The robots are coming for your job

By Leith van Onselen

Earlier this year, The Atlantic released a report, arguing that nearly half of current jobs in the United States could be replaced by robots within a decade or two.

The Atlantic argued that routine-based jobs or jobs that can be solved by smart algorithms are most at risk, whereas those jobs requiring high levels of critical thought and analysis are relatively safe.

Most in the firing line are manufacturing, administrative support, retail, and transportation workers, who will continue to lose workers to automation – as has been the case for decades. However, cashiers, counter clerks, and telemarketers are equally endangered.

Last night, the ABC’s 7.30 Report ran an excellent segment (above), analysing the trends in robotics and arguing that in two decade’s time, there could be more robots than humans and up to half of the world’s jobs could be at risk.

The report also claims that around 5 million current jobs in Australia could be lost to robots, and provides several examples of this process across several Australian industries.

It’s not all bad news, however, as new jobs will become available to the adaptable. Although the process is likely to be disruptive and painful for many.

If you are young person seeking a career, you would be well advised to begin looking at these new trends, and then hope that there are no technological breakthroughs that make your chosen vocation redundant.

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Comments

  1. “It will free up humans for higher level activities”…like maybe doing post production on Elysium 4?
    Entering Post Capitalism

    • migtronixMEMBER

      Nah more like Futurama! Bender and I are going drinking, you chumps can work 😀

  2. Hmm only 50% of today’s jobs taken by robots within 20 years, this guys obviously clueless about modern robotics because for a country like Australia we’ll be lucky if the true number is not closer to 75%, of today’ jobs. Still whatever way you cut it, as a society we’ll be forced to manage this trend and Australia’s traditional see-no-evil, hear-no-evil way of dealing with change is very likely to bight us and I mean bight us big time.

    • migtronixMEMBER

      Pshaw CB 100% of jobs more like, I’ve got hacky little couple hundred line node.js script (load it on anything basically) and it can replace all the RE agents now alive 😉

      • my bad, I was forgetting about RE agents, mind you scum always floats to the top, so RE sales/agency be an interesting battle where existing human methods fulfill a technically unnecessary role, but maybe one that humans value…prepare for .the FUD battles.

        Personally I think this upcoming robotics revolution will be an empowering force and a way to equalize growing inequality, still it could easily go the other way especially if politicians, lawyers and unions get involved.

        I had the privilege recently of being invited to a demonstration of a new line of low cost robotics, it’s all advanced R&D stuff with all the usual @#$%-ups and failures but frankly I was blown away by the functionality being targeted at the low end of the price curve. I cant talk about specifics (NDA’s etc) but wow, and I mean WOW!

      • migtronixMEMBER

        I cant talk about specifics (NDA’s etc) but wow, and I mean WOW!

        Now I’m jealous, but mostly excited!

      • Looks like I need to post again damn spambot needs to be replaced by a human.

        Yea huge advancements have been made on the robotics control side with internal cpu networking and distributed intelligence this is all leveraging the cost performance of modern ARM cores similar to those in your smartphone and low cost networking. But thats only part of the revolution because there are also so many new materials and cheap actuators in development that it completely changes the way we need to think about robotic’s cost (such as cost points for degrees of freedom. etc)

        For me we are right at the cusp of a truly disruptive event, the closest thing that I’ve seen previously was the emergence of the 8088/86 and 68000 cores. They delivered what was main-frame (at the time) performance for 1/100th the price and created a pathway that doubled that performance every 12 to 18 months. As a result DEC and Wang ….etc went to the way of the Dodo and IBM was lucky to survive. Only difference is this time it wont be new technology replacing old technology it’ll be technology directly replacing people.

      • I wish I could comment unfortunately the spambot keeps eating my replies…maybe this is the beginnings of robotic censorship….robots censoring human communications that would potentially constrain robotics.

        “Only the paranoid survive” kinda thing Hmmm maybe its time for my meds…

      • migtronixMEMBER

        Let me try for you:

        huge advancements have been made on the robotics control side with internal cpu networking and distributed intelligence this is all leveraging the cost performance of modern ARM cores similar to those in your smartphone and low cost networking. But thats only part of the revolution because there are also so many new materials and cheap actuators in development that it completely changes the way we need to think about robotic’s cost (such as cost points for degrees of freedom. etc) For me we are right at the cusp of a truly disruptive event, the closest thing that I’ve seen previously was the emergence of the 8088/86 and 68000 cores. They delivered what was main-frame (at the time) performance for 1/100th the price and created a pathway that doubled that performance every 12 to 18 months. As a result DEC and W*ng ….etc went to the way of the Dodo and IBM was lucky to survive. Only difference is this time it wont be new technology replacing old technology it’ll be technology directly replacing people.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        Let me try for you:

        Looks like I need to post again damn spambot needs to be replaced by a human. Yea huge advancements have been made on the robotics control side with internal cpu networking and distributed intelligence this is all leveraging the cost performance of modern ARM cores similar to those in your smartphone and low cost networking. But thats only part of the revolution because there are also so many new materials and cheap actuators in development that it completely changes the way we need to think about robotic’s cost (such as cost points for degrees of freedom. etc) .

        That took 5 goes and I had to remove your personal sentiment?!?!

      • A true AI will take care of the rest.

        They have been saying that since the 50’s and we haven’t gotten any closer.

      • “They have been saying that since the 50′s and we haven’t gotten any closer.”

        So therefore we won’t?

      • Closer (to AGI) is a certainty. We are probably one major breakthrough away from the reall thing, and maybe not even that.
        Every major tech billionaire and their companies are are investing heavily right now in the furtherance of AI, literally in only the last 12 months. It’s unprecedented.
        Google has a Dwave quantum computer in its AI lab, which was only announced last May. They are quite serious.
        It a bit shortsighted to exclude the real possibility of true Artificial Intelligence.

      • @Hector

        It a bit shortsighted to exclude the real possibility of true Artificial Intelligence.

        I never excluded the possibility. As someone with a postgrad level background in both CS/Eng and Neuroscience, I don’t buy the hype just as easily.

        The crux of it comes down to learning. If the system can’t learn on it’s own, it isn’t intelligent enough in my books. We don’t even have the theoretical underpinning of these processes down pat.

        Almost everything that has been done thus far in AI/Machine learning can essentially be mapped back to linear (and maybe non-linear) regression or heuristics.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        75% does seem more likely. A true AI will take care of the rest.

        Especially powered by cold fusion !

      • migtronixMEMBER

        @ff yes mostly linear, graph mapping by any other way — some nice preemption heuristics and very sexy (if you’re into that sort of thing) genetic algos but… meh.. I’d like to see some non-artificial intelligence around the place too but I’m not holding my breath…

      • Flyfox, I’m with you…

        In fact, I don’t actually think true AI is possible, in the sense of a robotic human mind, capable of the same things.

        The philosophical underpinning for me is the fact that a mind can only create something that, logically, descriptively speaking, produce something that is less than itself. Hence, the ability to do lots of calculations, etc, has no impact on the fact that said logic is fundamentally incapable of breaking its own fundamental logical barriers, axioms.

        The simple takeaway is that, philosophically and fundamentally logically speaking true human-level AI is not possible.

        We can make some cool machines, sure, but true artificial intelligence is a pipe-dream.

        Not a popular view, i’m sure… 😉

      • migtronixMEMBER

        The simple takeaway is that, philosophically and fundamentally logically speaking true human-level AI is not possible

        I have far different test Burb — give the robot some DMT!! If it trips balls its AI 🙂

      • migtronixMEMBER

        The simple takeaway is that, philosophically and fundamentally logically speaking true human-level AI is not possible

        I have far different test Burb — give the robot some DMT!! If it trips balls its AI 🙂

      • Then they haven’t considered the end game – their customer base vanishes.
        And I don’t think they have. Look at a company like Walmart – they make their money selling to the working class, which are they are simultaneously trying to destroy by forcing down wages. They’re eating their golden goose while it’s still alive, and eventually they’ll kill it.

      • @BW

        The simple takeaway is that, philosophically and fundamentally logically speaking true human-level AI is not possible.

        Personally I wouldn’t make that call but …

        Hence, the ability to do lots of calculations, etc, has no impact on the fact that said logic is fundamentally incapable of breaking its own fundamental logical barriers, axioms.

        We need to be a lot, and by a lot I mean magnitudes lot, closer with respect to this than we are now for true AI to even remotely become possible.

        Can it happen? Sure. Will it it happen in my lifetime (next 50 yrs) dunno.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Look at a company like Walmart – they make their money selling to the working class, which are they are simultaneously trying to destroy by forcing down wages. They’re eating their golden goose while it’s still alive, and eventually they’ll kill it.

        Sure, but the handful of people at the top of the Walmart tree will have enough wealth to last them several lifetimes, so why would they care ?

      • @drsmithy

        What are they going to do with the wealth if society as we know it collapses? Money or gold only has value because people ascribe it value. You can get goods anb services for it.

        Gold is no good to someone on deserted island with no water….

      • Spot on StatSailor, like a snake eating its tail is the way crony capitalism is heading, here in Aus our Bunnmart is up to the same tricks, the way this country is going they won’t be able to sell their electric drills even at two bucks if either unemployment doubles and those employed are giving it all to the banks.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        What are they going to do with the wealth if society as we know it collapses? Money or gold only has value because people ascribe it value. You can get goods anb services for it.

        I’d be willing to bet even after society collapses there’ll be plenty of people who still think gold is worth something.

        Alternatively, they’ll end up dead (with any luck, underneath a guillotine). I never said their plan was foolproof. 🙂

  3. Today it’s my turn to be the victim of the dreaded spam-bot, wonder if this post will appear.

  4. Stephen Morris

    This leads straight into the “inequality debate”. It:

    a) is the reason “r > g”; and

    b) explains the newly rediscovered brutality of the laissez-faire fundamentalists.

    In short, the negotiating position of “ordinary people” has been weakened by these technological developments. The norms we took for granted in the 20th century – norm which arose out of a very specific state of technology – will no longer apply, and the plutocrats are already moving to reclaim their historical privileges.

    I know I have posted this before, but as it is directly relevant here it is again:

    The current social norms which many people take for granted (self-determination, democracy, the fundamental equality of all people) were the result of – and were contingent upon – very specific economic and technological conditions.

    Those were conditions in which an evolutionary advantage (and that includes economic and military advantage) could be obtained by training individuals to very high levels of skill. Having invested such a vast amount in individuals, Rulers “valued” those individuals. Conversely, those individuals had great bargaining power relative to those who would rule them.

    These Modern Era ideals of “individual rights” and “all people being born equal” are just that – modern!! They arose out of those very specific technological and economic conditions.

    For most of human history, such ideals would have been regarded as preposterous. The self-evident difference between Rulers and Ruled was taken for granted. As Charles I remarked on the scaffold: “A subject and a sovereign are clean different things”. Or, as Alexander Hamilton told the Constitutional Convention: “All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and the well-born; the other the mass of the people … turbulent and changing, they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct, permanent share in the Government … Nothing but a permanent body can check the imprudence of democracy. ”

    Both of these men in their different ways were reflecting the “normal” view of human social arrangement, as it has existed for millennia – before the Modern Era. And we know from the historical record that homo sapiens Rulers had no hesitation in wasting the lives of their fellow human beings – by the thousands. By the millions if they had the need and the opportunity.

    Hitherto, however, Rulers have been constrained in their ability to wipe out swathes of their own subjects. Hitherto, they have been dependent on maintaining enough workers and soldiers to sustain their regimes against those who would attack it.

    The Modern Era represents the apex of that dependency. The dependence of Rulers on their highly trained workforce rose to unprecedented levels. Rulers were utterly dependent on subjects trained to operate the complex – but not completely automated – machinery of the modern industrial state. And those subjects therefore had the negotiating power to demand a share of the benefits.

    It was in response to that very specific – and historically anomalous – set of conditions that the quintessential Modern Era ideals of Equality and Democracy arose.

    But there was never any universal law that said that such ideals must continue when the technological and economic environment changed. That is naive “progressivism”.

    We are now entering a new era – unprecedented in human history – in which automation and robotics will make the vast bulk of the human race redundant. Not just unemployed, but “redundant” – no longer needed by their Rulers.

    And already we are seeing the effects, both economic and political. While the wealthy minority become ever richer, median wages in developed countries like the US have remained unchanged for more than a decade. These are the people who are simply no longer needed.

    In the political arena, the Modern Era ideals are being wound back.

    Some might trace the beginnings of this reversal to May 1979, and to what historians (if there are any historians) might one day call “The Great Conservative Revolution” which began in Britain and rapidly spread worldwide.

    Couched originally in terms of promoting “economic efficiency” this revolution quickly transformed into a platform of undisguised elitism and privilege. Its hallmark policy of privatisation quickly degenerated into a sordid process of handing out monopolies and tax farms to influential Mates.

    Meanwhile individuals in the most “advanced” countries are told they must work harder and longer – all in the name of being “competitive” – but they’re not paid any more. The most powerful players are protected by government “bail-outs” – paid for by taxpayers – to ensure they never suffer any losses.

    All the gains go to the rich and the Mates of the Rulers.

    Technology meanwhile has made it ever easier for Rulers to spy on their subjects, both in the real world – with CCTV, ANPR, drones and other devices – and even more easily in the virtual world.

    George Orwell fretted about the potential for technology – in the form of television – to be used as a spying device. Slowly but surely his fears are coming to fruition.

    Had true Democracy ever been able to take root, it might have been possible for the subjects to keep the Rulers under control. But it never did. The system of purely elective government (a system which – in a triumph of Orwellian language – we are required to call “representative liberal democracy”!) has degenerated into a duopoly of self-serving politicians working hand-in-glove with their plutocrat Mates.

    True Democracy will never come to fruition now. Like Alexander Hamilton, the Rulers and their acolytes tell themselves over and over again how dangerous it would be to allow the “stupid, stinking ignorant scum” to have any effective say in policy . The one thing they will never allow is for the People to exercise any effective power which might overthrow their corrupt regime.

    This isn’t going to end well.

    As long as the billions of redundant human beings are allowed to go on living they will pose an ever-present threat to the Rulers. As long as they are allowed to go on living there is the risk that they will rise up and overthrow their Rulers.

    You don’t need to be Einstein to see how this game must eventually play itself out.

    We know from the historical record that homo sapiens Rulers will have no hesitation in removing such a threat – with whatever brutality is required. It is what they are evolved to do.

    We also know from the historical record that such slaughter does not usually take the form of Rulers acting directly against subjects. That would risk precipitating the very rebellion they fear most.

    Most slaughter takes the form of one regime fighting another in a “just war”, with the subjects used as cannon-fodder or simply dying as “collateral damage”.

    The most plausible scenario is that the homo sapiens primates who rule in Washington and the homo sapiens primates who rule in Beijing will eventually come to see the necessity of settling once-and-for-all the vital question of who has the biggest dong.

    In the conflagration which follows the mass of humanity will perish while the Rulers hide in their shelters.

    And when it is all over they will emerge, make up with one another, and enjoy an empty planet with their needs provided by a largely robotic workforce and a handful of human slaves.

    Thus will the ruthless inherit the Earth.

    • +1
      I view things similarly.
      Ray Kurzweil is too sanguine for me, whilst technologically correct.
      Perhaps Hugo de Garis’s ‘Artilect War’ is possible future.
      Another might be merging with machines. Either way, same result; no pesky rendundants.

    • migtronixMEMBER

      You guys are depressing the sh!t out of me, I hope the bloody robots are more fun to hang out with…

    • Very well written and prescient comment Stephen Morris.

      May I just add this particular meme. The great change associated with Robotics, automation and the Internet is (in my view) about 20 years away. It has the potential to turn everything on its head – so it may well be the scenario as described above.

      The idea is of a type of singularity – the combination of technologies mentioned will mean that a robot factory can produce more than one of itself in its lifetime. Over unity automation. At that stage (if allowed to exist) economics resolves to an energy budget, and if we run out of deserts then it may be possible to put manufactories in low earth orbit.

      Humans have evolved to deal with allocation of scarce resources. How would this post scarcity economy work?

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Humans have evolved to deal with allocation of scarce resources. How would this post scarcity economy work?

        By imposing artificial scarcity.

        For an example of this already in action, look at “Intellectual Property” laws.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        I don’t even agree with “evolved” with scarcity!!
        Quite the opposite actually!!

        Everything humans have done, from inventing the threaded-needle which allowed us to create tighter fitting clothing and hence expand our range into previously uninhabitable climates, to boat building, animal husbandry et al, has been about EXPANDING or DISCOVERING MORE not bloody less!! Plenty of rocks up in the sky we can send robots to mine…

        You guys are fking depressing — and wrong…

      • Mig, you are 100% correct about Asteroid Mining/Planetary Resources. Energy won’t be a problem at all. Ever.

      • Commenter2095

        “Humans have evolved to deal with allocation of scarce resources. How would this post scarcity economy work?”

        Through inflation of positional goods (only so much waterfront property, so many front row seats at the concert, and so many original Van Gough works). Either that or a gift economy. Maybe both.

        I’m not sure we will ever reach true-post scarcity though. As you said there is a fixed Earth-side energy cap, and even if we cheat by going into space, there is a fixed solar energy output.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        I’m not sure we will ever reach true-post scarcity though. As you said there is a fixed Earth-side energy cap, and even if we cheat by going into space, there is a fixed solar energy output.

        While technically true, it’s a pretty bloody high constraint.

    • My thoughts precisely and eloquently put Stephen.

      However you have missed one very salient point. The other key problem we face is over-population and the squandering/polluting of resources (fish stocks, ground water etc etc).

      The Rulers’ solution to the points you raise and the future potential of the planet to support life sans Soylent Green is mass depopulation.

      However nuclear weapons won’t be the way it is achieved. One must reasonably expect that genetically engineered viruses – with the elite having already been vaccinated – is the way forward. Couple that with targeted attacks on key infrastructure – water, power, telco – and the world as we know it will disintegrate incredibly quickly. So long as there are enough robots to bury/cremate the dead before secondary infections spread then all’s well…

      …for the bastards that Robert Altemeyer so beautifully described in his work “The Authoritarians” about our elites

      “Social dominators admit, anonymously, to striving to manipulate others, and to being dishonest, two-faced, treacherous, and amoral. “A ‘winner’ is deceitful, manipulative, unfair, base, conniving, …

      They are quite capable of saying whatever will get them ahead. After all, they hold that there’s no such thing as “right” and “wrong.” It all boils down to what you can get away with. And one of the most useful skills a person should develop, they say, is how to look someone straight in the eye and lie convincingly.

      Furthermore, while the followers may feel admiration bordering on adoration of their leaders, we should not be surprised if the leaders feel a certain contempt for their followers. They are the suckers, the “marks,” the fools social dominators find so easy to manipulate.”

      It’s a fascinating read (and available free on the net).

      I’ll leave you with one last piece…

      “their strong need to dominate led to bullying, military build-ups, and warfare. They showed no signs of being guided by moral principles and they certainly had no interest in charity or in serving the common good of the planet.”

      Sound like anyone we know?

    • “And when it is all over they will emerge, make up with one another, and enjoy an empty planet with their needs provided by a largely robotic workforce and a handful of human slave”

      +1
      Just to add to the depressing story – theyre also trying to develop technology to attain immortality as well…so not only will they rule over everything, they will live forever too…so the people wont even be able to get rid of them…lol…

      http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/transcendence-science-fiction-real/

    • migtronixMEMBER

      @commentor you mean the fixed sized solar output that driven all life on Earth ever?

  5. What about getting rid of the minimum wage instead to save jobs? Labour has always competed with capital and always will. Make it too expensive to hire people and automation is the obvious answer. It comes down to RoI, like it always has.

    • Good luck. Fair Work Awards are a joke in this day and age, but Australians think it’s normal for a government agency to tell them how much they have to pay for a haircut.

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      What about getting rid of the minimum wage instead to save jobs?

      If you can’t afford to pay someone minimum wage to do a job, your business model is broken.

    • @ Scoobs
      I work in Melbourne City and share a three bedroom house with three others. Two of us are professionals, and the other two have reasonably well paying jobs. We all live as we do because we can not afford to live independently and save money.

      I have lived on minimum wage before and with the cost of living as it is I would not wish to again. I am especially glad that I have a job and not reliant on unemployment benefits to provide shelter and food.

      Minimum wage is not the problem, the cost of living is.

      Drive down the cost of living by driving down the cost of land and then look at what is a fair amount to live off.

      Edit: Just realised that the content of my post does not suit the context of the discussion. Seeing the term minimum wage got me going.

      • Agreed the entire cost structure of the Australian economy is way too high, and the high minimum wage levels are just one factor. Exorbitant land costs are no doubt also a big contributor to this. When the cost of living is so high, businesses necessarily must pay their employees a certain wage level in order to enable their workers to make a living. Compared to this, a machine or robot does have to make a living. A machine or robot does not have a mortgage, childcare and education costs, food expenses and bills to pay. The machine does not sue for unfair dismissal nor does it require paid parental leave. It just needs to be maintained from time to time and can operate 24/7. Given these options, any rational business will automate where the marginal cost of labour exceeds the cost of automation. This is the inevitable outcome of a high cost structure society like Australia.

    • migtronixMEMBER

      Nice! Thanks Hugh.

      Though really we’ve doing fly-by-wire and then fly-by-chip for a long time now. Sure a car has more collision detection but then it won’t plummet several thousand feet…

    • I’ll confess I’m still quite skeptical – to the point of laughing and head-shaking – about the driverless car.

      As someone who works with real processes and instruments and control systems, in the real world, I see how often they fail, how imprecise they can be, how much maintenance they require to keep them reliable, and how tightly controlled their environmental needs to be – else, they just don’t do what they are supposed to.

      Stick a lot of these cars in the real world, with really complex and variable environments….good luck with that! 😉

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        I’ll confess I’m still quite skeptical – to the point of laughing and head-shaking – about the driverless car.

        I can see them working well in relatively stable and predictable scenarios – basically: driving on divided, restricted access highways.

      • Google’s self driving priuses have been driving around the Bay Area for years on actual roads in actual traffic. With a much better driving record than humans.

        There is no longer a question of if the tech can be made to work. Its now just refinement. The new GCar is just the first step from ‘modified conventional self driving vehicle’ to ‘fully autonomous self driving vehicle’.

        Its a matter of when, not if, these vehicles become commercialized. When they do, it will be revolutionary.

      • BurbWatcher, I too work in process automation and 90% of the problems I see are caused by operators. The equipment and electronics is extremely robust and consistent, provided the programming is done in a rigorous manner.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Its a matter of when, not if, these vehicles become commercialized. When they do, it will be revolutionary.

        People keep saying this, but I don’t understand how.

        All I can see autonomous vehicles doing is putting a shitload of people out of work and making congestion worse.

      • drsmithy, here are ways it will change everything.

        1. When cars are fully autonomous, it won’t be worth many people owning cars any longer. You will simply order one via your phone, it will appear, you will get in, and it will take you to your destination. I already do this with Zipcars, except I have to pick them up and drop them off from their pod. Fully autonomous cars will make this super-convenient as there is no pickup or dropoff.
        2. A consequence of 1 will be to reduce the number of cars substantially, and each car will be much better utilised. Most cars currently spend almost all of their time sitting in parking lots.
        3. A result of 2 is substantially reduced demand for parking. Further, during quiet periods, the cars can park themselves in out of the way places instead of taking up space right next to where people want to be.
        4. Differential pricing will be able to be applied to use of them, meaning it will be cheaper during low demand periods. I also suspect that ride-sharing will be implemented (i.e. if you are travelling alone, and allow the car to pick up or drop off another single person on your route, you get a substantial discount). Think auto-car-pooling.
        5. I feel that a result of less people owning cars is that they won’t feel that they need to drive their car around to get value from it, and will shop and live more locally. This point is questionable, but I found when I ditched the family car, we are much more likely to go somewhere local than remote.
        6. Vehicular safety will be revolutionised. They’re already much safer than the average driver… give it another decade and it’ll be no contest by orders of magnitude. No more cyclists getting sideswiped and rear ended by cars. No more flattening pedestrians on crossing. They can see better than a human, and they can identify and track objects better.
        7. Drink driving will not exist.
        8. Taxis will not exist.
        9. Truck drivers will not exist.
        10. When the systems become more advanced, congestion will decrease. There are crazy advantages you can get if vehicles operate to certain agreed protocols, and can operate based on a global view of what other vehicles are doing.
        11. Further in the future, convoying! Think of all vehicles doing 150kmh, bumper to bumper on freeways. They’ll effectively function as a train, with zero delay between the first vehicle and all others braking in an emergency.

        Like I said. Revolutionary.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        When cars are fully autonomous, it won’t be worth many people owning cars any longer. You will simply order one via your phone, it will appear, you will get in, and it will take you to your destination. I already do this with Zipcars, except I have to pick them up and drop them off from their pod. Fully autonomous cars will make this super-convenient as there is no pickup or dropoff.

        We already have these, they’re called taxis.

        A result of 2 is substantially reduced demand for parking. Further, during quiet periods, the cars can park themselves in out of the way places instead of taking up space right next to where people want to be.

        This is just going to increase congestion in and out as more vehicles will be on the road for longer, rather than parked.

        I feel that a result of less people owning cars is that they won’t feel that they need to drive their car around to get value from it, and will shop and live more locally. This point is questionable, but I found when I ditched the family car, we are much more likely to go somewhere local than remote.

        Sure, but that’s probably because now you no longer have the option to go to somewhere remote. 🙂

        Vehicular safety will be revolutionised. They’re already much safer than the average driver… give it another decade and it’ll be no contest by orders of magnitude. No more cyclists getting sideswiped and rear ended by cars. No more flattening pedestrians on crossing. They can see better than a human, and they can identify and track objects better.

        Safety is probably the single biggest point to be made, but even then I’m sceptical the change will be “revolutionary”. My anecdotal observation is that a substantial proportion of bicycle and pedestrian accidents with cars are at least as much the fault of the pedestrian or rider than the driver.

        Drink driving will not exist.

        Fair call.

        8. Taxis will not exist.
        9. Truck drivers will not exist.

        Like I said, shitloads of people losing their jobs. 🙂

        When the systems become more advanced, congestion will decrease. There are crazy advantages you can get if vehicles operate to certain agreed protocols, and can operate based on a global view of what other vehicles are doing.
        
11. Further in the future, convoying! Think of all vehicles doing 150kmh, bumper to bumper on freeways. They’ll effectively function as a train, with zero delay between the first vehicle and all others braking in an emergency.

        On the downside, if something goes wrong it’ll be utter carnage. I’m kinda with The Burbwatcher on this one.

      • Yes, DS, driverless cars will hurt the jobs of taxi drivers and truck drivers.

        The flush toilet eventually hurt the jobs of chamber maids, but I still think we’re better for its widespread presence in our society.

      • +1. Yip those that sing the praises the loudest are normally those who have had zero to do with the technology.

        Not that ‘driverless cars’ aren’t in our future, but I suspect the rollout will be slower than we anticipate. Particularly if the population has to buy their own, with public subsidy, anything is possible.

    • if you don’t mind going 40km/h.

      Is it that low to avoid collisions?

      Better off on a pushbike …

      • You can’t read on a pushbike.

        Well you can, but then you end up crashing into the back of parked cars. (Personal experience)

      • The speed limitation is so that it is classified as a ‘low speed vehicle’ according to the NHTSA. Less regulations on those, so it’s easier to get a prototype up and running on actual roads.

  6. I find this argument interesting.

    For, if all the robots are making and doing things for their customers….then who are the customers? And their customer’s customers?

    ie. if so many people are going to be pushed out of the job, who will buy these products that the robots are making?

    It requires making a lof of assumptions about the ability and willingness of people to accept and competently carry out the new jobs on offer, if indeed they are even enough new jobs around for them to do.

    I wonder if it;s more likely to spur a techno-divide, with many “opting out” to live simpler, more manual lives, and then micro techno-societies enjoying all their robotics, etc.

    It’s all very simplistic, yes, but so are many of the extrapolations that “the robots are going to take our jobs” arguments make…

    My 2c

    • Lack of customers mostly prevents new people getting in the game – if you’ve already got capital you’re cruising.

      If you or your worthless offspring dissipate that capital, getting it back will be a bitch, though.

      • Yeah but what proportion of people actually have enough capital ? 10%? 1%?

        Edit:

        your worthless offspring dissipate that capital, getting it back will be a bitch, though.

        Have you been talking to my dad?

      • Didn’t think about it very deeply, but closer to 1% than 10%, possible less than.

      • @SS

        And how will the great businesses of today, including the tech businesses thrive by selling only to the 1%?

      • They won’t.

        I’m suggesting that the 1% will acquire robots to tend to their needs, retire to their estates, and that’s that. Everyone else can go hang.
        All those rich guys not that secretly want to be John Galt – they’ll get their chance.

      • @SS

        They can already retire to their estates and get all their needs tended, all the while getting richer. That can’t happen if robotics replaces everything.

        Currently money buys you service, it has value because people ascribe it value.

        If capital has no value, they can no longer be at the top …

      • Then they haven’t considered the end game – their customer base vanishes.
        And I don’t think they have. Look at a company like Walmart – they make their money selling to the working class, which are they are simultaneously trying to destroy by forcing down wages. They’re eating their golden goose while it’s still alive, and eventually they’ll kill it.

      • @SS I think they are just beginning to discover this post GFC. Things chugged along because people could borrow and the state ran CAD’s etc.

      • They probably hoped that as developing countries grew wealthy, they would provide more customers. Unfortunately as people’s living standards go up, they lose interest in breeding, so they are essentially going to see a poorer customer base whose numbers are increasing ever more slowly until they start to go backwards.

        Oops.

      • @ SS

        Something like that …

        Unfortunately as people’s living standards go up, they lose interest in breeding

        Yes but this is my personal opinion. The lack of progeny has more to do with the paying your way through life than anything else.

        Want a house? Need two incomes. Want more than a basic standard of living? Need two incomes. Want to send your kids to a good school? ….

        A proportion of that is people just wanting better stuff but the base requirements have been going higher and higher. No time for family or kids. But banks make mega profits …

      • That’s all true, but your urge to reproduce isn’t that likely to be encouraged by falling real wages.

        Indeed, after the GFC not only did the USA’s birth rate take a hit, but the fall in births was largest in counties which had the biggest increases in unemployment.

        These guys are heading for a cliff with both feet on the accelerator.

    • Lack of customers mostly prevents new people getting in the game – if you’ve already got capital you’re cruising.

      If you or your worthless offspring dissipate that capital, getting it back will be a bitch, though.

    • migtronixMEMBER

      Goes like this Explorer; before someone “invented” the bionic device to enhance your senses called “spectacles”
      if you suffered poor vision you had to spend a lot longer completing a menial task.

      Then you strap something around your ears which directly links to your brain via the optical cortex and all of a sudden you are much more efficient. Now, did anyone lose their job because they better vision meant things could be done more efficiently? Or did they just “see things further a field” that needed doing?

      Strangling the metaphor a bit, but I think it bears merit…

    • I’m with you on this BurbWatcher. Who are the ruler’s going to rule. This is much more of a philosophical point.

    • The cost of the products that the robots make will fall towards zero.

      The business models that follow will need give away a portion of utility for free to attract customers.

      • utility for free to attract customers

        What customer? If 90% of the population doesn’t have a job…

      • If 90% of the population don’t have a job, free will be attractive. As Mig says below: Who pays for software?

      • @Blake9

        Yeah like the business models of today’s tech sector?

        How do you plan to make money??

        Uhhhhhhh … we dint quite get to that point yet …

        Whats the point of having customers if you can’t make money out of it?

      • Step 1: Steal underpants
        Step 3: Make money

        Q: What’s step 2
        A: Step 2?? We’re working on it.

      • Google are doing OK…No?

        Like trying to catch a falling knife; definitely.

        Time to get creative.

      • @Blake9

        I am not putting everyone in the same basket. Google are essentially a monopoly now and they have a business model. It’s called advertising revenue.

        They make money from a service they give away for free. This works because other business spend money advertising …

        If you have no plan for revenues today…good luck…if your plan relies on advertising and all the jobs are gone…good luck…

      • It doesn’t get said often, but there are a great many creative people out there, builders of systems, who are gaining the chance to take back control of production and free themselves from the servitude of rent seekers.

        I genuinely worry about where tomorrows jobs will come from and wish our leaders had more foresight.

    • Stephen Morris

      That is precisely why most plutocrats favour massive increases in population.

      If per capita incomes (for most people) have stagnated or are falling, then there is indeed a problem with maintaining demand.

      Some firms may be able to export. But many cannot. In Australia how do you export (government-mandated) superannuation funds management services? How do you export houses?

      If you want to keep increasing profits and if per capita incomes are limited then there is only one variable left to fiddle with: the number of “capitas”.

      Hence the push for “Big Australia”.

      • Maybe the need to get in touch with Henry Ford, who could explain to them that the capita are useless to your business model if they can’t afford your product.

      • Henry Ford? Sounds like a socialist to me.

        Yeah, I kind of think that quite a few modern plutocrats would agree with you.

    • Buckminster Fuller had some very interesting ideas on automation, struggling to find a quote but the book, critical path covers some interesting ideas on how to deal with automation while not deposing of 90% of your population.

  7. I’m sure this will happen but I’m unconvinced by ‘within twenty years’ – too many people still have jobs or at least spend a significant part of their day doing manually stuff that a $500 laptop loaded with $100 software could do.

    People (in this country at least) just aren’t sufficiently interested in doing stuff the cheapest way if it means they have to learn anything, down to the location of the robot’s on switch.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        Not really they pay for a service that implements their requirements via s/w – I to deliver that buy 0 s/w, I use open source tools and servers, this reduces the costs obviously but the trick is I have to do all the heavy lifting – I.e. been using pdfbox to build a document generation engine, so I had write a whole bunch of wrappers to make placing text in box etc easy. Did that and paid it forward to github, now whoever wants to use them can.

        That’s the huge difference to boxed, you get what you’re given s/w

      • migtronixMEMBER

        like this?:

        #include
        #include
        #include
        #include
        double L ,o ,P
        ,_=dt,T,Z,D=1,d,
        s[999],E,h= 8,I,
        J,K,w[999],M,m,O
        ,n[999],j=33e-3,i=
        1E3,r,t, u,v ,W,S=
        74.5,l=221,X=7.26,
        a,B,A=32.2,c, F,H;
        int N,q, C, y,p,U;
        Window z; char f[52]
        ; GC k; main(){ Display*e=
        XOpenDisplay( 0); z=RootWindow(e,0); for (XSetForeground(e,k=XCreateGC (e,z,0,0),BlackPixel(e,0))
        ; scanf(“%lf%lf%lf”,y +n,w+y, y+s)+1; y ++); XSelectInput(e,z= XCreateSimpleWindow(e,z,0,0,400,400,
        0,0,WhitePixel(e,0) ),KeyPressMask); for(XMapWindow(e,z); ; T=sin(O)){ struct timeval G={ 0,dt*1e6}
        ; K= cos(j); N=1e4; M+= H*_; Z=D*K; F+=_*P; r=E*K; W=cos( O); m=K*W; H=K*T; O+=D*_*F/ K+d/K*E*_; B=
        sin(j); a=B*T*D-E*W; XClearWindow(e,z); t=T*E+ D*B*W; j+=d*_*D-_*F*E; P=W*E*B-T*D; for (o+=(I=D*W+E
        *T*B,E*d/K *B+v+B/K*F*D)*_; p<y; ){ T=p[s]+i; E=c-p[w]; D=n[p]-L; K=D*m-B*T-H*E; if(p [n]+w[ p]+p[s
        ]== 0|K K)N=1e4; else{ q=W/K *4E2+2e2; C= 2E2+4e2/ K
        *D; N-1E4&& XDrawLine(e ,z,k,N ,U,q,C); N=q; U=C; } ++p; } L+=_* (X*t +P*M+m*l); T=X*X+ l*l+M *M;
        XDrawString(e,z,k ,20,380,f,17); D=v/l*15; i+=(B *l-M*r -X*Z)*_; for(; XPending(e); u *=CS!=N){
        XEvent z; XNextEvent(e ,&z);
        ++*((N=XLookupKeysym
        (&z.xkey,0))-IT?
        N-LT? UP-N?& E:&
        J:& u: &h); –*(
        DN -N? N-DT ?N==
        RT?&u: & W:&h:&J
        ); } m=15*F/l;
        c+=(I=M/ l,l*H
        +I*M+a*X)*_; H
        =A*r+v*X-F*l+(
        E=.1+X*4.9/l,t
        =T*m/32-I*T/24
        )/S; K=F*M+(
        h* 1e4/l-(T+
        E*5*T*E)/3e2
        )/S-X*d-B*A;
        a=2.63 /l*d;
        X+=( d*l-T/S
        *(.19*E +a
        *.64+J/1e3
        )-M* v +A*
        Z)*_; l +=
        K *_; W=d;
        sprintf(f,
        “%5d %3d”
        “%7d”,p =l
        /1.7,(C=9E3+
        O*57.3)%0550,(int)i); d+=T*(.45-14/l*
        X-a*130-J* .14)*_/125e2+F*_*v; P=(T*(47
        *I-m* 52+E*94 *D-t*.38+u*.21*E) /1e2+W*
        179*v)/2312; select(p=0,0,0,0,&G); v-=(
        W*F-T*(.63*m-I*.086+m*E*19-D*25-.11*u
        )/107e2)*_; D=cos(o); E=sin(o); } }

      • Okay, get it.
        Enjoyed in depth coverage of C contest, and source code for flight in shape of aeroplane.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        Yeah I was trying to put the flight sim code in shape of a plane. A robot/algorithm which that was could never be that creative – hence my point about AI generally. On the other hand algo based math proofing has shown up heaps of proofs no one ever dreamt up so to me it’s an extremely interesting area of research/thought.

      • Proof by computation is an exciting area, but will most likely continue to complement rather than displace human mathematicians.

        Many important proofs rely on creative leaps that are impossible to replicate even when you’ve been shown the trick. Often it seems to require links between mathematical facts where no link was previously discovered. Hence you encounter in mathematical texts sentences of the form
        ‘the following proof unfortunately relies on the result stated below without proof from [totally unrelated area of mathematics]’

        Robots and people will end up solving different problems, tho no doubt their efforts will overlap.

  8. The computers got my job years ago!

    Between an oil major and their bank about 40 years ago the cash for the payroll went through 16 pairs of hands. Today it is effectively about 3 or 4.

    That’s computers for you.

    • 3 or 4 pairs of hands?? Profligate waste.

      I worked for a company that reduced it from 16 to 0.5 over the same period.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        Pffffft DTCC have transaction processing down to T+0 and they still won’t tell the market about in under 3 business days!

        Rent seek much? Not to mention insiders can naked trade securities inter alia as the market still thinks the securities belong to A but in fact are custodialship to B.

        Plenty of ways to rig electronic asymmetrical market participants, that’s why it should all be 100% open data and open source! Then the meritocracy begins until that day have fun getting scalped – I do 😀

      • Correction. It was up until about 20 years ago (my god, is it that long since I left that bank?!?!) and it was including in both entities and was told to me by the international CEO.

        but thanks for confirming.

        and I agree Migtronix, other jobs take the place of those that go. It’s the personal impact of the creative destruction of capitalism and the drive for efficiency.

  9. “nearly half of current jobs in the United States could be replaced by robots within a decade or two.”

    It is hard to judge the significance of this prediction without knowing the rate at which jobs have been eliminated by automation during the recent past. There is probably an acceleration, but the Atlantic story doesn’t provide any evidence to assess this.