mfioretti: automation*

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  1. This is going to require a fight. The common story is that the robots are the threat to workers, but robots are just robots. It’s not robots that need to be bargained with, or that can be. The real obstruction will come from those, as in times past, who will find it too tempting to keep on accumulating the benefits of automated efficiency for themselves. It will take a fight to ensure those benefits are really shared — not through philanthropic handouts, but through a recognition that prosperity is a collective inheritance.

    Basic income advocate Peter Barnes, for instance, suggests deriving the funds from dividends on the use of such shared assets as clean air, the electromagnetic spectrum, and financial markets. This is like the model Alaska already uses to distribute about $1,000 from natural-resource wealth to each resident every year. The trouble is, too many industries are too used to regarding our shared assets as theirs to exploit. It is their shareholders we will be bargaining with. Sometimes, these shareholders are ourselves through pension funds or our 401k retirement plans.
    https://indypendent.org/2018/03/bargaining-with-robots
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  2. With applications rising, employers have automated as much of the process as possible. This started more than a decade ago with simple programs that scanned text CVs for key words. It has now expanded to include quizzes, psychometric tests, games and chatbots that can reject applicants before a human ever glances at their CV.

    Jobseekers are forced to prepare for whatever format a prospective employer has chosen, a familiar power shift in the gig economy era. And without human interaction or feedback, an already difficult process has become deeply alienating.
    Will a robot recruiter be hiring you for your next job?
    Read more

    Beyond the dehumanising experience lurk the usual concerns that attend automation and AI, which uses data often shaped by inequality. If you suspect you’ve been discriminated against by an algorithm, what recourse do you have? How vulnerable are those formulas to bias? And is it inevitable that non-traditional or poorer candidates, or those who struggle with new technology, will be excluded from the process?

    “It’s a bit dehumanising, never being able to get through to an employer,” says Robert, a plumber in his 40s whom I met at a weekly jobs club in London. He uses job boards and recruiters to find temporary work. Harry, 24, has been searching for a job for four months. In retail “just about every job opening” requires a test or game. He completes four or five a week. The rejections are often instant, piling up without a word of feedback. Every time you start again from zero.
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    “You never know what you’ve done wrong. It leaves you feeling a bit trapped,” Harry says.

    The problem is worst for older jobseekers. Many rely on support from councils or voluntary services to help them fill out applications. “It’s a big barrier. Why is an older guy who was a bricklayer suddenly expected to have IT skills?” asks Lynda Pennington, who organises another jobs club in Croydon.

    After 86 unsuccessful job applications in two years – including several HireVue screenings – Deborah Caldeira is thoroughly disillusioned with automated systems. Without a person across the table, there’s “no real conversation or exchange”, and it’s difficult to know “exactly what the robot is looking for”, says Caldeira, who has a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

    Despite her qualifications, she found herself questioning every movement as she sat at home alone performing for a computer. “It makes us feel that we’re not worthwhile, as the company couldn’t even assign a person for a few minutes. The whole thing is becoming less human,” she says.

    A fightback against automation has emerged, as applicants search for ways to game the system. On web forums, students trade answers to employers’ tests and create fake applications to gauge their processes. One HR employee for a major technology company recommends slipping the words “Oxford” or “Cambridge” into a CV in invisible white text, to pass the automated screening.

    Measures are under way to tip the balance of power back to those seeking work, according to Christina Colclough, director of digitalisation and trade at UNI Global Union, a federation of trade unions. They include a charter of digital rights for workers touching on automated and AI-based decisions, to be included in bargaining agreements.

    An imminent update to the EU general data protection regulation will require a company to disclose whenever a decision that “significantly affects an individual” has been automated. But even minimal human involvement – approving a list of automatically ranked CVs, for example – could exempt companies from such regulations, warns Sandra Wachter, a lawyer and research fellow in data ethics at the Oxford Internet Institute. She also notes that a much-discussed “right to explanation” of automated decisions will not be legally binding.
    https://www.theguardian.com/technolog...bs-artificial-intelligence?CMP=twt_gu
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  3. what about work? Well, very few people engage in work at all, but they spend alot if time on jobs. Work is a great human experience, its one of the main pleasures of life, it is the expression of that special combination of gifts each of us has to offer in expression of the endless creativity of the biosphere, and as such is deeply meaningful and spiritual…but hardly anyone gets the opportunity to work, instead we have jobs because the essentials of life have been enclosed and we must get money to buy them or die. Jobs are not work, but rather part time chattel slavery. In ages past a slave knew he was a slave today most of us are slaves and we think of our very slavery as freedom to choose. To make a slave, we must dehumanize the would be slave. That is, the person must be severed from the entire web of relationships that in large part comprise her identity and subjugated completely to the will of the master. A slave is not a human being, but a tool to be used. Well…unless you are very fortunate, you spend 40 percent or more of your waking hours as a slave, and the rest as a largely isolated self-interested individual engaging in market transactions.
    https://medium.com/@wayneblewis/they-...l-causes-of-the-collapse-d7a7844a009a
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  4. Kela hopes additional data that is being collected as part of the trial from healthcare records will provide useful information on whether the security of a guaranteed unconditional income, paid in advance so beneficiaries can budget for it, might have a positive impact on anxiety, prescription drug consumption or doctor’s visits.

    “One participant has said she is less anxious because she no longer has to worry over calls from the job centre offering a job she can’t accept because she is caring for her elderly parents,” Turunen said. “We may be able to see from the trial data whether it has had unintended benefits – such as reduced medical costs.”

    The trial data may also allow the government to spend less on bureaucracy by simplifying Finland’s complex social security system – currently, it offers more than 40 different means-tested benefits – which is struggling to cope with a 21st-century labour market of part timers, short-term contracts and start-ups.

    The benefit system is simply “not suited to modern working patterns”, Turunen said. “We have too many benefits. People don’t understand what they’re entitled to or how they can get it. Even experts don’t understand. For example, it’s very hard to be in the benefit system in Finland if you are self-employed – you have to prove your income time and time and time again.”
    The Inequality Project: the Guardian's in-depth look at our unequal world
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    Perhaps most significantly, the trial marks “a real breakthrough for field experiments”, according to Kanerva. Rolled out in record time and after a brief, one-line pledge in the government’s platform, it had to function alongside all existing social security laws and clear numerous legal obstacles – including Finland’s constitution, which requires all citizens to be treated equally.

    “It was a huge effort to get it over the line,” Turunen said. “The government was determined it must be based on specific legislation – most experiments are not – and that it had to launch in January last year ... It was quite a task.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/inequalit...asic-income-trial-too-good-to-be-true
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  5. Boston - Drone technology is more often associated with outside activities. However, drones can also be used internally to a business, such as in a warehouse. Technologists have developed a system that allows aerial drones to read RFID tags tens of meters away.
    http://www.digitaljournal.com/tech-an...t-inventory-mismatches/article/504812
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  6. They say UBI is expensive. Paying all UK citizens the current Jobseeker's Allowance amount of £73.10 per week would cost almost £250bn per year - 13 per cent of the UK’s entire GDP.

    By contrast, widening the social safety net through more comprehensive services would cost around £42bn, which can be funded by lowering the personal income tax allowance from £11,800 to £4,300, according to the IGP’s analysis.

    The experts say an expansion of basic services to everyone is highly progressive because those who rely on them will be disproportionately the least wealthy in society.

    Almost half of the world's jobs, paying almost $16 trillion in wages, could be automated just by adapting existing technology in robotics, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence, a recent report by McKinsey estimated.

    Professor Henrietta Moore, director of UCL’s Institute for Global Prosperity, said: “Without radical new ideas that challenge the status quo, we face a future where the changing shape of our society and labour market leaves more and more people struggling simply to achieve the basics – let alone having the resources and mental energy to allow themselves and their families to flourish.”
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    She said that UBS was a logical extension of the widely accepted principle that health and education should be free at the point of use to everyone.
    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/bu...zens-social-housing-ucl-a7993476.html
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  7. Garcia and the other workers here didn’t lose their jobs to a robot—they work in tandem with one. And just as well, because California farms are facing a serious labor shortage of perhaps 20 percent. Increasingly sophisticated robots have to pick up the slack, here and around the world. Because if humanity expects to feed its booming population off a static amount of land, it’s going to need help.

    Here in the Salinas Valley, farmers and tech types are teaming up to turn this into a kind of Silicon Valley for agriculture. And they’re not stopping at water-knife-wielding robots. Because it’s data that will truly drive this agricultural revolution. It’s not just about robots doing jobs humans don’t want to do, but AI doing jobs humans can’t do. And AI can’t go anywhere without data.

    For sure, the robots will definitely support the dwindling farming workforce. Fewer immigrant workers are coming to the fields, and their demographics are shifting. “Just with a changing population here in California, we’ve got an aging workforce,” says Mark Borman, president of Taylor Farms California, which operates the robot. “So people who are coming out to do agricultural, we’re not getting that younger population into the job.”

    That means not only using robots to help fill those jobs, but modifying the product they grow to make things easier for the machine.
    https://www.wired.com/2017/05/robots-agriculture
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  8. The point is not that making a world to accommodate oneself is bad, but that when one has as much power over the rest of the world as the tech sector does, over folks who don’t naturally share its worldview, then there is a risk of a strange imbalance. The tech world is predominantly male—very much so. Testosterone combined with a drive to eliminate as much interaction with real humans as possible—do the math, and there’s the future.

    We’ve gotten used to service personnel and staff who have no interest or participation in the businesses where they work. They have no incentive to make the products or the services better. This is a long legacy of the assembly line, standardising, franchising and other practices that increase efficiency and lower costs. It’s a small step then from a worker that doesn’t care to a robot. To consumers, it doesn’t seem like a big loss.

    Those who oversee the AI and robots will, not coincidentally, make a lot of money as this trend towards less human interaction continues and accelerates—as many of the products produced above are hugely and addictively convenient. Google, Facebook and other companies are powerful and yes, innovative, but the innovation curiously seems to have had an invisible trajectory. Our imaginations are constrained by who and what we are. We are biased in our drives, which in some ways is good, but maybe some diversity in what influences the world might be reasonable and may be beneficial to all.

    To repeat what I wrote above—humans are capricious, erratic, emotional, irrational and biased in what sometimes seem like counterproductive ways. I’d argue that though those might seem like liabilities, many of those attributes actually work in our favor. Many of our emotional responses have evolved over millennia, and they are based on the probability that our responses, often prodded by an emotion, will more likely than not offer the best way to deal with a situation.

    Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio wrote about a patient he called Elliot, who had damage to his frontal lobe that made him unemotional. In all other respects he was fine—intelligent, healthy—but emotionally he was Spock. Elliot couldn’t make decisions. He’d waffle endlessly over details. Damasio concluded that though we think decision-making is rational and machinelike, it’s our emotions that enable us to actually decide.

    With humans being somewhat unpredictable (well, until an algorithm completely removes that illusion), we get the benefit of surprises, happy accidents and unexpected connections and intuitions. Interaction, cooperation and collaboration with others multiplies those opportunities.

    We’re a social species—we benefit from passing discoveries on, and we benefit from our tendency to cooperate to achieve what we cannot alone. In his book, Sapiens, Yuval Harari claims this is what allowed us to be so successful. He also claims that this cooperation was often facilitated by a possibility to believe in “fictions” such as nations, money, religions and legal institutions. Machines don’t believe in fictions, or not yet anyway. That’s not to say they won’t surpass us, but if machines are designed to be mainly self-interested, they may hit a roadblock. If less human interaction enables us to forget how to cooperate, then we lose our advantage.

    Our random accidents and odd behaviors are fun—they make life enjoyable. I’m wondering what we’re left with when there are fewer and fewer human interactions. Remove humans from the equation and we are less complete as people or as a society. “We” do not exist as isolated individuals—we as individuals are inhabitants of networks, we are relationships. That is how we prosper and thrive.
    http://davidbyrne.com/journal/eliminating-the-human
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  9. Among the 30% of respondents who said they did not think things would turn out well in the future were those who said the trajectory of technology will overwhelm labor markets, killing more jobs than it creates. They foresee a society where AI programs and machines do most of the work and raise questions about people’s sense of identity, the socio-economic divisions that already distress them, their ability to pay for basic needs, their ability to use the growing amount of “leisure time” constructively and the impact of all of this on economic systems. It should also be noted that many among the 70% who expect positive change in the next decade also expressed some of these concerns.

    Richard Stallman, Internet Hall of Fame member and president of the Free Software Foundation, commented, “I think this question has no answer. I think there won’t be jobs for most people a few decades from now, and that’s what really matters. As for the skills for the employed fraction of advanced countries, I think they will be difficult to teach. You could get better at them by practice, but you couldn’t study them much.”
    http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/05/03/the-future-of-jobs-and-jobs-training
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  10. The robots hypothesis says that as technology gets cheaper, employers are substituting machines for workers. A 2013 paper by Lukas Karabarbounis and Brent Neiman found that costs of capital goods have been getting cheaper, and concluded that companies are substituting technology for human labor. This fits with other research showing adverse effects on wages from the adoption of new technologies like industrial robots.

    But there are problems with this thesis as well. A recent study by David Autor, David Dorn, Lawrence Katz, Christina Patterson and John Van Reenen found that the labor share is falling across the whole economy, but not within companies. In other words, companies themselves aren’t substituting machines for workers, as we might expect them to do if robots were getting really cheap. Instead, the economy is simply shifting resources toward a few large companies that are very capital-intensive, and away from the more numerous, smaller companies that use more human labor. Autor et al. blame increasing monopoly power for labor’s decline.

    Then there’s the idea that landowners, not corporate overlords, are taking money away from workers. While analyzing the work of French economist Thomas Piketty, Matt Rognlie found that national income accounts showed an increasing amount flowing to owners of land. More recently, economist Dietrich Vollrath examined a paper by Simcha Barkai about rising profits, and found that profits from owner-occupied housing also rose sharply.

    Supporters of the other theses have yet to really grapple with the landlords explanation. The reason is that the people pushing this fourth idea justify it based on national income accounts, while supporters of the other three explanations tend to look at corporate behavior up close. When economists speak in different languages, it’s harder to have a debate.

    So that leaves us with as many as four competing explanations, each with some reasonably compelling circumstantial evidence in its favor. What to do? Eventually, economists will probably find new, better ways of putting these theories head to head. But in the meantime, it’s worth asking whether some of these explanations could actually be measuring different parts of the same phenomenon.

    A recent blog post by Paul Krugman offers a possible insight. Krugman notes that it’s possible that some companies are more capital-intensive and some are more labor-intensive -- think of factories making televisions with robots while others assemble them by hand. When the productivity of the capital-intensive companies improves -- due to mechanization, or the internet, or globalization -- it shifts production toward those companies, and lowers wages in the process.

    Now suppose that those capital-intensive companies are a small handful of superstar multinationals, while the labor-intensive companies are a bunch of small, local competitors. Improvement in robots, information technology and globalization would therefore be shifting resources away from the many and toward the few -- in other words, exactly the same phenomenon that Autor et al. describe. Huge companies are probably more capable of building automated factories, using online supply chains to outsource production to China.

    So monopoly power, robots and globalization might all be part of one unified phenomenon -- new technologies that disproportionately help big, capital-intensive multinational companies. Meanwhile, technology that augments human labor-power -- for example, cheap energy -- might have languished in recent decades, due to the failure to replace oil and gas with better power sources. Hence, small companies that use lots of workers might be losing out in the age of information technology.

    That theory still doesn’t explain how landlords might fit into the picture. But it provides a possible way to unify at least some of the competing explanations for this disturbing economic trend.
    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articl...stery-of-labor-s-falling-share-of-gdp
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