AI and Automation Will Replace Most Human Workers Because They Don't Have to Be Perfect—Just Better Than You
BY ELLEN RUPPEL SHELL ON 11/20/18 AT 5:04 PM
Fully 20 percent of men aged 24 to 55 do not have full-time jobs, and nearly half of all new college graduates are unable to find a job that comports with their education. (Contrary to popular thinking, college students are not impractical “basket weaving” majors—roughly 40 percent earn degrees in “occupational” disciplines such as business, legal studies and public administration, an 80 percent increase since 1970.)
And while Uber drivers and freelance dog walkers technically count as “employed,” they are not employed in the sort of occupation that typically offers a living wage. The bottom line is this: Technology has advanced at a breathtaking pace, while the policy designed to help workers deal with these changes has lagged far behind. Hence, the financial benefits of technological change accrue mainly to the few, while the majority of Americans are left with crumbs—precarious, unstable employment that reflects neither their abilities nor their potential.
Dogwalkers are "employed," according to labor statistics. But is this really a fulltime job for someone who wants to work?
“We’re at a unique point in human history,” Rice University computer scientist Moshe Vardi says. “We are sitting on the cusp of an enormous change.”In retail, this is the challenge: When it comes to profits, no brick-and-mortar store—no matter how efficient—can hold a candle to e-commerce, which since 2014 has become the fastest-growing retail sector by far. China’s Alibaba Group—Asia’s most valuable company—is the world’s largest player in this keenly competitive arena. But Alibaba has so far failed to gain a foothold in the United States.
In America, Amazon—the nation’s fastest-growing employer—reigns supreme.Analysts predict that by 2020, one-fifth of the multitrillion-dollar U.S. retail market will have shifted to the web and that Amazon alone will reap two-thirds of that bounty. The company already captures one of every two dollars Americans spend online and is by far the nation’s biggest seller of books, music, video games, cellphones, electronics, small appliances, toys, magazine subscriptions and what seems like almost everything else—hence its nickname, “The Everything Store.”
unlike Roomba and PackBot, Sawyer looks almost human—it has an animated flat-screen face and wheels where its legs should be. Simply grabbing and adjusting its monkey-like arm and guiding it through a series of motions “teaches” Sawyer whatever repeatable procedure one needs it to get done. The robot can sense and manipulate objects almost as quickly and as fluidly as a human and demands very little in return: While traditional industrial robots require costly engineers and programmers to write and debug their code, a high school dropout can learn to program Sawyer in less than five minutes. Brooks once estimated that, all told, Sawyer (and his older brother, the two-armed Baxter robot) would work for a “wage” equivalent of less than $4 an hour.
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