(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
(See my other Robot related posts) – Earlier this week Uber announced that their Frisco Station helipad site would be the test site for Uber Elevate. Uber Elevate is their “flying car” division. The plan, per their website, is to develop:
shared air transportation—planned for 2023—between suburbs and cities, and ultimately within cities. We’re working with our Elevate Network partners to launch fleets of small, electric VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft in Dallas, Los Angeles, and our first international market in Melbourne.
The Frisco Station site is located on the Dallas North Tollway and is being built larger than the typical helicopter landing pad. Uber is estimating a 7 minute average flight time from the facility to their terminal at DFW.
Robots – As I have posted before, there is great debate over whether or not Automation and Robotics will cost jobs. I read “The Great Myth of the AI Skills Gap” today and it is in the camp that Automation will create rather than cost jobs. Some of the points that the article brings out:
- workers most likely to be displaced by technology lack the skills needed to do the new jobs created by that technology
- the most common worry is that new technology will cause systematic permanent unemployment
- there is concern that those who get training will stay employed at high paying jobs while those without training will be unemployed
- new technology does eliminate low-skilled, low-paying jobs
- the author’s position is that everyone should be able to do a job just a little harder than they are doing now – i.e. everyone level up a bit as automation is deployed
- 200 years of economic history supports this
- every fifty years, we lose about half of all jobs, and this has been pretty steady since 1800
- wages can continue to rise because technology has always increased worker productivity
- the nature of technology has always been to create high-skilled jobs and increase worker productivity
While all that is said here makes some sense, I am concerned that the imapact of Robots and Automation will be deeper and more wide spread than prior disruptions caused by technology. While I agree that technology will create new jobs, I fear that they will be too few in number and require too much education/training to absorb those being displaced.
As with so many things the best advice is to plan for the worse and hope for the best.
Robots – I read the article “New study shows what your community needs to do to survive the impact of automation” a couple of days ago and it has some interesting ideas on how to approach the impact of automation. The article addressed the report “America at Work: A National Mosaic and Roadmap for Tomorrow” recently published by Walmart.
You might think this is an odd report coming from Walmat, but Walmat is the largest employer in the US with 1.5 million employees. They have already taken an active role in providing employees trainging opportunities.
This report looks at more than 3,000 counties across the US, analyzing their economic, demographic, and educational attainment data. The counties are then assigned into one of eight archetypes. Each archetype has its own set of recommended actions.
Some of the findings:
- automation isn’t going to completely wipe out most jobs
- people will need to learn new skills in order to work side by side with machines
- without retraining workers will be left behind financially and isolated socially
- few, if any, places will be immune to the impact of automation
- successful preparation for automation will require communities to take an integrated approach with cooperation across a range of public, private, and nonprofit stakeholders
If you are interested in this topic you may want to download the 44-page PDF of the Walmart report and read it all.
The new approach to 3D printing prints the entire object using light and special synthetic resin. This new technique is much faster and has other benefits. It can only print small objects now, but there is a lot of potential.
The researchers have nicknamed the printer “the replicator”. It creates objects much like a reverse computed tomography. The object to be replicated is scanned from multiple angles. Those scans are then projected on a tube with the resin. This technique allows printing in minutes rather than the hours of a standard 3D printer.
Robots – A new report “Humans Wanted: Robots Need You” issued by staffing and recruiting firm ManpowerGroup predicts the use of robots and automation will increase the number of jobs. For this report ManpowerGroup surveyed 19,000 employers worldwide for their plans to respond to automation. The results in summary:
- 87% of the employers (91% in the US) plan to increase or maintain the size of their staff
- 9% of employers (4% in the US) plan to cut staff
- of companies in manufacturing and production, 25% predict staffing increases while 20% predict reductions
- many companies plan to invest in retrain their staff to work with robots and automation
- 54% of all employess will need significant retraining by 2020
- areas that will see largest job decrease – Administrative, Office, Finance, and Accounting
- areas that will see the largest job increase – IT, Manufacturing, Production, Frontline, and Customer-facing
Based on this report the job outlook, at least in the short term, looks positive in light of increased robotics and automation.
Robots – Flying cars have been around in science fiction for many years. Now though we are on the verge of having them become part of our everyday lives. That said, don’t expect your next call for Lyft or Uber to be answered by a flying autonomous taxi.
The Boeing autonomous passenger air vehicle (PAV) shown above is just a prototype and so far it has only demonstrated the ability to take off, hover, and land. This is a 30-foot model is all electric and is designed to have a 50-mile range. Boeing NeXt is also working on a larger fully autonomous, electric cargo plane that will be able to carry up to 500 pounds.
Beyond the technical hurdles of building a flying car are the many regulatory issues that stand in their way. Needless to say, it will be a few years before we see these in our sky.
Boeing is not the only company working on flying cars. Among those interested in this market are Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Uber, and Toyota. These flying cars are intended to offer a transportation solution that will be able to carry passengers across urban centers where ground transportation would be slow or impractical.
Robots – I read an article about this robot that was shown at CES 2019 this morning. It is the UBTECH Walker. UBTECH Robotics is a Chinese company which has a variety of robots from hobbyist kits to real service robots. Per their website UBTECH;
Founded in 2012, UBTECH is a global leading AI and humanoid robotic company. UBTECH has successfully developed consumer humanoid robots, robots for business use, and JIMU Robot building kits following breakthroughs made in digital servos, the core part of humanoid robots. In 2018, UBTECH achieved a valuation of USD$5 billion following the single largest funding round ever for an artificial intelligence company, underscoring the company’s technological leadership.
The Walker was first demonstrated at CES 2018 and has undergone significant improvements since then. Their press release for the Walker says:
Walker is your agile smart companion—an intelligent, bipedal humanoid robot that aims to one day be an indispensable part of your family. Standing 4.75 feet (1.45 m) tall and weighing 170 lbs (77 kg), the new version of Walker is more advanced than ever, including arms and hands with the ability to grasp and manipulate objects, a refined torso with improved self-balancing, smooth and stable walking in difficult environments, and multi-modal interaction including voice, vision, and touch. Walker has 36 high-performance actuators and a full range of sensing systems that work together to insure smooth and fast walking.
UBTECH seems to have great plans for the Walker. I wonder how long it will be before we see robots in common usage as depicted in the video above? This isn’t science fiction anymore. Robots like these are coming, it is just a matter of how soon.
You can learn more about UBTECH and their plans in the article “UBTECH Shows Off Massive Upgrades to Walker Humanoid Robot” published by IEEE Spectrum.
Coffee, Robots – I came across the article “The rise of robots might make coffee obsolete, according to RBC analysts” today and found it to have some interesting points. Among the points brought up by the article:
- $2 trillion in annual US wages could be affected by automation, RBC says in a new report
- RBC analysts argue that the loss of “grunt work” means that people will no longer need caffeine in 2025 in the same way they do in 2018
- a less obvious outcome of the robot takeover: coffee and other caffeinated drinks becoming obsolete
- RBC analysts predict that every industry will be impacted by the rise of AI and automation. On the positive side of the equation, AI can be used to reduce costs and personalize products. On the negative side, AI might help make privacy obsolete and hasten the loss of middle-class jobs, which can in turn feed into the rise of authoritarianism.
Most of what is in this article is not new. The prediction of middle-class job loss is pretty consistent with articles on the growth of AI and automation. The prediction of coffee becoming outmoded seems extreme to me. But then I drink it because I like it.
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.