Tag: Automation

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Here Come the Robots: We Can Prepare for the Future Without Fearing the Future

 

Andrew Yang had his best policy moment of the Democratic debates last week when he said, “This country has been a magnet for human capital for generations. If we lose that, we lose something integral to our continued success.” Yang should talk more about immigration. And more about thorium-fueled nuclear reactors. Maybe also flesh out his VAT idea.

But Yang’s main idea, a universal basic income (UBI), is less appealing. It’s an elegant idea that would quickly look less so when filtered through the reality of government sausage-making and flawed human behavior. Then there’s Yang’s alarmist argument that we need UBI to meet the looming and “unprecedented crisis” of widespread technological unemployment. Yang: “In the next 12 years, 1 out of 3 American workers are at risk of losing their jobs to new technologies—and unlike with previous waves of automation, this time new jobs will not appear quickly enough in large enough numbers to make up for it.”

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How to Automate a Job Out of Existence

 

This is an elaboration of a comment I made in @indymb ‘s post “Is there any point in writing to a Congressperson?” and I’m indebted to him and @Misthiocracy (who has experience working for a Canadian Member of Parliament, I understand) for the details on how all this works. Briefly, we’ll look at a simple task done every day in the houses of government and at how we’d train a computer to do it better.

Briefly, as you may have expected, the letter to your Senator isn’t so much read as processed for the minimum amount of information and interaction required. I’ll quote the meat of his description of the process and then describe how I’d go about automating it. You’re encouraged to go back and read his post (and it should go without saying on Ricochet but the comments too).

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(The current riots and car-burnings in Sweden reminded me of this post from 2013) The government of Sweden didn’t do a very good job of protecting its citizens and their property from the rampant rioting that took place in late May. Government agents did, however, fulfill their duty of issuing parking tickets…to burned-out cars. More

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Dennis Prager on the Self-Righteously Suicidal West and False Morality

 

For this week’s Big Ideas with Ben Weingarten podcast, I had nationally syndicated radio host, columnist, author of numerous books, teacher, film producer and co-founder of PragerU, Dennis Prager, on the podcast to discuss among other things:

  • How Dennis Prager ended up a conservative as an Ivy League-educated Jewish intellectual from Brooklyn, New York — contrary to so many of his peers
  • How perceptions of human nature divide Left and Right
  • Whether government has filled the void of religion for the increasingly secular and progressive American coasts
  • How the good intentions that underlie Leftist policy prescriptions lead to horrendous outcomes — and emotion versus reason on the Left and Right
  • The false morality underlying European immigration policy with respect to the Muslim world, and Prager’s criticism of Jewish support of mass immigration consisting disproportionately of Jew-haters
  • The self-righteous suicidalism of the West
  • The Leftist bias of social media platforms and PragerU’s legal battle with YouTube/Google

You can find the episode on iTunes, everywhere else podcasts are found, download the episode directly here or read the transcript here.

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Richard Epstein parses President Trump’s economic criticisms of Amazon — and examines a Supreme Court case that will determine how online retailers pay taxes. More

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. New Study Finds that Minimum Wage Hikes are Great News for Robot Workers

 

Back in 2014, I wrote a post that asked, “Why are minimum wage proponents dismissing automation risk?” I just wasn’t getting a sense from the “Fight for 15” crowd that it had thought much about the possibility that dramatically raising the minimum wage might worsen the competitive position of low-skill humans versus machines.

Or maybe it had, but the politics were so tantalizing that they took precedence over sound policy. My conclusion back then: “Pushing for an unprecedented boost in the minimum wage given both the weak economy and automation risk seems like foolhardy public policy.” That, especially given the low-risk alternative of raising and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Report: “Automation Risk Is Concentrated Among Low-wage, Low-skilled Workers”

 

In my new The Week column, I briefly examine whether my fellow American humans are experiencing a “technopanic” right now, and if Silicon Valley is making things worse. (Spoiler: yes and yes!) Indeed, one look at recent headlines about automation — and by “recent” I mean this week — is enough to at least slightly unnerve any worker who’s not a recreational therapist or emergency management director.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. A Techno-Optimist Take on Automation and Jobs

 

Reason writer Ronald Bailey outlines a strong case that fears about technological unemployment are overblown. For instance: He adds needed context to the recent finding by MIT economist Daron Acemoglu and Boston University economist Pascual Restrepo that each additional industrial robot in the United States results in 5.6 American workers losing their jobs.

But even taking the high-end estimate, job loss due to robots was has been just 670,000 since 1990 while “last year some 62.5 million Americans were hired in new jobs, while 60.1 million either quit or were laid off from old ones, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.” ​I would add that total nonfarm employment over that span has increased by nearly 40 million.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Is Automation Really the Worst Enemy of the Middle Class?

 

This Axios headline is problematic: “Summers: Automation is the middle class’ worst enemy.”

The accompanying piece doesn’t actually quote economist Larry Summers making that declaration. Rather it summarizes an interview in which Summers indeed points out the challenge automation poses for workers. He’s right.​ Of course that’s been the case for the past 200 years and will likely be the case for the next 200. But in exchange for a degree of instability and disruption, technological progress has dramatically raised living standards for workers.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Robots Rising: Here’s What Happens to All Those Truckers

 

Techno-pessimists tend to be underwhelmed by recent innovations, like the smartphone, as well as most upcoming ones, like driverless cars. Especially driverless cars, it seems. In “The Rise and Fall of American Growth,” economist Robert Gordon is dismissive of the productivity impact of all sorts of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and robotics. And he puts driverless cars right smack at the bottom: “This category of future progress is demoted to last place because it offers benefits that are minor compared to the innovation of the car itself or the improvements in safety that have created a ten-fold improvement in fatalities per vehicle mile since 1950.”

I don’t know how autonomous vehicles will affect measured productivity data. But they are going to be a pretty big deal, nonetheless. And I doubt too many analysts have thought through potential consequences as thoroughly as Benedict Evans of venture firm Andreessen Horowitz. His recent blog post, “Cars and second order consequences” is a must read on the subject. The first order consequences of electric — and they will be electric — autonomous vehicles are obvious. Fewer highway fatalities and a big drop in demand for gasoline, currently half of global oil production.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Who Needs Progress Anyway? Not the “Degrowth” Movement

 

Andy Kessler dislikes Bill Gates’s “robot tax” idea about as much as I do and explainS his reasons in the Wall Street Journal. Among them, Kessler doesn’t like how such ideas — particular Gates’s notion that we may want to slow progress so workers can better adjust — feeds into the “degrowth” movement. Yes, “degrowth” is kind of a thing. Kessler:

There is a murmuring movement out of Europe known as “degrowth.” If this sounds to you like a cabal of cave dwellers, you’re not that far off. Degrowth Week in Budapest last summer featured enchanting sessions like this one: “Popular competence building against the Technocracy.” Channeling Ludd, industrial insurgents and sustainability samurais want to keep things the way they are, like the eco-protesters at Standing Rock. The site degrowth.org is clear about the movement’s unproductive goals: Consume less and share more.

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Well, I am sure we all knew this was coming, but the end of the fast food worker is nigh, sort of. There is now a burger flipping robot. Now, what I find is interesting is that not only is it automated, but it actually does a better job. With thermal imaging, the robot can […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. How Soon Will Self-driving Cars Be Everywhere?

 

As part of an excellent presentation and recent podcast, analyst Frank Chen of VC firm Andreessen Horowitz takes a crack at answering the question above. First, this from an audio presentation with slide deck, “16 questions about self-driving cars”:

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A Daily Shot ( @fredcole ) entry (January 23) extolling the wonders of food-delivering robots (and a link in the same issue to a Ricochet post on automation on farms) restarted my recurring thoughts comparing my household life (and the modern American middle class life in general) with the most wealthy people of the 18th and […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. More Robots Are Coming to Farms. How Does This Affect the Immigration Debate?

 

Yet another reason to marvel at the lack of attention to technological change during the election. Lots of talk about immigration, but overall a backward-looking debate. For instance: Bloomberg reports about the shortage of farm workers — “crop pickers” — as “immigration slows, deportations rise and the prospects of congressional reform look remote.”

Will the crops rot in the field? Will farmers do nothing in response? Turns out, not so much. Again, Bloomberg: “That’s forcing more growers to invest in machines that reduce human involvement in the production cycle.”

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Rise of the Robots: Mass Unemployment or Redeployment?

 

The robots are rising, but probably not as fast as you think. That is one of the takeaways from a lengthy new McKinsey Global Institute report, “Harnessing automation for a future that works.”

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Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a proposal to replace most or all existing wealth transfer (welfare) programs with a flat grant of cash per month. UBI has gained a following across the political spectrum. See, for instance, this Cato Institute discussion between libertarian policy wonk Charles Murray and retired union boss Andy Stern, where they […]

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I spent over 40 years in the tech industry, 30 of those in Silicon Valley, and heard the artificial intelligence (AI) promoters and automation pessimists the whole time. If the phrases ‘symbolic reasoning’, ’expert systems’, ‘4th Generation’ or ’neural nets’ ring a bell, you’ve been along on the same ride. Each computer generation brought a […]

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The video below shows an automatic flight control system saving the lives of an unconscious F-16 pilot and the instructor just seconds before they would have plummeted to the ground. More

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The source of much of the angst of this election season is the perceived waning work prospects of the average American. This may have reached a critical mass now, but it is the culmination of trends long in the making. The purpose of this post is to review them, and how they have created a […]

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