> https://goo.gl/1iz2EU

Is Productivity Growth Becoming Irrelevant?

By Adair Turner – As we get richer, measured productivity may inevitably slow, and measured GDP per capita may tell us ever less about trends in human welfare.

Our standard mental model of productivity growth reflects the transition from agriculture to industry. We start with 100 farmers producing 100 units of food: technological progress enables 50 to produce the same amount, and the other 50 to move to factories that produce washing machines or cars or whatever. Overall productivity doubles, and can double again, as both agriculture and manufacturing become still more productive, with some workers then shifting to restaurants or health-care services. We assume an endlessly repeatable process.

Or suppose that 25 of the surplus farmers become criminals, and the other 25 police. Then the benefit to human welfare is nil, even though measured productivity rises if public services are valued, as per standard convention, at input cost.

The growth of “zero-sum” activities may, however, be even more important. Look around the economy, and it’s striking how much high-talent manpower is devoted to activities that cannot possibly increase human welfare, but entail competition for the available economic pie. Such activities have become ubiquitous: legal services, policing, and prisons; cybercrime and the army of experts defending organizations against it; financial regulators trying to stop mis-selling and the growing ranks of compliance officers employed in response; the huge resources devoted to US election campaigns; real-estate services that facilitate the exchange of already-existing assets; and much financial trading.

Much design, branding, and advertising activity is also essentially zero-sum. more> https://goo.gl/qpxGRb

The economy is more a messy, fractal living thing than a machine

BOOK REVIEW

In Our Own Image: Savior or Destroyer? The History and Future of Artificial Intelligence, Author: George Zarkadakis.

By George Zarkadakis – Mainstream economics is built on the premise that the economy is a machine-like system operating at equilibrium. According to this idea, individual actors – such as companies, government departments and consumers – behave in a rational way.

Ever since the invention of the assembly line, corporations have been like medieval cities: building walls around themselves and then trading with other ‘cities’ and consumers.

The so-called ‘gig economy’ is only the beginning of a profound economic, social and political transformation. For the moment, these new ways of working are still controlled by old-style businesses models – platforms that essentially sell ‘trust’ via reviews and verification, or by plugging into existing financial and legal systems.

Blockchain technologies promise to replace these trusted third parties with a huge digital record book, spreading out organically across a network of computers that grows and changes but can’t be meddled with.

By getting rid of middlemen, they’re likely to radically reduce transaction costs, and accelerate the mixing of many different actors in the new economy who have been freed from the grip of leaders or institutions. more> https://goo.gl/Gs6f4B

The future is emotional

By Livia Gershon – The truth is, only a tiny percentage of people in the post-industrial world will ever end up working in software engineering, biotechnology or advanced manufacturing. Just as the behemoth machines of the industrial revolution made physical strength less necessary for humans, the information revolution frees us to complement, rather than compete with, the technical competence of computers.

Many of the most important jobs of the future will require soft skills, not advanced algebra.

Back in 1983, the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild coined the term ‘emotional labor’ to describe the processes involved in managing the emotional demands of work. She explored the techniques that flight attendants used to maintain the friendly demeanors their airline demanded in the face of abusive customers: taking deep breaths, silently reminding themselves to stay cool, or building empathy for the nasty passenger.

A growing real-world demand for workers with empathy and a talent for making other people feel at ease requires a serious shift in perspective. It means moving away from our singular focus on academic performance as the road to success. It means giving more respect, and better pay, to workers too often generically dismissed as ‘unskilled labor’. And, it means valuing skills more often found among working-class women than highly educated men. more> https://goo.gl/hghbQM

Will robots make job training (and workers) obsolete?

By Harry J. Holzer – Automation eliminates the number of workers needed per unit of good or service produced. By reducing unit costs it raises productivity and, in a competitive market, product prices should decline. All else equal, this will raise consumer demand for the good or service in question.

Whether or not this rise in product demand is sufficiently large to raise overall employment for the product depends on whether the fall in workers needed per unit of production is proportionately lesser or greater than the rise in the numbers of units demanded; if lesser, than product demand will rise.

Labor economists believe that workers mostly pay for general skill development (often in the form of lower wages, when the training occurs on the job), while employers are willing to share more in the costs of developing worker skills more specific to their needs.6 A shift away from specific towards more general skill training will thus involve a shift of the costs of training away from employers towards workers (or the public), and less sharing of any risks involved in whether the market rewards those skills over time.

Some workers whose tasks can mostly be performed by machines will be displaced, while demand is enhanced for others who can work along with the new machines—perhaps as technicians or engineers but also in a range of newer tasks that the machines cannot perform, including more complex analysis or social interactions with customers and coworkers. more> https://goo.gl/pveH2W

How to Prepare for an Automated Future

By Claire Cain Miller – How do we educate people for an automated world?

People still need to learn skills, the respondents said, but they will do that continuously over their careers. In school, the most important thing they can learn is how to learn.

Schools will also need to teach traits that machines can’t yet easily replicate, like creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, adaptability and collaboration. The problem, many respondents said, is that these are not necessarily easy to teach.

Employers will also place more value on on-the-job learning, many respondents said, such as apprenticeships or on-demand trainings at workplaces. Portfolios of work are becoming more important than résumés.

Consider it part of your job description to keep learning, many respondents said — learn new skills on the job, take classes, teach yourself new things.

The problem is that not everyone is cut out for independent learning, which takes a lot of drive and discipline. People who are suited for it tend to come from privileged backgrounds, with a good education and supportive parents, said Beth Corzo-Duchardt, a media historian at Muhlenberg College. “The fact that a high degree of self-direction may be required in the new work force means that existing structures of inequality will be replicated in the future,” she said.

“The ‘jobs of the future’ are likely to be performed by robots,” said Nathaniel Borenstein, chief scientist at Mimecast, an email company. “The question isn’t how to train people for nonexistent jobs. It’s how to share the wealth in a world where we don’t need most people to work.” more> https://goo.gl/LVkagm

Related>

Why Even The C-Suite Might Not Be Safe From Automation

BOOK REVIEW

The Third Wave, Author: Steve Case.
Thinking, Fast and Slow, Author: Daniel Kahneman.

By Liz Alexander – Broadly speaking, the push toward democratization is arguably one of the most potent social, technological, and economic forces today—one of the few, in fact, that runs powerfully through each of those fields. And while the motives and manifestations of this trend necessarily vary, examples abound.

Consider, for example, 42, a tuition-free coding school originating in France and now in Silicon Valley. 42 is essentially a university without instructors where students learn through what the founder calls “collaborative education.”

Another example is the “new breed of human organization” that the blockchain-governed Decentralized Autonomous Organization, or DAO, model propounds. In these organizations, token holders vote on which proposals to accept from contractors that build products and services on the DAO’s behalf. No elite decision-makers required. more> http://goo.gl/zlzWJo

Updates from GE

Someone’s Gotta Do It: This Collaborative Robot Does the Dull Jobs Few Humans Want
GE – The machines are still automating only a thin slice of the manufacturing process. “If we want to move on, we have to start asking different questions about automation,” says Jim Lawton, chief marketing officer of Rethink Robotics.

His Boston-based company developed a fix for the problem: Baxter, a collaborative robot, or Cobot, which works with people. “We need to free robots from their cages.”

Last summer, Greg Heinz, who leads GE Healthcare’s Automation Center of Excellence in Waukesha, Wis. organized a “Cobot Challenge” looking for applications that addressed what he calls the four Ds: dirty, difficult, dangerous, and dull tasks that could be done by robots like Baxter.

“Using Baxter to complement human labor with scalable automation relieves operators from stressful and monotonous duties and frees them up to do higher level tasks.” more> http://tinyurl.com/l2why7m

Before You Automate, Contemplate

Factory Automation with industrial robots for ...

Factory Automation with industrial robots for palletizing food products like bread and toast at a bakery in Germany, robotics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Todd Brun – Faster turnovers, higher line speeds, more throughput, less operator intervention, Big Data, virtualization, “lights out” manufacturing — these are all hot topics in automation circles.

Things to contemplate:

  • Are you thinking outside the box?
  • What functions must your control system deliver?
  • Do you really understand your processes and operations?
  • How can automation support tomorrow’s workforce?
  • Location, location, location
  • Do you leverage what is working well?
  • Is flexibility engineered into your systems?
  • Are you leveraging the available knowledge and skills?

Change is relentless. Change is difficult. Change is sometimes scary. You can’t stop it, but you can embrace it and benefit from it. more> http://tinyurl.com/ohr5362