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Rise of the Robots: Technology and the…

Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

by Martin Ford

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Well - this was a depressing read. Ford's hypothesis is that unless you are one of the mega rich, the future is very bleak indeed as soon algorithms i.e artificial intelligence will pretty much be able to do most routine jobs - and most jobs are routine. Only jobs which require physical contact and manipulation e.g health will likely survive and they will probably be mostly minimum wage. Even professionals such as doctors are threatened by AI such as IBM's Watson. As he succinctly states - no business wants to hire a worker - they are expensive and unreliable and need managing. An AI doesn't get sick or have childcare problems or complain about overtime or its coworkers. He is scathing of those who say new types of jobs will be created as has happened in the past. He thinks this time is different.
He makes a suggestion of a basic income for all as a way to maintain a society. Can't see current politics even contemplating that unless there was a complete societal breakdown happening. And even then...
Far from a cheery read. ( )
  infjsarah | Jul 23, 2017 |
Good book. But I had seen most of it already in reading the newspaper and geek magazines. ( )
  bermandog | Jun 17, 2017 |
Technical Library - shelved at: C11 - initially with Nigel Ostime
  HB-Library-159 | Feb 16, 2017 |
I read Orwell's 1984 a few months back and, at the time, it was the most horrific thing I'd read all year. And then I read this book, Rise of the Robots. Author Martin Ford paints one heck of a scary picture for the near future. And by scary, I also mean realistically plausible AND already happening. Maybe I'm sensitive to this issue because I currently live and work in an industry that's ripe for technology disruption, but there's no way this isn't felt globally. Seriously, Terminator feels like a bedtime story by comparison.

That said... I can't think of a better alternative than to forge ahead. Technology improves lives on the whole—an honest person would have a hard time disputing this. What we can't know is if this trend will continue to hold true indefinitely. To artificially limit technological advancement for moral reasons is foolishly shortsighted. Best to prepare ourselves.

Towards the end, Ford provides a reasonable defense of what's being called a "guaranteed basic income" which is one of many ideas being tossed about which would absorb some of the coming change, and it's the best argument I've seen so far. I still don't agree with it, but more insight like this is what the conversation needs. ( )
  Daniel.Estes | Dec 22, 2016 |
Rise of the Robots focuses on the economic impact of increased productivity due to automation. When I was just a lad, sometime in the last century, I recall this being talked about and how it would lead to greater wealth, shorter working hours, higher pay, and general abundance. That hasn't happened, at least not for most workers who have seen no substantial increases in pay or benefits even though the value of the goods they are producing has risen substantially. Where did all that wealth go? I'll bet you can guess. Automation isn't the only cause for income disparity, of course. Narrowly focused short-term profit-seeking and manipulation of governmental policies and public opinion by well-funded special interests play a large role, but this book only touches on those. The automation aspect, especially the rapid advancement in robotics is the main topic.

When I started my first 'real' office job (1981), we had one admin assistant for about every dozen desk jockeys. Her job (all were women) was primarily to type our hand-written correspondence so it could be snail-mailed. When we got our first desktop computers a couple of years later, we typed the letters ourselves on our computers and sent them to a shared printer. A year later, we did away with the need for printing and emailed most of them. One of the consequences was elimination of the admin support jobs followed closely by staff reductions in the mail room.

We all know about robots replacing assembly line workers to build cars and a host of other things. This technology is getting more sophisticated and is being used in more ways. The trend will certainly continue. Some people may tell you that businesses are 'job creators', but they leave out an important word. Businesses are reluctant job creators. They don't hire people they don't need, and they do their best to need as few as possible. Robots that are reliable and cost-effective will, undoubtedly, continue to reduce the need for human labor. In the past, displaced workers might hope to retrain for different, possibly better jobs, but computer technology is advancing so quickly, there may soon be few jobs robots aren't better suited for...from a purely profit-motivated business perspective.

Martin Ford suggests that what is needed is a new paradigm, one that retains the essential contribution of people as consumers, even if they do not have paying jobs bringing in income. This is necessary to keep the economy moving. Broad-based consumer spending drives the economy, but businesses can't sell what people can't afford to buy. He offers several options. I don't know which, if any, of these might work, but they are all worth considering. I am quite sure, however, that the days of the labor-based income economy are numbered.

This is an important subject for our times and Rise of the Robots does a good job addressing it. I recommend it. ( )
  DLMorrese | Oct 14, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0465059996, Hardcover)

A New York Times Science Bestseller

What are the jobs of the future? How many will there be? And who will have them? We might imagine—and hope—that today’s industrial revolution will unfold like the last: even as some jobs are eliminated, more will be created to deal with the new innovations of a new era. In Rise of the Robots, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Martin Ford argues that this is absolutely not the case. As technology continues to accelerate and machines begin taking care of themselves, fewer people will be necessary. Artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making “good jobs” obsolete: many paralegals, journalists, office workers, and even computer programmers are poised to be replaced by robots and smart software. As progress continues, blue and white collar jobs alike will evaporate, squeezing working- and middle-class families ever further. At the same time, households are under assault from exploding costs, especially from the two major industries—education and health care—that, so far, have not been transformed by information technology. The result could well be massive unemployment and inequality as well as the implosion of the consumer economy itself.

In Rise of the Robots, Ford details what machine intelligence and robotics can accomplish, and implores employers, scholars, and policy makers alike to face the implications. The past solutions to technological disruption, especially more training and education, aren’t going to work, and we must decide, now, whether the future will see broad-based prosperity or catastrophic levels of inequality and economic insecurity. Rise of the Robots is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what accelerating technology means for their own economic prospects—not to mention those of their children—as well as for society as a whole.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 06 Jul 2015 13:10:13 -0400)

"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?"--… (more)

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