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Thread: "Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future", Martin Ford, 2015

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    "Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future", Martin Ford, 2015

    Author - Martin Ford

    "Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future" on Amazon

    In a world of self-driving cars and big data, smart algorithms and Siri, we know that artificial intelligence is getting smarter every day. Though all these nifty devices and programs might make our lives easier, they’re also well on their way to making “good” jobs obsolete. A computer winning Jeopardy might seem like a trivial, if impressive, feat, but the same technology is making paralegals redundant as it undertakes electronic discovery, and is soon to do the same for radiologists. And that, no doubt, will only be the beginning.

    In Silicon Valley the phrase “disruptive technology” is tossed around on a casual basis. No one doubts that technology has the power to devastate entire industries and upend various sectors of the job market. But Rise of the Robots asks a bigger question: Can accelerating technology disrupt our entire economic system to the point where a fundamental restructuring is required? Companies like Facebook and YouTube may only need a handful of employees to achieve enormous valuations, but what will be the fate of those of us not lucky or smart enough to have gotten into the great shift from human labor to computation?

    The more Pollyannaish, or just simply uninformed, might imagine that this industrial revolution will unfold like the last: even as some jobs are eliminated, more will be created to deal with the new devices of a new era. In Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford argues that is absolutely not the case. Increasingly, machines will be able to take care of themselves, and fewer jobs will be necessary. The effects of this transition could be shattering. Unless we begin to radically reassess the fundamentals of how our economy works, we could have both an enormous population of the unemployed—the truck drivers, warehouse workers, cooks, lawyers, doctors, teachers, programmers, and many, many more, whose labors have been rendered superfluous by automated and intelligent machines—and a general economy that, bereft of consumers, implodes under the weight of its own contradictions. We are at an inflection point—do we continue to listen to those who argue that nothing fundamental has changed, and take a bad bet on a miserable future, or do we begin to discuss what we must do to ensure all of us, and not just the few, benefit from the awesome power of artificial intelligence? The time to choose is now.

    Rise of the Robots is a both an exploration of this new technology and a call to arms to address its implications. Written by a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur, this is a book that cannot be dismissed as the ranting of a Luddite or an outsider. Ford has seen the future, and he knows that for some of us, the rise of the robots will be very frightening indeed.

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    Rise of the Robots and the future job market - Martin Ford interview

    Published on Jun 7, 2015

    Martin Ford documents in “Rise of the Robots,” the job-eating maw of technology now threatens even the nimblest and most expensively educated. Lawyers, radiologists and software designers, among others, have seen their work evaporate to India or China. Tasks that would seem to require a distinctively human capacity for nuance are increasingly assigned to algorithms, like the ones currently being introduced to grade essays on college exams. Particularly terrifying to me, computer programs can now write clear, publishable articles, and, as Ford reports, Wired magazine quotes an expert’s prediction that within about a decade 90 percent of news articles will be computer-*generated.In his new book, Rise of the Robots, Ford considers the social and economic disruption that is likely to result when educated workers can no longer find employment.

    What about other future technologies — computers and robotics, for instance? There is nothing new about machines that can surpass our mental abilities in special areas. Even the pocket calculators of the Seventies could do arithmetic better than us. In the Nineties, IBM’s “Deep Blue” chess-playing computer beat Garry Kasparov, then the world champion. More recently, another IBM computer won a television game show that required wide general knowledge and the ability to respond to questions in the style of crossword clues.
    We’re witnessing a momentous speed-up in artificial intelligence (AI) – in the power of machines to learn, communicate and interact with us. Computers don’t learn like we do: they use “brute force” methods. They learn to translate from foreign languages by reading multilingual versions of, for example, millions of pages of EU documents (they never get bored). They learn to recognise dogs, cats and human faces by crunching through millions of images — not the way a baby learns.
    Deep Mind, a London company that Google recently bought for ?400?million, created a machine that can figure out the rules of all the old Atari games without being told, and then play them better than humans.
    It’s still hard for AI to interact with the everyday world. Robots remain clumsy – they can’t tie your shoelaces or cut your toenails. But sensor technology, speech recognition, information searches and so forth are advancing apace.
    Google’s driverless car has already covered hundreds of thousands of miles. But can it cope with emergencies? For instance, if an obstruction suddenly appears on a busy road, can the robotic “driver” discriminate whether it’s a paper bag, a dog or a child? The likely answer is that it won’t cope as well as a really good driver, but will be better than the average driver — machine errors may occur but not as often as human error. The roads will be safer. But when accidents occur they will create a legal minefield. Who should be held responsible — the “driver”, the owner, or the designer?
    And what about the military use of autonomous drones? Can they be trusted to seek out a targeted individual and decide whether to deploy their weapon? Who has the moral responsibility then?

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