The Robots are Coming A casual discussion about the automation of work and the decreasing relevance of humans to productivity. http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com Wed, 10 Feb 2016 17:37:07 -0600 Robot Sex Dolls http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/robot-sex-dolls/ <p>So, <a href="https://www.realdoll.com/">Real Doll</a> has been around for years&mdash;I remember them being a blocked site on my company&rsquo;s computer network back in 2000 or so, The company makes life-size sex dolls that sell for thousands of dollars.</p> <p>But the founder wants to branch out:</p> <blockquote> <p>We&rsquo;re pushing into using this newer technology that&rsquo;s emerging in terms of robotics and artificial intelligence, and what we&rsquo;re trying to do is create an artificial intelligence that is user-customizable the same way that the dolls are customizable. So you would pick fundamental personality traits that appeal to you, be it shy, outgoing, and once it is then formed into a profile, you would interact with the AI and it would learn from you these key facts about you as the relationship, as it were, progresses. That kind of creates this very simplistic feeling of: someone cares about me.</p> </blockquote> <p>So, he wants to embed the dolls with AI and animatronic features that let them substitute for a real human relationship.</p> <blockquote> <p>I don&rsquo;t think that a doll can replace a human interaction, with AI or without, but I do think there are probably cases of people who either by choice or by circumstance cannot have a real relationship, and so in that case, maybe the doll is going to be that replacement. But I don&rsquo;t think there&rsquo;s necessarily anything wrong with that.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here&rsquo;s the entire video (NSFW warning: naked dolls...)</p> <iframe width=560 height=315 src=https://www.youtube.com/embed/nJc9BROjXfM frameborder=0 allowfullscreen></iframe> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0600 934d3bf7-71f6-4c04-aeff-9b8e7bc6d003 Buzzfeed Talks to Uber and Lyft Drivers http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/conversations-with-uber-lyft-drivers/ <p><a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/henrygoldman/these-drivers-will-be-replaced-by-robots-and-dont-seem-to-mi">Buzzfeed made a video</a> where they took rights with Uber and Lyft drives and talked to the about driverless cars and what it might mean for their jobs, They don&rsquo;t seem that terribly concerned about it.</p> <iframe width=560 height=315 src=https://www.youtube.com/embed/dDFHp7UfzFE frameborder=0 allowfullscreen></iframe> <p>There&rsquo;s a quote from Lyft in the the middle of it where Buzzfeed straight-up asked them what would happen to their drivers, They talk around the subject quite a bit, but they basically say, &ldquo;This is the future. We don&rsquo;t know what&rsquo;s going to happen to our drivers...&rdquo;</p> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0600 50ee7d3c-ef13-481a-ab48-fc28724941a2 NASA Investigates Single Pilot Operations in Commercial Aircraft http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/single-pilot-operations/ <p>NASA is <a href="http://aviationweek.com/technology/nasa-advances-single-pilot-operations-concepts">investigating the idea of aircraft with a single pilot</a> ("Single Pilot Operations,&rdquo; or SPO), rather than the two in use today. The key is that a second officer is present as well&mdash;on the ground, The ground officer is monitoring 12 planes at once.</p> <blockquote> <p>[...] a specialized two-position ground control station where the operator when sitting in the right seat fills the role of &ldquo;super dispatcher&rdquo; for as many as 12 single-pilot airliners in cruise flight. If one of the 12 aircraft enters an &ldquo;off-nominal&rdquo; state due to an issue or anomaly, the ground station operator moves to the left seat and becomes a ground-based first officer dedicated to that aircraft.</p> </blockquote> <p>If there&rsquo;s a really big problem, the ground officer can take control of the plane remotely.</p> <blockquote> <p>In a contingency, which has to be triggered by the captain, the super dispatcher transitions into dedicated support mode as a first officer in the left seat of the ground station; the pilot and first officer then conduct a briefing over an open microphone loop to assign duties, including who will fly the aircraft (the first officer flies via inputs to the autoflight system in the mode control panel representation in the ground control station).</p> </blockquote> Mon, 8 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0600 75d5e828-6925-4606-bdc2-5d5e874d1f41 Will the machines ever wake up? http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/can-machines-wake-up/ <p>Could we ever replicate consciousness in machines? Might they ever become sentient like Skynet in the <em>Terminator</em> films? TechCrunch <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2016/02/05/when-will-the-machines-wake-up/">looks at the possibilities</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>One of the most common contentions as to why conscious will eventually be replicated is based on the fact that nature bumbled its way to human-level conscious experience, and with a deeper understanding of the neurological and computational underpinnings of what is &ldquo;happening&rdquo; to create a conscious experience, we should be able to do the same.</p> </blockquote> <p>The author asked 30+ researchers (the bulk of the article is a long infographic with their responses).</p> <blockquote> <p>Though some researchers supposed a longer time frame, and some a shorter time frame, the bulk of the responses (totaling nearly 50 percent of the respondents who were comfortable making a prediction) were in the 2021-2060 time frame.</p> </blockquote> <p>That&rsquo;s just five years away, And the implications are huge:</p> <blockquote> <p>If a machine became conscious enough to feel, even at the level of a dog or squirrel, should we not have laws to protect them from types of abuse or neglect?</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>If machines were in fact able to consciously &ldquo;feel&rdquo; physical or emotional sensations, would we be obligated to program them to only experience happiness and bliss?</p> </blockquote> <p>I would argue that if you have to &ldquo;program&rdquo; emotions at all, then they&rsquo;re not really conscious.</p> Sat, 6 Feb 2016 13:24:00 -0600 d1ece5a4-993b-4fc0-963b-b3b87b3a2c50 Y Combinator Basic Income Study http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/y-combinator-basic-income/ <p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y_Combinator_(company)">Y Combinator</a>&mdash;the startup incubator&mdash;is about to start up <a href="http://blog.ycombinator.com/basic-income">a study on the feasability of basic income</a>.</p> <blockquote> <p>We&rsquo;re going to try something new&mdash;our first Request For Research. We&rsquo;d like to fund a study on basic income&mdash;i.e., giving people enough money to live on with no strings attached, I&rsquo;ve been intrigued by the idea for a while, and although there&rsquo;s been a lot of discussion, there&rsquo;s fairly little data about how it would work.</p> </blockquote> <p>They&rsquo;re looking for someone to do some long term research on it.</p> <blockquote> <p>We&rsquo;re looking for one researcher who wants to work full-time on this project for 5 years as part of YC Research, We&rsquo;d like someone with some experience doing this kind of research, but as always we&rsquo;re more interested in someone&rsquo;s potential than his or her past, Our idea is to give a basic income to a group of people in the US for a 5 year period, though we&rsquo;re flexible on that and all aspects of the project&mdash;we are far from experts on this kind of research.</p> </blockquote> Sat, 6 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0600 5074e024-1d41-4c09-8bc6-9ec956efd7f7 Disembodied Objects of Speed and Efficiency http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/disembodied-objects/ <p>In a discussion about automated business processing in <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Mindless-Smarter-Machines-Making-Dumber/dp/0465018440">Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans</a>.</p> <blockquote> <p>It is here perhaps that IBM gets us closest to a digital version of Aldous Huxley&rsquo;s <em>Brave New World</em> and where, whether we are physicians, fast food workers, middle managers, or Walmart associates, we have become disembodied objects of speed and efficiency joined to these electronic symbols on the screen&mdash;symbols that the &ldquo;process assemblers&rdquo; then move around as they see fit and with the real, corporeal us having to following orders like members of a digital chain gang, pushed first one way and then another by our virtual overseers.</p> </blockquote> Fri, 5 Feb 2016 18:00:00 -0600 ceacc0b0-eb83-40cc-b50c-e4571a03b466 The Crash of Air France Flight 447 http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/air-france-flight-447/ <p><a href="http://www.vanityfair.com/news/business/2014/10/air-france-flight-447-crash">This Vanity Fair article</a> examines the 2009 crash of Air France flight 447, which went down in the Atlantic en route from Brazil to France. The ostensible reason for the crash was a stall caused by faulty air speed reporting, due to an iced-over air speed indicator.</p> <p>However, the more subtle, sinister cause of the crash might be that the pilots just weren&rsquo;t prepared for anything to go wrong, A pilot should be able to recover from a stall, yet these pilots could not.</p> <blockquote> <p>To put it briefly, automation has made it more and more unlikely that ordinary airline pilots will ever have to face a raw crisis in flight&mdash;but also more and more unlikely that they will be able to cope with such a crisis if one arises.</p> </blockquote> <p>Clearly, when the technology failed, human error became a factor:</p> <blockquote> <p>The solution was simple, and fundamental to flying. All Bonin had to do was to lower the nose to a normal cruising pitch&mdash;about to the horizon&mdash;and leave the thrust alone. The airplane would have returned to cruising flight at the same speed as before, even if that speed could not for the moment be known.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>But Bonin continued to pull back on the stick, jerkily pitching the nose higher.</p> </blockquote> <p>When the machines failed, the pilots couldn&rsquo;t pick up the slack. Had their skills atrophied over the years as they had less and less to do in the cockpit?</p> <p>Planes are simply <em>insanely</em> safe these days, The biggest problem seems to come from when the plane has to interact with the pilot:</p> <blockquote> <p>[...] the accident rate has plummeted to such a degree that some investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board have recently retired early for lack of activity in the field. There is simply no arguing with the success of the automation. The designers behind it are among the greatest unheralded heroes of our time. Still, accidents continue to happen, and many of them are now caused by confusion in the interface between the pilot and a semi-robotic machine. Specialists have sounded the warnings about this for years: automation complexity comes with side effects that are often unintended.</p> </blockquote> <p>Should planes just be completely automated?</p> Fri, 5 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0600 cb0565b2-8c31-4e6e-96df-bf2c74b1e0d5 Why the Future Doesn't Need Us http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/why-the-future-doesnt-need-us/ <p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Joy">Bill Joy</a> is one of the world&rsquo;s great computer scientists, He started Sun Microsystems, and he had a lot to do with the creation of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Java_(programming_language)">Java programing language</a>.</p> <p>In 2000, Joy published an essay in <em>Wired</em> magazine which has has become more and more influential over the years: <a href="http://www.wired.com/2000/04/joy-2/">Why the Future Doesn&rsquo;t Need Us</a>, I read this years ago (here&rsquo;s <a href="http://gadgetopia.com/post/997">my blog post about it on Gadgetopia</a>, <em>13 years ago</em>), but just re-read it for new perspective.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s depressing. Still as depressing as it was a decade-and-a-half ago.</p> <p>Joy explains that he&rsquo;s afraid of the future. We&rsquo;re doing things with technology that might get out of control, Specifically, he discusses a trio of technologies he calls GNR:</p> <blockquote> <p>The 21st-century technologies&mdash;genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR)&mdash;are so powerful that they can spawn whole new classes of accidents and abuses. Most dangerously, for the first time, these accidents and abuses are widely within the reach of individuals or small groups. They will not require large facilities or rare raw materials. Knowledge alone will enable the use of them.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is more dangerous that the technological basis of the cold war: NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical), because of the threat of self-replication:</p> <blockquote> <p>Specifically, robots, engineered organisms, and nanobots share a dangerous amplifying factor: They can self-replicate. A bomb is blown up only once&mdash;but one bot can become many, and quickly get out of control.</p> </blockquote> <p>He&rsquo;s not optimistic:</p> <blockquote> <p>But now, with the prospect of human-level computing power in about 30 years, a new idea suggests itself: that I may be working to create tools which will enable the construction of the technology that may replace our species. How do I feel about this? Very uncomfortable.</p> </blockquote> <p>Not at all:</p> <blockquote> <p>This is the first moment in the history of our planet when any species, by its own voluntary actions, has become a danger to itself&mdash;as well as to vast numbers of others.</p> </blockquote> <p>He ends on a positive note that we <em>can</em> control these things, but only through positive action. We need to police GNR technology at the same level as police NBC technology, But, in the 15 years since he wrote this, our inability to reduce nuclear threats to the world&mdash;or even compell countries to be transparent about them&mdash;has been limited at best.</p> <p>In fact, the publication of the essay itself was design to launch this discussion, it seems:</p> <blockquote> <p>My immediate hope is to participate in a much larger discussion of the issues raised here, with people from many different backgrounds, in settings not predisposed to fear or favor technology for its own sake.</p> </blockquote> <p>His closing sentiment is thus summed up with a callback to the discussion of nuclear war:</p> <blockquote> <p>We must do more thinking up front if we are not to be similarly surprised and shocked by the consequences of our inventions.</p> </blockquote> Tue, 2 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0600 3a32b1af-3fd7-44f3-894a-b7214d7eeea1 The Gig Economy for Welfare http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/gig-economy-for-welfare/ <p>Two conservative Washington policy wonks <a href="http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2016/1/uber-welfare-sharing-gig-economy-000031">write in <em>Politico</em></a> that we should use the <a href="/tags/gig-economy">gig economy</a> to put welfare recipients to work:</p> <blockquote> <p>Historically, some opponents of workfare have argued that work requirements are untenable because the government cannot find a job for every welfare beneficiary. That may have been true years ago, when a &ldquo;job&rdquo; was binary and full time, but today the gig economy offers the solution: It can easily and quickly put millions of people back to work, allowing almost anyone to find a job with hours that are flexible with virtual locations anywhere.</p> </blockquote> <p><em>The Week</em> <a href="https://theweek.com/articles/601910/problem-uber-welfare">calls this</a> flawed:</p> <blockquote> <p>You can break the amount of demand in the economy up into bigger chunks&mdash;fewer, more traditional jobs with high pay&mdash;or into smaller chunks&mdash;more jobs, but with lower pay. But the amount of demand in the economy is the amount of demand in the economy. And right now, as it has generally been over the last few decades, we flat out don&rsquo;t have enough.</p> </blockquote> <p>Basically, if you use these services to put a bunch of people to work, pay will drop since all you&rsquo;re doing is increase demand for jobs. More people wanting (needing) them means that employers can pay less.</p> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 14:00:00 -0600 a932e8c4-ba34-4e6d-b676-ceb3506e645d Robot Farming http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/robot-farming/ <p>Japan is going to <a href="http://www.techinsider.io/spreads-robot-farm-will-open-soon-2016-1">harvest lettuce with robots</a>.</p> <blockquote> <p>So much so that Spread is creating the world&rsquo;s first farm manned entirely by robots. Instead of relying on human farmers, the indoor Vegetable Factory will employ robots that can harvest 30,000 heads of lettuce every day.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>[...] Spread&rsquo;s new automation technology will not only produce more lettuce, it will also reduce labor costs by 50%, cut energy use by 30%, and recycle 98% of water needed to grow the crops.</p> </blockquote> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 13:00:00 -0600 83067d0f-3014-4742-8a26-ce6b45081881 Narrative Science http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/narrative-science/ <p><a href="https://www.narrativescience.com/">Narrative Science</a> is a company that launched out of a project at the <a href="http://infolab.northwestern.edu/">Intelligent Information Lab</a> at Northwestern University. They make a software platform called Quill which writes documents for you, based on raw data.</p> <blockquote> <p>Whether describing your top sales performers or evaluating your portfolio against a benchmark, Quill identifies the facts that are foundational to your narrative. Since not every result from this data is interesting or important, Quill uses your business rules to identify thresholds, drivers, trends and relationships to determine what matters most to your business.</p> </blockquote> <p>The software would presumably work best with data-loaded events which aren&rsquo;t open to much interpretation, Some of their early work, for instance, was automatically writing summaries for baseball games. Baseball is an easily quantifiable sport which progress through an ordered time-scale. You can review the box score of a baseball game and reconstruct a fairly accurate history of what was happening&mdash;who was ahead, what major events occured in the game, etc.</p> <p>What Narrative Science does is not write stories in advance, as much as it wrotes <em>potential</em> stories in advance. It identifies the ways in which stories might be written.</p> <p>From <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/04/can-the-computers-at-narrative-science-replace-paid-writers/255631/">an Atlantic article</a> about the company:</p> <blockquote> <p>When Narrative Science inks a deal with a new client, their writers begin work customizing the existing platform within a configuration layer. House style&mdash;how to format names and dates, when to italicize, and so on&mdash;is the easy part. What takes more time is establishing the facts and inferences that will conceivably be drawn from client data, as well as a &ldquo;constellation&rdquo; of possible story angles through which the data might be presented. In the case of baseball, this means &ldquo;all the scenarios that might be derived from the raw data of a box score": the slugfest, the shutout, the pitcher&rsquo;s duel, the back-and-forth, postponed by rain, on and on.</p> </blockquote> <p>For their part, they claim this isn&rsquo;t an effort to put writers out of work:</p> <blockquote> <p>[...] while Narrative Science will certainly replace some types of human-generated writing, the stories they&rsquo;re most excited about are the ones journalists rarely cover. Because of readership expectations, no journalist would write a story with relevance to only one person, or a few&mdash;sports writers, for instance, don&rsquo;t write about Little League games in the first place. That&rsquo;s why the company&rsquo;s putting special effort into what they call &ldquo;audience of one&rdquo; applications&mdash;narratives that bring professional-caliber prose insight where right now we only have confusing data.</p> </blockquote> <p>The author the Atlantic article notes the following:</p> <blockquote> <p>As a journalist and fiction writer, it of course struck me to think about the relevance of all of this to what I do. I arrived at the Chicago office prepared to have my own biases confirmed&mdash;that the human mind is a sacred mystery, that our relationship to words is unique and profound, that no automaton could ever replicate the writerly experience. But speaking with Hammond, I realized how much of the writing process&mdash;what I tend to think of as unpredictable, even baffling&mdash;can be quantified and modeled.</p> </blockquote> <p>There&rsquo;s the key: &ldquo;how much of the writing process...can be quantified and modeled.&rdquo; The quantification and modeling of a human-centered process is the key to automation. This last passage has me wondering how much of lives and jobs we might find surprisingly quantifiable.</p> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 12:00:00 -0600 4df52576-01a3-4979-a952-4fcd0833c176 Rise of the Robots http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/rise-of-the-robots/ <p>Martin Ford&rsquo;s book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Robots-Technology-Threat-Jobless/dp/1480574775">Rise of the Robots</a> was on many &ldquo;best of&rdquo; books for 2015, It&rsquo;s a broad overview of the problems of automation and the potential effects on the economy and society.</p> <p>Beyond the standard litany of automation horror stories, Ford offers some interesting analysis, primarily in seven reasons why the answer to the question &ldquo;Is this time different?&rdquo; is absolutely <em>yes</em>.</p> <ol> <li>Stagnant wages</li> <li>A Bear Market for labor&rsquo;s share, and a Raging Bull for corporations</li> <li>Declining labor force participation</li> <li>Diminishing job creation, lengthening jobless recoveries, and soaring long-term unemployment</li> <li>Soaring inequality</li> <li>Declining incomes and underemployment for recent college graduates</li> <li>Polarization and part-time jobs</li> </ol> <p>He makes another obvious point which escapes many: <em>workers are also consumers</em>, He captures this in an anecdote:</p> <blockquote> <p>There is an often-told story about Henry Ford II and Walter Reuther, the legendary head of the United Auto Workers union, jointly touring a recently automated car manufacturing plant. The Ford Motor Company CEO taunts Reuther by asking, &ldquo;Walter, how are going to get these robots to pay union dues?&rdquo; Reuther comes right back at Ford, asking, &ldquo;Henry, how are you going to get them to buy your cars?&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Could companies collectively automate away their own markets?</p> <p>The book ends predictably with a call for guaranteed basic income, but Ford commendably includes figures and analysis in which he claims a $10,000/year basic income would effectively pay for itself in growth and increased tax revenue.</p> <p>Ford briefly detours into the technological ideas of the singularity, nanotechnology, and an <em>Elysium</em> style future where the wealthy are sequestered in idyllic communities, attended to by robots and protected form the teeming hordes of zombie-like masses.</p> <p>The book is a good overview of the problem. Beyond call for basic income, it doesn&rsquo;t provide a whole lot of solutions, but perhaps that just reflects that the solutions are much trickier than the problem?</p> Mon, 25 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0600 6d78ab93-be0e-4c28-a223-d127bf49dc7d The Fourth Industrial Revolution http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/fourth-industrial-revolution/ <p>Swiss Bank UBS has released a report (to which I am unable to find a direct link) saying that the move to automation is the &ldquo;fourth industrial revolution,&rdquo; and will drive considerable gains to the already wealthy, and increase income inequality.</p> <blockquote> <p>The richest stand to gain more from the introduction of new technology than those in poorer sections of society, according to a report which warns that policymakers may be required to intervene to tackle the widening inequality.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>The so-called fourth industrial revolution, following on from the introduction of steam power, electricity and electronics, will have less of an impact on developed economies, such as Switzerland, Singapore and the UK. Emerging markets – notably in parts of Latin America and India – will suffer when artificial intelligence and robots become widely used, reducing the competitive advantage of their cheap labour.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here&rsquo;s the link the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/19/fourth-industrial-revolution-set-to-benefit-richest-ubs-report-says">the Guardian article</a> about the report.</p> Mon, 25 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0600 56920b1e-b83b-4a61-8baa-620c8eac7004 Reduced to Helping the Machines http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/reduced-to-helping-the-machines/ <p>&ldquo;The newest space, and the one that&rsquo;s most exciting, is where machines are actually in charge, but they have enough awareness to seek out people to help when they get stuck.&rdquo;<br /> <em>&mdash; Mark Nissen, Naval Postgraduate School</em> from &rdquo;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Super-Crunchers-Why-Thinking-By-Numbers-Smart/dp/0553384732">Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-By-Numbers is the New Way To Be Smart </a>&rdquo;</p> Wed, 25 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0600 c514ab8b-926a-4a4e-b88e-cbecbcc585db Automation Replacing Jobs at Panera? http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/automation/ <p>There is significant conservative spin <a href="http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2015/11/02/restaurant-ceo-predicts-robots-will-replace-overpriced-labor/">on this article</a>, clearly, but it summarizes what apparently happening on an earnings call for Panera Bread.</p> <blockquote> <p>[...] the CEO of one large restaurant chain warns that customers are now comfortable enough with automated systems to allow another huge round of job cuts in the near future, To put it simply, the government is pricing labor out of the market, and machines are standing ready to fill the gap.</p> </blockquote> <p>And, the conservative summary on the end:</p> <blockquote> <p>This is a paradigm shift, and it will never be reversed — once the huge capital outlays for automation have been made, and customers have grown comfortable with it, those jobs will be gone for good, Contrary to left-wing rhetoric about “burger-flipper” jobs, young people in many demographic groups will miss these low-skill on-ramps to employment, And, unlike the banking industry and the automated teller machines President Obama once ignorantly blamed for the high unemployment rates of his presidency, these service industries won’t find new uses for the labor displaced by automation, They’re explicitly seeking ways to make do with fewer hours of high-cost, heavily burdened human labor… and, as the digital generation comes of age, such methods will be found.</p> </blockquote> Tue, 3 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0600 b2c618ab-b8ae-486d-8292-385d2ce561e9 Life on Chicken Assembly Line http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/life-on-a-chicken-assembly-line/ <p>Interesting information in <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/coralewis/the-human-cost-of-americas-favorite-meat">this article</a> about how automation drives the pace of a chicken assembly line.</p> <blockquote> <p>Today, the maximum permissible rate is 140 birds per minute, and the industry recently pushed for a higher limit of 170.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>[...] Line speeds are set by the Department of Agriculture with an eye to food safety, rather than worker well-being. The rate refers to the speed at which machines eviscerate each carcass, and that number naturally determines human production speed down the line. More than 75% of poultry workers in line jobs reported cumulative trauma disorders in their hands and wrists, according to a 2013 survey by the Southern Poverty Law Center.</p> </blockquote> Sat, 31 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0500 347c7ef9-0815-4ab0-9c25-36ddab1e71b2 Middle Management and The Gig Economy http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/middle-management-and-the-gig-economy/ <p><a href="http://www.theverge.com/2015/10/28/9625968/rating-system-on-demand-economy-uber-olive-garden">This article</a> claims that the Gig Economy has another casualty: middle management. With real-time rating systems, we&rsquo;re turning into a world of managers.</p> <blockquote> <p>The rating systems used by these companies have turned customers into unwitting and sometimes unwittingly ruthless middle managers, more efficient than any boss a company could hope to hire. They’re always there, working for free, hypersensitive to the smallest error. All the algorithm has to do is tally up their judgments and deactivate accordingly.</p> </blockquote> <p>Companies don&rsquo;t have to bother evaluating their contractors, because the customers base is essentially always doing it, in real-time.</p> Thu, 29 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0500 f4458fa1-874f-470c-b3d6-6ea20a106146 Good Analytics Means Less Workers http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/good-analytics-means-less-workers/ <p>Here&rsquo;s an interesting note in the middle of <a href="http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/life-and-death-amazon-temp/">this article about temp workers at Amazon</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>At the same time, we are living in an era of maximum productivity. It has never been easier for employers to track the performance of workers and discard those who don’t meet their needs.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>[...] When it comes to low-wage positions, companies like Amazon are now able to precisely calibrate the size of its workforce to meet consumer demand, week by week or even day by day.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>[...] you are always disposable. You are at least one entity removed from the company where you work, and you are only as good as your last recorded input in a computerized performance monitoring system.</p> </blockquote> <p>Technology is enabling employers to ensure workers are working harder and more efficiently, That combination reduces the need for manpower.</p> Thu, 22 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0500 2e2a24c6-1677-4edc-961f-77207f43a096 The Threat to White Collar Jobs http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/threat-to-white-collar-jobs/ <p><a href="http://qz.com/521848/robots-are-taking-your-white-collar-jobs-too/">This article</a> (a teaser for <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Future-Professions-Technology-Transform/dp/0198713398">an upcoming book</a>) argues that it&rsquo;s not just middle class jobs at risk. Indeed, there&rsquo;s apparently nothing special about white collar jobs either.</p> <blockquote> <p>“The perception is that a lawyer drafts a unique legal document for each client and there’s something of the craftsman to it all,” Susskind says. “Architects are perceived as leaning over their easel with a pencil, scratching away and designing buildings.”</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>But in fact, he explains, when you divide the work of each profession into distinct tasks, many actions can be “routinized” into standard operating procedures that can be carried out by computers.</p> </blockquote> Wed, 21 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0500 1828345a-3640-43e8-8a20-dbce14cb4767 Politicians Take Notice of the Gig Economy http://therobotsarecoming.blendinteractive.com/posts/politicians-take-notice-of-the-gig-economy/ <p>Politicians <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/05/technology/politicians-turn-to-start-ups-for-grasp-of-gig-economy.html">are working with start-ups</a> to understand the so-called &ldquo;gig economy.&rdquo; It&rsquo;s driving conversations about worker protections, lack of health care, income inequality, etc.</p> <blockquote> <p>David Kochel, the chief strategist for Mr. Bush, said the candidate was reaching out to start-ups because “the gig economy is transforming the way we think of work.”</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Many policy makers are only now catching up to the implications of the trend. Even though many start-ups that have pioneered more flexible work arrangements began operating in 2009 and 2010, lawmakers did not start to pay attention to them until Uber ran into legal trouble over whether its drivers should be defined as employees [...]</p> </blockquote> Wed, 21 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0500 27e1a6e9-e8ad-4e9f-960b-2e97094226c4