Tag Archives: robots

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

Seeking a policy response to the robot takeover

By Alice M. Rivlin – We could soon be living in a world in which driverless vehicles or drones make all deliveries. Those vans and big rigs on the interstates will barrel along to their destinations without drivers; the groceries or prepared food you need for dinner or the prescription your doctor ordered will descend on your doorstep without a human delivery person in sight.

The transition to driverless deliveries will be a bonanza for early investors in the winning technologies. A wide range of consumers and businesses will benefit from cheaper, faster, more reliable delivery of things they buy or parts they need. In the end, most Americans stand to benefit from a higher productivity economy. However, in the near term, the consequences could be devastating for delivery drivers and their families and owners of the soon to be old-fashioned vehicles that require drivers.

Policy makers should be preparing now to respond to this technological revolution, so that we can benefit from the new technology, but mitigate the damage to those who lose out. more> https://goo.gl/30A3Ll


Raising good robots

We already have a way to teach morals to alien intelligences: it’s called parenting. Can we apply the same methods to robots?
By Regina Rini – Philosophers and computer scientists alike tend to focus on the difficulty of implementing subtle human morality in literal-minded machines. But there’s another problem, one that really ought to come first. It’s the question of whether we ought to try to impose our own morality on intelligent machines at all. In fact, I’d argue that doing so is likely to be counterproductive, and even unethical. The real problem of robot morality is not the robots, but us.

Can we handle sharing the world with a new type of moral creature?

We like to imagine that artificial intelligence (AI) will be similar to humans, because we are the only advanced intelligence we know. But we are probably wrong. If and when AI appears, it will probably be quite unlike us. It might not reason the way we do, and we could have difficulty understanding its choices.

Plato’s student Aristotle disagreed. He thought that each sort of thing in the world – squirrels, musical instruments, humans – has a distinct nature, and the best way for each thing to be is a reflection of its own particular nature.

‘Morality’ is a way of describing the best way for humans to be, and it grows out of our human nature. For Aristotle, unlike Plato, morality is something about us, not something outside us to which we must conform. Moral education, then, was about training children to develop abilities already in their nature. more> https://goo.gl/cVSt0W


Updates from GE

By Tomas Kellner – Until now. GE is taking a second look at nimble robots that can operate in tough spots. Last year, GE Ventures invested in Sarcos Robotics, an innovative company developing robots for tasks that are too difficult or dangerous for humans.

“We are really focused on the part of robotics that is about human augmentation, as opposed to human replacement,” says Sarcos Co-founder and President Fraser Smith.

These are no assembly line robots, either. Ben Wolff, Sarcos chairman and CEO, says his engineers are building dexterous robots that can do meaningful work in unpredictable or unstructured environments. Echoing Mosher’s vision, the machines can navigate new surroundings and have “very fine motor controls that allow them to manipulate objects in exactly the same way you would with your arms if you could lift so much,” Wolff says.

One such machine, the remotely operated Sarcos Guardian S snake robot, can crawl inside and inspect steam pipes within a nuclear power plant or oil storage tank. “Rather than sending a human rappelling down an 80-foot wall to look for corrosion inside a petroleum storage tank, we can send the robot,” Wolff says. more> https://goo.gl/9pYRJh

The Robot Rampage

By Chris Bryant Elaine He – Building a large manufacturing sector has traditionally been the path emerging economies have taken to raise living standards. Now, robots and other types of automation are a threat to that development model. In November, the United Nations warned two-thirds of jobs in developing countries are at risk.

It’s an open question whether services jobs – like driving for Uber — will be as well paid or secure as a job on a production line. There’s also the risk those services jobs will become far more automated — driverless cars are a threat to cab drivers.

Competition for good services jobs is likely to be fierce, keeping a lid on wages. Taken together, it’s possible robots end up exacerbating inequality in low income countries.

Trump will have to deal with the consequences: few manufacturing jobs are coming back to America and not many will be created elsewhere. more> https://goo.gl/eZLdGg

A world without work is coming – it could be utopia or it could be hell


The Wealth of Humans, Author: Ryan Avent.

By Ryan Avent – Most of us have wondered what we might do if we didn’t need to work – if we woke up one morning to discover we had won the lottery, say.

But imagine how that vision might change if such freedom were extended to everyone. Some day, probably not in our lifetimes but perhaps not long after, machines will be able to do most of the tasks that people can. At that point, a truly workless world should be possible. If everyone, not just the rich, had robots at their beck and call, then such powerful technology would free them from the need to submit to the realities of the market to put food on the table.

Preparing for a world without work means grappling with the roles work plays in society, and finding potential substitutes. First and foremost, we rely on work to distribute purchasing power: to give us the dough to buy our bread. Eventually, in our distant Star Trek future, we might get rid of money and prices altogether, as soaring productivity allows society to provide people with all they need at near-zero cost. more> https://goo.gl/WhZdFM


Three Fallacies That Make You Fear a Robot Economy

By Branko Milanović – Introduction of machinery to replace repetitive (or even more creative) labor has been applied on a significant scale since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Robots are not different from any other machine.

The first is the fallacy of the lump of labor doctrine that holds that the new machines will displace huge numbers of workers and people will remain jobless forever.

Yes, the shorter our time-horizon, the more that proposition seems reasonable. Because in the short term the number of jobs is limited and if more jobs are done by machines fewer jobs will be left for people.

We know that similar fears have always existed and were never justified. New technologies ended up creating enough new jobs, and actually more and better jobs than were lost. This does not mean that there would no losers. There will be workers replaced by the new machines (called “robots”) or people whose wages will be reduced. But however these losses may be sad and tragic for individuals involved they do not change the entire society. more> https://goo.gl/m47dta

Updates from GE

Child’s Play: Machines Learning Like Kids Will Usher In The Next Industrial Revolution
By Mike Keller – No matter what you believe on this subject, there’s no doubt that smart machines are firmly planted in the global zeitgeist these days.

“You’ve got people painting a very dark picture of robotics,” says John Lizzi, who heads GE’s research lab on distributed intelligent systems.

“The concept of AI taking over is interesting, but getting anywhere near that type of capability is very far away. And while the rest of the world is dreaming up these science-fiction futures, we’re taking the technology and solving real problems today.”

Since the first robots started working on factory floors 55 years ago, a significant number of smart machines have come on the market and are now under development. In recent years, several have grabbed attention for how they promise to improve work and home life. These include Google’s self-driving cars as well as humble domestic helpers like iRobot’s Roomba.

Then, of course, there are the millions of robotic arms and other industrial machines deployed in automotive manufacturing, healthcare and other industries. They have proven themselves thoroughly in factories and their expanding skills mean that the ranks of bots toiling among us is certain to grow.

According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), 1.5 million industrial robots were operating at the end of 2014, and an estimated 12 percent yearly increase in that number means 2.3 million will be operating by the end of 2018. more> http://goo.gl/JuPb20

Robots may shatter the global economic order within a decade

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard – We are coming close to the crucial “inflexion point” when it is 15pc cheaper to use a robot than to employ a human worker.

This threshold has already been crossed in the American, European and Japanese car industries, where it costs $8 an hour to employ a robot for spot welding, compared to $25 for a worker.

Hence the eerie post-human feel of the most up-to-date car plants. “We are facing a paradigm shift, which will change the way we live and work,” said the report’s author, Beijia Ma.

Productivity will soar but wages will not rise at the same pace, if at all.

The owners of capital will take an even bigger slice of global income, pushing inequality to yet greater extremes. Labor’s share of the pie peaked at 65pc in 1975 in the rich countries and has already dropped to 58pc. more> http://tinyurl.com/qdhsvhl

Robots Won’t Own You. You’ll Own the Robot.

By Noah Smith – The Industrial Revolution was unlike anything that had gone before — it broke all the so-called laws of economics. Those laws could be broken again.

In other words, the end of labor, combined with the rise of winner-take-all markets, could cause a huge runup in inequality.

Many people argue that since there will always be demand for more products, there will always be more work for humans to do. Zach Weinersmith‘s cartoon depicts a world in which humans are pushed into ever more absurd, esoteric jobs.

The problem is that such jobs will not necessarily pay a living wage.

There is no iron law of economics that says that wages always go up. If capital-labor substitutability increases dramatically, wages may fall a lot. more> http://tinyurl.com/nab2434