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Thread: Jobs are for Machines

  1. #1
    Member Penguinhunter's Avatar
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    Jobs are for Machines

    The end of work is upon us and I believe that most people are unprepared for how much what we understand as "work" is going to change in the next 10-15 years. People often expect/accept that work is going to be increasingly automated but doubt the impact it will have on their own work, at least in the short term. But work is changing in significant ways now, today, not in some sci-fi future. Disintermediation is accelerating and a number of key areas of employment are set to fall to the machines in the next few years:

    Quote Originally Posted by Santens (last article above)
    Any time now. That’s the new go-to response in the 21st century for any question involving something new machines can do better than humans, and we need to try to wrap our heads around it.

    We need to recognize what it means for exponential technological change to be entering the labor market space for nonroutine jobs for the first time ever. Machines that can learn mean nothing humans do as a job is uniquely safe anymore. From hamburgers to healthcare, machines can be created to successfully perform such tasks with no need or less need for humans, and at lower costs than humans.

    Amelia is just one AI out there currently being beta-tested in companies right now. Created by IPsoft over the past 16 years, she’s learned how to perform the work of call center employees. She can learn in seconds what takes us months, and she can do it in 20 languages. Because she’s able to learn, she’s able to do more over time. In one company putting her through the paces, she successfully handled one of every ten calls in the first week, and by the end of the second month, she could resolve six of ten calls. Because of this, it’s been estimated that she can put 250 million people out of a job, worldwide.
    Viv is an AI coming soon from the creators of Siri who’ll be our own personal assistant. She’ll perform tasks online for us, and even function as a Facebook News Feed on steroids by suggesting we consume the media she’ll know we’ll like best. In doing all of this for us, we’ll see far fewer ads, and that means the entire advertising industry — that industry the entire Internet is built upon — stands to be hugely disrupted.

    A world with Amelia and Viv — and the countless other AI counterparts coming online soon — in combination with robots like Boston Dynamics’ next generation Atlas portends, is a world where machines can do all four types of jobs and that means serious societal reconsiderations. If a machine can do a job instead of a human, should any human be forced at the threat of destitution to perform that job? Should income itself remain coupled to employment, such that having a job is the only way to obtain income, when jobs for many are entirely unobtainable? If machines are performing an increasing percentage of our jobs for us, and not getting paid to do them, where does that money go instead? And what does it no longer buy? Is it even possible that many of the jobs we’re creating don’t need to exist at all, and only do because of the incomes they provide? These are questions we need to start asking, and fast.
    Santens (and this is a pretty good article by the way, if you are just going to read one), above, is relatively optimistic, citing Basic Income as a solution that is currently getting traction in Finland and Canada with lots of other discussions popping up elsewhere in the world. Stephen Hawking is a little less optimistic, hoping for robot-powered wealth redistribution but expecting a downward spiral of capitalist exploitation.

    So, do you expect a workless utopia or dystopia? How do you plan to spend all your extra free time in each scenario?

  2. #2
    Member rhinosaur's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Penguinhunter View Post
    So, do you expect a workless utopia or dystopia? How do you plan to spend all your extra free time in each scenario?
    It isn't hard to imagine either scenario. I'm leaning toward the former, though I tend to be an optimist. The current trend that I see is one of people expecting free stuff all the time, as in free media, free software, free internet access, etc. When people start expecting things, they tend to become inevitable. It won't be long -- I'd wager less than a generation -- before those corporations and individuals find a way to provide many other free services and provisions, such as free food, free healthcare, and free water. One could argue that that free stuff is a fiction, and it is just a mechanism to make money for whatever corporation is providing it, but IMO it makes little difference in the long run. Whether it comes from Google or GNU, the end results are the same: Everyone has their basic needs met, and eventually we wind up in a post-scarcity world.

    However, there are some unpalatable consequences of automation. Maximum efficiency requires discarding the inefficient -- cutting the fat -- and keeping only what will be useful. I can imagine that our robot overlords will require a form of population control. Death camps? Mandatory abortions? An arena where one is "Renewed" at age 30? I highly doubt it. Along with all this efficiency comes power and control, and I am supremely confident that our robot overlord will keep us perfectly content with whatever means of control it can devise. After all, keeping the customers happy is a major goal of any corporation.

    So then what role do humans have in a post-scarcity world? Will we be content to live out our lives in blissful decadence? Shall we devise ever-elaborate ways to keep each other entertained, through supremely beautiful arts? Shall we be lifelong students in a world where the available information to be learned is virtually limitless? Sounds good to me.

    On a more personal note, this topic was hugely important to me back in college, and I spent countless hours stressing out about it. You see, I have been an environmentalist all my life, and I was worried that my technological career would contribute to the destruction of life on this planet. It came down to a binary choice: Either we revert back to a primitive world, where the carefully managed resources can be used indefinitely, or we move forward to ever-advanced technologies, position ourselves as the stewards of nature, and hope that we will have enough wisdom to not fuck things up beyond repair. The former scenario, in my estimation, can only result in history repeating itself, not to mention that primitive technologies were orders of magnitude less efficient that what we currently have. The latter scenario is scary in that we are staring into the darkness of the future, but I think it could work, and so that's where I placed my once-in-a-lifetime bet.
    Last edited by rhinosaur; 03-20-2016 at 08:46 PM.

  3. #3
    TJ TeresaJ's Avatar
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    We'll all be fighting other surplus humans in a a worldwide megaslum characterized by a brutal black market that's fueled by corporate/government handouts.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by TeresaJ View Post
    We'll all be fighting other surplus humans in a a worldwide megaslum characterized by a brutal black market that's fueled by corporate/government handouts.
    It'll be like highlander except with each kill you get to collect the $500 remaining in the other person's bank account.

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    Bringer of Jollity MoneyJungle's Avatar
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    I'll work as long as they'll have me and then commit suicide by RoboCop.

    Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?

  6. #6
    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    I'm kind of interested what will happen with software engineering. I often hear suggestions it will be one of the first or one of the last to be automated. I think it depends on what you define as software development (and much of it is already automated in terms of builds, tests, even code generation now) and what it involves.

    I'm doing a masters in Computational Intelligence and AI at the moment (and then perhaps a PhD) so hopefully I remain somewhat useful in the market.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    The irony, from what I've seen, is that this likely ends up shifting the market toward demand for "people skills" and jobs that are heavy on direct social interaction, persuasion, and so forth.

    Basically the easier it gets to give people what they want, the more that profits will come from a competitive edge at knowing and/or influencing what it is that people want.

    We won't all be unemployed--we'll just all have to get jobs in sales, PR, "customer service", "human resources" and so forth.

    I'm sure that's as cheerful a thought to everyone else on this forum as it is to me.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    No history, no exposition, no anecdote or argument changes the invariant: we are all human beings, and some humans are idiots.

  8. #8
    schlemiel Faust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Mexico
    I'm sure that's as cheerful a thought to everyone else on this forum as it is to me.
    I think teaching ranks among the people-skills jobs but it's also the most likely to be automated, at least to some degree.

    I'm equally concerned about my obsolescence.
    "All my heroes are dead" - John Zorn

    "It's not selfish if you hate yourself"

  9. #9
    Dr.Awkward Robcore's Avatar
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    There was a quote I once read about the innovation/creativity/ingenuity of a single person, and how that could render something like 10,000 people free of the need to work. I think the quote was sort of old...from at least the 50s, if not earlier. Can't remember the precise wording, or the name of the person who said it, else I'd google it with more success.

    Anyhow, I've oft found it interesting that unemployment rates are something that people get in such a worked up state over. On the one hand, I get it, yeah, it's the system we're in...we need to make money. On the other hand, leisure time is the best thing going. There should be some correlation between unemployment and the hours of the work week going down.

    I think that off-grid living becoming easier, and trends like permaculture gardening, are keys to adapting to a world that doesn't need such a large workforce. Personally, I'm not afraid of it. I actually embrace the end of work. Every job I've ever had has had some aspect of "why does anyone even care if someone does this job?" It's all just someone's idea of what might be good to do...but there's rarely any objective basis for it actually being a good idea, as an ought or a should. Jobs where people just do paperwork and never actually produce anything tangible (eg. insurance companies, or consulting firms, or other jobs that are mostly administrative or just regulatory) are fascinating...because...what for? I mean, I know what for...but still...we're funny.

    With all my free time I'll philosophize, paint, garden, build, carve, write, learn....it'll be awesome.
    ...the origin of emotional sickness lay in people’s belief that they were their personalities...
    "The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong." ~Carl Jung

  10. #10
    singularity precursor Limey's Avatar
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    I think that if work ends, people will begin to flock to coastal areas and areas with better climates, which probably won't be a good thing. California and Florida are bad enough as it is.

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