Collaborative Manufacturing Robot Is Introduced

Industrial robot manufacturers have a marketing problem: they want potential customers to be able to purchase the labor-saving machines without frightening the hired help. If employees think they are about to be replaced by a smart machine, unpleasant workplace tensions might result.

So manufacturers have to adjust their language to a non-threatening vocabulary. One choice has been “co-bot” as in “collaborative robot” to ease the sting. Lately it seems the co-bot term has disappeared, perhaps sounding too gimmicky. But the collaborative idea has remained to emphasize the improved efficiency that smart machines provide to the remaining humans.

The YuMi robot is marketed as the “world’s first collaborative dual-arm robot” by manufacturer ABB. The machine is safe for close use, unlike larger industrial robots which can be dangerous.

The show-and-tell segment about the robot on Fox Business Tuesday was surprisingly straightforward with the details. The YuMi can be trained to do tasks by a human moving its arms in the appropriate fashion, meaning that advanced coding is not needed for operation.

Manufacturer ABB says YuMi would be a good choice for small to medium-sized businesses with its moderate cost and advanced capability. The machine can do small parts assembly, varieties of manufacturing and food production. The representative William Studebaker said, “This robot costs roughly $50,000, it works 24/7 365 days of the year with no healthcare or overtime” — an obvious pitch about replacing those greedy human workers. Continue reading this article

Future Automation Plans Include Ocean Shipping

The death by a thousand cuts continues to shrink the employment universe even in the rather obscure maritime sector, where few people seek jobs at sea any more. A recent report noted that Japanese firms are planning an automation remodel for ocean-going cargo ships, just like the self-driving cars nobody asked for. Japanese shipbuilders intend to construct remote-controlled ships for the near-future with fully automated on the to-do list for later.

As usual, the job-slashers claim automation will “reduce accidents” — when the clear motive is to cut costs by replacing humans with machines. It must be said that ships are still lost at sea at great cost in lives and property. Using appropriate technology to lessen the inherent danger is positive, unlike the wholesale dumping of humans.

The Guardian reported on the Japanese consortium:

Japanese firms plan to launch self-driving cargo ships within decade, Guardian, June 8, 2017

Shipbuilders and shipping firms believe autonomous ships will reduce accidents by removing potential for human error

Commercial drones and self-driving cars will soon be joined by fleets of autonomous cargo ships that navigate the world’s oceans using artificial intelligence.

Several shipbuilders and shipping firms in Japan have joined forces to develop remote-controlled cargo vessels that could be launched by 2025, according to the country’s Nikkei business newspaper…

Below, some representations of the future automated container ship look similar to human-run versions, at least on the outside.

In addition, the ports are becoming more automated, so robot ships will fit into a friendly existing infrastructure.

Automated straddle-carriers, the modern version of the basic forklift, stack uniformly sized containers of goods after being unloaded by computerized cargo cranes from enormous purpose-built ships for temporary storage at the port and then transfer to trucks and railways for delivery to final destinations.

Automation is a world techno-phenomenon, including the ocean shipping sector, and the pain will be felt everywhere. (See my Social Contract article, How Automation Threatens Third World Stability.) Automation is happening now, but will really heat up in the next 5 to 10 years as many more labor-saving machines appear in the workplace.

The big picture of employment is indeed sobering. Oxford researchers forecast in 2013 that nearly half of American jobs were vulnerable to machine or software replacement within 20 years. Rice University computer scientist Moshe Vardi believes that in 30 years humans will become largely obsolete, and world joblessness will reach 50 percent. The Gartner tech advising company believes that one-third of jobs will be done by machines by 2025. Forrester Research Inc. has a more optimistic view, that there will be a net job loss of 7 percent by 2025 from automation. The recent PwC forecast was only slightly less severe than the Oxford numbers.

So America won’t need any more immigrants for non-existent jobs, right? In fact,

Automation makes immigration obsolete.

The big robot plans for the maritime industry around the world are outlined in the MIT tech publication:

Shipping Giants Are Looking to Self-Piloting Boats to Shift Cargo, MIT Technology Review, June 9, 2017

Millions of containers could be hauled by robotic ships within the next decade.

Forget Uber’s autonomous 18-wheelers: if you want a robot to haul a heavy load in the future, it might be worth considering a self-piloting container ship instead.

Plenty of people have been building modest autonomous boats in recent years, but the real payoff is in something much larger. As the Economist has pointed out in the past, fully robotic cargo ships could be faster, safer, and ultimately cheaper to run than their crewed counterparts. And that promise obviously hasn’t escaped the attention of some of the world’s largest users of maritime freight. Continue reading this article

California Pol Gavin Newsom Seeks Governorship, Frets over Automation

Gavin Newsom is the sort of serial politician that many citizens wish would give it a rest, because he was mayor of San Francisco for eight years and since 2010 has occupied the post of California lieutenant governor. Playing second banana to Governor Jerry Brown has been a rather low-visibility gig, so he may be looking for a hot new issue to make him seem fresh to voters in his effort to move on up. Newsom has glommed on to the threat to jobs from automation as a campaign topic, although his knowledge of the issue seems sketchy at best. He admitted in an interview with The Guardian (linked below) that he is “part of the problem” by using an automated grape sorter in one of his Napa vineyards.

Mayor Newsom certainly didn’t seemed concerned with American job loss when the cause was illegal immigration — in fact, he actively promoted it. In 2008, he spent $83,000 for an ad campaign to inform illegal alien job thieves that they would have safe access to city services in San Francisco and would not be arrested by the SFPD for any crime this side of murder. Of course, advertising a generous sanctuary policy functions as a magnet to unlawful foreigners who come to rip off jobs that belong to citizens according to law.

Below, in 2008, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom held a press conference to announce new anti-gun initiatives. The Chief of Police Heather Fong is also pictured.

The automation threat to employment needs to be discussed by the political class, which isn’t happening in Washington. Newsom is not the brightest light in the liberal galaxy, but his gubernatorial candidacy and issues will get media coverage just because it’s California. Also, the idea of a universal basic income as proposed by some techies is a better fit for Democrats, since dispensing free stuff is what they like to do.

Republicans just seem flummoxed about how to cope with automation generally and avoid it if they have a clue. Hint: ending immigration as an obsolete government policy for the jobless automated future would be a good place to start.

California’s would-be governor prepares for battle against job-killing robots, Guardian, June 5, 2017

Gavin Newsom has been waiting in the wings for years as lieutenant governor. Now his campaign to lead the state is taking on its golden industry: tech

The graduating computer science students at the University of California at Berkeley had just finished chuckling at a joke about fleets of “Google buses, Facebook shuttles and Uber-copters” lining up to whisk them them to elite jobs in Silicon Valley. The commencement ceremony for a cohort of students who, one professor confided, were worth around $25bn was a feel-good affair.

Until, that is, Gavin Newsom took to the lectern and burst the bubble.

The smooth-talking Democrat, and frontrunner to win California’s gubernatorial race next year, warned the students that the “plumbing of the world is radically changing”. The tech industry that would make them rich, Newsom declared, was also rendering millions of other people’s jobs obsolete and fueling enormous disparities in wealth. “Your job is to exercise your moral authority,” he said. “It is to do the kinds of things in life that can’t be downloaded.”

That is not the kind of message computer engineers tend to hear. But Newsom, who has been waiting in the wings as California’s lieutenant governor for the past seven years, has put the consequences of automation and the center of his campaign.

“This is code red, a firehose, a tsunami that’s coming our way,” he told the Guardian a few days after his commencement address at Berkeley. “We’re going to get rolled over unless we get ahead of this.” California, a crucible of technological transformation that is reshaping the world, could be on the cusp of the first major election to be dominated by a debate over what to do about robots.

It is a conversation that already feels overdue. San Francisco, the city where Newsom, 49, came to prominence as a two-term mayor, is a petri dish for technological advances and their social consequences. The novelty of seeing driverless cars on the roads wore off months ago, while delivery robots recently began patrolling the sidewalks.

San Francisco office workers can now grab lunch at a branch of Eatsa, a restaurant that boasts no waiters or cashiers, followed by a quick artisanal espresso at Cafe X, a coffee shop composed of a single robotic arm. Newsom has been concerned about the numerous startups seeking to disrupt the fast-food industry.

He frequently complains about Momentum Machines, a secretive San Francisco startup promising to transform the fast-food industry with robotic technology. The ambition, according to the company’s founder, is to “completely obviate” human workers.

“There’s an empathy gap,” Newsom said. “I really feel intensely that the tech community needs to begin not just to solve these business problems but to begin to solve societal problems with the same kind of disruptive energy that they put behind developing the latest app.”

But Newsom’s critics question whether he’s the politician to take on the tech industry. Caricatured by opponents as a business-friendly “Davos Democrat”, Newsom has a long record of support for gig-economy companies such as Uber and Lyft. One of his biggest sources of donations is Airbnb employees.

Newsom does not dispute that he has deep political connections in Silicon Valley, and refers to both Elon Musk and Mark Zuckeberg as friends. “I’ve grown up in and around this world. I could tell you 10 founders who I did their weddings, quite literally married them. Very, very close; a number of them are godparents to my kids.”

Newsom argues his close relationship with the titans of technology, and his dependence on their donations, makes him better placed than his rivals to challenge the industry. “I am probably the one person that can have that conversation,” he said. “Because I have the relationship.”

He says that while he respects technology, “I’m starting to appreciate the downsides more and more”. But in his own business, a conglomerate of restaurants, bars, hotels and wineries, Newsom said he is increasingly aware of the upsides of labor-saving technology.

His interview with the Guardian took place in Balboa Cafe, a Newsom-owned restaurant in the Marina district. One of his waitresses was within earshot when he remarked: “I think we’ll have some bartenders for a while, although I know for a fact they have robotic bar tending technology.”

One of his Napa vineyards, he added, recently started using a $50,000 German-made machine that utilizes sophisticated optical scanning technology to pick and sort grapes. He conceded that the machine was replacing human grape-pickers, who might not be able to find work elsewhere. “It’s their lives,” he said. “And that’s my point. I’m part of the problem.”
 Continue reading this article

Left Media Admits Automation May Affect Need for Immigrant Farm Workers

It’s nearly summer and that means the time has come for media boilerplate articles about a shortage of immigrant workers down on the farm — so couldn’t Washington kindly arrange for a few hundred thousand to be sent to California?? Right on schedule, a Google News search (which covers the last 30 days of listings) for Immigrant Farm Labor Shortage brings up 14,600 results.

You would think there was no such thing as the H-2A visa which allows for unlimited foreign farm workers. Open borders are so much more convenient for everyone concerned — except law-abiding citizens.

However, a different farm labor solution has been developing over the last few years — smart machines that can pick apples, harvest almonds, milk cows and various other agricultural chores.

“Who will pick the strawberries?” used to be an argument for open borders. But now the answer is robots.

Even the immigration-worshiping left media now says that machines are coming to the fields, and the need for foreigners may need to be adjusted. The PRI radio station chats up the changes, including hopeful remarks from immigrant workers. The have no idea what sort of labor revolution is about to happen, but people much better educated than they are similarly naive.

Certainly America won’t H-2A visas or any immigrant workers at all for that matter, given the automated future that will similarly affect most workplaces.

No farm workers? How about a robot, PRI’s The World, June 02, 2017

Blue River Technology’s LettuceBot uses sensors and cameras similar to those in self-driving cars to thin lettuce. Engineer Ken Hickman says the machine is “doing its own thinking” as it thins lettuce, about three times faster than a human crew. Credit: Valerie Hamilton

At Lakeside Organic Gardens, a vegetable farm on California’s central coast, field-workers bundled up against the sun are thinning lettuce crops, chopping out some plants to make room for others. The farm’s owner, Dick Peixoto, walks through the rows, complimenting his workers as he moves along.

“Swinging that hoe from that distance, being able to pick out one plant and not the other, they’re really experts at what they do,” he says. “They’re artists, you know what I mean?”

That’s why I’m surprised at his answer when I ask him if he would replace these workers with a robot doing the same job.

“Not if,” he says, “the question is when.”

Immigrants do the majority of California’s field labor. But as demand grows, workers are becoming scarce. It’s hard for field-workers to come to the US legally. It’s dangerous for them to come illegally. The people working the fields now are getting older, and younger workers want different jobs.

“The handwriting is already up and down the wall that we’ll never have the labor force that we had before,” Peixoto says. “Anyone who’s not adapting to that today has got their head in the sand.”

Enter the LettuceBot. Continue reading this article

Silicon Valley Newspaper Floats Free Money Idea to Remedy Robot Job Loss

Sunday’s San Jose Mercury had a front-page article (graphic shown) about the possibility of instituting a universal basic income to remedy the huge job loss predicted from automation. As usual, nobody promoting the idea has any suggestion of how the government would finance the trillions of dollars annually required. Perhaps a start would be to tax the robots, as suggested by Microsoft founder Bill Gates a few months ago.

Still, at least people are talking about the problem of the jobless automated future — that’s more than you can say for Washington which remains on full snooze mode.

But nobody is discussing how robots taking millions of jobs in the near future eliminates the need to import additional immigrant workers. Instead, open borders hacks like Senators John Cornyn and Ron Johnson are pitching increased immigration of 500,000 workers annually to replace citizens.

As usual, Washington is headed in the wrong direction.

Do nothing, get cash? Maybe, when robots take your job, San Jose Mercury News, May 22, 2017

With an impending robot revolution expected to leave a trail of unemployment in its wake, some Silicon Valley tech leaders think they have a remedy to a future with fewer jobs — free money for all.

It’s called universal basic income, a radical concept that’s picking up steam as a way to provide all Americans with a minimum level of economic security. The idea is expensive and controversial — it guarantees cash for everyone, regardless of income level or employment status. But prominent tech leaders from Tesla CEO Elon Musk to Sam Altman, president of Mountain View-based startup accelerator Y Combinator, are proponents.

“We should make it so no one is worried about how they’re going to pay for a place to live, no one has to worry about how they’re going to have enough to eat,” Altman said in a recent speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. “Just give people enough money to have a reasonable quality of life.”

Altman is personally funding a basic income experiment in Oakland as the concept gains momentum in the Bay Area. Policy experts, economists, tech leaders and others convened in San Francisco last month for a workshop on the topic organized by the Economic Security Project, co-founded by Altman. The project is investing $10 million in basic income projects over the next two years. Stanford University also has created a Basic Income Lab to study the idea, and the San Francisco city treasurer’s office has said it’s designing pilot tests — though the department told this news organization it has no updates on the status of that project.

Proponents say the utopian approach could offer relief to workers in Silicon Valley and beyond who may soon find their jobs threatened by robots as artificial intelligence keeps getting smarter. Even before the robots take over, some economists say basic income should be used as a tool to combat poverty. In the Bay Area — where the rapid expansion of high-paying tech companies has made the region too pricey for many to afford — it could help lift up those that the boom has left behind.

Unlike traditional aid programs, recipients of a universal basic income wouldn’t need to prove anything — not their income level, employment status, disability or family obligations — before collecting their cash payment.

“It’s a right of citizenship,” said Karl Widerquist, a basic income expert and associate professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar, “so we’re not judging people and we’re not putting them in this other category or (saying) ‘you’re the poor.’ And I think this is exciting people right now because the other model hasn’t worked.”

That means a mother living on the poverty line would get the same amount of free cash as Mark Zuckerberg, Widerquist said. But Zuckerberg’s taxes would go up, canceling out his basic income payment.

The problem is that giving all Americans a $10,000 annual income would cost upwards of $3 trillion a year — more than three-fourths of the federal budget, said Bob Greenstein, president of Washington, D.C.-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Some proponents advocate funding the move by cutting programs like food stamps and Medicaid. But that approach would take money set aside for low-income families and redistribute it upward, exacerbating poverty and inequality, Greenstein said.

Still, some researchers are testing the idea with small basic income experiments targeting certain neighborhoods and socio-economic groups.

Y Combinator — the accelerator known for launching Airbnb and Instacart — is giving 100 randomly selected Oakland families unconditional cash payments of about $1,500 a month. Altman, who is footing most of the bill himself, says society needs to consider basic income to support Americans who lose their jobs to robots and artificial intelligence. The idea, he said at the Commonwealth Club, tackles the question not enough people are asking: “What do we as the tech industry do to solve the problem that we’re helping to create?”

Increased use of robots and AI will lead to a net loss of 9.8 million jobs by 2027 — or 7 percent of U.S. positions, according to a study Forrester research firm released last month. Already, the signs are everywhere. Autonomous cars and trucks threaten driving jobs, automated factories require fewer human workers, and artificial intelligence is taking over aspects of legal work and other white-collar jobs. Continue reading this article

Robots Threaten Millions of Retail Jobs

Tech experts all say that simple jobs are the easiest to automate. Therefore we can expect to see a lot more self-checkout when shopping. How hard is it to scan bar codes and calculate the total cost? My local Safeway added several DIY checkout stations a couple years ago in a major remodel.

Self-checkout — get used to it, shoppers.

As a result of advancing technology, cashier jobs are starting to disappear now, and a recent study forecasts that six million or more could go in the next decade.

Seriously, does America really need to continue importing immigrant workers when automation is forecast to shrink the number of US jobs dramatically? There is a bill in Congress to reduce immigration by half, but that’s hardly enough given the automated future.

A recent Rasmussen poll found that “63% of American Adults believe it’s at least somewhat likely that most jobs in America will be done by robots or computers 25 years from now.”

So if nearly two-thirds the American people are aware of the automation threat to employment, why is Washington entirely asleep on the subject?

Robots could wipe out another 6 million retail jobs, CNN Money, May 19, 2017

Robots have already cost millions of factory jobs across the nation.

Next up could be jobs at your local stores.

Between 6 million to 7.5 million existing jobs are at risk of being replaced over the course of the next 10 years by some form of automation, according to a new study this week from by financial services firm Cornerstone Capital Group.

That represents at least 38% of the current retail work force, which consists of 16 million workers. Retail could actually lose a greater proportion of jobs to automation than manufacturing has, according to the study.

That doesn’t mean that robots will be roving the aisles of your local department store chatting with customers. Instead, expect to see more automated checkout lines instead of cashiers. This shift alone will likely eliminate millions of jobs.

“Cashiers are considered one of the most easily automatable jobs in the economy,” said the report. And these job losses will hit women particularly hard, since about 73% of cashiers are women. Continue reading this article

Report Explores the ‘Human Cost’ of Automation

The video piece from an Albany, New York, TV station starts out well enough, showing how automation is moving into jobs like supermarket checkout, restaurant cashier and cab driving.

But the piece wanders into sketchy territory when it poses a hopeful retraining message. Certainly the schools need to teach more tech-oriented curricula that will prepare young people for the jobs of the future. But not everyone can be a robotic engineer or even a mechanical engineering technician with a two-year degree. Well educated people forget how many Americans aren’t, and it skews the debate.

Plus there won’t be enough tech-connected positions for all the people displaced by the automation juggernaut. Businesses are investing in advanced software and machines in order to save money by cutting labor costs. The press wants to calm fears that are developing in the public, but it’s not being honest. Yes, there will be new jobs created by the tech revolution, but not enough in total numbers to make up for the jobs lost. The articles written to reassure people about the techno-future are practically becoming a sub-genre of tech writing and they appear nearly every day.

But the warnings from automation experts are much more convincing. Automation job loss has been happening for a while — worsening the last recession — and its effects will only increase. The nation needs an honest dialogue about how we can handle the automation revolution to the economy and the world of work.

At the very least, the US government should end immigration, because it is rapidly becoming an obsolete institution in the coming age of automation. We certainly won’t need to import human workers when machines are doing the jobs.

Below, digital ordering in restaurants is becoming more common as machines become cheaper and more capable, while workers’ wage demands accelerate the change.

Here’s the text version of WNYT’s report:

In Depth: The human cost of automation, WNYT, May 8, 2017

Jobs are disappearing in the Capital Region as everyday tasks are automated. It’s expected to get worse in the future as computers and robots get faster and more efficient.

The concern over machines replacing humans for certain jobs is nothing new. The Industrial Revolution brought on riots with people raging against machines that took their jobs. Today, these machines are even smarter and they’re going after jobs that were once automation proof.

The Digital Revolution as it’s called, is transforming the labor market.

Self-checkout systems are popping up in many places. For example, the Price Chopper in Latham, assisting customers. Human cashiers at supermarkets and fast food restaurants may be phased out altogether in the future.

Self-driving cars will be replacing cab drivers. A recent study done in the United Kingdom suggests that 38 percent of jobs in the United States could be in jeopardy by the early 2030s because of automation. Continue reading this article

President Trump Approves of Continuing Big Immigration

It was disappointing, although not entirely surprising to read President Trump’s disinterest in limiting legal immigration, as remarked in a May 11 Economist interview and quoted by Mark Krikorian in National Review:

Do you want to curb legal immigration?
Oh sure, you know, I want to stop illegal immigration.

And what about legal immigration? Do you want to cut the number of immigrants?
Oh legal, no, no, no. I want people to come into the country legally. No, legally? No. I want people to come in legally. But I want people to come in on merit. I want to go to a merit-based system. Actually two countries that have very strong systems are Australia and Canada. And I like those systems very much, they’re very strong, they’re very good, I like them very much. We’re going to a much more merit-based system. But I absolutely want talented people coming in, I want people that are going to love our country coming in, I want people that are going to contribute to our country coming in. We want a provision at the right time, we want people that are coming in and will commit to not getting…not receiving any form of subsidy to live in our country for at least a five-year period.

But the numbers of those people could be as high as the numbers that are coming in legally now? You’re not looking to reduce the numbers?

Oh yeah, no, no, no, no, we want people coming in legally. No, very strongly. Now they’re going to be much more strongly vetted as you see. You know, we’ve broken the all-time record [of detentions at the border] by many times, 73, we’re up to 73, it’s going to go up to almost 80% at the border, we’ve…you know, really stopped it. We also want farm workers to be able to come in. You know, we’re going to have work visas for the farm workers. If you look, you know we have a lot of people coming through the border, they’re great people and they work on the farms and then they go back home. We like those people a lot and we want them to continue to come in.

The comments of President Trump were foreshadowed by his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s declaration in March that automation’s threat to American jobs was “not even on our radar screen … 50-100 more years.” President Trump has spoken often about globalization as the source of job loss without mention of automation. That ignorance is concerning.

Below, automobile manufacturing once employed millions of Americans, but no longer, since the robots arrived.

Mnuchin’s opinion is not shared by many tech and robot experts, who believe that a substantial portion of US jobs could be automated within a couple decades. The big picture of employment is indeed sobering. Oxford researchers forecast in 2013 that nearly half of American jobs were vulnerable to machine or software replacement within 20 years. Rice University computer scientist Moshe Vardi believes that in 30 years humans will become largely obsolete, and world joblessness will reach 50 percent. The Gartner tech advising company believes that one-third of jobs will be done by machines by 2025. Forrester Research Inc. has a more optimistic view, that there will be a net job loss of 7 percent by 2025 from automation. The recent PwC forecast was only slightly less severe than the Oxford numbers.

Even the most upbeat forecast reveals the foolishness of continuing to import large numbers of immigrants as workers because they are not needed now and will be even more unemployable in coming years. A growing community of angry, jobless foreigners does not sound like a recipe for domestic peace and tranquility.

In addition, overpopulated California dodged a bullet by having a very rainy winter in 2016-17 that ended a disastrous drought that I suspect was worse than authorities were willing to admit. The state experienced severe mega-droughts from 900-1400 which is quite recent in climate terms, and there is no guarantee that similar droughts won’t recur.

California’s Lake Oroville was almost dry in September 2014.

What happens in a modern society when a region runs out of water and millions need to relocate? Certainly in the west, water supply must be considered before inviting millions more immigrants to come live in America.

The automated, potentially drought-plagued future strongly suggests that immigration is an institution that needs to be retired for the good of all Americans.

San Francisco Considers Robot Tax to Counter Job Loss

San Francisco County Supervisor Jane Kim is investigating how a tax on robots might help to mitigate the job destruction of the coming automated workplace, perhaps following the suggestion of Microsoft founder Bill Gates who recommended a few months ago that job-killing robots should be taxed.

Is this not an ironic turn of politics? The famously open-borders, criminal-friendly, illegal-alien-welcoming city by the bay is fearful that automation will snatch jobs away from residents. Say! — perhaps San Francisco could enact a special tax on job-stealing illegal aliens for their extra burden on the system. If that’s not too reasonable. . .

Being a tech hub — and now the northerly extension of Silicon Valley — San Francisco has seen the job-crunching machines up close and personal, including delivery robots, an automated security guard and the “LoweBot” hardware store shopper guides that are already in action.

Below, San Francisco latte guzzlers may now have their brew prepared by a robot coffee machine, a device that endangers the livelihoods of barista workers, both college-educated and not.

San Francisco often wrongly fantasizes itself as being ahead of the rest of the country, but in this case it is actually is debating a problem that Washington is ignoring to the peril of all Americans.

San Francisco is considering a once unthinkable measure to offset the threat of job-killing robots, Business Insider, May 2, 2017

The tech industry collectively face-palmed when Trump’s treasury secretary said earlier this year that the threat of robots taking human jobs was “not even on our radar screen.”

There is a growing evidence that robots and artificial intelligence could displace huge swaths of the American workforce in the next couple of decades, much sooner than the “50 to 100 more years away” timeline that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he expects.

In San Francisco, where robots already run food deliveries for Yelp’s Eat24 and make lattés at a mall coffee kiosk, one politician is working to ensure the city stays ahead of the curve.

Supervisor Jane Kim is exploring a tax on robots as one solution to offset the economic devastation a robot-powered workforce might bring. Companies that use robots to perform tasks previously done by humans would pay the city. Those public funds might be used to help retrain workers who lose their jobs to robots or to finance a basic income initiative.

Kim, one of 11 city supervisors in San Francisco, has been interviewing tech leaders, labor groups, and public policy experts in the hopes of creating a task force that will explore how a “robot tax” might be implemented. San Francisco would become the first city to create such a tax, after European lawmakers rejected a similar proposal in February.

“We think that [automation of work] could be one of the bigger — or biggest — policy issues that will face us in, not the next 50 to 100 years, as Mnuchin said, but in the next five to 10 years. And I think that government needs to get ahead of the curve,” Kim tells Business Insider. Continue reading this article

Retail Use of Automation Is Increasing

Automation is creating a revolution in shopping: from ordering merchandise from Amazon to visiting a local supermarket with self-checkout, the machines are moving in. In particular, big changes are coming in retail out where the public will see them. Store sales persons who can advise and help customers are pretty much on the way out.

Below, the LoweBot retail robot can guide customers to the location of items they want to purchase.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, retail workers account for millions of jobs:

Retail salespersons and cashiers were occupations with highest employment in May 2015, March 31, 2016

Retail salespersons (4.6 million) and cashiers (3.5 million) were the occupations with the highest employment in May 2015. Combined, these two occupations made up nearly 6 percent of total U.S. employment. Annual mean wages were $26,340 for retail salespersons and $20,990 for cashiers. Office and administrative support was the largest occupational group, making up nearly 16 percent of total U.S. employment. Annual mean wages for workers in this group were $36,330.

The upshot is that a large category of employment may be on the verge of disappearing, but Washington is tone deaf to technological changes to the jobs universe.

The big picture of employment is indeed sobering. Oxford researchers forecast in 2013 that nearly half of American jobs were vulnerable to machine or software replacement within 20 years. Rice University computer scientist Moshe Vardi believes that in 30 years humans will become largely obsolete, and world joblessness will reach 50 percent. The Gartner tech advising company believes that one-third of jobs will be done by machines by 2025. Forrester Research Inc. has a more optimistic view, that there will be a net job loss of 7 percent by 2025 from automation. The recent PwC forecast was only slightly less severe than the Oxford numbers.

It therefore goes without saying that continued immigration of foreign workers is foolish and possibly dangerous. We wouldn’t want to see future unemployment riots carried out in Spanish.

In short:

Automation Makes Immigration Obsolete.

How will automation affect the retail industry?, CBS News, April 27, 2017

Technology available today could automate 45 percent of the jobs people are paid to perform across all occupations. By the early 2030’s, 38 percent of current jobs in the U.S. could be automated and one industry could be hit particularly hard.

Since at least the industrial revolution, Americans have worried about technology taking their jobs. Past inventions have ended up creating new jobs, not just destroying old ones, but economists worry that this time may be different, reports Tony Dokoupil.

In Maplewood, New Jersey, Tim Jianni works the register of his family-owned convenience store – just as he has since high school.

“Here, we know all of our customers by name and I have papers or candies, I know what they get. I put it right there so that it is ready for them, and it makes them feel good,” Jianni said. “I just, you could see when they come in they have that smile on their face.”

One day, Jianni hopes to pass the job to a new generation, keeping it in the family or at least keeping it human.

Other retailers have a very different dream. For example, an autonomous, multilingual robot is designed to help customers at the home improvement chain, Lowe’s, to get their shopping done as quickly as possible.

“You can talk to it and it talks back to you,” said Kyle Nel, the executive director of Lowe’s innovation labs.

“It’s basically doing indoor mapping and figuring out where it is. Where you are,” Nel explained. “It will actually help you find the thing you’re looking for.”

The machine is one of 22 that the company is proudly testing in Northern California. Continue reading this article

Robot Apple Picker Will Displace Illegal Alien Workers

Automation’s threat to jobs is not entirely negative, considering that robot pickers can replace an agricultural workforce that is generally estimated to be half illegal alien. The Associated Press article below notes that in Washington state, “several counties near the Canadian border are now majority-Hispanic.”

Abundant Robotics has developed a vacuum-based system that doesn’t bruise the apples. It doesn’t pick particularly quickly, but on balance, the machines can literally work 24 hours a day and don’t require lunch. In the video below, the developers describe how they moved from experimental versions to building a commercial machine.

Apples are easily bruised so hand picking has been the norm. Robot developers think they have that problem solved.

The world of work is being fundamentally altered because of automation. What worries me is how the government is oblivious to smart machines coming on strong and acting as if nothing has changed.

A robot that picks apples? Replacing humans worries some, Associated Press, April 28, 2017

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Harvesting Washington state’s vast fruit orchards each year requires thousands of farmworkers, and many of them work illegally in the United States.

That system eventually could change dramatically as at least two companies are rushing to get robotic fruit-picking machines to market.

The robotic pickers don’t get tired and can work 24 hours a day.

“Human pickers are getting scarce,” said Gad Kober, a co-founder of Israel-based FFRobotics. “Young people do not want to work in farms, and elderly pickers are slowly retiring.”

FFRobotics and Abundant Robotics, of Hayward, California, are racing to get their mechanical pickers to market within the next couple of years.

Harvest has long been mechanized for large portions of the agriculture industry, such as wheat, corn, green beans, tomatoes and many other crops. But for more fragile commodities like apples, berries, table grapes and lettuce — where the crop’s appearance is especially important — harvest is still done by hand.

Members of the $7.5 billion annual Washington agriculture industry have long grappled with labor shortages, and depend on workers coming up from Mexico each year to harvest many crops. Continue reading this article

Indians Are Disappointed with Americans’ Choice of Donald Trump as President

There’s a certain kind of America-bashing that should be welcomed as positive, exemplified by Monday’s New York Times article that described America as a “land of lost opportunity” for Indians who now feel disenchanted about possible immigration. Apparently we’ve become a horrible racist nation since Donald Trump was elected president: the Times says Indians are shocked at a “wave of racist violence” — consisting of one murder, which while awful, is not quite a “wave” and the fear described by Indians seems overblown.

(Interestingly, it’s reported that Africans residing in India don’t feel safe there and encounter “racism at every turn.”)

What a rapid transformation. For years, Indians couldn’t wait to immigrate here and perhaps get a job in tech even when it meant working cheap as an H-1b to replace America workers. Now we’re not good enough for them. Oh, well!

Indians have a decent rep as immigrants because many are hard-working and don’t tend to rob Seven-Elevens. But as I wrote in a 2007 Vdare article (Dogs, Frogs and Dalits: The Indian Model Minority Has A Dark Side), there are problems. One is sex-selection abortion because Indians don’t value girls. Even though India made the practice illegal in 1994, it continues, and one NGO estimates that five to seven million sex-selective abortions are performed in India every year. As a result, the gender ratio is 89 females to 100 males, and a number of men cannot find a wife.

Another cultural practice that’s a bad fit in America — where we strive for an egalitarian society — is the discriminatory caste system. One quote from my 2007 article spoke volumes about snotty arrogance:

Caste in America is justified into more acceptable terms, like the computer programmer quoted by the NYT as saying, “That’s why I went into the Brahmin group, because I wanted to give my children the same values.” But the fact remains that Indians come to America, a society with minimal class distinctions, and see no problem with bringing their discriminatory caste system with them.

So if Indians don’t immigrate to America, that’s not a bad thing at all. Citizens have gotten tired of the oppressive diversity hectoring from elites and seeing their communities transformed into something foreign. That attitude is a big reason why Donald Trump was elected.

America could use a long time-out from immigration because we have plenty now, thanks anyway. Not to mention that automation will be doing an increasing amount of the work in coming years, so immigration really should be retired.

For Indians, Donald Trump’s America is a land of lost opportunity, Straits Times, April 24, 2017

MUMBAI (NYTIMES) – Generations of Indians have admired the United States for almost everything. But many are infuriated and unnerved by what they see as a wave of racist violence under President Donald Trump, souring the United States’ allure.

The reaction is not just anger and anxiety. Now, young Indians who have aspired to study, live and work in the United States are looking elsewhere.

“We don’t know what might happen to us while walking on the street there,” said Kanika Arora, a 20-year-old student in Mumbai who is reconsidering her plan to study in the United States. “They might just think that we’re terrorists.”

Recent attacks on people of Indian descent in the United States are explosive news in India. A country once viewed as the Promised Land now seems for many to be dangerously inhospitable.

Further alienating Indians, especially among their highly educated class, is the Trump administration’s reassessment of H1-B visas given mostly for information technology jobs. More than 85,000 are granted a year, the majority to Indians.

This year, undergraduate applications from India fell at 26 per cent of US educational institutions, and 15 percent of graduate programs, according to a survey of 250 US universities by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

The number of applications for H1-B visas also fell to 199,000, a nearly 20 per cent decline, according to data kept by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Continue reading this article

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