Robots – I came across yet another article on the impact of robots and automation this morning “Stop freaking out about robots“. This article had a more positive outlook than most in this field have had. Among the points this article brings out:
- Counterintuitive as it may seem, automation can play a key role in creating more and better jobs, and rising prosperity.
- Since the Industrial Revolution, the automation of human labor has run hand-in-hand with productivity gains, economic growth, and an increase in the number of jobs and prosperity
- a study by the Boston University School of Law into the impact of automation on 270 occupations in the U.S. since 1950 found that only one was eliminated: lift operators
- Machines generally take on simple tasks, as humans move to more complex–and often more meaningful–work
- The fatalism around robot-driven inequality suffers from peering at the future through technology blinkers
So what is the answer? It is still too early to tell. Robots, AI, and Automation will definitely have an impact on many professions. The question is what it will be.
Robots – I came across the article “In the Coming Automated Economy, People Will Work for AI” and thought it had some good points to share. Some of the most interesting points in my opinion:
- Many experts believe that AI will also make inroads on white-collar jobs, and say the transition to an AI economy will put vast swaths of people out of work. Kai-Fu Lee, the former head of Google China, recently predicted that 50 percent of the world’s jobs are in danger.
- Techno-optimists argue that as AI does away with some jobs, it will create new ones
- Prepping data for AI is certainly a [job] growth area
- new-style jobs that will be created by AI and automation: part-time, paid based on tasks completed, without benefits
- cloud labor and microtasking jobs are a boon for people with limited income opportunities in their area
- Not everyone agrees that the move to an AI economy is going to cause an employment crisis
- Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a nonprofit public policy group, argues that while there will be job losses, growth in existing occupations will more than make up the difference
There is no real way to predict how AI and automation will impact jobs. Certainly this, like many other articles, cite those on both sides of the argument. The only thing we can do is to be prepared and take career options that will provide the most protection.
I don’t know if this is creepy or just a sign of the future.
The startup Nectome, a company in California founded by computer scientist Michael McCanna and engineer Robert McIntyre, is working towards preserving your memories. They plan to do this by preserving your brain after death and then mapping its connectome—the web of synapses that connect neurons. While the company has raised more than $1 (US) million for further research, their plan is not without controversy.
Assuming this was affordable and it works, would you consider preserving your memories?
See the article “Would You Want Your Memories Uploaded to a Computer After You Die?” if you want to learn more.
Robots – I read the article “The Beginning of the End of Work” this morning and I think that it brings up many good points. I have touched on this in prior posts, but it is good to reiterate it here.
Some of the points the article brings out:
- 47 percent of all jobs are threatened in the United States
- Robots and AI are going to cut an even deeper swath through the middle class, blue and white collar, and there are no replacement jobs
- Universal basic income (UBI) might be an answer
I am not a fan of UBI, nor have the pilot programs tried so far been much of a success. In my opinion, the move towards AI, robotics, and automation is inevitable. Any company or country that ignores this or which tries to impede (i.e. through legislation) the tech will find themselves trailing those who embrace it.
How should this be dealt with? I don’t know. But we can’t ignore the potential problem and hope it goes away. People need to be thinking about and discussing this now.
Space – Are you interested in space and have a little extra cash? If you have $80,000, you can reserve your spot. Then you only need an additional $9.5 million for your full trip. Where are you going? To Aurora Station.
Aurora Station is a space station planned by Orion Span. Unlike the other current space stations Aurora Station is planned as a luxurious space hotel. The hotel will initially be able to accomodate four guests and two staff in the 43 foot long by 14 foot diameter module.
While it is certainly not open for business yet, the plan is to have it open by 2022. You will get on-line training, followed by three months of training at the Orion Span facility in Houston, Texas, then a 12-day excursion to Aurora Station. Once on Aurora Station guests will experience zero-g and help with research. The company eventually plans to expand the station and add possibly offer ‘space condos’ in the future.
Orion Span announced this venture back in 2007. They report that they have had nearly 40 people lay down the money to reserve a spot. If you are of a mind, you can reserve your spot now.
Whether or not this commercial venture actually opens their space hotel, I think that someone will in the near future. The price tag is hefty, but as commercial launch services mature, the costs will drop.
Robots – I came across the article “How Should Your Company Prepare For Robot Coworkers?” this morning. if you are concerned as to how AI and automation will be affecting your job or you company, you should give it a read. It is short only taking about 5 minutes.
The gist of the article is that we need to start thinking how to incorporate AI and robotics into the work place alongside existing employees. the key thing is to modify work flow to incorporate what AI and robotics do well and have humans focus on the less mundane, higher intellect part of the job.
Apparently even Walmart is looking at automation in its stores. Two different initiatives seem to be under evaluation by Walmart.
EMMA (Enabling Mobile Machine Automation), an autonomous machine for scrubbing store floors, is under evaluation at five stores. After a training run controlled by a human operator to identify the desired operational path, the machine will autonomously clean the floor. It has built in sensors and cameras similar to autonomous vehicles currently on the roads that allow it to navigate around obstacles at a sedate 2.5 miles per hour. EMMA is a product of Brain Corp.
In a separate trial, Walmart has deployed shelf-scanning robots in 50 stores. These machines will scan store shelves to verify inventory, prices and misplaced items. These units are from Bossa Nova Robotics.
Will these attempts at automation cost jobs? Well, probably over the long term, but it is unlikely that the impact will be significant. It is clear though that robots and automation will be in our future.
Space – I came across the article “Private companies are launching a new space race – here’s what to expect” this morning. it gives a very good overview of the companies and governments that are currently pursuing space programs.
If you are interested in space exploration, as I am, you will find this article of interest. The next decade will see many significant events if todays forecasts can be believed.
Space – I came across the article “Here Is the Future of Interstellar Spacecraft” yesterday and thought it was a good overview of the propulsion technologies that are likely to take future spacecraft beyond the Solar System.
In short the alternatives that are covered are:
- Thermonuclear propulsion
- Bussard ramjet
- Antimatter rockets
- NASA’s Eagleworks Lab “Warp bubble” drive
None of these are really going to be ready in the near future, with possibly the exception of the Lightsail. I am glad to see though that the ideas are being kept in front of people, particularly those budding STEM students who will lead the way over the next few decades.