Tuesday, October 31, 2017

You Will Lose Your Job to a Robot—and Sooner Than You Think

Below is the latest Green/Left scare.  It is in fact hundreds of years old but it seems to have been reanimated by the advent of driverless cars. It goes back to Ned Ludd, in the 18th century, who wrecked weaving machines that threatened hand-weavers with losing their jobs.  Ever since, new forms of mechanization have been seen as casting hordes of people into unemployment.  But it has never happened.  After a couple of hundred years of more and more mechanization, unemployment never seems to vary much

Why is mechanization no problem?  What will those cast out of work do for a living?  The answer, broadly, is that there is an insatiable demand for personal services.  Only a tiny percentage of our population is growing all our food these days and even factory work has declined greatly.

And a major replacement activity we all know about is eating out. Figures vary but most people will eat out for several meals a week.  We could perfectly easily feed ourselves but we choose to  go out and find someone who can do it better.  And with the cooks concerned come waitresses, managers, bus boys, food delivery men, cleaners etc.

And another great arena for creating jobs is accommodation.  We want bigger and better houses and apartments.  And building them is a huge labor-intensive enterprise.

But those are just two obvious examples.  The point is that in a market economy jobs arise to meet the demand that people with money to spend create.  The work may be humble -- as with shoeshine "boys", bus-boys, janitors, roadwork signallers, cleaners, prostitutes etc but people will always find something more that they "need" done. Capitalism will come to the rescue!  Much to the ire of the useless Leftist "planners"

I want to tell you straight off what this story is about: Sometime in the next 40 years, robots are going to take your job.

I don’t care what your job is. If you dig ditches, a robot will dig them better. If you’re a magazine writer, a robot will write your articles better. If you’re a doctor, IBM’s Watson will no longer “assist” you in finding the right diagnosis from its database of millions of case studies and journal articles. It will just be a better doctor than you.

Until we figure out how to fairly distribute the fruits of robot labor, it will be an era of mass joblessness and mass poverty.
And CEOs? Sorry. Robots will run companies better than you do. Artistic types? Robots will paint and write and sculpt better than you. Think you have social skills that no robot can match? Yes, they can. Within 20 years, maybe half of you will be out of jobs. A couple of decades after that, most of the rest of you will be out of jobs.

In one sense, this all sounds great. Let the robots have the damn jobs! No more dragging yourself out of bed at 6 a.m. or spending long days on your feet. We’ll be free to read or write poetry or play video games or whatever we want to do. And a century from now, this is most likely how things will turn out. Humanity will enter a golden age.

But what about 20 years from now? Or 30? We won’t all be out of jobs by then, but a lot of us will—and it will be no golden age. Until we figure out how to fairly distribute the fruits of robot labor, it will be an era of mass joblessness and mass poverty. Working-class job losses played a big role in the 2016 election, and if we don’t want a long succession of demagogues blustering their way into office because machines are taking away people’s livelihoods, this needs to change, and fast. Along with global warming, the transition to a workless future is the biggest challenge by far that progressive politics—not to mention all of humanity—faces. And yet it’s barely on our radar.

That’s kind of a buzzkill, isn’t it? Luckily, it’s traditional that stories about difficult or technical subjects open with an entertaining or provocative anecdote. The idea is that this allows readers to ease slowly into daunting material. So here’s one for you: Last year at Christmas, I was over at my mother’s house and mentioned that I had recently read an article about Google Translate. It turns out that a few weeks previously, without telling anyone, Google had switched over to a new machine-learning algorithm. Almost overnight, the quality of its translations skyrocketed. I had noticed some improvement myself but had chalked it up to the usual incremental progress these kinds of things go through. I hadn’t realized it was due to a quantum leap in software.

But if Google’s translation algorithm was better, did that mean its voice recognition was better too? And its ability to answer queries? Hmm. How could we test that? We decided to open presents instead of cogitating over this.

But after that was over, the subject of erasers somehow came up. Which ones are best? Clear? Black? Traditional pink? Come to think of it, why are erasers traditionally pink? “I’ll ask Google!” I told everyone. So I pulled out my phone and said, “Why are erasers pink?” Half a second later, Google told me.

Not impressed? You should be. We all know that phones can recognize voices tolerably well these days. And we know they can find the nearest café or the trendiest recipe for coq au vin. But what about something entirely random? And not a simple who, where, or when question. This was a why question, and it wasn’t about why the singer Pink uses erasers or why erasers are jinxed. Google has to be smart enough to figure out in context that I said pink and that I’m asking about the historical reason for the color of erasers, not their health or the way they’re shaped. And it did. In less than a second. With nothing more than a cheap little microprocessor and a slow link to the internet.

(In case you’re curious, Google got the answer from Design*Sponge: “The eraser was originally produced by the Eberhard Faber Company…The erasers featured pumice, a volcanic ash from Italy that gave them their abrasive quality, along with their distinctive color and smell.”)

Still not impressed? When Watson famously won a round of Jeopardy! against the two best human players of all time, it needed a computer the size of a bedroom to answer questions like this. That was only seven years ago.

What do pink erasers have to do with the fact that we’re all going to be out of a job in a few decades? Consider: Last October, an Uber trucking subsidiary named Otto delivered 2,000 cases of Budweiser 120 miles from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Colorado Springs—without a driver at the wheel. Within a few years, this technology will go from prototype to full production, and that means millions of truck drivers will be out of a job.

Automated trucking doesn’t rely on newfangled machines, like the powered looms and steam shovels that drove the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. Instead, like Google’s ability to recognize spoken words and answer questions, self-driving trucks—and cars and buses and ships—rely primarily on software that mimics human intelligence. By now everyone’s heard the predictions that self-driving cars could lead to 5 million jobs being lost, but few people understand that once artificial-intelligence software is good enough to drive a car, it will be good enough to do a lot of other things too. It won’t be millions of people out of work; it will be tens of millions.


Rev heads won’t buy the end of car ownership

The flying-car crowd are at it again, extrapolating wildly about the future of motoring from a few skid marks on the highway. The latest is columnist Hugo Rifkind of The Times in these pages last week.

Apparently, car ownership is headed for the wreckers and “however much you currently love your own car, you will not be sorry”.

There’s a war on private cars, he says, citing the latest London levy, and once driverless vehicles are here “what could be madder than having your own car, which costs half your salary and spends its life sitting outside your house?”

He’s right about the last bit, of course. By some estimates, we use our cars only 5 per cent of the time. If a company employed ­assets like that, shareholders would rebel.

But we’re individuals and we all have stuff that makes no financial sense — our kitchens and garden sheds are full of it. In fact, our kitchens and gardens are part of it. Exhibit A is your house itself. It might be cheaper to rent by the hour, but who wants to live like that?

As an asset, a house has one clear advantage over a car: there’s a chance it will go up in value. No such luck for motorists, and depreciation is just part of the deal. Drivers are hit at every turn with taxes, tolls and fines. Canberra reaps more than $1 billion a year solely from import tariffs and the luxury car tax, and governments are always on the lookout for other ways to sting us. If there’s a hole in the budget, deploy more speed cameras.

So there’s a war on private cars, all right, but it’s nothing new. The motorist has been played for a mug since the dawn of the car.

So let’s look at the score. It’s governments nil, drivers 1.2 billion — the number of vehicles on the planet’s roads. Motorists keep coming back for more and that’s a measure of just how attached we are to cars, despite it all.

Ah, say the Jetsons, we’re at an inflection point.

Car-sharing and autonomy are about to change the game. Even car companies see it coming and they’re reinventing themselves as “mobility providers”.

In this imagined future, autonomous cars can be summoned with a snap of the fingers and take you where you wish. It’s not a car you own — you don’t need to — and so you avoid all the needless expense. The emotional bond ­between human and car is severed for good.

We already have a system that works like this; it’s called the taxi. The autonomous car changes the game when it comes to supply, but the service is effectively the same.

And the taxi is just one facet of public transport — if you’re lucky enough to have some. It gives you options — taxi, bus, train — that sometimes you’ll use, sometimes you won’t.

None of it stops you needing your own car when nothing else will do — for a weekend away, to ferry the football team, shop at Ikea or travel vast distances.

Its on-demand flexibility cannot be beaten.

If you live somewhere without public transport, you won’t be getting autonomous taxis, in any case. The hype is overheated. Full self-driving remains a long way off and, when it arrives, it will be geo-fenced to specific areas. Cars will still need steering wheels for when they stray from the zone. You’ll still need a car, full stop.

An idea has become fashionable that we’re approaching “peak car” because sharing and autonomy will take the wind out of the industry. If so, nobody has told the people of China, who already buy one in four vehicles.

It’s still going to take decades for China to reach the level of car ownership we have in the West, and the same goes for India and other developing ­nations.

Perhaps they will leapfrog ownership straight to sharing. More likely they will want what we have now. They might feel — as many of us do — that car ownership is a statement of achievement, as emblematic as what we wear. More fundamentally, nothing says freedom like having your own wheels. No matter how wide you roam on social media.

Moreover, the same innovations which will make autonomy efficient, such as congestion-­easing algorithms and clever parking systems, will make private cars more convenient too.

“The temptation is to assume that the future looks much like the past,” cautions Rifkind. ­Remember the horse and cart.

He’s missing crucial similarities here. Horse and carts also meant independence.

The visionaries themselves have something in common: an unwillingness to say “when”. Without a time frame, they can never be wrong. It’s a fraudulent exercise, wishful thinking masquerading as insight.

Give them an Uber ride, and they’ll take a transcontinental trip. Or rather, they won’t. ­Because to do that they’ll need their own cars.


Benny Peiser: What I Told Cambridge University’s Spoiled Green Students

‘This House would rather cool the planet than warm the economy’

Madame President, ladies and gentlemen

I am opposing today’s motion because I regard it as perhaps the most inhuman and amoral motion ever proposed at the Cambridge Union. Let me explain.

Let’s translate what the motion actually says and what it means.

What the motion proposes is that societies and governments should abandon the traditional goal of economic growth while prioritising policies to decarbonise.

In short, economic growth and development should be sacrificed in the name of climate protection.

Thankfully, not a single government in the world – and not even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – is advocating this kind of economic self-harm, nor is any country willing to adopt the motion proposed today.

Nevertheless, the fact that stopping economic development is even being advocated by some of the world’s most privileged students in Cambridge reveals how far removed this green bubble is from the harsh reality of billions of people who are desperately trying to escape poverty.

Let’s not beat about the bush: If today’s motion would ever be implemented by some radical green government, it would lead to the death of millions of poor people in the developing world, astronomical mass unemployment and economic collapse.

That’s because poor nations without economic growth have no future and are unable to raise living standards for impoverished populations.

But we don’t need to speculate what green subsidies and taxes have already done to people struggling with rising energy costs.

As climate taxes and subsidies have driven up energy prices all over Europe, a growing number of families are forced to decide whether to heat their homes or buy food.

For millions of people all over Europe, the EU’s green energy policy has proven to be an economic and social disaster.

Climate and green energy policies have lead to is the biggest wealth transfer in the history of modern Europe — from the poor to the rich.

Ordinary families and small and medium-sized businesses are essentially paying wealthy landowners and investors who can afford to install wind turbines or solar panels on their land and homes.

20-times as many people die each year from cold-related illnesses than from heat.

The Office of National Statistics in England and Wales shows that based on past numbers, one million Brits are expected to die from cold in their homes by 2050. Do people in this room really want to make the world colder?

Energy poverty is sweeping Europe. As many as nine million British families pay 10 per cent or more of their household income towards heat and electricity.

Even in relatively wealthy Germany, 15 per cent of its citizens face energy poverty. This year more than 300.000 German families had their electricity cut off because they cannot pay their bills. 6 million household have been threaten with the same fate if they don’t pay up. And that’s happening in one of the world’s richest countries.

While Europe is stagnating and losing its competitive edge, much of Asia is booming, running its growing industries and manufacturing on cheap coal and gas.

According to a new report published this week by the International Energy Agency, Southeast Asia’s energy demand is expected to climb nearly 60 percent by 2040 from now, led by fossil fuel power generation, as rising incomes in the region spur more people to buy electric appliances including air conditioners.

Let me remind you of the economic and energy challenges African nations face. Africa, with 1.2-billion people and 20% of global land mass, makes just 3% of the world’s electricity.

In Africa half the population — 600 million people are without access to energy.

China has 1.4-billion people, roughly the same as Africa, but it generates 12 times more electricity.

The reasons is simple: China has built hundreds of coal and gas-fired power plants around the country. Every week they add one or two to their fleet so that they can provide 1.4 billion people with affordable energy.

Globally more than 1 billion people are without access to electricity and 2.6 billion people are without hygienic cooking facilities.

Providing comprehensive access to cheap and reliable electricity is the single most pre-requisite for economic development.

The proponents of today’s motion argue that economic growth should be sacrificed or at least curtailed in order to cut global CO2 emissions.

Denying the world’s poor the very basis on which Britain and much of Europe became wealthy — largely due to cheap coal, oil and gas — amounts to an inhumane and atrocious attempt by green activists to sacrifice the needs of the world’s poor on the altar of climate alarmism.

In order to improve the plight of the poor in both the developed and the developing world we need both strong economic growth and cheap and reliable energy.

Expansive green toys for landowner and solar investor — who are reaping hundreds of billions in renewable subsidies paid by ordinary families and the poor – hurt the economy and forces the poor to pay for ineffective virtue signalling.

It is only right that a growing number of African leaders accuse wealthy do-gooders in the West of hypocrisy when well-off greens seek to deny them the very energy that made Britain and the Western world rich.

The growing anger of many Africans about Europe’s green obsession was summed up recently by Nigerian finance minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun. Listen carefully so that you know what African leaders really think about green hypocrites:

‘We in Nigeria have coal but we have a power problem. Yet we’ve been blocked because it is not green. There is some hypocrisy because we have the entire western industrialization built on coal energy, that is the competitive advantage that they have been using. Now Africa wants to use coal and suddenly they are saying oh! You have to use solar and wind which are the most expensive, after polluting the environment for hundreds of years and now that Africa wants to use coal they deny us.’

Is that really what you want to achieve – fighting African attempts to provide affordable energy to hundreds of millions of poor people? That would be the result if you took todays’ motion seriously.

No. The goal of humanists and humanitarians cannot be to deny the world’s poorest access to cheap and reliable energy. This is what today’s motion essentially demands — prioritise the green agenda and sacrifice economic growth and poverty reduction.

At its core, the motion is deeply wicked and should be rejected by everyone who takes the urgent needs of the world’s poor into consideration rather than prioritise an intolerant if well-meaning green agenda that is harming millions of people today.


The Global Warming Thought Police Want Skeptics In 'Jail'

Conform or else. That's the message of the global warming alarmists. Those who don't buy into the man-made climate change narrative should be prosecuted as criminals.

"Put officials who reject science in jail," someone named Brad Johnson who says he's executive director of something called Climate Hawks Vote tweeted last month.

At roughly the same time, Mark Hertsgaard typed a screed in The Nation which ran under the headline:

"Climate Denialism Is Literally Killing Us: The victims of Hurricane Harvey have a murderer — and it's not the storm.​"

"How long," Hertsgaard asked, "before we hold the ultimate authors of such climate catastrophes accountable for the miseries they inflict?"

And then there's Bill Nye, the Junk Science Guy, who hasn't been able to cover up his apparent desire to see "criminal investigations" against those ignoring his truth. It's not hard to see through him, though. He dissembles like a politician but his appetite is clear.

The urge to prosecute and imprison those who don't believe as they have been commanded to is not a new wrinkle among the alarmist tribe. Three years ago, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., sounding like, well, a Kennedy, said the Koch brothers "should be in jail, I think they should be enjoying three hots and a cot at The Hague with all the other war criminals."

"Do I think the Koch brothers should be tried for reckless endangerment? Absolutely, that is a criminal offence and they ought to be serving time for it."

The Kochs' crime? Selling energy resources to willing buyers and funding organizations that have reservations about the climate change story we're constantly being told.

Of course Kennedy's wild man rant isn't new either. The history of mankind is marked with incidents of one group forcing its beliefs on another at the point of the sword — and more lately at the strike of a U.S. passenger jet.

Kennedy, Johnson, Hertsgaard and others probably don't seem themselves as runaway zealots. But what zealot has ever recognized his or her own fanaticism?

Maybe the worst case of zealotry from one who refuses to see his own intolerance is British funnyman Eric Idle, who tweeted earlier this year that the skeptics who hold their position due to "stupidity and ignorance" should be punished "humanely. Put down gently." Idle, we can't forget, was part of Monty Python's Flying Circus, which was responsible the famous line: "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition."

Sadly, that line just isn't as funny anymore. All the air went out of it when one of the team members who co-wrote and acted in the skit decided to support a modern inquisition led by climate radicals. We should have seen it coming.


Elon Musk brought to tears by how much Australians pay for power

Billionaire energy mogul Elon Musk was almost brought to tears by Australia's deepening electricity crisis that has prices soaring out of control.

The Tesla boss was confronted with figures showing record numbers of people were disconnected because they couldn't pay their bills.

'Wow, really?' he said in disbelief when told by 60 Minutes that power was becoming a 'luxury item' for many families.

'I didn't realise it was that expensive. Australia has so many natural resources that even if you go the fossil fuel route, electricity should be very cheap.'

His shock turned to sadness when he was told many people were worried they wouldn't be able to turn on their lights or cook food.

'I did not expect that,' he said, his voice wavering, before pausing several seconds and promising: 'We'll work harder.'

Mr Musk in July promised to build the world's biggest lithium ion battery in South Australia after the state's disastrous blackout.

But he didn't realise he was walking into a political firestorm that saw his ambitious project mercilessly mocked by the Federal Government.

'By all means, have the world's biggest battery, have the world's biggest banana, have the world's biggest prawn like we have on the roadside around the country, but that is not solving the problem,' Treasurer Scott Morrison said at the time.

'Thirty thousand SA households could not get through watching one episode of Australia's Ninja Warrior with this big battery, so let's not pretend it is a solution.'

Mr Musk was confused as to what the Big Banana actually was, but admitted criticism from Australia's government go to him.

'I didn't realise there was this big battle going on, I just didn't know,' he said on Sunday night's program.

'We get that all the time. It can be a little disheartening, yeah.'

The government is sticking to its guns, with Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg saying it wasn't enough to stop another blackout.

'Elon Musk's battery was a fraction of the size of the Snowy Hydro Scheme,' he said. 'It was sold to the people of South Australia by Jay Weatherill as an answer to their woes, whereas in reality, it's just a fraction of what that state needs.'

Mr Frydenberg talked up the government's National Energy Guarantee, even though he himself said it would only cut bills by up to $115 a year.

Mr Musk said Australia was 'perfect' for solar power and not only could it get all its energy from solar, wind, and other renewables - it could even export it.

'Australia could export power to Asia, there's so much land there you could actually power a significant chunk of Asia,' he said.

He believed his 100 megawatt (129MWh) battery could be the first step to Australia becoming a renewable energy powerhouse. 'You have to do these things to get the world's attention, otherwise they just don't believe you, they don't think it's possible,' he said.

'People in Australia should be proud of the fact that Australia has the world's biggest battery. 'This is pretty great.'It is an inspiration and it will serve to say to the whole world that this is possible.'

Mr Musk said the world needed to quickly switch to renewable power or it would be sent back to the 'dark ages'. 'We will have the choice of the collapse of civilisation and into the dark ages we go or we find something renewable,' he said.

Batteries on a much smaller scale were already available and helping Australian families slash their power bills.

Michael and Melissa Powney installed a Tesla lithium battery and connected it to their solar panels, which can charge it up in a few hours of sunshine.

Instead of huge power bills, the family even made $32 in power sent back to the grid in the past month - and had the only house on the street with power during the blackout.

'We were seeing electricity bills of over $1,000 before we put the solar in, so I can only imagine what they would be like now if we didn't,' Mr Powney said.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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