mfioretti: automation*

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  1. 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
    Read more

    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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  2. 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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  3. 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.”
    Business picture of the day

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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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. "There is a difference between work and labor. Work is an activity a person does to give one's life meaning. Labor is what a human does to survive."

    Being able to provide for yourself and your family defined your worth in your own eyes as well as those around you. This need for dignity will remain no matter how technical and economic landscapes evolve.

    When I started doing the research for this piece, I asked others in the know to respond to the prospect of a world that is fully automated. One of the people I talked to was Phillipe Kahn, founder of Borland, Starfish Software, LightSurf Technologies, and most recently, Fullpower Technologies.

    "I remember being in India and watching a construction site: lots of people, elephants, activity. I asked, 'Why don't you all use bulldozers and tractors and prefabricated concrete parts?' The answer was enlightening: 'How would this community make a living with dignity?' That's the whole paradox that we are dealing with: productivity versus dignity for communities that could be unemployed for generations," said Kahn.
    Work vs. labor

    There is a difference between work and labor. Work is an activity a person does to give one's life meaning. Labor is what a human does to survive. In the old days, work was your avocation and labor was your vocation. Some people were fortunate enough to have their activities be both avocation and vocation.
    https://opensource.com/article/17/2/what-do-we-do-when-everything-automated
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  9. CNNMoney spent a week in the Detroit metro region talking to current and former manufacturing workers. Almost all said the same thing: It's not the robots that took U.S. jobs, it's NAFTA.
    http://money.cnn.com/2017/02/16/news/economy/donald-trump-nafta/index.html
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  10. If the case is so strong, why has it for years not been considered by the main political parties, other than the Greens?

    It's not obviously because it's unaffordable. I reckon a BI of around £130 per week - £20 more than the basic state pension and almost twice the JSA rate - could be paid for by scrapping current spending on social security and tax credits and by abolishing some of the many tax allowances (pdf), the most important being the £62.5bn cost of the personal allowance.

    Instead, it's because A BI breaks with a fundamental principle of the welfare state. This, wrote Beveridge in 1942, is "to make and keep men fit for service.*" One function of the welfare state is to ensure that capital gets a big supply of labour, by making eligibity for unemployment benefit conditional upon seeking work. BI, however, breaks this principle.In its pure form, it allows folk to laze on the beach all day.

    For many of us - including Philippe van Parijs who first alerted me to the merits of BI - this is not a bug but a feature. Jobs are scarce, so it's better for workers if some are subsidized not to seek them, leaving more opportunities for those who do want to work.

    However, this is certainly not in the interests of capitalists, who want a large labour supply - a desire which is buttressed by the morality of reciprocal altruism and the work ethic. It is the fear that a BI would lead to mass skiving that keeps it off the political agenda.

    Is such a fear justified? I don't know. Empirically, it's ambiguous, as a BI would - as I've said - in some ways improve work incentives. For capitalists, though, it is a risky prospect.

    My suspicion is that a full BI is, for this reason, incompatible with capitalism. Yes, it might well be efficient in many ways. But capitalism is about maximizing profits, not utility.
    http://www.pieria.co.uk/articles/basic_income_vs_capitalism
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