While Americans still wrangle their overgrown lawns by pushing or riding a lawnmower, many Europeans have handed off that responsibility to robots. These beefy, Roomba-like mowers loop their way around a yard, keeping grass trim and neat. To many of their users, the bots are endearing. Their owners give them names or cover them in decals of ladybugs or bumblebees. But the sentimentality only goes so far, because these blades-on-wheels have also been slicing up something other than grass: hedgehogs.
2018/09/10: is society incapable of tackling income inequality peacefully?
Walter Scheidel: No, but history shows that there are limits. There is a big difference between maintaining existing arrangements that successfully check inequality (Scandinavia is a good example) and significantly reducing it. The latter requires real change and that is always much harder to do: think of America or Britain, not to mention Brazil, China or India. The modern welfare state does a reasonably good job of compensating for inequality before taxes and transfers. However for more substantial levelling to occur, the established order needs to be shaken up: the greater the shock to the system, the easier it becomes to reduce privilege at the top.
Are we really living in an unfathomable period of wealth inequality, or was the relatively equal society that followed the second world war the real aberration?
Walter Scheidel: When we view history over the long run we can see that this experience was certainly a novelty. We now know that modernisation as such does not reliably reduce inequality. Many things had to come together to make this happen, such as very high income and estate taxes, strong labour unions, and intrusive regulations and controls. Since the 1980s, liberalisation and globalisation have allowed inequality to rise again. Even so, wealth concentration in Europe is nowhere near as high as it was a century ago. America, meanwhile, is getting there, which shows that it all depends on where you look.
measures that worked well in the past may have done so because they were taken in the unique context of massive violent shocks and threats: the world wars and communism. This requires us to be more creative in dealing with inequality. Above all we must think harder about feasibility. It is not enough for economists to come up with recipes to reduce inequality, we also need to figure out how to implement them in an environment that is politically polarised and economically globalised. Both factors limit our scope for intervention.
in practice there will always be losers, and even basic-income schemes can take us only so far. At the end of the day, someone owns the robots. As long as the capitalist world system is in place, it is hard to see how even huge productivity gains from greater automation would benefit society evenly instead of funnelling even more income and wealth to those who are in the best position to pocket these gains.
A border is being drawn in the Middle East for a "new civilization." Spanning across Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, it will house Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s $500 billion vision for the future of living: a fully-automated megacity run on artificial intelligence (AI) called Neom. Here, there will be more robots than people, so residents will be free to spend time on what matters to them and lead happier lives. That is, of course, if the AI is friendly.
A new wave of robots is replacing workers in both manufacturing and distribution.
We're in the midst of a jobs crisis, and rapid advances in AI and other technologies may be one culprit. How can we get better at sharing the wealth that technology creates?
Replacing 90% of personnel with robots at a tech factory in China's Dongguan city increased productivity by an astonishing 162%.
For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
Supporters believe fully automated luxury communism is an opportunity to realise a post-work society, where machines do the heavy lifting and employment as we know it is a thing of the past
Some economists and others have argued smart machines are increasingly stealing our jobs. In fact, the opposite may be true.
Low-wage jobs are no longer the only ones at risk.
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Zeynep Tufekci's scathing response to the establishment consensus that tech will create new jobs to replace the ones we've automated away makes a lot of good points. It's especially good on the subject of whether we have a "shortage" of humans to care for other humans, pointing out that what people really mean when they
The shift to a robot economy is as much political as it is technological.
In a few decades, twenty or thirty years -- or sooner - robots and their associated technology will be as ubiquitous as mobile phones are today, at least that is the prediction of Bill Gates; and we would be hard-pressed to 239172129nd a roboticist, automation expert or economist who could present a strong case against
We regulate machines, from cars to drills. But what what distinguishes a power-drill from a robot-drill? By Cory Doctorow
At the former Wired editor's start-up, 3D Robotics, open-source robots take to the skies
Automation is reducing the need for people in many jobs. Are we facing a future of stagnant income and worsening inequality?
Manufacturers across the world rely on economies from the scale of production to drive down unit cost. This "mass production" approach, focused on efficiency and uniformity of product, is feasible when
The US stock market is approaching a record high-having finally regained all it lost in the 2008 bear market. It would be cause for celebration, if it didn't feel so out of touch with the "main street" reality of elevated unemployment. As a recent New York Times headline read, "recovery in the US is lifting profits, but not adding jobs." The NYT goes on to blame the divide between rising corporate profits, recovering stocks, and stubborn unemployment on technology-or more specifically automation and robots.
Baxter, the affordable, humanoid industrial robot recently unveiled by Rethink Robotics, is so easy to program that I once did it one-handed and drunk. We were at a party at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and he was standing in the corner, looking lonely. No, really-Baxter has expressive eyes projected on a touchscreen where you'd expect it to have a face, virtually guaranteeing that you'll anthropomorphize it.