I rarely watch NBC, but was clicking around a couple days ago and saw a rather decent piece on self-driving trucks that included important facts about how the technology will affect jobs in an important American industry. Interestingly, Fox News is AWOL on the subject, while the liberal media does better, in particular PBS and The Guardian (UK). The coming destruction of the economic order by the disappearance of the wage-earner component needs to be discussed in media and public forums across the spectrum.
NBC reports that half of America’s truck drivers may lose their jobs because of technology within 10 years. The disemployment is occurring in many fields but there’s little public understanding or debate about the big picture.
Some 3.5 million Americans drive big rigs and delivery trucks, but revolutionary driverless technology means two million jobs, or more than half of the country’s truck drivers, could lose their jobs to automation in the next decade.
REPORTER STEPHANIE RUHLE: Trucks move America.
DRIVING INSTRUCTOR: Hands on the wheel.
RUHLE: It’s more than a slogan. Some three-and-a-half million Americans drive big rigs and delivery trucks. Long-haul truck drivers earn an average $40 thousand a year for the hard work and long hours and it doesn’t require a college degree.
TRUCK DRIVER STUDENT: I always wanted to be a truck driver so. . .
DRIVING INSTRUCTOR: When you pull up . . .
RUHLE: Students like these are learning the trade at a moment of change in the industry. Revolutionary driverless technology means more than half of the country’s truck drivers could lose their jobs to automation.
RAVI SHANKER, MORGAN STANLEY: We think the first fully autonomous trucks go on sale by 2020. I’ll be surprised if in 10 years a lot of the largest trucking carriers in the country aren’t significantly autonomous.
RUHLE: Daimler showed off the technology in Las Vegas in 2015. Their goal is to assist drivers as they plan to keep them at the helm. Other companies are rolling out programs that could put technology in the driver’s seat.
Then is technology the future, the partner or the enemy to the trucker?
JERRY CORVELLI, JERSEY TRACTOR TRAILER TRAINING: I mean certainly the future, you know you’re not going to stop the technology.
RUHLE: What was once a low-skilled trade becoming a profession driven by code and computers.
SHANKER: The truck driver will also be kind of be a technical engineer and if there’s a problem with the hardware, the software, they’re going to have to figure it out.
CORVELLI: Jobs for everyone in society — the highly skilled, the highly educated — but the ones, the individuals that are not so educated and skilled, where are the jobs for them? So that would be the downside.
RUHLE: For some, there’s no substitute for a human driver.
DRIVING INSTRUCTOR JASON MOODY: There may be a computer that can drive a truck from A to B on a straight line. But there will never be a computer that will be able to navigate a truck in the heart of Manhattan, never.
RUHLE: But those who want to stay in trucking for the long haul should expect a changing industry. Stephanie Rule, NBC News, New York.
The story about ultra-wealthy Silicon Valley types buying land where they can hunker down raises immediate questions — what the heck do the tech rich have to fear anyway? They are on top of the world with wealth and influence, plus they can afford to buy a house in Palo Alto.
As it happens, the tech elites fear public fury over the jobless future they have created with automation and artificial intelligence.
The fears vary, but many worry that, as artificial intelligence takes away a growing share of jobs, there will be a backlash against Silicon Valley, America’s second-highest concentration of wealth. (Southwestern Connecticut is first.) “I’ve heard this theme from a bunch of people,” Hoffman said. “Is the country going to turn against the wealthy? Is it going to turn against technological innovation? Is it going to turn into civil disorder?”
Below, Tesla cars are assembled in Fremont California by robots. Automotive manufacturing once supplied jobs for millions of Americans, but now the industry is largely automated.
Tech entrepreneurs fearful artificial intelligence will displace so many jobs there will be a revolt against those responsible
Billionaires in the world’s tech capital Silicon Valley are reportedly preparing for the apocalypse by buying underground bunkers, guns, ammo and motorcycles.
Fearful that artificial intelligence will displace so many jobs that there will be a revolt against those responsible for the technology, the are entrepreneurs readying themselves for doomsday like scenarios. Continue reading this article
Last week Fox TV host Tucker Carlson interviewed robotics expert and Columbia professor Hod Lipson, author of Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead to discuss the future of transportation and jobs. The professor is obviously a well educated guy and an expert in his field, but he apparently doesn’t get how the entire basis of a market economy is undermined when workers are no longer necessary for production and services.
Instead, Professor Lipson has the gee-whiz attitude toward automation of many tech elites that makes them rather dim about how economics affects society. The cover of his recent book shows a reclining non-driver reading a book as his robotic car gets him where he’s going — very revealing I thought.
Lipson thinks the answer to the jobs question posed by Tucker Carlson is that unemployed drivers can just find new work somewhere — even though automation is gobbling up employment in all sorts of fields from fast foods to manufacturing.
Curiously, Professor Lipson surmises that self-driving cars will spur automotive manufacturing, while other futurists predict decreased car ownership overall. Perhaps today’s two-car family transported 20 years hence will own one car and summon a second when necessary on a smart phone, or they may not own a vehicle at all. Fewer total cars is the dream of city managers who struggle with traffic and parking issues.
On the bright side, there will be no more drunk driving when a robot is in charge of directing the car.
As Tucker said, driving is a major jobs category that employs millions of Americans, but the self-driving car advocate did not take that concern seriously without repeated prodding. Tucker didn’t buy the pitch that self-driving cars would vastly improve safety either — it’s all about businesses saving money.
TUCKER CARLSON: It’s our birthright: it’s both a joy and a necessity when your country spans a continent, but is it about to end abruptly? Driverless cars are coming, maybe sooner than we think they are, and what are the ramifications exactly? By the way, what happens to the millions of Americans who drive cars and trucks for a living? There at least four million of them. Joining us now is one of the foremost experts on this subject, Hod Lipson. He’s a roboticist, mechanical engineering professor at Columbia in New York and the author of Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead. Thanks a lot for coming on. I think this is a really interesting topic and a cool topic and driverless cars are a marvel, but I think anyone who ponders it for a minute starts to feel concerned for the millions of Americans who drive for a living. So what will happen to them?
HOD LIPSON: I think there’s you have to look at the big picture and realized that what we’re about to experience is a transformation to transportation as a whole, so we’re going to have a lot more cars being driven, a lot more traffic, and a lot more production of cars, so the industry as a whole is going to grow in a big way. We’re going to have a lot more car manufacturing, a lot more mechanics jobs, a lot more jobs for maintenance of roads. So overall we’re going to see an expansion, but it’s true that some jobs are probably going to go away, not completely and driving is one of them for sure.
CARLSON: So that’s not a small thing, I mean this is not buggy whip manufacturing. According to the census, driving commercially, either delivery or trucks, is the single most common job in the majority of states — I think in 29 of 50 states it’s number one and number two and a bunch of others so this is a huge disruption of a massive part of the labor force, and I mean you’ve thought a lot about the technology behind this. Who’s thinking about what happens to those people? What exactly are they going to, do you think? Continue reading this article
Young people are particularly hard hit by the increased automation of business, since they need a first job to learn the basic skills of showing up on time, taking directions and pleasing the boss. Increasingly those basic first jobs — like waiter or pizza delivery driver — are being done by machines.
In fact, the whole basis of the economy — humans working for income and then purchasing products from business — is being undermined by the growth of automation. But nobody in government or business is paying attention.
Students looking to put some extra cash in their stocking this holiday season may end up with a lump of coal instead.
Traditional youth holiday job opportunities are increasingly being automated. Online shopping rates are expected to reach all-time highs this year, growing 18 percent to roughly half of all shoppers. Amazon added 120,000 seasonal employees this year to meet the online demand. That’s great for jobseekers in cities with Amazon warehouses, but not so great for those in the vast majority that don’t. These jobs are added at the expense of local mall jobs that have been a rite-of-passage for a generation of young jobseekers.
Other job opportunities traditionally filled by young people, including those at fast-food and grocery stores, are also increasingly being automated. McDonald’s recently announced ordering kiosks throughout the country and introduced clamshell grills that eliminate the need to flip burgers. Other employers like Panera Bread and Chili’s Grill & Bar have introduced self-ordering kiosks and tabletop tablets. According to one analysis from Cornerstone Capital Group, such systems can pay off in two or three years. Continue reading this article
Kudos to the Los Angeles Times for an excellent report of how automation displaces human workers in a warehouse environment, which unfortunately is a pattern followed by many industries: bring in the smart machines and employ fewer human workers.
Amazon has been the leader of warehouse robotics, with its proprietary Kiva machines, and has received enormous media attention for its incredibly fast processing and shipment of customer orders made possible by modern technology. However, other technologies have been developed to perform similar tasks in other distribution sites.
The Times headline reveals a lot: “Warehouses promised lots of jobs, but robot workforce slows hiring.” Just a few years ago, when the Skechers warehouse/distribution center for Moreno Valley was initially proposed, the facility was expected to provide lots of jobs for local folks. But the technology has come on so rapidly that the final employment offered turned out to be far less than hoped.
The best policy that Trump could pursue regarding employment would be to end immigration entirely, because the work universe is shrinking rapidly, and Americans will need all the remaining jobs. In fact,
Automation makes immigration obsolete.
Back to the Skechers warehouse, check out the cheerful video, brimming with efficient conveyor belts sending boxes of product off to purchasers, but with a notable lack of human workers:
Below, a Skechers automated warehouse shows shoes in chutes ready for shipment.
Where are shoppers supposed to come from in the jobless future? Captains of industry aren’t interested in that part of the market equation.
When Skechers started building a colossal distribution center in Moreno Valley six years ago, backers promised a wave of new jobs.
Instead, by the time the company moved to the Moreno Valley, it had closed five facilities in Ontario that employed 1,200 people and cut its workforce by more than half. Today, spotting a human on the premises can feel like an accomplishment.
There are now only about 550 people working at one cavernous warehouse, which is about as big as two Staples Centers combined. Many of them sit behind computer screens, monitoring the activities of the facility’s true workhorses: robotic machines.
It’s a sign of things to come.
In the last five years, online shopping has produced tens of thousands of new warehouse jobs in California, many of them in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The bulk of them paid blue collar people decent wages to do menial tasks – putting things in boxes and sending them out to the world.
But automated machines and software have been taking up more and more space in the region’s warehouses, and taking over jobs that were once done by humans. Today, fewer jobs are being added, though some of them pay more.
Amazon, one of the biggest dogs in warehousing, has built 20 new fulfillment centers outfitted with robotics in the last three years, four in California. Since 2014, the company has added 50,000 warehouse workers nationwide — and more than 30,000 robots.
Robots are muscling their way into almost every single occupation, but they pose a direct and immediate threat to people working in storage, industry experts say. That work is repetitive and fits into a chain of supply and delivery that generates reams of data.
For the nation’s 879,800 warehouse workers, 102,800 of whom are in California, profound change is already here.
“The modern warehouse tends to be creating fewer jobs…. Automation is replacing the lowest-end jobs,” said Chris Thornberg, a founding partner at Beacon Economics, a Los Angeles consulting firm.
That shift mirrors the path taken by American manufacturing, where there are fewer jobs going to more qualified people. It underscores how tricky it will be for President-elect Donald Trump to follow through on his promise restore American assembly jobs en masse. Continue reading this article
It will be interesting to see how effective President Trump can be in bringing jobs back to America through reducing regulation, renegotiating bad trade deals, lowering corporate taxes and creating a more business-friendly environment. The process will be a good measure of how much automation has undermined employment for American workers.
America has lost more than 7 million factory jobs since manufacturing employment peaked in 1979. Yet American factory production, minus raw materials and some other costs, more than doubled over the same span to $1.91 trillion last year, according to the Commerce Department, which uses 2009 dollars to adjust for inflation. That’s a notch below the record set on the eve of the Great Recession in 2007. And it makes U.S. manufacturers No. 2 in the world behind China.
Below, robots build Tesla cars in Fremont, California.
And of course, given automation’s destruction of jobs for American workers, Washington’s generous-to-foreigners immigration policies must end, because…
Automation makes immigration obsolete.
Rice University Professor Moshe Vardi, who is widely quoted in the article below, warns that automation will create a world “dystopia” of mass unemployment.
Tech geeks chatter about the coming automation juggernaut frequently, but there is little discussion in the big media about it — strange, given the potential for the entire economic system being undermined.
Six months ago, computer scientist Moshe Vardi felt as if he was a voice crying in the wilderness when it came to automation’s anticipated effect on the job market. No political candidate, it seemed, was talking about the potential impact of autonomous cars and automated manufacturing on future employment.
Today, the topic still isn’t quite on President-elect Donald Trump’s radar screen. But his election has gotten a lot more experts talking about the issue.
“It went from being somewhat esoteric to being practically mainstream,” Rice University’s Vardi told GeekWire.
It’s rare to see a politician who understands the threat to jobs from technology and who will also name the problem. There is a fair amount reporting in the mainstream media about how automation and advanced software are increasingly replacing human workers, but this subject has been largely missing from the political sphere. Remarkably, the volumes of political chatter about the upcoming election have been pretty much devoid of the topic of mass technological unemployment.
The remarks of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are therefore a welcome acknowledgement of reality, particularly when he observed, “The greatest conundrum facing the next administration, and all of us, is how you create jobs when technology is destroying jobs at an alarming rate.”
Mayor Bloomberg should express those thoughts in Washington to the clueless elected representatives of the citizens — not that there are any easy solutions to the unemployment crisis galloping our way. The government could at least end immigration, which should now be placed on the junk heap of history’s outmoded institutions along with the buggy whip and homesteading.
Billionaire Michael Bloomberg spoke candidly about Wall Street and the US presidential election at his company’s 2017 Year Ahead conference on Tuesday.
In a conversation with Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait and Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, he started by describing what he would do if he were running for president.
“I’d have to defend the banks, which is not a particularly good strategy to get elected in this country today,” the business magnate said. “But we desperately need a good group of banks that are willing to take risks and make money so they can finance our growth. … The healthier the banks are, the healthier our economy will be.”
Bloomberg, who was mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013, earlier this year chose not to enter the race for the White House. On Tuesday, he said he chose not to make a bid because of the way the two-party system is structured in the US. Those two parties control the legislature and would not let a third party into the fray if they could help it, he said.
“The main reason I didn’t run is if I ran, I would have been an incredible candidate, would have gotten a third of the electoral votes, nobody would have a majority, it would have gone to the House of Representatives, and they would have picked Donald Trump — and you just can’t do that to this country,” Bloomberg said to applause.
He then described why he thinks Trump appeals to a large swath of American voters.
Trump supporters are “petrified of their future,” Bloomberg said, and concerned that their social security will not be enough to provide for them in retirement. They’re losing jobs to technology, and their children are behaving differently than they’re used to. Continue reading this article
Robot design and engineering is a growing business because companies want to reduce their labor costs and smart technology increasingly accomplishes that goal. And now, with robots becoming less expensive, machines will replace human workers in even the cheapest low-wage havens of Asia.
The PBS Newshour has done good reporting on the automation revolution, and the latest is a thorough overview of the tech developments and the rapidly shifting labor situation, starting in Korea with a visit to the Hyundai robot research institute where its machines are becoming more precise, faster and cheaper.
Below, Hyundai welding robots are showcased at a trade show.
Like American workers, Koreans are concerned about job loss to smart machines, and with good reason. Technological unemployment threatens millions in the coming years, but governments — or the American government, at least — has not begun to discuss how to deal with an economy where a substantial minority or eventually even the majority of adult citizens do not have jobs because of automation.
Automation expert Erik Brynjolfsson remarked [Automation] is “the most important single thing that our country can focus on.” But Washington remains in the pre-investigation stage of coping with the challenge of replacing the present economic system of markets with something fundamentally different.
Of course, given such profound and systemic job loss, immigration is no longer an appropriate government policy.
Automation makes immigration obsolete.
It’s time for Washington to wake up about this issue.
South Korea is among the countries working to increase automation in the manufacturing sector, with some large companies seeing robots as a cost-effective way to replace expensive human labor. But how will the expansion of this technology affect American workers? NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Karla Murthy reports.
By Mori Rothman and Karla Murthy
KARLA MURTHY: Hyundai means “modernity,” and it’s is a big name in the South Korean economic landscape – and not only for cars.
Headquartered in the industrialized port city of Ulsan, Hyundai Heavy Industries, or HHI, is the world’s largest shipbuilder. It produces engines and construction equipment.
HHI is also a leader in making industrial robots.
Hyun-kyu Lim is a head researcher at HHI’s robot research institute. This is where they test robots used to assemble cars. He showed me an example of what robot technology looked like ten years ago:
HYUN-KYU LIM: It shakes a lot.
KARLA MURTHY: That shake when the robot stops slowed down productivity and accuracy.
HYUN-KYU LIM: Now I’ll switch to the robot controller that is used these days. There’s no vibration.
KARLA MURTHY: Lim says today’s robots are much more precise and 40 percent faster. He says spot welding, which is a common process in car factories, takes just under one second with a robot.
The PBS Newshour has a chipper little story that begins with informing viewers about the fastest turkey tail lopper in a poultry processing plant in Huron, South Dakota — who happens to be a refugee. In fact, when Nyo Maung is on vacation, his supervisor says, the productivity of the place slows down.
Isn’t that heartwarming? You wouldn’t expect an American to work that hard — particularly for a crummy $13 per hour.
(It’s doubtful PBS will check up on Maung’s health, particularly his hands, in a few years. Repetitive movements, like cutting off turkey tails even with a swell electric knife, have a tendency to cause strain and eventual injury.)
The group that has moved in the town of Huron en masse is from the Karen tribe of Myanmar. The BBC reports some locals say they are “befuddled” by the new residents, but the turkey business likes them very well.
Below, a refugee worker at a South Dakota turkey processor.
The PBS narrative is a stream of excuses for hiring foreigners rather than Americans — the local kids can’t wait to leave town, the newbies don’t mind being underpaid for hazardous work, the business claims it couldn’t survive without foreigners to exploit, etc.
There’s no mention that decent wages would likely attract American workers, as it did in decades past when meatpacking was a good blue-collar job that provided a middle-class life for families.
And what about the 46 percent of the K-12 students who are diverse and require ESL teachers? That’s an extra expense for the local taxpayers, yet the story makes that cost sound like economic growth. Even with the special educational services, there is a high dropout rate, as reported by RefugeeResettlementWatch.
As rural America sees its populations shrink, one town in South Dakota is embracing new communities, including Karen people, an ethnic minority from Myanmar. Home to Dakota Provisions — a turkey processing plant that produces 200 million pounds of turkey meat annually — Huron, South Dakota is being revitalized by Asian and Latino workers. NewsHour Weekend Correspondent Christopher Booker reports.
CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: At Dakota Provisions, a turkey processing plant in Huron South Dakota, worker Nyo Maung takes only a second-and-half to remove the tail of a turkey. With his electric knife, he completes 40 cuts a minute and 2,400 every hour.
Huron is a small city of 13,000 residents halfway between Sioux Falls and the state capital, Pierre. More than 40 turkey farms supply the plant, which distributes meat all over the U.S.
It runs like an auto factory assembly line with about a thousand workers processing 20,000 turkeys a day. That adds up to 200 million pounds of turkey meat a year. And no one is faster with his blade than Nyo Maung.
MARK HEUSTON: He cuts tails off the turkeys with a wizard knife.
CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Mark “Smokey” Heuston is the company’s human resources director.
The foreman was saying that they’ve actually noticed when he’s on vacation the productivity levels go down, the yields go down. Continue reading this article
Automation is threatening to replace swaths of white-collar workers, much as mechanical robots have displaced blue-collar workers on assembly lines. Among those in jeopardy: accounts-payable clerks; inventory-control analysts, who record and audit what is in stock and estimate inventory needs; and accounts-receivable clerks, who send invoices to customers, track payments, and forecast customer default rates.
These white-collar job losses are harder to notice. There’s no physical robot to see welding a car together, just a better software program to speed tasks through a computer. But the unemployment result is the same. Tech workers face the same pink slips as coding becomes automated.
Billionaire investor Jeff Greene is digging into his own pockets to address what he believes is a big issue: robots.
Greene, founder of the Greene Institute, sponsored the Closing the Gap conference last week, hoping that attendees would develop solutions on creating a more inclusive global economy. According to him, a looming threat comes from technology, where he contends automation is becoming increasingly disruptive to both white-collar and blue-collar jobs.
He warned that “what globalization did to the blue-collar worker in manufacturing over 30 or 40 years, artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, robotics I believe will do to the white-collar workforce in the next five to 10 years,” Greene said. His comments echoed the widening opinions of experts who believe robots and AI pose a serious challenge to middle-class vitality.
Cyber Monday is a major business story because it is the biggest online shopping day of the year. As a result, many news outlets sent reporters to one of the 13 Amazon “fulfillment centers” around the country where consumer orders are processed, filled and shipped. The sight of items zooming by on speedy conveyor belts makes for good visuals.
The backbone of Amazon’s increasingly automated processing is the Kiva robot system, the foot-high wheeled gizmos that bring shelves of products to human packers, who are still needed to place the ordered merchandise into boxes. The company recently doubled the number of Kiva-bots from 15,000 to 30,000 in preparation for the Christmas shopping season.
The super-fast conveyor belts of stuff may create zippy television, but the robots make that speed possible:
Jo-Ling Kent of Fox Business reported from the Amazon processing center in Robbinsville NJ which occupies one million square feet (28 football fields!), has 14 miles of conveyor belts, employs 4000 full-time workers and processed 500 orders per second last year and expects to do better today.
The remarkable success of the world’s top automated store — where shoppers buy online and their purchases are hardly touched by human hands — shows how rapidly the retail world is moving away from brick and mortar. The pattern is recurring through many industries, where fewer human workers are needed to perform the workplace tasks.
Machines will replace more writers, and by 2018, 2 million workers will be required to wear health monitors
ORLANDO — Chances are robots aren’t mowing your yard, teaching your children, or bossing you around at work – yet.
But according to Gartner’s annual top-10 list of strategic predictions, robots, robotic systems and automation will have an expanding role.
Sooner or later, there will be robots that train your children and help them with their homework. That “might seem a little strange to us, but is it really stranger than being trained by a purple dinosaur named Barney?” said Daryl Plummer, a Gartner analyst, to the laughter of his audience at the research firm’s Symposium ITxpo.
Here are Gartner’s predictions:
1. Writers will be replaced. By 2018, 20% of all business content, one in five of the documents you read, will be authored by a machine, Plummer said.
“Robowriters” are already producing budget reports, sports and business reports, and this trend is sneaking in without notice. One advantage for machines: They don’t have biases or emotional responses, he said.
2. By 2018, 6 billion connected things will be requesting support. These non-human “things” are nonetheless customers requesting services and data, and other methods of support. Marketing to them (and by extension their human owners) can help build a business.
3. By 2020, autonomous software agents outside of human control will participate in 5% of all economic transactions. Smart algorithms are already beginning to perform transactions without our help.
4. By 2018, more than 3 million workers globally will be supervised by a roboboss. “The problem with this is that robot bosses don’t have human reactions,” Plummer said. “The reality is we have to see if robots can get human mannerisms right.” Continue reading this article
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