For the “It’s the Stupid Economy” chapter…

…and maybe more. This article by John H. Richardson raises some interesting questions about where AI is at and headed. More livelihoods gonna be displace, that’s a given. Got to have “real work” jobs with living wages subsidized by the public sector- though not necessarily just by the government. A truly transparent public sector could include the various levels of streamlined, non corrupted or corruptible, “governments’- along with NGO’s and activist kinds of public service facilitators. And I’m not talking just political activists. Organic, soil, local food activists… anti poverty activists… human rights activists…. mental health and children and family counseling activists…. they all have work to do and no one in the private sector gives a crap. Not a double digit return to be made from what they have to offer.

THE LARGER IMPLICATIONS TAKE A WHILE to sink in. Why do you need a fancy phone if you can talk to your refrigerator? How much are you going to spend on an expensive computer when your alarm clock can do your shopping? Just what we need—another hurricane of creative destruction. And Viv will make it easier to talk to machines at a time when machines are getting fiendishly smarter, which could be the biggest problem of all—not because they might become aware and send Terminators after us, although people like Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking are starting to worry about that, but because they might take our jobs. As the technology writer Martin Ford details in an alarming new book calledRise of the Robots, there’s already a robot pharmacist at the University of California that makes up ten thousand doses of medicine a day, reading the doses off bar codes so that there’s never an error. Robot test scorers are more accurate than teachers, even at reading essays. Electronic-discovery services are eating the jobs of lawyers and paralegals. A newswriting program called Narrative Science puts out millions of simple sports and business stories. Online classes are taking on traditional universities, learning to solve their low completion rates with robot tutors. Fast-food robots are learning how to cook a burger, wrap it, and hand it to you—a threat to the jobs of 3.7 million fast-food workers. Robots are even learning to administer cancer treatments, diagnose diseases, and care for the elderly. According to a February report from Business Insider, the market for this mixture of intelligent algorithms and robots is now growing seven times faster than traditional manufacturing robotics, much of it driven by smartphones and tablets that can control them “at more accessible price points.” And Viv will make all of this so much easier, turbocharging new services like Uber and Google’s self-driving cars, which will be owned by Google or some other company and go back to a central warehouse for robot servicing, which is bad news for the millions of Americans working at car washes, service stations, taxi companies, and delivery companies.


Futurists like Jeremy Rifkin have been warning about the “end of work” for years, but most people have filed that fear under “Luddite” and assume that capitalism will continue replacing lost jobs. Now some of our smartest economists are starting to ring alarms. Back in 2012, Paul Krugman said there was “no question” that smart machines were rapidly replacing workers in many industries, a trend that had the potential to “turn our society into something unrecognizable.” Last year, Larry Summers warned about the “devastating consequences of robots, 3-D printing, [and] artificial intelligence” on both white- and blue-collar jobs. In February, Robert Reich said we were “barreling toward” an economy in which robots do much of the work and most of the profits go to the robots’ owners, while humans are reduced to odd jobs like “Uber drivers, Instacart shoppers, and Airbnb hosts.” A new study from Jeffrey Sachs and three other prominent economists puts the question so starkly it seems a plot point from dystopian science fiction: “Will smart machines replace humans like the internal combustion engine replaced horses? If so, can putting people out of work, or at least out of good work, also put the economy out of business?”


Sachs’s answer? An unqualified yes. His study “firmly predicts” a long-run decline in labor’s share of the national income so severe it could crash the economy. “Absent appropriate fiscal policy that redistributes from winners to losers,” he concludes, “smart machines can mean long-term misery for all.”

Even the libertarians of Silicon Valley are starting to worry. “As much as it pains me to say so,” says Jaron Lanier, the polymath behind virtual reality, “we can survive if we only destroy the middle classes of musicians, journalists, and photographers. What is not survivable is the additional destruction of the middle classes in transportation, manufacturing, energy, office work, education, and heath care.” Martin Ford cites a recent jobs summit he attended with about fifty tech-company CEOs. “Here in Silicon Valley, there’s a remarkable consensus about this. Every single person agreed we’re on the leading edge of a disruption, and we’re going to have to move to a guaranteed basic income. There was overwhelming support for that.”

The above quotes are what most interest me about this article…

Posted in Money Coup; Political Economy; Grotesque Inequality; New Gilded Age

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