Yes, Robots Really Are Going To Take Your Job And End The American Dream

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Now that machines can diagnose cancer, trade stocks, and write symphonies, they’re not just going to make humans more efficient as they have in the past—they are replacing them entirely and wrecking the economy along the way.

There’s nothing new about fears of technological unemployment. The idea goes back to the Luddites in 18th century England and John Maynard Keynes in the 1930s. Union bosses have long railed against factory automation, and governments have even resisted technology to maintain higher job levels. Yet predictions that machines would put humans out of work on a significant societal scale have never quite materialized.

However, there’s reason to be believe that, unlike those previous times, we really are entering an age when people will work less. As author Martin Ford puts it in his recent book Rise of the Robots, “this time is different.” New artificially intelligent machines, he says, are not so much tools to improve the efficiency of workers but really are tools to replace workers themselves.

This is an important distinction. Economists tend to dismiss robotization as just another form of “creative destruction.” That is, robots may displace some workers for a while before they also create new kinds of jobs, such as a job market for people who can build robots themselves. Ford says that’s a mistake. It’s true that economies go through cycles of boom and bust and that companies rise and fall. But what’s happening now, he argues, is more like the invention of the aircraft. Before Kitty Hawk, humans didn’t fly; afterwards they did.

Maksim Dubinsky via Shutterstock]

“The question of whether smart machines will someday eclipse the capability of average people to perform much of the work demanded by the economy will be answered by the nature of the technology that arrives in the future—not by lessons gleaned by economic history,” he writes.

Surveying all the fields now being affected by automation, Ford makes a compelling case that this is an historic disruption—a fundamental shift from most tasks being performed by humans to one where most tasks are done by machines. That includes obvious things like moving boxes around a warehouse, but also many “higher skill” jobs as well, such as radiology and stock trading. And don’t kid yourself about your own importance: that list almost certainly includes your job.

We really could be headed for an economy with many fewer jobs in it and a severely-eroded middle class, he argues. Together with other important trends like wealth inequality and globalization, new technology threatens to produce more unemployment and slow the main motor of the U.S. economy—consumer demand.

Here are some things robots can already do:

Write sports articles: Computers can now write sentences like “Things looked bleak for the Angels when they trailed by two runs in the ninth inning, but Los Angeles recovered thanks to a key single from Vladimir Guerrero to pull out a 7-6 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday.” Which sounds a lot like a newspaper account of a baseball game written by a non-robot.

Momentum MachinesFlickr user Steve Jurvetson

Flip burgers: A company called Momentum Machines is developing a machine that shapes burgers from ground meat, grills them, then toasts a bun and adds chopped tomatoes, onions and pickles. Co-founder says Alexandros Vardakostas says the device isn’t meant to make workers’ lives easier. “It’s meant to completely obviate them.”

Perform complex office tasks: WorkFusion makes software that automatically assesses a project to see what parts can be fully automated, which parts can be crowdsourced to a freelance network like Elance, and what still needs to be handled by humans. All the while, it analyzes performance, for instance by asking freelancers questions it already knows the answers to, so that it can test their capabilities. The platform reduces the need for in-house staff by making use of freelancers, but then it looks to do away with them as well. “Even as the freelancers work under the direction of the system, they are simultaneously generating the training data that will gradually lead to their replacement,” Ford writes.

London Symphony OrchestraFlickr user MITO SettembreMusica

Write music: In 2012, the London Symphony Orchestra performed Transits—Into an Abyss, a composition created entirely by Iamus, a system designed at the University of Malaga. One reviewer called it “artistic and delightful.”

Replace Wall Street: At the turn of the century, Wall Street employed 150,000 people. Today, that number is less than 100,000, even though transaction volumes and profits have continued to grow. Trading algorithms are now making many of the financial decisions that used to be made by humans.

Diagnose cancer: The BD FocalPoint GS Imaging System scans slides for more than 100 signs of disease. And, according to Ford, it does a “significantly better job” of finding cancers than humans do (though doctors do still make the final decision—for now).

Flickr user Kārlis Dambrāns

Ford thinks some of the biggest disruptions will take place in industries that are currently bloated and expensive for consumers—industries like higher education and health care. For instance, he forecasts that MOOCs (online courses), automated grading algorithms (which mark essays as well as multiple choice tests) and adaptive learning systems offer a path away from unsustainable college costs. But, again, these technologies may be bad for employment rates in the sector.

Of course, those people doing the automating may stand to do well financially—but perhaps not for long. Ultimately, Ford argues, complete automation will be bad for the economy because machines don’t consume goods and services the way human beings do. The “powerful symbiosis between rising incomes and robust, broad-based consumer demand is now in the process of unwinding,” he says.

“It’s possible that at some future point, rapid technological innovations might shift the expectations of consumers about the likelihood and duration of unemployment, causing them to aggressively cut their spending,” he adds. “If such an event occurred, it’s easy to see how that could precipitate a downward economic spiral that would impact even those workers whose jobs are not directly susceptible.”

The standard response to automation among economists has been to call for more education, so low-paid workers can move up the food chain. But Ford doesn’t think that will help ultimately. Many people are already over-educated for what they do—just look at all the college graduates serving coffee in Starbucks.

Ford says cramming everyone into jobs requiring more skills is “analogous to believing that, in the wake of the mechanization of agriculture, the majority of displaced farm workers would be able to find jobs driving tractors.” Nor, can we hope to stop the automation wave, he says. There’s an inevitability to these technologies, and it’s inevitable that businesses will take advantage. Whatever employers might say publicly, they don’t really want to hire more people than they need.

This leads Ford to make the case for a basic income guarantee—a government payment to all citizens so they can live to a reasonable level. His version would be tied to educational accomplishment. People who get at least a high school diploma would get slightly more money, on the thinking that not having at least a diploma in the future economy will make people even less employable than they are today. He suggests $10,000 per person (which is lower than many other proposals), which would cost about $1 trillion overall, provided the payment was means-tested at the top-end.

This might become an economic necessity, he says, if work is no longer an option for large numbers of people. “If we look into the future and assume that machines will eventually replace human labor to a substantial degree, then I think some form of direct redistribution of purchasing power becomes essential if economic growth is to continue.”

Read the article on FastCompany : http://www.fastcoexist.com/3046203/the-new-rules-of-work/yes-robots-really-are-going-to-take-your-job-and-end-the-american-dream

[Top Photo: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images]

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THE FACE OF DARKNESS “A Must see Film about Depression” by Emelyn Stuart

stuart picWelcome to Ufront Media Insights;

Hello Everyone,  My name is Emelyn Stuart the Founder of Stuart films and the Ocktober Film Festival and today I had the opportunity to interview Squeaky Moore the Director and Co Producer of the film Face of Darkness  which is about three African American men who chronicle their battle with depression as well as their struggle to overcome it and not be overtaken by it. Face of Darkness is character driven and it wraps itself around the stigma surrounding depression amongst Black Men… identifying it, surviving it and the journey to healing.  The film’s objective is to raise awareness of depression in African American males, the detriment of not addressing it, as well as the benefits of treatment. We hope that by exposing the illness in an artistic fashion, the African American community will not only be enlightened, but they will learn how to recognize and seek help for themselves or loved ones. So enjoy my powerful, exclusive interview about the Faces of Darkness A Journey to Healing. 
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EmelynPlease give us a few sentences that describe Faces of Darkness (synopsis)?
Squeaky- Driven to the depths of depression, courageous men chronicle their struggles while battling a mental illness, and their struggle to overcome it or be overtaken by it. The Face of Darkness – Journey to Healing documentary (FOD) is a commentary of clinicians, families of victims, and survivors of mental illness.  This film captures intimate moments and offers empowering opportunities to address the taboos of mental health and depression as it relates to minority males.
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Emelyn – Who is involved in the Faces of Darkness project (any special mentions)?
Squeaky– Dr. Jeffrey Gardere (America’s Pscychologist, CNN, Housewives of Atlanta) Terrie M. Williams, author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, Rapper, Donny Goines, Thomas Young, and Father of Lee Thompson Young.
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Emelyn – Why is this project being created and where do you hope to see it broadcast (TV, theatrical, online)?
Squeaky-Faces of Darkness explores several factors that contribute to the mental health crisis, one of which is the glaring disparity in mental health treatment sought by minority  males in comparison to other demographic groups.  The primary cause for this project is to address the stigma, stereotypes and taboos in the African American community with regards to mental health and depression.  Our objectives are to:
–          Educate the public about depression, anxiety and suicide
–          Eliminate the stigma associated with seeking mental health care
–          Start dialogue that encourages people to seek diagnosis and treatment
–          Reduce suicide rates
–          Encourage and assist healthcare providers in creating resources within at-risk communities
Our goals are for FACES OF DARKNESS film to play at festivals, have a theatrical release as well as, create a docu-series for television.  We’d like to use the film as a tool to aid in helping minorities in all hospitals and mental health centers around the world.
Emelyn-Who is your audience and why?
Squeaky- Our audience are minority male, boys and men from 13-54, urban families, communities, churches and schools.
Emelyn -What is the current status of the project? We are currently filming the feature and simultaneously raising monies for the project. What is the most important thing you want people to know about the project (what do you need)?
Squeaky- We are in need of help and support in our mission to highlight and expose mental health issues plaguing minority male’s across America. In order to accomplish our goal, we are in need of financial resources.  We want to help as many people as possible; but to do so; we must be able to secure the funds necessary to make a wide-ranging impact with our documentary.  Our first step is completing filming on the documentary. Our objective is to release the documentary by May, 2016.
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Emelyn-Please give us a personal quote either about the project or yourself.
Squeaky- My objective for Face of Darkness is to present the world with a fresh, unrepentant perspective from an authentic, creative and educational view-point. I want to highlight stories told through truth, addressing perplexing relationships and the impact they have on the people closest to them. My quote is “I am ultimately hoping to uplift and empower the African American community by highlighting the stories of these men and that affect the hearts of every day people like them” ~Squeaky Moore, Writer, Director, Producer
“As an African American male, I was taught that a man could not express his feelings and to never to cry. There is a stigma in my community that prevents males from sharing emotions, hugging or admitting that we are afraid. Depression runs deep within the African American male community and has become a plaque that is causing so much suffering, even death.”~Kenneth Todd Nelson, Writer, Director, Producer
Emelyn Stuart- Thank you Squeaky for a great interview and for more information about the Faces of Darkness you can click on the links below to get more information on their website, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube . I am Emelyn Stuart contribution reporter on Ufront Media Insights. Thank You!!!
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