Self-Driving Vehicles Threaten the Jobs of Millions

It’s good to see the press covering the coming revolution in the workplace caused by automation, as the San Francisco Chronicle did Sunday with a front-page story:

Driving is indeed a threatened occupation, and one big reason is the money being invested in the new technology by companies that don’t want to be left behind. So there is a rush for market dominance because huge money is involved. For example, Ford announced in February that it was investing $1 billion in a self-driving startup company. The same CNN Money article mentioned that GM spent $1 billion to acquire Cruise Automation in 2016.

One helpful item in the Chron piece is the instructive chart that analyzes all the sub-categories of driving jobs that may be affected — sobering!

Also, the Chronicle has a section of articles titled On the cusp of a car revolution that has some interesting stuff.

The article does mention the “platoon” strategy for trucks, which seems like it will have to be a long-term intermediate step before full automation: a human drives the lead big rig and a couple of digitally connected vehicles follow. Self-driving technology may be safer overall, but it’s not perfect, and a 40-ton 18-wheeler run amok is too awful to contemplate. Plus, how would self-driving trucks get fuel and other on-road maintenance?

Meanwhile, even as robo-vehicles are rapidly coming this way, the usual suspects are scheming to import still more cheap-working immigrants as drivers, according to a recent article from an industry publication:

Immigrant truck drivers: Shhhh. We don’t talk about it., FleetOwner.com, June 11, 2017

. . . Fleet Owner reached out to eight industry stakeholders with multiple phone calls and email messages to discuss immigrants in the U.S. trucking industry and either received no response or the equivalent of “no comment.”

This reluctance belies the fact that recruitment of immigrant drivers appears to be successful. Currently, of the 1.2 million motor carrier-employed U.S. truck drivers (operating Class 8 trucks) about 224,722 or 18.6% are immigrants, according to U.S. Census data for 2011-2015 as analyzed by Justin Lowry, PhD, a Postdoctoral Researcher at George Mason University’s Institute for Immigration Research. Figures for 2010-2012 clocked in at 15.7%, he said.

It’s crazy for the government to allow large levels of immigration to continue when we are entering a period of increasing unemployment caused by automation in the next few years.

Finally, note the weak title in the online version of the article: of course there will be more tech jobs in the automated future, but fewer people will have jobs overall because the point of employers installing machines is to save money.

Robot cars may kill jobs, but will they create them too?, San Francisco Chronicle, December 10, 2017

Millions of people drive for a living; autonomous technology could make their work obsolete

Barreling through California’s Central Valley, his big rig’s 48-foot refrigerated trailer loaded with lettuce, peppers and tomatoes, Brett Goodroad acknowledged that he’s probably among the last generation of long-distance truckers.

At 38, he has been driving trucks since he was a teenager working on summer harvest crews in North Dakota. With a master’s degree in fine arts and a penchant for listening to classic books on the road, he doesn’t fit the standard trucker profile. But the aptly named Goodroad, who has put in more than a decade driving for Veritable Vegetable, an organic produce distributor, is an eloquent spokesman for his millions of comrades now traveling America’s highways.

“The end of our species is coming — it sounds like it should be a country song,” he said as he finished his regular five-day haul from San Francisco to New Mexico and back, his dog, Louis, riding shotgun. “I definitely see that truck drivers are going to be a relic of the past in the future.”

That future — one in which our vehicles, including trucks like his, will drive themselves — is fast approaching. Some experts say fleets of driverless vehicles will be on the road within two years.

Along with utopian forecasts of far fewer traffic accidents, cleaner air and cheaper transportation, there’s another sobering prediction: Self-driving vehicles could cost millions of people their jobs. Autonomous autos will also create new jobs, but those most likely to lose their livelihoods, including many truck drivers, may not easily find new occupations.

Some 3.8 million Americans work as motor vehicle operators, driving trucks, delivery vans, buses and taxis, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truck driving is the most common occupation in 29 states and the second- or third-most common in most others. On top of that, an estimated 1 million people drive part time for Uber and Lyft in the U.S. Globally, more than 100 million people are estimated to work behind the wheel.

“This will be the biggest disruption in work and jobs that the country has ever experienced,” said Andy Stern, a labor expert and president emeritus of the Service Employees International Union. “It will happen relatively soon, and we are in denial and avoidance.”

Naturally there is the usual chirping about safety — “far fewer traffic accidents” — as is the case above, but the mega-profits for future winners are mentioned further down in the article:

Then there are more esoteric opportunities. A report from Intel predicts the rise of a new “passenger economy,” worth a jaw-dropping $7 trillion by 2050. The bulk of that revenue would derive from ride hailing and the freight industry.

Some $200 billion would consist of goods and services provided to people during their rides in robot taxis. Think manicures, massages, lattes, fast-casual meals, mobile health care, remote meetings, immersive digital entertainment. (Intel doesn’t mention it, but practitioners of the world’s oldest profession might ply their trade in self-driving cars as well.)

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Japan May Provide a Snapshot of the Automated Future

Does Japan offer a preview of the near future of more robots? Perhaps, since the nation has an aging population, and it has rejected immigration as a source of labor, choosing automation to pick up the slack.

The Atlantic magazine takes a look in a new article that visits a robot restaurant in a robot hotel that is part of a Dutch-themed amusement park near Nagasaki.

Behold the robot pancake maker in the Henn-na Hotel.

The whole thing looks pretty gimmicky, but the Japanese seem to like their robot technology with bells and whistles.

An earlier report on the business noted that a hotel of similar size requires a staff of 35, but the Henn-na “gets by with less than seven staff members and the goal is to get down to a staff of just three humans.”

Hotel work is low-skilled and much of it can be done by robots already. We should consider these facts in an American context where immigrants make up much of the hotel workforce in diverse cities. We already see robot bellhops being introduced and management will be looking for more automation as customers appear willing to accept it.

Fast food automation is similarly coming on strong in the US, with robotic burger flippers, pizza prep and cappuccino brewer.

So the need for low-skilled immigrant workers is rapidly disappearing. The RAISE Act which gradually cuts immigration in half is a decent start but doesn’t go nearly far enough given the automated future. If the Oxford scholars are right and nearly half of American jobs were vulnerable to machine or software replacement by 2033, then we won’t need any immigrants because the machines will be cheaper.

Robots Will Transform Fast Food, By Alana Samuels, The Atlantic, January/February 2018 Issue

That might not be a bad thing.

Visitors to Henn-na, a restaurant outside Nagasaki, Japan, are greeted by a peculiar sight: their food being prepared by a row of humanoid robots that bear a passing resemblance to the Terminator. The “head chef,” incongruously named Andrew, specializes in okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake. Using his two long arms, he stirs batter in a metal bowl, then pours it onto a hot grill. While he waits for the batter to cook, he talks cheerily in Japanese about how much he enjoys his job. His robot colleagues, meanwhile, fry donuts, layer soft-serve ice cream into cones, and mix drinks. One made me a gin and tonic.

H.I.S., the company that runs the restaurant, as well as a nearby hotel where robots check guests into their rooms and help with their luggage, turned to automation partly out of necessity. Japan’s population is shrinking, and its economy is booming; the unemployment rate is currently an unprecedented 2.8 percent. “Using robots makes a lot of sense in a country like Japan, where it’s hard to find employees,” CEO Hideo Sawada told me.

Sawada speculates that 70 percent of the jobs at Japan’s hotels will be automated in the next five years. “It takes about a year to two years to get your money back,” he said. “But since you can work them 24 hours a day, and they don’t need vacation, eventually it’s more cost-efficient to use the robot.”

This may seem like a vision of the future best suited—perhaps only suited—to Japan. But according to Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute, many tasks in the food-service and accommodation industry are exactly the kind that are easily automated. Chui’s latest research estimates that 54 percent of the tasks workers perform in American restaurants and hotels could be automated using currently available technologies—making it the fourth-most-automatable sector in the U.S.

The robots, in fact, are already here. Chowbotics, a company in Redwood City, California, manufactures Sally, a boxy robot that prepares salads ordered on a touch screen. At a Palo Alto café, I watched as she deposited lettuce, corn, barley, and a few inadvertently crushed cherry tomatoes into a bowl. Botlr, a robot butler, now brings guests extra towels and toiletries in dozens of hotels around the country. I saw one at the Aloft Cupertino.

Ostensibly, this is worrying. America’s economy isn’t humming along nearly as smoothly as Japan’s, and one of the few bright spots in recent years has been employment in restaurants and hotels, which have added more jobs than almost any other sector. That growth, in fact, has helped dull the blow that automation has delivered to other industries. The food-service and accommodation sector now employs 13.7 million Americans, up 38 percent since 2000. Since 2013, it has accounted for more jobs than manufacturing.

These new positions once seemed safe from the robot hordes because they required a human touch in a way that manufacturing or mining jobs did not. When ordering a coffee or checking into a hotel, human beings want to interact with other human beings—or so we thought. The companies bringing robots into the service sector are betting that we’ll be happy to trade our relationship with the chipper barista or knowledgeable front-desk clerk for greater efficiency. They’re also confident that adding robots won’t necessarily mean cutting human jobs.

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Amazon Robots Propel Online Shopping but Repress Retail

Stores are certainly suffering since Amazon brought its robot battalions onto the retail field. The Kiva robots are an integral and necessary part of the millions of products that Jeff Bezos sells online and quickly ships to customers. Amazon purchased the Kiva robots in 2012 for $775 million; before that, human workers pushed carts around warehouses, walking miles daily to pick the items customers had ordered.

Below, the little orange Kiva robots scoot under racks of merchandise and deliver them to humans who fulfill the orders.

Today, many people find it easier to shop online than to spend hours to drive through traffic to a store that may not have what they want. Amazon’s recent record-breaking Cyber Monday following Thanksgiving illustrates its increasing success, along with Jeff Bezos’ ascent to becoming the richest man in the world.

The universe of work is undergoing a fundamental transformation because of automation and computers, and we’re just beginning to see how the future may function. Massive job destruction is a given, according to numerous tech 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. The consultancy firm PwC published a report earlier this year that forecast robots could take 38 percent of US jobs by 2030.

Amazon may be adding employees now, but the company’s long term plans are to replace workers in their function of filling and packing customer orders as shown by the company’s annual Picking Challenge competition for robots.

And plenty of other industries from agriculture to accounting are incorporating more smart machines to save money.

So it makes no sense for America to continue importing millions of immigrants who expect to work here, right?

Retail jobs decline as Amazon’s robot army grows, CNBC, December 4, 2017

Amazon employs over half a million workers. In the past year alone, the online retailer has added roughly a quarter of a million employees to its headcount, and 238 cities across the country are competing to become the location of Amazon’s second headquarters, which is estimated to create 50,000 more Amazon jobs.

But according to Dave Edwards and Helen Edwards at Quartz, Amazon may be killing more jobs than it creates. Quartz found that there are 170,000 fewer retail jobs in Amazon-related industries — like bookstores, grocery stores and clothing stores — in 2017 than the year before.

According to their calculations, even if Amazon maintains an impressive 43 percent personnel growth for another year, the total number of workers employed in Amazon-related industries would still decrease by 24,000.

So where are the jobs going? Quartz suggests that an increase in robotic workers could be to blame. They estimate that Amazon added 75,000 new robots to their workforce in 2017 for a total of roughly 100,000. By these approximations, machines constitute 20 percent of all Amazon “employees.”

More robots don’t always mean fewer jobs, but it may in the case of Amazon. Edwards and Edwards write, “While it may be difficult to prove causality, it’s not difficult to see the correlation between a decline of 24,000 human employees and an increase of 75,000 robot employees.”

Amazon attests that the investment in technological workers has improved efficiency. CNBC reports it takes 90 minutes on average for a human Amazon employee to find a product and package it, but with the help of robots, a product can be found and packaged in as little as 13 minutes.

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Automation Makes Amazon’s Revolutionary Success Possible

Amazon owner Jeff Bezos was recently recognized to be the world’s richest man, with a net worth of more than $100 billion. An optimistic economy has helped push his riches to stratospheric heights.

Plus, automation has played a big part in Amazon’s success. The online shopping behemoth couldn’t process the millions of products without computerized warehouses and the little orange Kiva robots that move items to human workers who package the orders.

For a brief history of the company, see my Social Contract article, Amazon Robotics: A Case Study of How Smart Machines Transformed an Internet Store from last year. Jeff Bezos played the long game and won big for his patience.

A lot of the automation revolution takes place out of the public eye in factories and other workplaces. Nevertheless the effect on employment is real and will certainly have an increasing reach. The future economy will be very different as smart machines become more commonplace.

Below, Amazon purchased Kiva Systems Inc. for $775 million in 2012 to acquire its factory robots in order to replace workers pushing carts around warehouses.

Expert predictions have been 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. The consultancy firm PwC published a report earlier this year that forecast robots could take 38 percent of US jobs by 2030.

There’s a not that government can do to mitigate the negative effects of automation, although Bill Gates has suggested that robots should be taxed. For sure, the government’s practice of importing foreign workers to work cheap (aka immigration) should end as being totally obsolete, given the automated future.

Anyway, back to Jeff Bezos’ big day:

Amazon’s Cyber Monday was its biggest sales day ever, Money CNN, November 29, 2017

Amazon has once again beat its own sales record.

The tech giant said on Wednesday that Cyber Monday was its single biggest shopping day of all time. The announcement comes just months after it reported unprecedented sales on Prime Day, its special shopping event is for Prime members.

Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) said customers ordered “hundreds of millions of products” from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. Not surprisingly, the best-selling product on Cyber Monday was an Amazon-branded product: the Echo Dot smart speaker. . .

Cyber Monday was also the biggest sales day ever for small businesses and entrepreneurs selling items on the platform. Customers ordered almost 140 million products from small businesses globally in the five-day period following Thanksgiving. . .

Beyond Amazon, a record $6.59 billion was spent online overall by the end of Cyber Monday, a 16.8% jump year-over-year, according to Adobe Analytics data. It was the largest online shopping day in history.

Self-Driving Trucks Will Be a Part of Unprecedented Social Change

It was nice to see the Los Angeles Times recognize the negative effect of self-driving cars and trucks which will cause severe job loss, as shown by a front-page story on Wednesday.

A lot of reporting over the last few years has had too much fan-boy wonderment at the rapid growth of admittedly amazing technology. But the automation gizmos are being designed to replace millions of workers: tech designers and business owners win, and workers lose.

The self-driving sector is now engaged in something of a gold rush. There is huge money involved on who prevails in the marketplace, and the big players in the automotive and tech companies don’t want to be left behind.

As a result of the haste, safety may not be given proper attention by Washington because nobody in Congress wants to see China or any other competitor overshadow American technology. The Times article refers vaguely to a hearing which must be the September investigation which I reported: Senate Hearing Paves Way for Self-Driving Trucks. The Teamster representative Ken Hall was the only one who discussed safety much, noting:

For instance, I have yet to hear a serious discussion about how we will make sure an 80,000 pound automated truck will be able to maneuver around a warehouse or drop yard and not injure the countless workers also occupying that same space. Or how we would make sure that the rules governing a driver’s training requirements would be updated the moment one of these new vehicles is put on the road. And we haven’t gotten to the largest issue of them all, the potential impact on the livelihoods and wages of millions of your constituents.

Read Hall’s full testimony here

My optimistic self hopes that 80,000-pound self-driving trucks will not be loosed on the public highways any time soon — a software malfunction could be catastrophic. A reasonable (and hopefully long-term) introductory step would be the “platooning” strategy where a human driver pilots one truck with a small number of other vehicles hooked up electronically to the leader.

Furthermore, as the article points out, the political blowback will likely be severe when the public begins to see society transformed in a way nobody asked for, and the driving environment looks to be just an early harbinger of change. Many jobs are liable to face a die-off or at least be affected by the automation revolution. The Oxford study that got everyone’s attention in 2013 predicted that nearly half of occupations in the US were likely to be automated within the next 20 years. Yet Washington remains asleep to the danger, as demonstrated by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s clueless remark last spring that big automation was 50 or 100 years away.

There’s not a lot that can done to stop the harmful effects, because capitalism and invention go hand in hand. But ending immigration would be a prudent step, since it makes no sense for America to continue importing workers when machines will be doing many of the jobs in a few years, because:

Automation Makes Immigration Obsolete

This is one of the better articles from a mainstream newspaper about the difficult automated future:

The driverless revolution may exact a political price, Los Angeles Times, November 22, 2017

A driverless truck is seen at a garage in San Francisco in May 2016. Such autonomous big rigs already are being tested on the roads. The Teamsters warn millions that of truck-driving and related jobs are threatened. Economists see a political backlash brewing.

In its race to embrace driverless vehicles, Washington has cleared away regulatory hurdles for auto companies and brushed aside consumer warnings about the risk of crashes and hacking.

But at a recent hearing, lawmakers absorbed an economic argument that illustrated how the driverless revolution they are encouraging could backfire politically, particularly in Trump country.

It was the tale of a successful, long-distance beer run.

A robotic truck coasted driverless 120 miles down Interstate 25 in Colorado on its way to deliver 51,744 cans of Budweiser. Not everyone at the hearing was impressed by the milestone, particularly the secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters, whose nearly 600,000 unionized drivers played no small role in President Trump’s victory last year.

Driverless vehicles threaten to dramatically reduce America’s 1.7-million trucking jobs. It is the front end of a wave of automation that technologists and economists have been warning for years will come crashing down on America’s political order. Some predict it could rival the impact of the economic globalization and the resulting off-shoring of jobs that propelled Trump’s victory in the presidential election.

“This is one of the biggest policy changes of our generation,” said Sam Loesche, head of government affairs for the Teamsters. “This is not just about looking after the health and welfare of America’s workers, but also their livelihoods.”

Washington isn’t ready for it. The Trump White House already has indicated it sees it as some future administration’s problem. Silicon Valley remains in shock over Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin’s remark in the spring that economic fallout from this type of automation is 50 to 100 years off and “not even on my radar screen.”

“I don’t think anybody there is thinking about this seriously,” said Martin Ford, author of “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future.” “They are still looking at this as futuristic and not having an impact and not politically toxic. … Once people start seeing the vehicles on the roads and jobs disappearing because of them, things will quickly become very different.”

The arrival of that reckoning is getting accelerated by Washington’s bipartisan excitement for self-driving technology, one of the few policy issues advancing. New Trump administration regulations don’t require industry to submit certain safety assessments, leaving it voluntary. And legislation — already approved in the House and expected to pass in the Senate — strips authority from states to set many of their own safety guidelines.

Objections raised by the National Governor’s Assn. and the National Council of State Legislatures don’t seem to be slowing things down. Consumer groups are dismayed.

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President Trump’s Policy of Reducing Immigration Is Right for the Automated Future

The Washington Post burped out a non-horrible immigration article the other day that managed to include some dissent toward the liberal dogma that unlimited immigration is a total good. The piece even suggested that enforcing existing laws might be a part of “preserving American jobs” — imagine that.

Wednesday’s front page presentation emphasized President Trump’s so-called bureaucratic approach to the issue and his intention to “reduce the number of foreigners living in the United States.” It sounds like the bureaucracy is just enforcing existing law, but whatever works.

How Trump is building a border wall that no one can see, Washington Post, November 21, 2017

President Trump’s vision of a “big, beautiful” wall along the Mexican border may never be realized, and almost certainly not as a 2,000-mile physical structure spanning sea to sea.

But in a systematic and less visible way, his administration is following a blueprint to reduce the number of foreigners living in the United States — those who are undocumented and those here legally — and overhaul the U.S. immigration system for generations to come.

Across agencies and programs, federal officials are wielding executive authority to assemble a bureaucratic wall that could be more effective than any concrete and metal one. While some actions have drawn widespread attention, others have been put in place more quietly.

The administration has moved to slash the number of refugees, accelerate deportations and terminate the provisional residency of more than a million people, among other measures. On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security said nearly 60,000 Haitians allowed to stay in the United States after a devastating 2010 earthquake have until July 2019 to leave or obtain another form of legal status.

“He’s building a virtual wall by his actions and his rhetoric,” said Kevin Appleby, migration policy director for the Center for Migration Studies, a nonprofit think tank.

Trump administration officials say they are simply upholding laws their predecessors did not and preserving American jobs. Previous Republican and Democratic administrations were too soft on enforcement, they say, and too rosy in their view of immigration as an unambiguously positive force.

“For decades, the American people have been begging and pleading with our elected officials for an immigration system that’s lawful and serves the national interest,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in Austin last month. “Now we have a president who supports that.”

Bob Dane, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which has pushed for many of the Trump administration’s main goals on immigration, said the president has “really scaled back this expansive view of immigration that occurred under the Obama administration.”

Unfortunately, the Post dredged up the old myth that America needs an endless stream of immigrants to do jobs that citizens don’t want:

William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, said that until now U.S. immigration rates have largely spared the country from the challenges facing advanced industrial nations such as Japan and Germany that can’t replace aging workers fast enough. By slashing immigration, Frey said, the country could end up with labor shortages and other workforce issues.

Sorry, demographers, the old ideas don’t apply any more because automation and advanced software are transforming the workplace from offices to strawberry fields. As the president of Northeastern University Joseph Aoun recently remarked, “If a job can be automated in the future, it will be.”

American businesses won’t need inexpensive foreign workers because robots will be even cheaper, and the machines are coming soon.

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. The consultancy firm PwC published a report earlier this year that forecast robots could take 38 percent of US jobs by 2030.

In short, reducing immigration severely — say to ZERO — is the optimum strategy going forward into the automated future. It makes no sense to import foreigners — who only come for the money and not to become Americans — when they will be unemployable and angry in a few years.

Remember:

Automation Makes Immigration Obsolete

Colleges May Not Be Training Young People for the Automated Future

Many areas of society continue to snooze through the building automation revolution in employment that is beginning to take shape, with a major gaggle of sleepers populating the halls of governance in Washington DC.

Colleges are supposed to be preparing young people for what the future needs in terms of employment skills, but higher ed doesn’t seem to grasp that a more basic change in strategy and teaching philosophy is needed beyond just adding some coding classes.

At least that’s the reasonable opinion in a recent Washington Post report, which seems right given the monumental nature of the changes suggested by the automated future.

Are colleges preparing students for an automated future?, By Jeffrey J. Selingo, Washington Post, November 19, 2017

President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about the decline of the working class blames trade, immigration and the outsourcing of American jobs overseas for the decline of the U.S. manufacturing sector.

But the bigger culprit is rarely acknowledged by politicians or the media: automation. Nearly nine in 10 jobs that have disappeared since 2000 were lost to automation, according to a study by Ball State University. As former President Barack Obama said in his farewell speech in Chicago earlier this year, the next wave of economic dislocations “will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good, middle-class jobs obsolete.”

And that includes many jobs that today require a college diploma. While robots driving trucks or operating machines on a factory floor make for attention-grabbing headlines, nearly half of American jobs are at risk of being taken over by computers within the next two decades, an often-cited report from Oxford University predicted in 2014. On that list were occupations long seen as stable careers, such as accounting, insurance underwriters and personal financial advisers. . .

For centuries, the answer to advancing technology was education. The belief was that additional schooling and more educational credentials would keep workers one step ahead of automation in almost any job. In the race between education and technology, education has always won.

But it’s not clear that simply adding education, particularly early in one’s life, will be enough to keep up in this new era.

“If a job can be automated in the future, it will be,” Joseph Aoun, the president of Northeastern University, said. “Very few are talking about the implications for higher education. We owe it to our students to be thinking about how to prepare them for the coming sea change to the future of work.”

Aoun is the author of an engaging new book, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, about how colleges need to not only reform their curriculum but also their entire approach to education. Only a few universities, he maintained, have started to plan for what’s next in the economy. In the book, Aoun suggests three approaches that higher education needs to adopt to prepare students for the automated future.

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Laura Ingraham Examines California Homelessness, including the Effect of Illegal Aliens

Thanks to the Ingraham Angle show for pointing out the often overlooked problem of spreading tent cities of homeless in California. It’s painful to see the increased human suffering in one of the richest areas on earth, and Laura Ingraham nails the governmental failure.

Below, the city of Los Angeles called for a crackdown on homeless encampments in 2015, but numbers have only worsened.

LAURA INGRAHAM: California is a beautiful state — the mountains, the ocean, the desert, its entertainment, its agriculture and high-tech output are the envy of the world, and California seems to have it all. I first came here 30 years ago as a college student and thought, wow, people actually live like this: this is paradise. But let’s face it, the Golden State has changed a lot over the past three decades and a lot of that change frankly has been for the worse and a lot of it has been caused by disastrous liberal policies.

Taxes have gone up and up. Regulations have stifled small business creation. Illegal immigration has exploded here. Jerry Brown called California a sanctuary state. Electricity prices are climbing because of stupid government mandates. The mandatory $15 minimum wage is hurting low-income workers because more retailers are now moving to automation to save the money.

And we’ve seen a major squeeze on California’s middle class as the number of working poor is growing. California’s public pension systems are about $200 billion in the red. Oh and while homelessness nationwide is declining, it’s up here by three percent. By the way, sheltering and caring for the homeless cost taxpayers an estimated $80,000 per person per year. In fact, it’s so bad that some of the major cities like San Francisco, Sacramento and right here in the Los Angeles area now have what they call “permanent tent cities” or encampments, and it’s all the homeless.

She doesn’t overlook the illegal alien component of the homeless, which is substantial. In fact, the Los Angeles Times reported LA County numbers in June that “Latino homelessness shot up by 63% in the past year, a staggering number in a county that saw its overall homeless population soar by 23%, despite increasing efforts to get people off the street.”

INGRAHAM: Shirley, the issue of illegal immigration which we didn’t delve into much in this piece, but from the time that I’ve walked those same tents, there’s a lot of illegal immigrants who are homeless as well. They come here, they try to get jobs, sometimes they can’t find jobs ,and they don’t have any sponsors or families to live with, and so they live among the homeless. That is also a big problem for the state of California, and you’ve been spent enormous amount of time in these permanent encampments.

SHIRLEY HUSAR: Yes, absolutely. I tell you, Laura, the infrastructure of California is being destroyed, is being demised by Jerry Brown, Kevin de Leon and Eric Garcetti. They have personally instructed the police officers not to enforce law to allow the illegal immigrants to do so much, to cause so much damage in the homelessness.

Illegal aliens — they’re causing trouble everywhere!

Look for Smart Machines to Change Work Substantially within Five Years

Recent reports give a near-term picture of how experts believe the automation revolution will roll out. Continuing education to adapt to technology will become more necessary as some careers will “cease to exist.”

There is a minor industry of reassurance — writers who spread the message that the automation revolution is over-hyped and will not create widespread unemployment. A news search for automation + jobs will routinely bring up 20 percent or more of don’t-worry items. One example is a New York Times October 7 opinion piece No, That Robot Will Not Steal Your Job that chirps, “There are jobs, jobs everywhere.”

Yes, the economy is booming now, which has been aided enormously by having a business-friendly president in the White House. The problem lies a few years down the road where the machines and software have become cheaper, and it makes sense for owners to replace workers.

“The displacement is already beginning to happen,” according to Jeff Hesse, principal of PwC, which published “Workforce of the Future” in September. He continued, ”It varies a bit by industry, but over the next five years we’re going to see the need for workers to change their skills at an accelerating pace.”

Okay, it’s a prediction, and not all predictions play out as written. But you would think that the potential of significant job loss from automation in the semi-near future would get a little attention in Washington, and it hasn’t.

There are strategies to cope with the revolutionary changes coming to the workplace, such as an increased emphasis on technical training to prepare workers for future jobs.

Certainly it makes sense for America to chill seriously on immigration if a PwC projection noted below is correct that “38 percent of U.S. jobs are at risk of being affected by automation by the early 2030s.” It is crazy to continue importing foreign workers when the need for them is Zero in the near future.

The Reports Are In: AI and Robots Will Significantly Threaten Jobs in 5 Years, Futurism.com, October 8, 2017

IN BRIEF
A report suggests people only have five years before automation and AI threaten jobs and force them to learn new skills for the workforce. The firm PwC surveyed 10,000 people from around the world, revealing people are concerned about automation, but they’re also willing to learn.

THE ROBOTS ARE COMING TO THREATEN JOBS

A study from Redwood Software and Sapio Research released October 4th revealed that IT leaders believe automation could impact 60% of businesses by 2022 and threaten jobs in the process. Now, a new, separate report from PwC, the second biggest professional services firm worldwide, suggests a similar timeline; one in which people may need to practice and learn new skills — or be left behind as automation takes over.

The report, titled Workforce of the Future, surveyed 10,000 people across China, India, Germany, the UK, and the U.S. to “better understand the future of work.” Of those, nearly 37% think artificial intelligence and robotics will put their jobs at risk; in 2014, 33% had a similar concern. . .

As of March 2017, PwC reports about 38% of U.S. jobs are at risk of being affected by automation by the early 2030s, with Germany closely behind at 35%; the UK at 30%; and Japan at 21%.

REQUIRED SKILLS AND ALTERNATIVE INCOMES

Last year, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said there were three skills people would need to survive in a job market that continues to embrace technology: science, engineering and economics. They don’t need to be experts, but they need to understand what people in each field are capable of. In the case of robotics, those with knowledge about managing automatic software programs will be highly sought after. Hesse also suggests people research which skills their fields will be in need of.

You can’t talk about the rise of robotics and automation without asking about those unable to adjust or unwilling to learn a new skill. 56% of the people PwC surveyed think governments should take any steps necessary to protect jobs, presumably so people without technical prowess can continue to work and earn an income.

(Continues)

Martin Ford: Adjusting to the Robot Future

Martin Ford, the author of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future appeared on Ted Talks to explain important aspects of the techno-future. He starts out by emphasizing that a workplace transformation is definitely coming, and automation will displace “roughly half the jobs in the economy.”

That level of permanent unemployment sounds like a good argument for ending immigration as an obsolete policy.

In the latter segment of the talk, Ford makes the case for a universal basic income to make the robot revolution more equitable.

MARTIN FORD: I’m going to begin with a scary question: Are we headed toward a future without jobs? The remarkable progress that we’re seeing in technologies like self-driving cars has led to an explosion of interest in this question, but because it’s something that’s been asked so many times in the past, maybe what we should really be asking is whether this time is really different. The fear that automation might displace workers and potentially lead to lots of unemployment goes back at a minimum 200 years to the Luddite revolts in England. And since then, this concern has come up again and again.

00:47
I’m going to guess that most of you have probably never heard of the Triple Revolution report, but this was a very prominent report. It was put together by a brilliant group of people — it actually included two Nobel laureates — and this report was presented to the President of the United States, and it argued that the US was on the brink of economic and social upheaval because industrial automation was going to put millions of people out of work. Now, that report was delivered to President Lyndon Johnson in March of 1964. So that’s now over 50 years, and, of course, that hasn’t really happened. And that’s been the story again and again.

01:26
This alarm has been raised repeatedly, but it’s always been a false alarm. And because it’s been a false alarm, it’s led to a very conventional way of thinking about this. And that says essentially that yes, technology may devastate entire industries. It may wipe out whole occupations and types of work. But at the same time, of course, progress is going to lead to entirely new things. So there will be new industries that will arise in the future, and those industries, of course, will have to hire people. There’ll be new kinds of work that will appear,and those might be things that today we can’t really even imagine. And that has been the story so far, and it’s been a positive story.

02:03
It turns out that the new jobs that have been created have generally been a lot better than the old ones. They have, for example, been more engaging.They’ve been in safer, more comfortable work environments, and, of course, they’ve paid more. So it has been a positive story. That’s the way things have played out so far. But there is one particular class of worker for whom the story has been quite different. For these workers, technology has completely decimated their work, and it really hasn’t created any new opportunities at all.And these workers, of course, are horses.

02:38
(Laughter)

02:40
So I can ask a very provocative question: Is it possible that at some point in the future, a significant fraction of the human workforce is going to be made redundant in the way that horses were? Now, you might have a very visceral, reflexive reaction to that. You might say, “That’s absurd. How can you possibly compare human beings to horses?” Horses, of course, are very limited, and when cars and trucks and tractors came along, horses really had nowhere else to turn. People, on the other hand, are intelligent; we can learn, we can adapt.And in theory, that ought to mean that we can always find something new to do, and that we can always remain relevant to the future economy. Continue reading this article

Automation Advances Further into Inventory Jobs

Robots are good at counting and recording, so they are increasingly being used in stores and warehouses to keep track of the stock on hand.

As part of Wal-mart’s competition with Amazon, the store chain is utilizing Amazon’s technology strategy by moving forward with automation to up its e-commerce game.

Naturally, the efficiency and cost-savings are emphasized, rather than the inevitable job loss.

Wal-Mart’s new robots scan shelves to restock items faster, Reuters, October 26, 2017

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Wal-Mart Stores Inc is rolling out shelf-scanning robots in more than 50 U.S. stores to replenish inventory faster and save employees time when products run out.

. . . “If you are running up and down the aisle and you want to decide if we are out of Cheerios or not, a human doesn’t do that job very well, and they don’t like it,” Jeremy King, chief technology officer for Walmart U.S. and e-commerce, told Reuters.

The company said the robots would not replace workers or affect employee headcount in stores.

The robots are 50 percent more productive than their human counterparts and can scan shelves significantly more accurately and three times faster, King said. Store employees only have time to scan shelves about twice a week.

The idea of installing robots to automate retail is not new. Rival Amazon.com Inc uses small Kiva robots in its warehouses to handle picking and packing, saving almost 20 percent in operating expenses. . .

Even more futuristic are the drone robots that fly around warehouses to do inventory, as the BBC recently reported:

The flying drones that can scan packages night and day, October 27, 2017

Flying drones and robots now patrol distribution warehouses – they’ve become workhorses of the e-commerce era online that retailers can’t do without. It is driving down costs but it is also putting people out of work: what price progress? . . .

What price progress indeed? A viable economy requires shoppers as well as products, but nobody in government seems concerned about the shrinkage of the demand side of the equation. Wouldn’t preparing for the automated future make more sense than pretending it isn’t coming?

Certainly America shouldn’t import more immigrant workers, since they won’t be needed. The remaining jobs should go to Americans, period, because:

Automation makes immigration obsolete.

Need convincing? Experts paint a grim picture:

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. The consultancy firm PwC published a report earlier this year that forecast robots could take 38 percent of US jobs by 2030.

Tucker Notes Automation’s Effect on Need for Immigrant Workers

On Tuesday, Tucker Carlson had a rapid-fire interview with billionaire Mark Cuban who thinks he might challenge President Trump in the 2020 Republican primary. Cuban bragged on how he can use his technological expertise to solve government problems, but he shrunk into nonsense at an automation question with an obvious answer:

MARK CUBAN: We need to find ways to reduce the cost of those entitlements while maintaining the same level of care. I’m a tech guy, and the reality is I would focus on creating technology solutions. I have investments that I see myself where it can have an impact. I think there’s a way that we can reduce the size of government, the size of bureaucracy that deals with healthcare but it’s going to take somebody who understands technology that can introduce technology to find those solutions, and I think it can happen relatively quickly.

TUCKER CARLSON: You definitely understand technology and you’ve been one of the people, to your great credit, who’s been sounding the alarm about automation’s effect on employment: you said robots are basically going to kill a lot of jobs; I think you’re right. Given that, is allowing about a million low-wage low-skilled workers into the country every year legally is that a good idea? Is that the right level of immigration?

CUBAN: You know what, you can argue both sides of that, Tucker, I’m not, I don’t have all the data to make the final decision, but on one hand you can say that it takes jobs away from people who need them the most. On the other hand, because of the demographic trends you can say we need people to fill certain jobs, you know if you look at agriculture, there’s jobs that are going unfilled, so you know there’s arguments for both sides. I’m not ready to come to a conclusion.

Wait, this guy is presenting himself as the successful tech expert and he thinks that America still needs Mexicans to pick crops? Hardly, at least not in the near future. Advances in agricultural robots make immigrant farm labor obsolete.

The future of agriculture is automated.

And if Cuban really is familiar with automation-caused job loss, he must certainly be aware of expert projections about the topic which are rather grim. 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. The consultancy firm PwC published a report earlier this year that forecast robots could take 38 percent of US jobs by 2030.

At least Tucker Carlson is connecting the dots between automation and the alleged need for immigrant workers in the automated future.

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