ILO: Think of Humans, When Creating Jobs for Robots

Industrial Robots

Industrial Robots. Milena.aleksandrova [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Will the AI crisis replace the faltering Climate Crisis?

Keep humans in good jobs in the robot era, ILO commission urges

Tom Miles
JANUARY 23, 2019

GENEVA (Reuters) – Governments must ensure the global economy keeps providing decent jobs – and not just for robots, a global commission set up by the International Labour Organization said on Tuesday.

The “Global Commission on the Future of Work”, co-chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, said in a report that governments, employers and unions needed to adapt to revolutionary changes in the world of work.

“In short, the future of our societies depends on how we deal with the challenges and opportunities related to the world of work, we need to reorient policies as well as actions to deliver a human-centred agenda, which is what this report basically focuses on,” Ramaphosa told a news conference.

He said one of the questions raised most often about the future of work is: “Will my job be lost to a robot?” but the commission preferred not to take a binary view of technology in which “it’s us or them”.

The future of employment is not going to be determined alone by the autonomous forward march of technology and technologies. It depends on policy,” Ryder said.

Depending on policy choices, technology could create positive outcomes for jobs and societies, or lead to what Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel had called 19th century-style “digital day laborers”, he said.

We have to make the right policy choices to put humans in control of the forward application of technology.

Read more: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ilo-robots/keep-humans-in-good-jobs-in-the-robot-era-ilo-commission-urges-idUSKCN1PG1QC

What frightens you more? The possibility that our gradually warming climate might cause devastating problems in the near future? Or the possibility that your kids and grandchildren might struggle to find a job, in a near future economy dominated by artificial intelligence and advanced robot technology?

Hollywood has helped prepare the way for the new AI scare.

Consider all the terrifying AI movies which have hit the big screen, ranging from the Terminator series, to Transcendence, Eagle Eye, even movies like Passengers (the AI refuses to accept there is something seriously wrong) – its a long list.

Contrast all these movies to the terrifying climate movies you haven’t seen. I mean, the author of Game of Thrones admitted the White Walkers are a metaphor for dangerous climate change. And there’s always “The Day After Tomorrow“. But memorable climate scare movies are few and far between.

The climate crisis is done. Nobody takes Paris seriously. Asia is building coal stations at an astounding rate. Even the French discovered it is impossible to implement a significant carbon tax without triggering major street riots.

The AI crisis is fresh and dangerous, it is coming for your job and your children’s future. Vote yes to pay more taxes to properly regulate and contain this growing menace.

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93 thoughts on “ILO: Think of Humans, When Creating Jobs for Robots

  1. I don’t worry about Robots. Once the Green Blob destroys our energy structure there won’t be electricity to run them.

    • Let’s watch what happens when Germany destroys its energy supply. All those wind turbines and solar panels are aging as we speak and they will need replacing once they realize that wind turbines have half the life they were sold to have and solar panels lose their efficiency over time. All of that will need replacing, but clearly, it’s going to hurt first before they figure out what is happening.

      Australia is ahead in committing energy suicide, but Germany is going for the golden imaginary ring.

      • The real problem will set in when they need to replace the aging “reproducibles” and only then realize they don’t produce enough power to reproduce themselves.

  2. I don’t worry about robots. Once our Green overlords are done with destroying the electrical grid there won’t be any electricity to power the robots and we will have to do all the labor ourselves.

    • Consider a possibly impossible future where robots do all of the work. In such a scenario, everything is free.

      In the real world, as automation takes a larger role, individuals don’t have to work as much or as hard in order to earn enough to feed their families.
      Think about this, our great grandparents worked from dawn to dusk, and the only reason they stopped when the sun went down was because it was too dark to see. And even with all that work, most of them were poor.
      As worker productivity increased, the number of hours any individual had to work dropped. Automation is just continuing this trend.

      • I design build and install robots and factory equipment. It is transforming how we work, like computers and the internet did.

        And AIs are hilarious. It is a computer program created by people to simulate people. So far the results are not exactly awe inspiring, and of course they have the same pitfalls and foibles their creators do.
        I just don’t see much danger, just change.

        • @ Mark re AI:
          When AI can win at 3-card Monte against the street hustlers, then we might be getting somewhere. For the time being, my money is on the street hustlers.

        • You may wish to rethink AI.
          Google created an AI program to learn and translate written languages.
          eg. Korean English, Japanese English. They wondered if it could translate directly from Korean Japanese. It could.
          https://techcrunch.com/2016/11/22/googles-ai-translation-tool-seems-to-have-invented-its-own-secret-internal-language/

          Facebook shut down their AI’s self-developed language that programmers could not understand and forced it to speak only in English. This AI also learned to lie.
          https://www.newsweek.com/2017/08/18/ai-facebook-artificial-intelligence-machine-learning-robots-robotics-646944.html

          And then there’s the Moral Machine project at MIT that is intended to help driverless vehicles choose which people to save and which to sacrifice.
          http://moralmachine.mit.edu/

          What if the driverless AI determined that streets would be safer with fewer people around?

          • Google created an AI program to learn and translate written languages.

            There is nothing “intelligent” about a “translation/translating” computer program.

          • I’d like to see an AI program that can translate poetry. Artistic writing, which includes poetry, novels, drama of any kind doesn’t just communicate words and definitions but makes People feel emotions. “you dog” and “I hate you” don’t necessarily communicate the same feelings and emotions.

        • My business is robotics.

          Why single out robots ? All forms of automation “destroys” jobs – a combine harvester eliminates 200 to 400 people, a backhoe 20 – 50 people – even a traffic light could be replaced by 3 men on point duty working 8 hour shifts.

          Does anyone really want these soul destroying, back-breaking jobs back ? Does anyone seriously want to proscribe automation – I hear the sound of Luddite tumbrels rolling in the background every time I hear people speak of robots with such trepidation.

          Automation has already eliminated 199 out of every 200 jobs since the dawn of the industrial revolution and has consequently improved our lives by commensurate amounts by enabling us to produce more than 200 times what our forefathers could.

          “Labour Productivity” means either making what you currently do with less labour or preferably making more with existing labour and even hopefully thereby growing your business through productivity gains.

          There is plenty of evidence to suggest that productivity gains drive growth not unemployment and the flip side that failure to improve productivity ultimately results in job losses to your industry.

          Unfortunately too many managers believe that productivity improvements must require workforce reduction, thus making it a “worker” problem. Personally I encourage my clients to accept that productivity improvement will require that you seek out more work which is a “management” problem.

          Do you have too much labour or too little work ? Guess which answer most managers will give.

          Whether achieved by combine harvesters, robots or any other form of automation, productivity is productivity – singling out robots is simply a childish fear of the anthropomorphisation of such machinery.

          Right now, even with its “cheap” labour, China is absorbing 30% of world robot production and this is set to increase to 40% next year – so much so that this is affecting my ability to obtain robot stock. Try to keep up or be left behind.

          https://ifr.org/ifr-press-releases/news/robots-china-breaks-historic-records-in-automation

          http://www.yaskawa.eu.com/en/products/robotic/motoman-robots/

          The lesson of course, something labour unions should be aware of, is that the less skills you have, the more you will be marginalised, the more your wage earning ability will be squeezed and you will generally be less employable.

          Job losses are a direct function of government meddling in the labour market, everything they do has cost consequences and results in job losses – everything !

          Blaming robots and automation won’t solve anything, the only way forward is through education and skills improvement.

          • Ken Irwin

            Apart from the rest of your brilliant comment, this part should spring out and slap every reader round the chops:

            Job losses are a direct function of government meddling in the labour market, everything they do has cost consequences and results in job losses – everything !

            The sooner we replace our politicians with AI the better!

        • I wish your industry was willing to hire people that are a bit on in years. I’m a BSEE with recent robotics training but I can’t find an employer willing to hire a guy that’s nearly 60. IMHO, Ageism is rampant, but impossible to prove.

          • I’m now retired, but when I was working in leadership positions I loved hiring guys like you. You knew the way the world worked, you were glad to do the work and I could count on several years of dedication. Frequently, HR would huff and puff and question my judgement. They wanted to talk about development and career paths even as they ignored their own data about frequency of job hopping by the much younger folks. Fortunately I could, and did overrule them.

          • @John Haddock

            I was hired as a Senior Engineer precisely because my boss was tired of hiring young engineers who gained experience and then jumped ship for higher salaries at larger companies because of the valuable training and experience they received at our company.

            It was a smallish company and I was at the company for 12 years until I retired. While I was there my boss, who was the Sr. VP of Engineering when he hired me, was promoted to President and CEO. Out of respect for my experience and knowledge, no one else was given the title of Sr. Engineer and I always reported directly to him as Sr. VP of Engineering, and then as President and CEO.

            My boss, the CEO, retired two years after me just this month (01/2019). To date, and I don’t expect it to happen for a few more years, no one has been given the title of Sr. Engineer. I am truly humbled and honored (lump in throat here) by the respect that was shown for my knowledge and experience that came with age.

            I have to say that my boss was not cut from ordinary cloth, nor does it seem that you were. Good on ya.

      • “Consider a possibly impossible future where robots do all of the work. In such a scenario, everything is free.”

        Uh, no.

        People aren’t going to build robots so others can have stuff for free while doing nothing of value. They’re going to build robots so they can use them to build the stuff they want.

        Bezos won’t built a million robots so he can produce tat to give away through Amazon. He’ll build a million robots so they can build his rockets and space colonies.

        If everyone has their own robots, then the scarce part will be raw materials, which ain’t free either.

        And this is part of the reason for the AGW scam. The 1%-ers are well aware that 99% of people will have no economic value in a few years when robots are doing most of the work. Taking away reliable power and all the other AGW-ist nonsense will kill off most of those people.

        • So much paranoia, I honestly don’t know where to begin.

          Why do you believe the automation of the future will be different than the automation of the past.
          Since the invention of the steel plow, people have been whining about how productivity improvements are going to end up with the elite taking over and everyone else being killed off.

          • MarkW : “Since the invention of the steel plow, people have been whining about how productivity improvements are going to end up with the elite taking over and everyone else being killed off.”

            Technology strides forward. Fears stay frozen in their steps. You have a keen eye.

        • I’m with MarkW on this. Automation doesn’t lead to “total” job losses, only a change in jobs. Most of the jobs available today didn’t exist 30 years ago when I stared work.

          Someone at work showed me a YouTube vid of an automated brick layer and said something along similar lines. I looked at it and replied. The machine needs to be transported, which needs a truck. It needs to be assembled and disassembled. It needed to be fed bricks and mortar. It needed to be created in a factory. It needed raw materials and programming and testing and painting and oil and grease and hydraulic fluid and and and. It was very fast, but if anything, it needed quite a workforce behind it to make it a viable option.

          The alternative is a bricklayer. Who feeds himself, who drives himself, who maintains himself, who sets out the job himself, who unpacks the bricks himself, who mixes the mortar himself, who insures himself, who packs up after himself.

          No, automation doesn’t lead to job losses, only change in job types.

      • That’s how I see it. Everyone will have five-hour work weeks and be paid $1000/hour. Governments might finally be able to pay off their debts.

        • You know as well as I that governments would simply increase taxes to the point where your take home pay is the same as it is currently.

    • Just think of it. If the green blob really gets it’s way, there will be jobs for sedan chair porters, as well as all the farm labor required to do “organic” farming. For the survivors.

  3. When the McCormick Reaper was introduced in the early 1800s, it was said to “do the work of 100 men”. (It was actually more like 10 to 20, but still…) It was also said to “make bread affordable”.

    We’re so used to having most of the things we buy being produced in a highly automated process that we take it for granted. There is no way we could have remotely our standard of living without this.

    The argument that automation will cause mass unemployment has been around for 200 years, and this has never materialized. But people still claim that this new round of automation will be different…

    • Businesses have a predictable trajectory in the face of disruptive technology. The Innovator’s Dilemma

      Initially, the disruptive technology takes a niche market away from an established business. Very often it is a segment of the market that isn’t very profitable for the business anyway. At that point, the business moves up market and becomes more profitable.

      Eventually, the disruptive technology becomes good enough to take the whole market. The disrupted business has no more up market to move to and ceases to be viable.

      So far, automation has made our lot better. That’s not guaranteed to continue. AI is now replacing jobs that, twenty years ago, most people thought were safe. An example is law clerks (ie. junior lawyers). link Other examples are self-checkouts and self-driving cars. Supermarket cashiers and taxi drivers are in danger.

      So far we are better off with automation. I’m not sure it will continue, however prediction is difficult, especially about the future. Yogi Berra?

      • Don’t mistake AI or automation replacing employees with employees and unions pricing themselves out of the market. This is the key problem. We all know that raising minimum wage only serves to raise prices and taxes. The net result is that the employee is not assisted. Ironically it is a regressive tax, but people still vote for it. When the price for an automated system is competitive to the cost of an employee(s), it is far more attractive to automate. If the bank across the street puts in an ATM and you don’t; where will your business be in 10 years?

        There are jobs where human labor is more practical. In this case, as wages increase, cheaper foreign labor becomes more attractive. Without tariffs, those jobs go overseas. Unfortunately today the new tariffs hurt because politicians have chosen to protect foreign businesses over domestic ones for 30 years or more.

        • Don’t mistake AI or automation replacing employees with employees and unions pricing themselves out of the market.

          There are situations where labor can not compete with machines, even if the labor is free.

          An interesting example is Japan where rent is horrendous. Rather than opening a store, it is a lot cheaper to install vending machines. link A side benefit is that you don’t need a clerk but that’s not the determining factor.

          Even in India, where labor is very cheap, road construction is done with machines. link

      • Automation improves productivity. This includes AI, if they ever get it working.
        Improved productivity means the price of goods fall.
        The result is that individuals are able to work fewer hours and still have an improved life style. I see no reason why anyone should assume that future automation is going to be any different than past automation.

        As to your example of law clerks. Computers have already made it possible for one clerk to do the work of a dozen 100 years ago.

        • Don’t confuse law clerks with any other kind of clerk.

          A law clerk or a judicial clerk is an individual—generally an attorney—who provides direct assistance and counsel to a judge in making legal determinations and in writing opinions by researching issues before the court. Judicial clerks often play significant roles in the formation of case law through their influence upon judges’ decisions. link

          They are a far cry from people who provide administrative and secretarial assistance.

    • “But people still claim that this new round of automation will be different…”

      Previous machines weren’t very smart. They needed humans to tell them what to do. We may not have AI yet, but our machines get smarter and smarter, which means that more and more of the human population ends up dumber than the machines. True AI would mean there’d be nothing the vast majority of people could do that a machine can’t do better.

      Secondly, many of the people automated away over the last 20-30 years have ended up in make-work jobs that were created to keep them off the dole. No new market for low-skilled, low-intelligence humans suddenly appeared when their old jobs went away, instead governments created fake jobs for them.

      Around here, even McDonalds’ is eliminating its minimum-wage staff by installing computer screens for ordering instead of talking to a teenager and hoping they understand what you’re saying. That doesn’t need AI, but does eliminate yet more low-skilled jobs .

      Ultimately, that’s a good thing, because a hundred years from now we’ll land on an asteroid, tell our robots to turn it into a habitat we can live in, and… well, live there. No-one will be sitting in their custom space habitat with robots to do whatever needs doing and wishing they had a job.

      But the period between now and then is likely to be… interesting.

      • “we’ll land on an asteroid,” Yep, asteroid will become “mining towns” and reeducation “camps”. Let me know when AI wants to have drink down at the local pub then I’ll start to worry.

      • There are no “make work jobs”.

        If we reach the point where machines and computers can make everything and anything, then nothing will cost anything.

    • Ed Bo January 27, 2019 at 6:30 pm

      The argument that automation will cause mass unemployment has been around for 200 years,

      Anyone remember when they were claiming that …. computers will cause mass unemployment

    • It’s not just ‘automation’ – it’s also the TOOLS that are being made available to the people doing the job. When I joined a small tech company as a software engineer in the early 80’s , it took a company of over 100 to create an Air Traffic Control (ATC) system in 3 years. Later, the company put together a team of 18 to rewrite the system in two years. Towards the end of my time with them, I and one other engineer had a test project to see what we could come up with for a 3rd ATC system. In 9 months, until the budget ran out, we had replicated over half of the ATC functionality, with better human interfaces, and better communication methods. OK, 300 to 36 to 6 man-years might indeed take away jobs, but then software engineers at our level were thin on the ground. But at no time was anyone DEPRIVED of paying work by our increased use of modern programming tools. People would just get different jobs. For example, there’s NO WAY I could write a web-based application system!
      People change – and that seems to be something the various idealists never seem to understand!

  4. Robots need electricity. Lots of electricity. Always will be their Achilles heel.
    Even if AI becomes sentient, a la Skynet, HAL, WOPR, pull the eff’n plug. Lights out.
    Then…
    Chop down some trees, build a fire, kill a wild boar, eat. Rebuild humanity.
    Do over.

      • I’m not convinced AI is the next Climate Change alarmist story.
        I see a new Cold War with China replacing the Climate Scam.
        The military industrial complex can profit. The duck and cover fears can return.
        Massive new taxes will be needed to confront the Chinese Hoard.
        New Technology will have to come to the rescue to counter China’s tech. Especially if global climate cools in the next 10-15 years, as it may very well do under dominant natural cycles.

        Red China Sacre: Very much like Orwell’s 1984, “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength”.
        Communist China is indeed scary. Especially for Aussies.
        Sleep well Eric.
        I have couple of bedrooms/baths in my house for you here in the States if you need to evacuate.

        • There will always be a China but the Communist China will burn it’s self out in fifty years. Social justice and social freedom is an illusion without individual justice and individual freedom. That is why socialism, communism and totalitarianism only works at the barrel end of a gun. At some point the” barrel end of the gun” will be pointed at the communist party’s ruling class

        • Joel O’Bryan

          I don’t agree about a cold war with China. Indeed, I suspect their hybrid Communist/Capitalist political system will be examined closely as their prosperity and global influence grows. The problem for the west is that it’s moribund, bogged down with politicians all terrified of doing something lest they have the finger pointed at them in the blame game. Trump seems one of the few exceptions.

          There are far too many with competing self interests, protectionist attitudes and an utter ignorance of the commercial world. Far too many of them telling people how things should be done, never having done it before themselves. Cortes is a case in in point. A woman who has achieved nothing in her life, thrust into the political limelight because she bangs a popular drum, seems mixed race, says all the right things about equality and wealth distribution and of course, the environment, but she genuinely hasn’t a clue, it’s all ideology.

          Human rights in China are dreadful but they will improve. But it’s also notable that whilst the west grew rapidly since the industrial revolution our human rights were also appalling, but we got better. Now we can’t move for SJW’s like Cortes. Almost amusingly whist she is embracing ideology the country that most enthusiastically embraced it is turning to Capitalism. A case of not seeing the wood for the trees?

          The last time something like this happened was (arguably) the expansion of the Roman Empire. They brought engineering and infrastructure to much of Europe, but they were pretty brutal about it. I think the Chinese are a bit more canny though. They largely sat back and watched the west tear itself apart over the last 100 years then rebuild through global trade.

          The Chinese just figured, why not cut out the middle man, forget physical invasions, lets just do it the peaceful way by trade and intellect. They learned their lesson from Mao’s failed project and eventually, with pressure from the growing wealthy middle class, they will democratise. Then the SJW’s will emerge, then socialism, and they’ll eventually end up where the west is now.

          Then it might be India, or Brazil’s turn.

          As Jordan Peterson points out, the more people we have on the planet, the more the likelihood of an emergent genius. China and India are big into education now, will they be the next home of that genius?

          Sadly, during the early 70’s, as a very young man, I proposed trading with China (I was born in Hong Kong and had numerous family contacts) to numerous people but everyone laughed at me. In the immortal words of one Nigel Farage to the EU Council following Britain’s referendum vote to leave the EU, having been mocked for years as the most enthusiastic proponent of it, “You’re not laughing now are you?”

          • “The problem for the west is that it’s moribund, bogged down with politicians all terrified of doing something lest they have the finger pointed at them in the blame game. Trump seems one of the few exceptions.”

            China’s leaders see the “Big Picture” and have a longterm plan, which is not in the longterm interests of the West.

            Western politicians only focus on their next election and are oblivious to the “Big Picture” and have no plan. Trump is an exception, and thankfully, he is in a position to steer us in the right direction. Maybe his example and success will educate some of our future politicians and influence them to see things the way Trump does: Realistically.

          • Western politicians only focus on their next election and are oblivious to the “Big Picture” and have no plan.

            They have a “plan” alright, …… and it is called … “Don’t make any waves and get rich(er) as quick as you can”.

  5. It is possible that robots will replace humans in our interpersonal relationships. link A heterosexual marriage between two humans will be seen as radical, if it isn’t outright illegal.

  6. History keeps on repeating! We had the Luddites destroying spinning machines to protect the jobs of spinners in the early nineteenth century. Then we had a cottage industry of academics fretting about the loss of jobs as agriculture mechanized. In the 1980s, robots became the enemy. Now we have AI.

    • No AI exists to replace anyone. The cost is vast and when you get past the bullshit, “knowledge” is not easy to define or identify. Reasoning in the fact of conflicting information for a computer is simply impossible and imputing brains to stupid machines is called hallucinating a Star Wars world that does not exist and probably won’t ever exist.

      • Donald Kasper – January 27, 2019 at 7:19 pm

        No AI exists to replace anyone. ………….. and probably won’t ever exist.

        Bravo, bravo, ……. Donald K, …… only I would have said …. “and will never exist”.

        You again prove that ……. “great minds think alike”, …… but they are “self-programming biological minds”, ……. not electronic circuitry that has been misnamed as being AI (artificial intelligence).

        Only a very, very, very few people understand the “basics” of how the human (animal) brain/mind is programmed by its environment and/or functions via said program, ….. therefore, …. at this time or in the near future, ….. it is not humanly possible to even design a computer with said AI, ….. let alone build or manufacture one.

        Cheers, ….. Sam C, … the ole computer designing dinosaur.

      • While pure “Turing Test” AI may never exist, computer programs are getting smarter, within their sphere’s of expertise.
        To take one example, you can ask DavidM about programs that process data to locate geological structures that might contain oil. These get better every year.

        • How many people are employed to make them get better every year?

          This is another Achilles heel of robots. If somebody doesn’t keep developing them, they are effectively static as far as development goes. They can’t develop themselves.

          If we run out of people who are capable, the machine intelligence will regress also. The newer better ones will fail a month after their warranty runs out, and we’ll be back to the older reliable ones (provided you didn’t send it to the junkers).

        • MarkW – January 28, 2019 at 12:00 pm

          While pure “Turing Test” AI may never exist, computer programs are getting smarter, within their sphere’s of expertise.

          That sounds good, MarkW, but it was little more than a per se “poetic” description of a functioning computer program.

          “….. programs that process data to locate geological structures that might contain oil. These get better every year.

          But better “output” results don’t mean the program is becoming “more intelligent”. It simply means the programmers revised the “program” to include better and/or more specific parameters to compare against the new “log” reports. The same as “facial recognition” programs are 100% better now than 20 years ago.

          Or just think about the FBI’s Fingerprint Recognition computer program. It gets better every year simply because thousands of new fingerprints are added to the “data base” each year.

          I use to refer to computer programs such as said “geological structures” program as being a PAR program (Pattern Area Recognition).

    • All you need to build an AI world is define exact what a fact is, what knowledge is, what data is, what is a correct fact versus what is incorrect, identifying when cliches are inserted as facts, and getting rid of cultural bias for what facts are for a current generation. Knowledge is very fuzzy and when you cut the crap and have to cut code your machines want exact answers. They cannot cope with conflicting facts, cannot assign relevance or weight to facts, cannot separate religion or beliefs or cliches or made up shit from facts. Fact are relative to an observer with a certain precision that machines cannot understand or add to their reasoning. So, AI does not exist, and won’t. This AI fad cycle is number 3.

      • Donald Kasper

        Who teaches them all this?

        Consensus climate scientists? Politicians who wouldn’t know a fact if it jumped up and bit them on the arse? Philosophers? Lawyers? Comedians?

        As Jim G. points out, there’s going to have to be humour in there somewhere but will it be German humour (i.e. none) American (crude) or British (indecipherable).

        • there’s going to have to be humour in there somewhere

          But, but, but, ……. Mr. Spock (of Star Trek fame) was heap plenty intelligent but totally devoid of any humor. 😊 😊

        • Don’t forget swear words for when the belt drive breaks, the hydraulic hose breaks, the printer head clogs or the copy paper runs out.

      • I’d argue that you don’t know very much about recent developments in AI machine learning. Fuzzy logic and probability mapping can overcome conflicting data issues, and determine relevance of different data points. AI doesn’t care about religious beliefs if the expert system is determining a medical diagnosis, choosing parameters for a factory floor production run, or crafting a legal document. Sure AI that duplicates a human mind completely isn’t possible (yet), but that isn’t necessary for most jobs, blue-collar or white-collar. Humans that teach a neural network initially can accelerate the process tremendously. I know because I helped work myself out of my last job by training an AI machine learning system.

        • I know because I helped work myself out of my last job by training an AI machine learning system.

          So, you trained an industrial robot to do your job.

          Now that was funny, 😊

  7. I don’t worry about robots when they run correctly. When they don’t run correctly, they become a technical nightmare. Programming and sensors and tap counts, oh my.

    • Yes.
      Especially when they fail only when a number of conditions exist.

      The dreaded “Intermittent Failure.”
      (shivering)

        • Every time my internet fails at home I get a diagnostics box popup asking if I want to diagnose the cause. It has never yet found the correct cause 🙂

  8. AI does not exist. The cost to program just one thing as an expert system takes years, a staff of a dozen programmers, and millions of dollars. Computers do not think, do not reason, and do not learn. This is just made up shit that cycles around every 20 years. This last incantation was triggered by Musk babbling Ai.

    • It used to take that level of resource commitment. The time frame and staff needs are dropping, and the rate of change is accelerating. Neural networks do learn. Hardware is getting more powerful and cheaper.

      I know that economists have always correctly pointed out that in past periods of innovation, a job that is destroyed by new technology is replaced with new jobs, usually a lot more new jobs. What I’m concerned with this time around is that a truck driver that is replaced by an autonomous vehicle is ill equipped to become a robot repair technician. A legal assistant that is replaced by an AI expert system is not likely to go into another knowledge worker role. AI + robotics is a disruptive change. If it happens slowly, we’ll adapt somehow. If it happens quickly, there is more chance of social unrest. What I see is that the changes are happening rather quickly, and the rate of change is accelerating.

      • What I see is that the changes are happening rather quickly, and the rate of change is accelerating.

        But the reality is, …… those “changes” are being FORCED to change rather quickly.

        When the government and Unions forces businesses to pay un-skilled, shiftless and/or incompetent employees $15 to $30 per hour, plus benefits and entitlements, …… its either automate, immigrate or close the doors.

  9. Japanese treat their robots like people. I worked for Honda in Swindon, England in the mid 1990’s and every month all employees would assemble on the plant floor, near where they did a basic test of the car that came off the line, and every one and thing would exercise for a minute or two before the start of the meeting. A strange experience seeing robots doing a “workout” with everyone else.

    • If it isn’t full human or greater level intelligent sapient AI, then it won’t be able to replace humans. Our ability to innovate and problem solve are to complex.

      If is is our equal or better, it will expect pay and benefits.

      True AI won’t replace us, it will BECOME us.

      ~¿~

      • That is a common SF meme. But one thing coming up in stories now, is raising an AI ‘android’ as a human child! This to ensure that in the future, the faster, stronger, brighter ‘creatures’ think of themselves as ‘human’.

  10. Governments must ensure the global economy keeps providing decent jobs – and not just for robots, a global commission set up by the International Labour Organization said on Tuesday.

    yeah, no. that’s what capitalism will do.

  11. I guess my top concerns are:
    1. Major crop failures
    2. Major Fuel shortage
    3. Lengthy disruption of electricity

    Any of those strike hard and it will get really ugly/really fast.

    I do remember the gas lines of the ’70s.
    I think people were generally politer then than they are today.

    • Opinion reply.
      1. Major crop failure. If it’s a single country, then there are plenty of other foods and suppliers available around the world. Not a bigy.
      2. Major fuel shortages. Would grind industry to a halt and collapse the economy. Time is on your side to rescue the situation. But not a lot of time.
      3. Disruption of electricity or water will destroy a city very quickly. This is where it gets scary.

  12. Automation, from the first Spinning Jenny, has created wealth for all by lowering the price of goods. We live like Medieval Kings today! Food, heating, comfort, leisure, we have it all. THere is no reason to fear the continued march of automation.

    And in fact AI, robots, will free man from the drudgery of work. Yes, many might not need to work, but they will be maintained in lavish comfort by the very fact that each of us has an army of metal slaves working for us.

    What is there to fear in such a new Utopia?

    • MattS – January 28, 2019 at 12:03 am

      And in fact AI, robots, will free man from the drudgery of work.

      What is there to fear in such a new Utopia?

      “DUH”, look around your locale, read the newspapers, watch the TV News, listen to the “talk show” host and guests.

      Here is just one (1) of life’s “choices” that the populace will embrace when they are “free” from the drudgery of work, to wit:

      Drug Overdoses

      Preventable drug-related poisoning deaths, or drug overdoses, are at an all-time high and increasing rapidly. In 2017, 61,311 people died from preventable drug overdoses – an increase of 450% since 1999. These deaths represent 87% of the total 70,237 drug overdose deaths in the United States, which also include suicide, homicide and undetermined intents.

      • There are plenty of things to do to occupy your mind. If drugs is the only thing these people can think of, that’s just Darwin in action.

    • Robot slavery (the result of building robots with Asimov’s “Three Laws”) was addressed in the trilogy of SF books by Roger McBride-Allan, starting with “Caliban”.

  13. While in the long term we may get to Utopia, but in the short term, i.e. right about now, we face the strong possibility that we will have to impose the rule that any family will have only one breadwinner. It can be either the male or female, whoever is best qualify, but only one. Because right now we have many two jobs per family, and at the same time families with neither partner working. That is the near future.

    Long term I can see major problems as we still have billions in the so called Third World.

    MJE

    • Why impose anything on anyone.
      It is human nature to not work more than you have to. Once people have achieved the lifestyle they desire, they will cut back on the amount of work the do automatically.

      I’m reminded of the CAGW alarmists who find it impossible to believe that farmers can adapt to a changing environment without the all seeing hand of government to guide them.

  14. Having worked in Robotics for some years I always laugh when the AI Robot rears it’s mythical head. The only place you want Robots is where you really don’t want humans. Those are places where the atmosphere is too foul, where the work is repetitively boring, or where humans are just too dirty. The latter case is in semiconductor fabs for example, where as much as possible is done using robots in positive pressure areas, or vacuum.

    In fact, numerous studies have shown that if something is designed so that a robot can do it, in most cases a human can do it better. That’s why humans place the glass in auto bodies, and robots paint up a storm. But if you want a flawless paint job, you pay a human to take the time to hand sand and paint it. Craftsmanship with robots is hard to come by, dimensional perfection with robots is only if the human who designed the item took the time to let a robot perform the operations necessary to create it. We’ve all seen the cheap plastic products which seem to break instantly, and we’ve all seen plastic products which last almost indefinitely doing their designed job. The difference is the quality of the initial design and that depends on the human. There will always be jobs, just not necessarily unskilled jobs.

    • “Humans are just too dirty”.

      In food processing the shelf life of most products increases by 3 days if you remove filthy bacteria ridden humans from the environment in which the food is processed and packed – no matter how high the hygiene standards are.

      • I would think a whole lot longer than 3 days, unless you are only referring to “unprocessed” foods such as fresh meats, fish, fruits and vegetables.

        • I was referring to unprocessed foods – fresh meat & sausages.

          I don’t have any other experience – the bio-guys grow cultures from swabs off the raw product – shelf life is determined by the rate of growth etc. etc.

          Robots are now also being extensively used in bakery applications – it would take too long to go into the why of it here – but labor replacement is the least of the justification.

          • the bio-guys grow cultures from swabs off the raw product – shelf life is determined by the rate of growth etc. etc.

            Your above 2 statements are correct, …… but each one needs to be explained separately.

            And Ken I, the extensive use of robots in bakery applications has very little to do with hygiene or cleanliness ….. and everything to do with producing enough individual “baked goods” to supply the public’s demand.

            In the US, MILLIONS of loaves of “sliced” bread are sold every day. And so are MILLIONS of packages/boxes of cookies and crackers are sold every day …. with one (1) to several dozen “items” in each package/box.

  15. Michael

    ….right about now, we face the strong possibility that we will have to impose the rule that any family will have only one breadwinner.

    Why is it necessary to “impose” it. It’s a natural consequence of free market Capitalism. There is a natural inbuilt mechanism to adjust to prevailing circumstances and the labour market.

    What you are describing is a socialist utopia where someone gets to decide who does what. So who’s that going to be?

  16. Higher living standards are driven by higher productivity. Technology is the main driver of higher productivity. Over half the word’s population used to be required for agriculture. Now it’s less than 2%, yet somehow we don’t have 50% unemployment.

    It’s a bit ironic that a fear of the main driver of prosperity is being used to advance central planning, which is one of the main drivers of poverty.

    • Up until about 150 years ago, around 95 to 99% of the population was engaged in either farming or ranching.

  17. There will be plenty of jobs repairing broken-down robots. Until robots learn to fix themselves, of course. 😉

    • I can remember a time when a TV broke, you called in a repairman.
      Now days, you just throw it out and buy a new one.

  18. This is the stuff of ……well more studies and reports from the UN and the EU Commission. The rest of us need to get back to work now.

  19. The people making the $$$ on the robots would have to pay those who lost their jobs due to the robots until they were retrained for other positions- and pay for the retraining.

  20. “He said one of the questions raised most often about the future of work is: “Will my job be lost to a robot?” but the commission preferred not to take a binary view of technology in which “it’s us or them”.”

    a genuine no-problem:

    robots don’t pay taxes. workers do.

  21. “They’ll all thank us some day.”
    ~People throughout history destined to be torn apart by angry mobs

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