Tag Archives: AI

Robots Are Costing Jobs

AI

(See my other Robot related posts) – A new study gives a better estimate of how many jobs robots are taking from humans. The study “Robots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labor Markets” was recently published. It appeared in the Journal of Political Economy. An overview, “How many jobs do robots really replace?” appeared May 4 in Science Daily.

This report is the result of work by MIT economist Daron Acemoglu and Boston University economist Pascual Restrepo. They were attempting to quantify the jobs lost due to automation and robotics.

They are not seeing a complete take-over by robots. They do see robots causing a major negative impact on jobs. They looked at the period from 1990 to 2007. They found that for each robot added, on average 3.3 workers were replaced. They also found that each robot caused an average 0.4% decline in wages.

The deployment of robots in the US lags behind Europe. During the period studied about one robot was added in the US for every 1000 workers. In Europe, the rate was 1.6 per 1000 workers. More than 50% of the robots added in the US went into the automotive and electronics industries. The automotive sector was the most affected by robots.

They also found that robots have a direct impact on income inequality. The introduction of robots has caused income to fall for blue-collar workers.

References

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “How many jobs do robots really replace? New research puts a number on the job costs of automation.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 May 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/05/200504150220.htm>

Neuralink Hopes to Test their Brain-Machine Interface before the end of 2020

For many years communicating with your computer by thought has been science fiction. Today, that is coming closer to reality. Many significant advances have been made to manipulate prosthetics. Efforts to create a wider brain/machine interface are underway.

One of the major efforts in this area is being made by Neuralink. Elon Musk, among others, founded the company in 2016. Elon Musk has said that humans must become cyborgs if they are to survive in the robot and AI filled future. He has predicted that we must enhance our own intellectual abilities. If we do not, we will become redundant. According to Musk, Neuralink’s first goal is to help people deal with brain and spinal cord injuries or congenital defects.

Musk has said, “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” The concept behind that is to integrate communications and computer processing power.

Neuralink is researching a direct link between the brain and computers. It has developed a system to feed thousands of electrical probes into a brain. According to Musk, it hopes to start testing the technology on humans sometime in 2020.

Neuralink has the potential to reshape both computing and humanity. The approach that Neuralink is taking uses a robot to insert tiny leads. Each of these leads is only a fraction of the width of a human hair.

First, sewing machine-like technology drills small holes. Ultra-thin electrodes called threads are inserted. A small chip is connected to a “wisp” of 1,024 threads. Up to 10 chips might be embedded under a user’s skin. Musk has said, “Ultimately, we can do a full brain-machine interfaces where we can achieve a sort of symbiosis with AI.” It might be possible for people to type 40 words per minute by thinking with such an interface.

Neuralink calls their approach a Neural Lace. The Neural Lace provides a technology layer above our brains. The expectation is for Neural Lace to increase our cognitive performance levels. The thought is that the closer we become to AI the less of a threat it will be. Neuralink hopes to have this in a human patient by the end of this year.

The Neuralink electrodes are being designed to both read and write data. The Neural Lace is a device that is intended to grow with your brain. Its major purpose is to optimize mental output.

In the long term, Neuralink sees brain-connected chips and wires placed under the skin. The user would wear a communications pod behind their ear like a hearing aid. The ‘pod’ would then use Bluetooth or WiFi to communicate with a phone or computer. The long-term goal is to build a “digital superintelligence layer”. It will provide a high bandwidth interface between the brain and machine intelligence. The distinction between humans and machines may become almost imperceptible.

The challenges to developing this technology are significant. There have been successes in tests with animals. According to Musk, “A monkey has been able to control a computer with his brain”. Many labs are researching brain-machine interface (BMI) technology. But some worry that Neuralink’s invasive method is risky.

The development of other non-invasive methods are underway. The hope is for these to not only read brain activity but also stimulate it. Using one of these technologies humans may someday be able to define what we want to become. It seems clear that humans are on a path to a more symbiotic relationship with our machines.

This is part of transhumanism. That is the enhancement of humans through the use of technology. At the low-end many of us have already taken a step along the transhumanism path. By wearing eyeglasses or a hearing aid we have augmented our bodies with technology. Other augmentations might enable us to ‘see’ wavelengths of light outside the usual visual spectrum. They might also include methods to accelerate the pace of learning. We might someday rapidly learn new skills or gain a better memory.
Further Reading

  1. Why Elon Musk’s transhumanism claims may not be that far-fetched
  2. Elon Musk: To Survive The Age of Artificial Intelligence, Humanity Must “Achieve Symbiosis With Machines”
  3. Elon Musk says Neuralink plans 2020 human test of brain-computer interface
  4. The merging of humans and machines is happening now
  5. An integrated brain-machine interface platform with thousands of channels

Nuro Delivery Robot

(See my other Robot related posts) – Automation continues to advance in spite of the coronavirus. The California DMV has issued the company Nuro with a permit for testing. Nuro will be testing its completely self-driving Nuro R2 vehicle. Only specific parts of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties are part of the limited test.

Nuro was founded in 2016. Their purpose:

to harness the power of robotics and artificial intelligence to solve new challenges at a global scale

This is not the first use of Nuro delivery robots. The company already has an agreement in place with Kroger groceries. The robot is delivering in selected areas (77005, 77007, 77025, 77035, 77096, and 77401 zip codes) of Houston already. Order items through the App and the Nuro robot will appear at your curb. The delivery costs only $5.95. See the Nuro website for details.

Unfortunately, California testing will not begin until the state gives final approval. That will likely be after the coronavirus threat has ended.

Robots Flourish as Workers Stay at Home

(See my other Robot related posts) – With so many ‘sheltering-in-place’ at home, robots are taking more of a role. I saw a short note in the Morning Brew Emerging Tech Brew newsletter yesterday. The story “U.S. Retail Robots Are Working Overtime” tells how more robots are being placed into service.

The essentials from the article:

  • Starship Technologies says its autonomous food delivery service has expanded.
  • Alphabet’s drone subsidiary, Wing, is dropping off packages in Virginia
  • Amazon is testing its Scout delivery robot
  • Autonomous mobile robots (AMR) are currently doing 8,000+ hours of cleaning work a day

Screen Shot 2020-04-13 at 11.06.41 AM

Businesses short of workers are supplementing their workforce with robots. Typical of those robots being used to clean store floors is the Tennant T7AMR Rider-Scrubber.

These and similar commercial autonomous robots can be used to scrub & vacuum floors, make deliveries, scan the product shelves, and assist with security. The machines can typically navigate dynamic public spaces autonomously, avoid obstacles, and the general public. They also can manage data, generate reports, and interact with human users. The COVID-19 crisis is definitely going to accelerate the adoption of robots.

Contrary to what you might expect, the impact of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 may be an increase in automation. A report looking at the three recessions in the last 30 years shows that 88% of job loss took place in “routine,” automatable occupations. We have already seen robots replace workers at places such as Amazon and Walmart. Their deployment is expected to significantly increase during any recession. [See Further Reading #2]

Further Reading

  1. Grocery stores turn to robots during the coronavirus
  2. The robots are ready as the COVID-19 recession spreads
  3. Robots Are Cleaning Grocery Store Floors During The Coronavirus Outbreak
  4. How Autonomous Cleaning Robots Can Help Retailers During A Crisis

Automation Forecast to Impact Jobs

AI

 

(See my other posts on Robots & Automation ) – In the “Morning Brew” economic newsletter this morning was the following:

The Economist this week laid out just how quickly automation is taking over finance. Funds run by computers that follow human-set rules account for…

  • 35% of the U.S. stock market
  • 60% of institutional equity assets
  • 60% of trading activity

Last month, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds automatically tracking stock and bond indices hit $4.3 trillion invested in American equities, surpassing the sum run by humans for the first time.

Technological efficiencies” will lead to about 200,000 job cuts in the U.S. banking industry over the next decade, Wells Fargo said this week. And PwC found last year that about 30% of finance and insurance jobs in developed economies will be at risk of automation by 2029.

Too often we think of automation just affecting manufacturing jobs. It will affect many other sectors. This trend is inevitable in a worldwide economy. Industries have to stay economically competitive and automation will be essential to compete. Those who want to succeed in the workforce will need the right skills.

What skills are needed for the years ahead? (also from the “Morning Brew”)

  • artificial intelligence
  • machine learning
  • data science

 

 

Robots Just Keep Getting Better – More Atlas Abilities

(See my other Robot  related posts) – Boston Dynamics released another video showing more skills, this time more into the gymnastic variety. Per the Boston Dynamics’ website, Atlas is comprised of the world’s most compact hydraulic systems including custom motors, valves and a hydraulic power unit that drive its 28 hydraulic joints. The robot stands 1.5 meters tall (4.9 feet), weighs 80kg (176lbs) and moves at 1.5 meters per second (3.35mph).

The robots have come a long way since the DARPA contest a few years ago where many were falling when simply trying to walk.

 

Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Begins at Austin Airport

(See my other Robot related posts) – I saw today in the Community Impact News that a driverless shuttle program has begun a pilot evaluation at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The Easy Mile EZ10 driverless shuttle provides service between the Terminal building and the rental car and ground transportation areas.

The EZ10 shuttle is an all-electric vehicle which was launched in 2015. The vendor claims that the EZ10 is the “most deployed driverless shuttle in the world.” Each shuttle can seat 6, with additional standing room for up to 15 passengers and operates in all weather conditions and will run up to 16 hours on a charge. While the shuttle is autonomous, an AUS attendant will be present to assist travelers and for safety purposes during the pilot phase.

New Robots on Way to the ISS

(See my other posts on Robots) – Today’s Cygnus cargo flight with 7,600 pounds of science, supplies & cargo for the ISS includes a pair of new robots. These will replace the current SPHERES robots on the International Space Station (ISS). The Astrobee robots have been developed by the Intelligent Robotics Group at the NASA Ames Research Center.

The new Astrobee robots are autonomous cubes designed to be flown around the ISS. The first pair of Astrobee robots are named Honey and Bumble. A third named Queen is scheduled to fly to the ISS later this year. These are very modular robots with hardware and software designed for a wide range of tasks and experiments. 

The robots are intended to fly around the ISS autonomously, perform experiments, and take video. While they will generally be operated by humans from the ground, they will occasionally operate without any supervision.

Each Astrobee robot is about 12 inches (30 cm) square.  They will use pressurized air from 12 different nozzles to propel themselves around the ISS. They can rotate in any direction and have no need to refuel as air is compressed and used from the ISS atmosphere.

The Astrobees are based on ROS and are equipped with six cameras, sensors, and enough computing power to allow them to operate autonomously. They can be fitted with modular payloads in their three different payload bays for a variety of experiments. Later this year a small arm will become available for manipulating objects and grabbing hold for maintaining their position. The robots will be able to undock, redock and perch within the ISS independently of the crew.

The robots should complete their checkout before the end of April. After that, they will map and be calibrated for the ISS modules. Final commissioning of the entire Astrobee system should be complete before the end of the year.