May 26, 2012
Will Human Workers Become Obsolete?
|Part of his series on Making Sen$e of financial news, Paul Solman has been showcasing the future of technology from a recent conference run by the Singularity University -- things such as 3D printing of prosthetic legs and iPhone heart tests. But the conference also resurfaced an age-old question about the future of human workers.|
Citing statistic of all un- and under-employed peolpe totallingmore than 26 million Americans, nearly 17 percent of the work force, Solman asks, how many of them worked at jobs that machines now perform more cheaply? How many so-called knowledge workers are threatened by the likes of IBM's "Jeopardy" champ, Watson?
High-tech CEO Carl Bass tells Solman that jobs like making sneakers aren't just leaving the U.S., but leaving the whole planet, as machines inexorably take over.
"Like, you can now go to lights-out factories, where robots do almost all of the work."
Solman asks, "And lights out? Why is it called lights out?"
Bass replies,"Because you really don't need lighting in a place that is run by robots."
Later in the segment, Solman discusses the issue with Ray Kurzweil who says:
I don't agree that there's a have-have-not divide. You know, 20 years ago, if you took out a cell phone in a movie, that was a signal that you are a member of the power elite. Today, there are five billion or six billion cell phones. All of them will be smartphones within a few years.The segment also features interviews with Peter Diamandis and Vivek Wadhwa.
In fact, anybody with a device like this or any of these devices is carrying around billions of dollars of capability circa 20 or 30 years ago.
For further information on this theme, we highly recommend Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee's Race Against The Machine. According to the authors, we’re not in a Great Recession, or a Great Stagnation, but rather that we are in the early throes of a Great Restructuring. Our technologies are racing ahead but many of our skills and organizations are lagging behind. So it’s urgent that we understand these phenomena, discuss their implications, and come up with strategies that allow human workers to race ahead with machines instead of racing against them.
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Tags: economics , Paul Solman , PBS , Race Against the Machine , Ray Kurzweil , Singularity University , technological obsolescence
33rd Square explores technological progress in AI, robotics, genomics, neuroscience, nanotechnology, art, design and the future as humanity encroaches on The Singularity.