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

Automation-Caused Job Loss May Spawn Third-World Instability, World Bank Warns

It would be a mistake to think that automation is a first-world affliction only. As the cost of robots decrease, they will replace workers in the third world also. (See my Social Contract article on this topic: How Automation Threatens Third World Stability.)

Third-world automation is happening now, as shown by robot arms painting motorcycle gas tanks in an Indian factory.

The video below produced by the VOA News observes, the automation-caused “loss of livelihoods could have far-reaching repercussions including the mass migration of displaced workers.” Third-world nations don’t have unemployment insurance and welfare programs to cushion unemployment, so millions may head for the generous first world to see what freebies they can get.

World Bank President Jim Kim says the time to act is now: “And so for every country in the world, we have to think very seriously about what are the investments we need to make right now in order to prepare ourselves for the economy the future.”

The World Bank is not my favorite institution, but Kim’s admonition to start planning now is a pleasant contrast to Washington’s total denial regarding the issue, particularly the recent blunder of Treasury Secretary Mnuchin when he remarked that the automation threat to jobs was 50 to 100 years in the future.

It’s particularly disturbing that the government’s immigration import program continues on auto-pilot when the actual need for immigrant workers is getting close to Zero. Even the RAISE Act (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) proposed by Senators Cotton and Purdue cuts legal immigration by only 50 percent over a decade.

The world of work is at the beginning of a revolution, and Washington is still playing according to 20th century rules.

And will the government protect the citizens from millions of economic “refugees” flooding across the border in an automation-fueled Camp of the Saints?

Automation Could Slash Jobs in Developing Countries, VOA News, April 20, 2017

WASHINGTON — World Bank President Jim Kim warns that two-thirds of jobs in developing nations could be wiped out by automation, a situation that could boost conflict and refugee flows.

Kim spoke Thursday in Washington as economic and political leaders from around the world gathered for meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Kim says it is not clear how fast automation would cut jobs. He says the threat to employment opportunity comes as near-universal access to the internet means people in the poorest nations understand that others have much more comfortable lives. The result, Kim says, is soaring aspirations. Without economic growth and opportunity, those unmet aspirations could lead to frustration, unrest, or more refugees seeking jobs in other nations. Continue reading this article

CBS Imagines the American Future as Automation Nation

The CBS Sunday Morning show began a special edition focusing on money with a report on automation and its threat to employment now and going forward. The eight-minute video report included tough facts about job loss across the skills spectrum with expert comments by Rise of the Robots author Martin Ford and other involved in the technology.

The piece has more facts than most TV reports, but typically the pro-robot cadre is included, and they insist that automation will actually create jobs. Right, all the manufacturing workers, store stockers and pizza cooks will be retrained to be computer coders. As if. But that’s the only way to end the segment on a positive note. And of course, there’s no mention that immigration becomes a counterproductive policy in the automated future — that’s to be expected in network TV.

Check it out (spare video here):

The written version allows perusal of the numbers of jobs likely to be lost from various categories — alarming when they are toted up even partially.

When the robots take over, will there be jobs left for us?, CBS News, April 8, 2017

By every measure, our country is on the road to becoming an AUTOMATION NATION. Our Money Issue Cover Story comes from David Pogue of Yahoo Finance: 

Tony Hughes has been a long-haul truck driver for more than 20 years. But today, all he has to do is sit back and relax.

“’Rosebud’ is on,” he said, flipping a switch.

Today, he’s hauling 20,000 pounds of freight down the Florida turnpike in a self-driving, robotic truck. It’s been retrofitted with a self-driving kit made by Starsky Robotics.

Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, who founded the company in 2016 with Kartik Tiwari, said, “We think that sometime towards the end of the year, we could be doing this run without a person behind the wheel.”

And if it’s not his company, it might be Otto, whose truck made headlines last October by driving itself across Colorado to deliver a shipment of beer. Otto is owned by Uber, which also has been testing self-driving taxis in Pennsylvania and Arizona.

But here’s the thing! Once our trucks and taxis drive themselves, what will happen to the people who used to do those jobs? In the U.S., that’s 180,000 taxi drivers, 600,000 Uber drivers, and 3.5 million truck drivers.

otto-self-driving-truck-on-road-620.jpg

An Otto self-driving truck on the road.

CBS News

“We really need to start to think very seriously about this,” said Martin Ford, author of the book “Rise of the Robots” (Basic Books).

rise-of-the-robots-cover-basic-books-244.jpg
Basic Books

Ford says driverless cars and trucks are just the beginning of a wave of automation that will threaten millions of jobs, in every industry at once, like America’s nearly five million store workers.

Later this year, shoppers in Seattle will be able to walk into the first Amazon Go grocery, take what they want, and walk out again, without ever encountering an employee.

Sensors will detect what you take and bill you automatically.

“The cashiers are totally gone,” Ford said. “You’re going to end up with the equivalent of a Walmart with a handful of employees. You scale that out, and that’s just extraordinarily disruptive.”

Name an occupation, and there’s somebody considering a robot to take it over.

At Zume Pizza in Silicon Valley, four specialized robots help make the pizza. Eventually, the company plans to replace the remaining humans on the line, too.

Pogue said, “You would think there would be some Roman pizza chefs who’d say, ‘No, this is not the way it’s been done since our ancestors!’”

robot-making-pizza-620.jpg

A robot making pizza.

“Well, the world changes,” said Zume’s chief technology officer Josh Goldberg. “There’s a lot of other things we don’t do just the way our ancestors did, either.”

The common wisdom is that robots primarily threaten repetitive, blue-collar jobs. Not so, says Martin Ford: “We’re seeing dramatic advances in the area of computers analyzing tumors, recognizing medical scans, mammograms, and being able to find disease. We’re seeing algorithms move into areas like journalism, for example.”

Wait, wait, wait. Certainly not journalism? “Oh, yeah. Absolutely,” Ford said. “By one account, every 30 seconds there’s a news story published on the web, or maybe in a newspaper, that’s machine-generated.”

Algorithms are even threatening the Masters of the Universe. Two weeks ago, Black Rock, the world’s largest money manager, announced that it’s laying off dozens of human stock pickers and replacing them with robots. By 2025, across the financial industry, artificial intelligence is expected to replace 230,000 human workers. Continue reading this article

Warehouse Robotics See Advances in Technology

Warehouse robots are a big part of the revolution transforming a growing portion of consumer shopping from stores to online. Amazon led the way by purchasing the Kiva system and then keeping it for itself so other competitors could not spring up easily. (See my 2016 Social Contract article, “Amazon Robotics: A case study of how smart machines transformed an internet store.”)

Below, Kiva robots operate from a computer system that tracks and moves everything in the warehouse. The robots scoot under mobile racks of merchandise and move needed items to human-run packing stations for shipment.

But technology designers have been catching up with different sorts of robots that do the same work as the Kiva models.

The loss to society is a large sector of jobs in retail, and they are disappearing from the semi-public space of stores to private areas of warehouses where we don’t see humans replaced by machines. The “death of retail” is now a grim topic on the financial pages, as major retail companies are closing some or all of their stores. In January, Time reported “Department Stores Are in a Death Spiral” with the example that Macys planned to close 100 stores with the loss of 10,000 jobs. Other big-name retailers are cutting back severely as well. The story notes that as online outlets improve shipping time, shoppers increasingly use brick and mortar stores less.

The long-term outlook for jobs is dismal throughout the economy because of smart machines, yet Washington continues to import human workers as if there will be a need for them in the automated future, which there won’t. 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 every automation expert thinks the technology will decrease jobs which is why business is investing big money to switch away from wage earners.

It remains to be seen how many jobs President Trump can raise in America: there is certainly repressed business energy to be tapped after eight years of Obama policies. But long term, many human jobs are being replaced by machines, and we should act accordingly. Step one should be slashing immigration because America won’t need a million new workers per year.

Automation makes immigration obsolete.

Washington needs to wake up to the technological future. It will be very different.

Amazon’s Robot War Is Spreading, Bloomberg, April 5, 2017
A slew of new automation specialists appear on the warehouse battlefield.

It was Amazon that drove America’s warehouse operators into the robot business.

Quiet Logistics, which ships apparel out of its Devens, Mass., warehouse, had been using robots made by a company called Kiva Systems. When Amazon bought Kiva in 2012, Quiet hired scientists. In 2015 it spun out a new company called Locus Robotics, which raised $8 million in venture capital. Last year, Locus unveiled its own warehouse robotics solution called the LocusBot—first using it for its own business, then selling them to companies that ship everything from housewares to auto parts.

Now, Locus has landed a bigger fish: It’s selling its robots to DHL Supply Chain (a unit of Deutsche Post DHL Group), the world’s largest third-party logistics company. DHL will use the machines at a Memphis, Tenn., location to help ship surgical devices to operating rooms across the country.

To do that, Locus’s software directs a LocusBot to a shelf where the specific item is located. A human worker meets it there, reads a description of the item off an iPad, and drops it into a plastic bucket mounted on the machine. The idea is that the robot does the majority of the traveling, while the worker simply patrols a specified zone.

“The first trend was to try to replace humans,” said Rick Faulk, chief executive of Locus. “Now it’s about humans and robots working collaboratively.” The sticker price on a LocusBot is $35,000.

Locus isn’t alone. Amazon’s acquisition of Kiva set off an arms race among robot makers and shippers across the U.S. who scurried to keep up with the e-commerce giant. That includes 6 River Systems, a Waltham, Mass.-based company founded by former Kiva employees, which this week is showing its robot at ProMat, an industry trade show in Chicago. There’s also Fetch, a company in San Jose, Calif., whose robot scuttles around warehouses and also does the walking for workers. Continue reading this article

Treasury Secretary Blunder Sparks Discussion of Automated Future

When Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin remarked about robots taking US jobs that “It’s not even on our radar screen … 50-100 more years,” heads exploded across the tech world. Mnuchin’s comments during an interview with Axios on March 24 [Watch] sparked more than 700,000 responses online as of today, nearly all negative. Some observed that smart machines are already displacing human workers.

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers wrote in a March 27 Washington Post piece, Larry Summers: The robots are coming, whether Trump’s Treasury secretary admits it or not:

“Artificial intelligence is transforming everything from retailing to banking to the provision of medical care. Almost every economist who has studied the question believes that technology has had a greater impact on the wage structure and on employment than international trade and certainly a far greater impact than whatever increment to trade is the result of much debated trade agreements.”

Certainly such ignorance is disheartening among highly placed administration officials, especially one who deals with the economy. Automation is likely to be the biggest stumbling block to President Trump’s efforts to return jobs to America.

Tech-savvy billionaire Mark Cuban is one of Mnuchin’s critics and he appeared on a Fox News show on Saturday morning. Regarding the manufacturing revolution that the world faces, he explained “We’re going through a greater technological change over the next four to five years than we’ve seen over the last 30.”

Cuban also agreed with Bill Gates’ proposal that robots should be taxed, despite that idea being contrary to conservative business ideology.

Automotive manufacturing has become largely automated, disappearing a jobs category that employed millions of Americans.

The long term outlook for human employment in the automated future is grim according to experts. 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 — less, but still serious. The recent PwC forecast was only slightly less severe than the Oxford numbers.

It would be nice if Washington were aware of the economic revolution occurring now and getting worse. It’s a big deal when a major chunk of the workforce becomes unemployable: the unemployment rate during the worst of the Great Depression was 25 percent, but prognosticators put the level of technological unemployment at up to half in just a few decades.

At least the government could severely prune back on immigration since additional workers are the last thing America needs.

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