I thought the board might want to discuss the following article and its implications for our economy. Here's the first paragraph and the link:nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/apr/02/how-robots-algorithms-are-taking-over/
"In September 2013, about a year before Nicholas Carr published The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, his chastening meditation on the human future, a pair of Oxford researchers issued a report predicting that nearly half of all jobs in the United States could be lost to machines within the next twenty years. The researchers, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, looked at seven hundred kinds of work and found that of those occupations, among the most susceptible to automation were loan officers, receptionists, paralegals, store clerks, taxi drivers, and security guards. Even computer programmers, the people writing the algorithms that are taking on these tasks, will not be immune. By Frey and Osborne’s calculations, there is about a 50 percent chance that programming, too, will be outsourced to machines within the next two decades."
What interests me most are the implications for those who believe both that unfettered free markets can solve all of our problems and that climate change is of human origin. The typical solution in market based economies to increases in technological productivity and the job loss that results is to create more demand for existing products or new ones, but how do you do that without increasing carbon emissions? Even if you don't agree with that premise, the article itself is fascinating and has many important implications to our economy and our future as a nation. It's worth a read.
From my perspective, most humans are basically lazy (not fond of work) and often unwilling to follow instructions properly. Machines do not tire nor complain, yet need specific man made instructions and components to operate properly.
On the topic of the environment, I believe a lack of regulation (rule of law and enforcement of those rules), not technology, is responsible for most of the man's impact on the environment. Technology can be carbon neutral if designed by man to be so.
Well designed technological systems require a feed back loop. Only through man's desire and ability to complete the feed back loop (input, process, output, feedback) do systems improve. Technological systems need to help humans meet a higher standard of life, not merely a higher standard of living. These are not always evident until the feedback loop has presented itself. If we want better outcomes it is man's "new job" to focus on the feed back loop by redesigning, retesting, and reevaluating these systems.
This article seems to pit a romantic yesterday against an uncertain tomorrow by making us fear today...sorry I don't buy it. I believe math, science and engineering matter more today than ever before. I also think these skills worries those who never picked up a hammer or used a t-square nor availing themselves to learn how to write code or program a sensor.
When robots do everything - Who will be able to buy what they produce?
There are plenty of high tech manufacturing occupations for those individuals that have the skill set. Unfortunately, we prepare very few kids for these tech jobs today. Instead, we send them off to 4 years of post high school (I won't even call it college because many incoming freshman won't graduate). While there they accumulate debt and record the death of their brain cells on Facebook. Not such a great use of a human resource or technology.
We've lowered the bar in this country pushing the virtues of excess consumerism. Its easy and profitable. Technology plays it's part in all of this, but it's not the cause.
A doctor who buys a $100,000 scanner will want to use it every chance he or she gets to recoup its cost...in many instances adding unnecessary tests and costs to a patient's healthcare.
NASA spent 1 million developing a pen that would work in space. The Russia still use a pencil.
Finally, getting back to your concern about losing jobs to robots. Who's programming these robots? Who's repairing and maintaining these robots? Whose designing these robots?
Jobs shift... from low tech to high tech.