I rarely watch NBC, but was clicking around a couple days ago and saw a rather decent piece on self-driving trucks that included important facts about how the technology will affect jobs in an important American industry. Interestingly, Fox News is AWOL on the subject, while the liberal media does better, in particular PBS and The Guardian (UK). The coming destruction of the economic order by the disappearance of the wage-earner component needs to be discussed in media and public forums across the spectrum.
NBC reports that half of America’s truck drivers may lose their jobs because of technology within 10 years. The disemployment is occurring in many fields but there’s little public understanding or debate about the big picture.
Some 3.5 million Americans drive big rigs and delivery trucks, but revolutionary driverless technology means two million jobs, or more than half of the country’s truck drivers, could lose their jobs to automation in the next decade.
REPORTER STEPHANIE RUHLE: Trucks move America.
DRIVING INSTRUCTOR: Hands on the wheel.
RUHLE: It’s more than a slogan. Some three-and-a-half million Americans drive big rigs and delivery trucks. Long-haul truck drivers earn an average $40 thousand a year for the hard work and long hours and it doesn’t require a college degree.
TRUCK DRIVER STUDENT: I always wanted to be a truck driver so. . .
DRIVING INSTRUCTOR: When you pull up . . .
RUHLE: Students like these are learning the trade at a moment of change in the industry. Revolutionary driverless technology means more than half of the country’s truck drivers could lose their jobs to automation.
RAVI SHANKER, MORGAN STANLEY: We think the first fully autonomous trucks go on sale by 2020. I’ll be surprised if in 10 years a lot of the largest trucking carriers in the country aren’t significantly autonomous.
RUHLE: Daimler showed off the technology in Las Vegas in 2015. Their goal is to assist drivers as they plan to keep them at the helm. Other companies are rolling out programs that could put technology in the driver’s seat.
Then is technology the future, the partner or the enemy to the trucker?
JERRY CORVELLI, JERSEY TRACTOR TRAILER TRAINING: I mean certainly the future, you know you’re not going to stop the technology.
RUHLE: What was once a low-skilled trade becoming a profession driven by code and computers.
SHANKER: The truck driver will also be kind of be a technical engineer and if there’s a problem with the hardware, the software, they’re going to have to figure it out.
CORVELLI: Jobs for everyone in society — the highly skilled, the highly educated — but the ones, the individuals that are not so educated and skilled, where are the jobs for them? So that would be the downside.
RUHLE: For some, there’s no substitute for a human driver.
DRIVING INSTRUCTOR JASON MOODY: There may be a computer that can drive a truck from A to B on a straight line. But there will never be a computer that will be able to navigate a truck in the heart of Manhattan, never.
RUHLE: But those who want to stay in trucking for the long haul should expect a changing industry. Stephanie Rule, NBC News, New York.
Of course, it goes without saying that America no longer needs to import immigrants to drive our trucks given the coming technology. There is supposedly a shortage of drivers now, leading to a push for immigrants, but that won’t last long. The future is automated, including on the highways.
It was news last October when a self-driving truck from the Otto company traveled 120 highway miles to deliver a load of beer:
America is producing more than ever before, but it is doing so with fewer and fewer workers. Once trucks become automated, where will these jobs go?
In April 2016, Uber announced the acquisition of Otto, a San Francisco-based startup that has developed a kit that can turn any big rig into a self-driving truck.
The Otto technology enables complete autonomy on highways: trucks can navigate, stay in their lane, and slow or stop in response to traffic conditions completely without human intervention. Otto’s equipment currently costs about $30,000, but that is certain to fall significantly in the coming years.
Otto is by no means alone. Massive automated vehicles are already commonly used to move materials for the Australian mining industry. Daimler, the German multinational company, has likewise demonstrated its own model, a giant 18-wheeler with a “highway pilot” mode available (meaning a driver has to remain present, prompting the head of the US branch to say that “tomorrow’s driver will be a logistics manager”). Another approach is to use automated convoys, in which self-driving trucks follow a lead vehicle.
It seems highly likely that competition between the various companies developing these technologies will produce practical, self-driving trucks within the next five to 10 years. And once the technology is proven, the incentive to adopt it will be powerful: in the US alone, large trucks are involved in about 350,000 crashes a year, resulting in nearly 4,000 fatalities. Virtually all of these incidents can be traced to human error. The potential savings in lives, property damage and exposure to liability will eventually become irresistible.
There’s only one problem: truck driving is one of the most common occupations in the US.
Once replaced by automation, where will these jobs go?
As of 2015, a typical production worker in the US earned about 9% less than a comparable worker in 1973. Over the same 42 years, the American economy grew by more than 200%, or a staggering $11tn.
For millions of average Americans, the reasonable expectations of their youth – a steady job, home ownership, college education for their children – have degraded into decades of stagnation, even as they have been continuously bombarded by news of the overall growth and prosperity of the US economy.
The driving force behind this transition has been technology. It is widely recognized among economists that while the impact of globalization has been significant, especially in specific regions of the country, robots and factory automation have been a far more powerful force. Indeed, even those jobs that did migrate to China are now evaporating as factories there aggressively automate. Continue reading this article
Elections have consequences, so they say. The Associated Press reports that farmers in California fear that Trump’s promise of mass deportations means they won’t have enough cheapie Mexicans to pick the crops and are therefore investing in agricultural automation.
The front page of Saturday’s San Jose Mercury News had a headline: “For Google, race is on with self-driving cars.”
The game has changed with so many players on the field, as various companies have made their intentions known to build a self-driving car. Google self-driving vehicles have been designed as being totally driver-free, as can be seen by the lack of a steering wheel. Meanwhile, some companies have marketed their advanced cruise control as “self-driving” as one did with deadly results: Tesla advertised its system as “Autopilot” which led to the death of a Florida man who thought the technology functioned as described.
Interestingly, a Rasmussen poll from a couple months ago found that 52 percent of voters think robot cars will make the roads less safe, but business sees an automated future and believes public opinion can be readjusted.
As the Mercury reports, the pressure of suddenly facing so many competitors has forced the Google car company to step up its game.
As usual, there is no mention of the effect to society of gutting a major sector of the jobs economy, namely driving. More than three million Americans make their living by driving delivery vans, taxis, buses and 18-wheelers, but they are little discussed by the press when presenting its techno-news about automation.
And given the shrinking employment universe caused by technology, it makes no sense for the government to continue importing foreign workers under its anti-American immigration policies to fill jobs that no longer exist:
Automation makes immigration obsolete.
San Jose, of course, is at the heart of Silicon Valley and the major newspaper essentially serves the industry.
MOUNTAIN VIEW — The sudden acceleration in deployment of self-driving technology could confront Google with a choice: stick to its fundamental plan to develop fully autonomous vehicles or downshift to join rivals who are poised to put less-advanced semi-autonomous cars on the road first.
Amid a blitz of progress announcements this month from robot-car firms that could beat Google to commercial success, the Mountain View tech titan on Friday confirmed it has hired a new head of its self-driving program who is known for steering the successful expansion of Airbnb into a new market.
“At some point the rubber has to hit the road,” said Carnegie Mellon University engineering professor Raj Rajkumar, whose work is focused on self-driving cars. “My understanding is they’ve spent several hundreds of millions of dollars on this project, and that they’re still spending $100 million a year. As far as I know there’s not a single penny of revenue. With the new Airbnb executive, they have to look at what are the opportunities for monetizing.”
But while Google has adhered to a belief that self-driving cars should only go to market when the need for human intervention has been eliminated — a step many experts believe is years away — the firm’s rivals are already putting out self-driving systems that stop short of full autonomy but take much of the work out of driving. Continue reading this article
Tuesday was the Amazon Prime day, where super deals were offered to shoppers of the online store who pay a fee for extra services. Last year’s Prime Day broke records with its total of 34.4 million items ordered in eligible countries worldwide. That task requires mega processing capability that depends on computers and automation, particularly the company’s Kiva robots that move the orders from storage to packaging to shipping in enormous warehouses.
Amazon’s video of the 2015 contest was explanatory without being too wonky:
The rapid progress of technology as highlighted by this competition should remind us all how the very basics of the economy — namely workers earning money to buy the products they and others produce — are being undermined. Yet none of our political leaders are discussing how the revolutionary changes to society will be addressed.
Robotics competition prize for best warehouse-working ‘picker’ machine awarded to robot designed by Dutch team
Amazon’s progress toward an army of helpful robots is one step closer: a prize for the best warehouse-working “picker” machine has gone to a robot designed by a team from TU Delft Robotics Institute and Delft Robotics, both based in the Netherlands.
The competition was held in conjunction with Germany’s Robocup in Leipzig. Announced on Monday, the winners took home $25,000, while the university of Bonn’s NimbRo won $10,000 for second place and Japanese firm PFN was awarded $5,000 for third.
The contest, in Amazon’s words, “aimed to strengthen the ties between the industrial and academic robotic communities,” and ended with slightly fewer than half of the entrants scoring more than 20 out of 40 possible points, according to a report in TechRepublic. The technology is advancing quickly: all of those contestants would have surpassed the highest scorer in the previous Picking Challenge, held just three years ago. Continue reading this article
Many jobs that are being replaced by automation are somewhat small in terms of the number of workers in each employment category, so the overall cumulative effect has not been adequately noticed. However drivers are a huge group with millions of workers, plus the collateral businesses that are built around track drivers in particular, like roadside restaurants, so the disruption of the trucking industry will have large injurious effects.
Nevertheless, the businesses that build cars, trucks and buses are moving full steam ahead with self-driving technology because they don’t want to be left in the dust by Silicon Valley developing the industry.
The report below from the Guardian suggests that self-driving trucks might come into common usage more quickly than we think. But however attractive the idea of far cheaper hauling might be to transportation companies, it’s hard to imagine the driving public will readily accept ginormous big rigs speeding down the highway with no driver. Business may compromise by using the platooning strategy, where a designated lead truck has a driver and several vehicles follow along by being networked wirelessly.
Powerful interests now believe there is money to be made by creating an automated future, although making many millions of people unemployed seems a poorly considered way to run an economy. Robots don’t shop.
Still, the automation future is coming coming our way, as we see in the machines and software already here as the vanguard of the revolution.
One thing that should be done is to zero out immigration, because America won’t need millions of additional unemployable workers in a vastly reduced employment universe.
The race is on to get driverless trucks on the roads, and experts say the impact on professional drivers ‘is going to be huge’
Driverless trucks will be safer and cheaper than their human-controlled counterparts, but that doesn’t mean America’s 3.5 million professional truck drivers are giving up to the machines without a fight.
Across the US, truckers collectively haul more than 10bn tons of freight each year, but it’s a tough job – the hours are long and lonely, the pay is low and the lifestyle is sedentary. In many ways it’s a job ripe for disruption; robots v truckers.
“Picture the taxi drivers around the world acting in response to Uber,” says Andy Stern, the former former president of the Service Employees International Union, referring to protests and violence that erupted in many cities as the $62.5bn Silicon Valley on-demand ride-hailing firm challenged conventional, regulated taxis.
“Truck drivers will follow a similar pattern,” says Stern. “There will be disruption in different places. You can imagine people ringing state capitals with their trucks.”
Much has been written about the advent of the driverless car, with rival versions being developed by Google, Uber and Tesla, yet driverless trucks are likely to roll out at scale much sooner. “Individuals can make their own choices about whether they want to get into a driverless car or taxi, but labour-saving technology will be deployed by businesses much quicker,” explains Stern, whose book Raising the Floor explores the need for a universal basic income as technology replaces jobs. Continue reading this article
Rice University Professor Moshe Vardi not only thinks that smart machines are rapidly making human workers obsolete, but he also believes a future society where work is obsolete won’t be beneficial for human beings.
“I do not find this a promising future, as I do not find the prospect of leisure-only life appealing. That seems to me a dystopia. I believe that work is essential to human well-being,” he remarked at a recent presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.
Destroying the entire basis of the economy — jobs paying people to work, who in turn buy products — will be hard enough to sort out. But the adjustment required when billions of lives become unstructured seems a recipe for social disaster. Work has long been a basis of self-worth, and unemployment often leads to a feeling of emptiness which can prompt unhealthy use of drugs and alcohol.
The one-minute video below sums up the situation rather succinctly.
Human labor could be obsolete by 2045, according to a computer scientist at Rice University. Moshe Vardi believes that within the next 30 years, machines will be able to perform almost any task presently performed by humans. Thus, Vardi is posing questions to his colleagues about the necessary response in the event of widespread unemployment. According to Vardi, technological advancement in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics are displacing the need for human labor leading to worldwide unemployment as high as 50 percent within the next 30 years, reports the Guardian. He said, “We are approaching a time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task. I believe that society needs to confront this question before it is upon us. If machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do? The question I want to put forward is does the technology we are developing ultimately benefit mankind?”
Vardi is calling for a public discussion about how society should prepare for this fundamental change, but the usual suspects in Washington and the media continue to remain clueless about the shrinking jobs economy. The workplace revolution is well underway and the self-appointed leaders haven’t noticed. Millions of jobs have disappeared forever from the effects of advancing machine technology, but the same old prescriptions are being dragged out — lower regulation from Republicans and more welfare from Democrats — none of which grapple with the real problem.
Rice computer scientist Moshe Vardi: Human labor may be obsolete by 2045
HOUSTON — (Feb. 14, 2016) — Rice University computer scientist Moshe Vardi expects that within 30 years, machines will be capable of doing almost any job that a human can. In anticipation, he is asking his colleagues to consider the societal implications. Can the global economy adapt to greater than 50 percent unemployment? Will those out of work be content to live a life of leisure?
“We are approaching a time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task,” Vardi said. “I believe that society needs to confront this question before it is upon us: If machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?”
Vardi addressed this issue Sunday in a presentation titled “Smart Robots and Their Impact on Society” at one of the world’s largest and most prestigious scientific meetings — the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.
“The question I want to put forward is, Does the technology we are developing ultimately benefit mankind?” Vardi said. He asked the question after presenting a body of evidence suggesting that the pace of advancement in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) is increasing, even as existing robotic and AI technologies are eliminating a growing number of middle-class jobs and thereby driving up income inequality. Continue reading this article
Along with the many business stories about the Amazon retailer on Cyber Monday, the company used the occasion to release a video about Jeff Bezos’ favorite hobby, a drone delivery robot, a project he announced on Sixty Minutes in 2013.
Jeremy Clarkson, formerly of the British car show Top Gear, told a story about a girl whose soccer shoe is eaten by the dog — but Amazon Prime save the day by same-day delivery of a new pair!
Interestingly, the new model of Amazon drone looks like a flying shelf that poops out its cargo. It doesn’t appear to have unshielded whirling blades to bonk unhelmeted pedestrians, as has already happened with other drones.
A sky full whirring drones is not my idea of a pleasant future. Plus, if the drones really become a major delivery vehicle, that would mean fewer jobs for human truck drivers. Automation has killed millions of jobs, to the point where it is crazy for Washington to continue importing immigrant workers, as if nothing had changed in the workplace universe.
Here’s more background on the Jeremy Clarkson connection:
Retailer seems determined to get its money’s worth out of the former Top Gear host as he fronts YouTube campaign showing how it may deliver in the future
Amazon is seeking to get as much mileage as possible out of new star-signing Jeremy Clarkson, with the former Top Gear presenter fronting an ad unveiling anew hybrid drone that could see deliveries made to customers’ backyards. Continue reading this article
Unlike America, China doesn’t have the problem of an uncontrolled immigration system with no Off switch to stop the inflow of unneeded workers in the automated future when human workers are far less needed to produce goods and services.
OVER the last decade, China has become, in the eyes of much of the world, a job-eating monster, consuming entire industries with its seemingly limitless supply of low-wage workers. But the reality is that China is now shifting its appetite to robots, a transition that will have significant consequences for China’s economy — and the world’s.
In 2014, Chinese factories accounted for about a quarter of the global ranks of industrial robots — a 54 percent increase over 2013. According to the International Federation of Robotics, it will have more installed manufacturing robots than any other country by 2017.
Midea, a leading manufacturer of home appliances in the heavily industrialized province of Guangdong, plans to replace 6,000 workers in its residential air-conditioning division, about a fifth of the work force, with automation by the end of the year. Foxconn, which makes consumer electronics for Apple and other companies, plans to automate about 70 percent of factory work within three years, and already has a fully robotic factory in Chengdu.
Chinese factory jobs may thus be poised to evaporate at an even faster pace than has been the case in the United States and other developed countries. That may make it significantly more difficult for China to address one of its paramount economic challenges: the need to rebalance its economy so that domestic consumption plays a far more significant role than is currently the case.
China’s economic growth has been driven not just by manufacturing exports, but also by fixed investment in things like housing, factories and infrastructure — in fact, in recent years investment has made up nearly half of its gross domestic product. Meanwhile, domestic consumer spending represents only about a third of the economic pie, or roughly half the level in the United States. Continue reading this article
Tuesday’s front page of the Washington Post included a photo of a new machine that will eventually make anesthesiologists obsolete. It sedates the patient for one-tenth the price of a human doctor, so despite reassurances in the article, the machine is likely to have rapid adoption because of the cost reduction it offers.
The sedation machine is one of many technologies that are putting humans out of work, now or in the near future. We are becoming accustomed to robot manufacturing, where machines do simple actions like welding and humans are not to be seen.
But the suggestion that certain categories of doctors are disappearing shows how rapidly the smart machine revolution is happening in places we never imagined. Professional and white collar jobs are not immune from job loss caused by technological progress.
Medicine is an elite, respected, well paid profession. However, it too faces transformational change from smart machines. The Guardian reported a year ago that there is a $10 million prize for the creation of a Star-Trek-style tricorder to do medical diagnoses, and it’s expected that the machine will be built within five years.
[. . .] It’s not just software and diagnosis, either: surgeons will have to make way for smarter machines. “I think we’re going to see the role of the physician changing significantly through the use of robotics,” says Diamandis. He cites the work of Silicon Valley firm Intuitive Surgical, which has created a “surgical system” named Da Vinci, which an expert surgeon can control online from anywhere in the world. Just as in architecture, such developments will allow specialists to reach wider markets – but unlike with architecture there is no reason to assume they will stop there.
“Eventually, where this is going,” says Diamandis, “is that the robot will end up doing the surgeries on its own. I can imagine a day in the future where the patient walks into the hospital and the patient needs, say, cardiac surgery, and the conversation goes something like this: ‘No, no, no, I do not want that human touching me. I want the robot that’s done it 1,000 times perfectly.'”
How will the changing universe of medicine affect young people considering a profession that takes a decade of training? The whole thing won’t go robot immediately, but 20 to 30 years out, who knows? Human doctors may become a rarity.
TOLEDO — The new machine that could one day replace anesthesiologists sat quietly next to a hospital gurney occupied by Nancy Youssef-Ringle. She was nervous. In a few minutes, a machine — not a doctor — would sedate the 59-year-old for a colon cancer screening called a colonoscopy.
But she had done her research. She had even asked a family friend, an anesthesiologist, what he thought of the device. He was blunt: “That’s going to replace me.”
One day, maybe. For now, the Sedasys anesthesiology machine is only getting started, the leading lip of an automation wave that could transform hospitals just as technology changed automobile factories. But this machine doesn’t seek to replace only hospital shift workers. It’s targeting one of the best-paid medical specialties, making it all the more intriguing — or alarming, depending on your point of view.
Today, just four U.S. hospitals are using the machines, including here at ProMedica Toledo Hospital. Device maker Johnson & Johnson only recently deployed the first-of-its-kind machine despite winning U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in 2013. The rollout has been deliberately cautious for a device that hints at the future of health care, when machines take on tasks once assumed beyond their reach.
Everyone is watching to see how this goes.
“We’ve had a lot of anesthesiologists who’ve been dropping by to get a look,” said Michael Basista, the gastroenterologist who was about to work on Youssef-Ringle.
Then Sedasys did its job. And his patient was out cold.
‘Indication is very narrow’
Anesthesiologists tried to stop Sedasys.
They lobbied against it for years, arguing no machine could possibly replicate their skills or handle an emergency if something went wrong. Putting someone to sleep is an art, they said. Too little sedation, and the patient feels pain. Too much, and the patient dies. Anesthesiology requires four years of training after medical school, meaning careers might not launch until the doctors are in their 30s. It’s one reason the profession’s median salary is $277,000 a year, according to research firm Payscale.
At first, the FDA rejected Sedasys over safety concerns. That was in 2010. But Johnson & Johnson, which began work on the device in 2000, won approval by agreeing to have an anesthesiology doctor or nurse on-call in case of emergencies and to limit use to simple screenings such as colonoscopies and endoscopies in healthy patients.
“The indication is very narrow, which is comforting to anesthesiologists,” Paul Bruggeman, Sedasys general manager for Johnson & Johnson, said in an interview.
But that comfort might be short-lived. More advanced machines are in the works. Researchers at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, are testing a device that can fully automate anesthesia for complicated brain and heart surgeries, even in children. Hospital administrators imagine the day when Sedasys or another device is used throughout their facilities for sedation.
“I dream about using it in bigger areas than endoscopy units,” said Joseph Sferra, vice president of surgical services at ProMedica Toledo Hospital, who had to overcome staff objections to get Sedasys into his medical center. “I’m sure this is very disconcerting to anesthesiologists.” Continue reading this article
Progress never sleeps these days, and the expansion of machine intelligence is growing faster than most of us civilians can follow. However, one simple metric is the development of the self-driving car, since Google co-founder Sergey Brin forecast in 2012 that self-driving cars would be available for consumers in five years.
But it was lesser-known Delphi that scored the impressive cross-country drive, which took nine days from San Francisco to New York.
Below, the Delphi car looked pretty normal from the outside as it approached NYC.
Some aspects of self-driving are available now, like self-parking. An NBC online story about the Delphi trip includes a video of a Mercedes that can park itself when the driver pushes the park-assist button. So the smarter car is coming in pieces.
Proponents of the self-driving car like Brin emphasize that it will create safer roadway travel once all the tech issues are ironed out.
The chart below from Bloomberg estimated that 89 percent of taxi driver and chauffeur jobs are at risk from computerization.
In the very near future, America won’t need to import immigrant labor, because the machines will be doing much of the work. Therefore the correct number of immigrants now is Zero because the current systemic unemployment is partially due to businesses’ use of automation, computers and robots.
The latest chapter in the evolution of the self-driving, driverless automobile has been completed and proved successful with neither an accident or roadway incident during a cross-country trek that involved 15 states and traversed 3,400 miles.
And no, it wasn’t Tesla or Google or Mercedes or GM or Ford or even Apple (which is the latest tech company rumored to be building such a vehicle, as Tech Times has reported).
It was auto supplier Delphi Automotive, which apparently has been very quietly advancing driverless technology.
In just nine days Delphi’s blue 2014 Audi SQ5 traveled from San Francisco to New York City, only giving the wheel over to a human driver on city streets. The car, built within the past year, passed its big test with flying colors, according to Delphi.
“It was time to put it on the road and see how it performed,” says Delphi CTO Jeff Owens. “It was just tremendous.” The company noted that the vehicle did 99 percent of the trek in automated mode. Continue reading this article
Check out this 15-minute video showing the encroachment of robots and automation ever further into the modern workplace. Describing the history of machines increasingly doing the work of humans, the narrator observes, “You may think we’ve been here before, but we haven’t. This time is different,” because today’s machines can learn and even teach themselves.
Many of the smart machines have been noted in these pages, including Baxter the trainable industrial robot (pictured), the automated coffee kiosk that remembers your java preference and self-driving cars being masterminded by Sergey Brin, a co-founder of Google.
The video gives a realistic picture of what’s coming, briefly noting that society is not prepared for very basic changes. Robots are just beginning to replace blue-collar, white-collar and professional workers, and public policy discussions need to start about the unprecedented future speeding toward us.
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