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Posts Tagged ‘automation

“Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution”*…

 

What can a 19th-century rebellion against automation can teach us about the coming war– the robots are coming!– in the job market?

Clive Thompson, an author and journalist at the New York Times Magazine and Wired, revisited Luddite’s history in an article for The Smithsonian to see what it could teach us. As machine learning and robotics consume manufacturing and white-collar jobs alike, the 200-year-old rebellion’s implications for automation are more relevant than ever, says Thompson:

“The lesson you get from the end of the Luddites is: Do the people that are profiting off automation today want to participate in distributing their profits more widely around the population, or are they going to fight just as hard as they did back then?”

That economic and political question is hanging over western democracies coping with a wave of populism seemingly tracking a widening gap between stagnant wages and ballooning wealth at the top. While automation eventually tends to create new jobs even after it destroys old ones, that’s little consolation for millions of workers whose skills and experience are obsolete…

More on this all-too-relevant history in a interview with Thompson: “Luddites have been getting a bad rap for 200 years. But, turns out, they were right.”

And do read Thompson’s original article: “When Robots Take All of Our Jobs, Remember the Luddites.”

Then, check out “Robots don’t have to take over jobs in order to be a problem for workers.”

* Stephen Hawking

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As we heft our hammers, we might we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to José Ortega y Gasset; he was born on this date in 1883.  A philosopher and essayist, he is perhaps best known for The Revolt of the Masses, which characterized 20th-century society as dominated by masses of mediocre & indistinguishable individuals– a conception tha converged with other “mass society” theorists like Karl Mannheim, Erich Fromm, and Hannah Arendt.  (Lest his view be seen as too grim and judgmental, he is memorialized in what has become known as “the Ortega hypothesis,” based on a quote in The Revolt of the Masses, that states that average or mediocre scientists contribute substantially to the advancement of science.)

In exile during the Spanish Revolution, he refused to support either side or to hold academic office under Franco.

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Written by LW

May 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords”*…

 

Under the general heading “the robots are after my job,” Kevin Roose, the News Director of Fusion, on how he “wrote 7 blog posts in less than 3 seconds.” (Spoiler alert- it’s all about robojournalism…)

[image above from here]

* frequently-heard riff on Joan Collin’s immortal line (“I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords”) in the 1977 film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ Empire of the Ants. For more on ants, see yesterday’s (R)D

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As we polish our people skills, we might recall that it was on this date in 1876 that Seth Thomas was granted a patent on something that we may no longer need– an alarm clock.  U.S. patent No. 183,725 was issued for the metal case of a one-day back-winding alarm clock, the first American patent for an alarm clock of this familiar type.

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Written by LW

October 24, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Humans were still not only the cheapest robots around, but also, for many tasks, the only robots that could do the job”*…

 

Researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte suggest that about 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerization over the following 20 years (as, one imagines, are similar jobs in other developed nations).

The BBC has developed a handy tool one can use to learn just how much peril one is in: “Will a Robot Take Your Job?

* Kim Stanley Robinson, 2312

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As we revisit Asimov’s Three Laws, we might recall that it was on this date in 1909 that Thomas M. Flaherty filed for the first U.S. patent for a “Signal for Crossings”– a traffic signal.  His signal used a large horizontal arrow pivoted on a post, which turned to indicate the right of way direction, and was activated by an electric solenoid operated by a policeman beside the road.

Flaherty’s was the first U.S. application for a traffic signal design, later issued as No. 991,964 on May 9, 1911. But though it was filed first, it was not the first patent actually issued for a traffic signal: Ernest E. Sirrine filed a different design seven months after Flaherty; but his patent was issued earlier, and thus he held the first U.S. patent for a “Street Traffic System.”

 source (and larger version)

 

Written by LW

September 24, 2015 at 1:01 am

Aye, Robot!…

 

It’s not just the assembly-line worker who’s being replaced by automatons, it’s tough all over:

In the face of rising labor costs, Chinese restaurateur Cui Runguan is selling thousands of robots that can hand slice noodles into a pot of boiling water called the Chef Cui. Runguan says in the report below that just like robots replacing workers in factories, “it is certainly going to happen in sliced noodle restaurants.” The robots costs $2,000 each, as compared to a chef, who would cost $4,700 a year. According to one chef, “The robot chef can slice noodles better than human chefs.” News of Runguan’s invention hit the internet in March of 2011, but they’ve since gone into production and are starting to catch on: 3,000 of them have already been sold. But why do their eyes glow, and why do they look so angry?…

From Eater, via Laughing Squid.

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As we admire the precise proportions of our pasta, we might send well-insulated birthday greetings to Ray McIntire; he was born on this date in 1918.  While working at Dow Chemical during World War II in search of a substitute for rubber (which was in short supply during the conflict), McIntire combined styrene with isobutylene and created polystyrene, a unique material that was solid yet light and flexible (due to the tiny bubbles formed by the isobutylene within the styrene).  Dow patented the serendipitous invention in 1944 as STYROFOAM™.  In 2008, McIntire was inducted into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame.

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Written by LW

August 24, 2012 at 1:01 am

Convenient Crustacea…

A Chinese inventor has developed a vending machine that distributes live Shanghai Hairy Crabs; a Japanese reporter demonstrates:

The inside of the machine is kept at 5 degrees celsius, a temperature cold enough to send the crabs into a state of hibernation. Signage on the machine assures potential purchasers that all the crabs inside are fresh; indeed, the owner promises that if a coin-op crab is dead-on-arrival, the disappointed buyer will receive three free crabs.  But perhaps the biggest incentive to buy: eliminating the need for store personnel and reducing the overall cost of storage means that the crabs cost 30% less than the customary store price.

As readers will see, the second half of the video is a more general survey of Japanese vending machines– including the marvelous banana vending machine inside Shibuya station, and a bar equipped with sake dispensers.

Via Japan Probe.

As we lay in rolls of quarters, we might recall that it was on this date in 1858 that Hamilton E. Smith received a patent for cycling reheated water in a washing machine.  While earlier washers existed, Smith’s innovation is generally agreed to have created the modern washing machine.

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