Tag Archives | Society

Stop Saying Robots Are Destroying Jobs—They Aren’t

If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.     ~Isaac Asimov

If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.
~Isaac Asimov

Change and the unknown may be the commonest fears, along with public speaking. All of which hold the potential of limiting progress. Perhaps some adhere to a notion of singularity, maybe ignorance, perhaps others are prone to the narratives passed down from parents. I don’t know, and I accept that. What I do know is that we all have the power to educate ourselves, and to choose. For the sake of balance I offer you this.

via MIT Technology Review

Many experts would have us believe that robots and other technologies are behind the job drought. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

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Nearly Half Of American Jobs Are Likely To Be Eliminated By Computers Over The Next Two Decades

american jobs

Humanity is nearly obsolete. MIT Technology Review writes:

Rapid advances in technology have long represented a serious potential threat to many jobs ordinarily performed by people.

A recent report from the Oxford Martin School’s Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology concludes that 45 percent of American jobs are at high risk of being taken by computers within the next two decades.

The authors believe this takeover will happen in two stages. First, computers will start replacing people in especially vulnerable fields like transportation/logistics, production labor, and administrative support. Jobs in services, sales, and construction may also be lost in this first stage.

Then, the rate of replacement will slow down due to bottlenecks in harder-to-automate fields such engineering. This “technological plateau” will be followed by a second wave of computerization, dependent upon the development of good artificial intelligence. This could next put jobs in management, science and engineering, and the arts at risk.

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We Are Legion

LeviathanAny experienced manager will tell you that the single most challenging part of his or her job is not to be found within the mass of technical details that run through a given project’s design, but keeping their workers productively occupied during the inevitable yet unpredictable lulls and logjams that force their way through at inopportune moments.  Power outages, equipment failures, traffic jams, sudden, urgent changes in customer specs, etc., etc., will all, at one point or another, intrude upon the orderly execution of any significant project, totally f*ckin’ up your sh*t unless you can convincingly improvise on short notice.

Time is money, and labor is only borrowed, not owned, so you sitting there on your hands is usually not an option.  Unless you do something about it now now NOW you’re gonna be up sh*t creek, mon frere.  The consequences don’t bear thinking about.

And to add insult to injury, your team, just as inevitably as these interruptions will occur, will view them as opportunity to prove the old adage “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop”.  Sure, the odd individual here or there may prove to have some initiative of their own, seizing some previously unidentified flexibility within their own assignments.  But that flexibility will always be limited.  And frankly, despite the pseudo-folksy drivel of communistic America-haters like Garrison Keillor, it is simply mathematically impossible for ALL the children to be “above average”.… Read the rest

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The Ugly Truth: What the Drop in Unemployment Doesn’t Tell You.

ratrace

It’s the same game, only harder!

The truth is out.  We are living in a time when a shocking four out of 5 U.S. adults will struggle with joblessness or poverty.  This revelation not only flies directly in the face of another drop in unemployment, but reconfirms what many of us had already known, we’re in trouble.

If you find yourself looking for a job, you’re in an over-crowded market where the young and educated are relegated to jobs well below their intellectual station. This is due in part to the heavy competition at the of the top of the job market among the highly-skilled.  Basically, those left out of the jobs they really want are knocked down a peg, creating what Economist Paul Beaudry calls “cascading.”  The top pushes down on the middle and the middle pushes down on the bottom, burying those who are most vulnerable and under-qualified.

This phenomenon stems from what’s been deemed  The Great Reversal.”  That is, there used to be an over-abundance of high-paying jobs that required skill, intellectual capital and education, but now there just aren’t.  In fact, demand for those types of jobs peaked all the way back in the year 2000.  That’s right, even with all this talk of a “skills gap,” the need for high-skill jobs actually stopped growing 13 years ago.… Read the rest

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The Danger Of Putting A Price On Everything

market societyVia Motherboard, Harvard philosophy professor Michael Sandel on our slide toward a market society:

In recent decades we’ve been in the grip of market faith, which says that markets are the primary instrument for achieving the public good. This assumption has gone largely unquestioned in the past 30 years. As a result from that we have drifted from being a market economy to being a market society.

A market economy is a valuable tool for organizing productive activity. A market society, on the other hand, is a place where everything is up for sale, in which money and market values begin to dominate every aspect of life. From family and personal relationships to health, education, civic life, and politics. We need to step back and ask some fundamental questions about what the role of money and markets should be.

Utilitarianism assumes that all good things in life can be translated into a single uniform currency or a measure of value, typically money.

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Death of the Burbs

Markham-suburbs aerial-edit2The end of suburbia is nigh, according to Leigh Gallagher (The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving) in conversation with Jonathan O’Connell for the Washington Post:

O’Connell: Could you start by telling us why you think the suburbs are in decline?

Gallagher: The suburbs were a great idea that worked really well for a long time, but they overshot their mandate. We supersized everything in a way that led many people to live far away from where they needed to be and far away from their neighbors, and that has far-reaching implications, no pun intended. People have turned away from that kind of living. Add in the demographic forces that are reshaping our whole population, and the result is a significant shift. Census data shows that outward growth is slowing and inward growth is speeding up.

The early millennials are just getting into their mid-30s.

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Robb Smith on Economics, World Crisis and More

robb09headshotKeith Martin-Smith’s Only Everything podcast recently had on entrepreneur Robb Smith. This thirty-eight minute interview covers a lot of ground, discussing the collapsing economy, the historical background of the situation and what the future is likely to be. A pretty wide-ranging conversation, moves along quickly, and there’s some good nuggets for consideration. Worth listening to.

From Only Everything:

Robb is a social entrepreneur who works on “transformational era” systems at the intersection of human development, education, spiritual understanding and civilizational sustainability. He holds a uniquely grand view of what’s happening in the world today and what makes Millennials unique.

We get into nothing short of the future of the world economy, human happiness, and where we’re heading in the next 5-6 decades.

We discuss:

  • How World War II transformed the American economy and fueled the emerging consciousness counterculture of the 60′s and the success of Gen X in the 90′s
  • How this economic foundation is in the process of collapsing
  • What happens when a culture like ours, focused on finding lives of “meaning”, has the economic rug pulled out from under it (hint: crisis)
  • How companies like Air B&B represent the downside and problem with technology interacting with brick-and-mortar industries, such as hospitality
  • Why it’s  better today  to be a Chinese teenager today than an American one (and not what you think)
  • Why the next great economic wave and business movement will and must move away from a winner-takes-all mentality to a “win-win” mentality, as represented by B-corps and conscious capitalism.
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Cybernetic Society and Its Reflections in Science Fiction

01-Cybernetics-Norbert-Wiener

Norbert Wiener, author of “Cybernetics,” a 1948 book in which he develops a theory of communication and control.

Jason Stackhouse writes on Engineerjobs:

Our own attempts to design centrally planned economies yielded only brittle, crushingly totalitarian states, Stalinist nightmares of fiat rule, corruption, and dehumanization. Yet the dream persists: a planned, smoothly-functioning world, responding rationally to evolving conditions, shepherding resources for the benefit of humanity.

Can engineers do better? As it turns out, we can – and almost did, 40 years ago.

The Foundation and the Culture

Many science fiction fans advance Star Trek as an example of such a planned, internally harmonious society. While Trek is many things, it’s not the best example of a cashless utopia – money, graft, and greed rear their heads the moment our crew leaves the ship.
Star Trek Utopia

Star Trek’s crew was not quite a Cybernetic Society.

Better representations can be found in the works of Isaac Asimov and Iain Banks.

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Are We Living In A Secular Age?

Sacred and secularAn interesting piece by David Brooks in the New York Times highlights the 2007 book by Charles Taylor, A Secular Age:

I might as well tell you upfront that this column is a book report. Since 2007, when it was published, academics have been raving to me about Charles Taylor’s “A Secular Age.” Courses, conferences and symposia have been organized around it, but it is almost invisible outside the academic world because the text is nearly 800 pages of dense, jargon-filled prose.

As someone who tries to report on the world of ideas, I’m going to try to summarize Taylor’s description of what it feels like to live in an age like ours, without, I hope, totally butchering it.

Taylor’s investigation begins with this question: “Why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say 1500, in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy but even inescapable?” That is, how did we move from the all encompassing sacred cosmos, to our current world in which faith is a choice, in which some people believe, others don’t and a lot are in the middle?

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Rift Amnesia– How Close Are We to Inventing the Matrix?

(Image Credit- theverge.com)

(Image Credit- theverge.com)

By now, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Oculus Rift reaction videos floating around the Internet.  In case you haven’t— Oculus Rift is essentially the first accessible, high quality set of stereoscopic virtual reality goggles.  Typical reactions to trying the goggles include awe, disbelief and mild confusion about voices in the room, due to the user’s brain being tricked into thinking they’re actually in the virtual space they’re perceiving.  If our brains are so easily tricked into accepting a new reality within minutes, it seems plausible that we aren’t too far from a virtual world so real, seductive and full of sensory stimulation that we might actually forget we’re in it, or just not want to leave it.

Admittedly, adorning a nice VR headset is not enough to seamlessly integrate us into an electronic world, but coupled with a technology known as a BCI (brain-computer interface), it might be.  The idea of a brain-computer interface may sound like straight up Science Fiction, but scientists have actually been experimenting with, and researching BCIs thoroughly since the 1970’s.  Animal and human subjects fitted with BCIs have been able to manipulate cursors, games, implants, objects and yes, three-dimensional VR environments in a shockingly wide variety of ways just by thinking about it.  How is this possible?  As it turns out, the human brain has quite a knack for changing and figuring things out on the fly, often with basically no learning curve.  Scientists call this phenomenon “neuroplasticity.”  Take, for example the case of 14-year-old teenage boy fitted with a subdural (beneath his skull) BCI.… Read the rest

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