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New Book: Rise of the Robots

Software Gobbling the World

[These last two weeks have been convention time so I have not been very productive. I'm still in the midst of revamping my "About Me" page and I'm stuck on one of the sections. In addition, I'm still trying to do my drawings but this time with a story plot. So with the "About Me" revamp, my story drawing, my reading, the learning of Excel/data, and my keeping up with the convention, my postings have declined. I'm just going to do a quickie today to talk about what I have read so far. It's distressing.]

This book by Martin Ford has been around at least a year and I am now just getting around to reading it. Too much to do. Also, I've been dreading reading more bad news and this book has plenty. Maybe at the end of the book the author will have some hopeful thoughts on where we can go from here.

Right now I'm in the healthcare section but today, I just want to talk about the chapter on white collar jobs. It opens with a section on how there is a software that can pull data from various sources on sports activity and "write" an interesting article about a game. The author provided an example of a piece of writing and I really couldn't tell that the writing was NOT done by human hand. That's how good software has gotten. In addition, the CEO speculates that by 2025 or 2026, about 90% of news articles will be written by such software. The CEO is looking beyond just news writing and is expanding the skills to perform analysis and do write ups on the analysis - just the spot to hit the analysts around the world.

Then there are the language translators that have been developed by Google. There goes the translators.

There are software that can track statuses of projects, evaluate performance, and allocate work. Hey, those are the managers and project managers!

Lawyers need not apply - at least not for researching documents.

Or how about this really scary prospect: a software that can perform tests like a scientist to come up with new insights and physical laws.

"The program, which they later named "Eureqa", took only a few hours to come up with a number of physical laws describing the movements of the pendulum - including Newton's Second Law - and it was able to do this without being given any prior information or programming about physics or the laws of motion."

So if scientists, generally the smartest of us, now have to worry about computers and automation, where does that leave the rest of us?

Now, combine automation with the concept of offshoring and the decimation of US jobs will really be in earnest. Some jobs are not easily offshored because of the need to be co-located with customers or colleagues or because of language barriers but automation may make it easier to offshore. We've already offshored the routine jobs and now we are moving up the food chain.

It is speculated that up to at least 50% of the jobs will be automated. Maybe that's within the next 10 years but if software can do what scientists can do, then I think it's possible at least 90% of jobs will be automated. We are basically building machines that can replace humans, physically and mentally. Maybe the only jobs reserved for humans are those that require human interaction and those that require really smart brains (like what I don't know because it seems like software will take over everything).

Ah, the jobs for smart brains. There is one little hitch, which the author brought out and which I alluded to before: The combined population of both China and India is over 8 times that of the US (2.6 billion). The top 5% of the population with high cognitive capability would already be more than 40% of the US population. So with the combination of very few jobs left that software can't handle, the very large population of smart people in India and China, and the low wage rates spells...well, it doesn't bear thinking.

During the Great Depression, we had unemployment rates of between 25 (US) to 33% (Europe). I don't know what a 50% job loss would really mean but let's simplify it to get around the usual definition of unemployment. Assume no unemployment beforehand and that after 50% of jobs are automated, all of those folks are looking for jobs. That 50% cut means 50% unemployment - greater than during the Great Depression and that event had a searing effect on the world.

Now do you understand why I keep saying that we need to change the concept of what capitalism is for and change our value system?

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