Sunday, July 23, 2017

Automation: "Professionals and Managers: You’re Next"

Last Saturday Mr. Musk said* to the National Governors Association:
“There certainly will be job disruption. Because what’s going to happen is robots will be able to do everything better than us, I mean, all of us.”
which many in the audience took to mean their kissing babies and cutting ribbons gig might be at risk.
This focused the attention of the politicians.

And the latest, from City Journal:

Automation may replace skilled workers sooner than you expect.
Here’s the dirty little secret about automation: it’s easier to build a robot to replace a junior attorney than to replace a journeyman electrician. And that fact helps explain why economists and politicians are feeling misgivings about “creative destruction,” which, up to now, they have usually embraced as a net good for society. Technology and automation, they’ve argued—correctly—boost productivity and create more jobs overall (even as some kinds of work get eradicated).

In the age of the algorithm, though, they’re not so sure any more, and no wonder: instead of creative destruction coming to factories and farms, it’s sweeping through city centers and taking white-collar jobs. The chattering classes have talked and written for years about the “end of work.” Doubtless many fear that the end of their work is in the offing, this time around.

Understandably, most of the media focus has been on the replacement of manual labor—real robots doing real tasks provide better visuals than an invisible service “bot” in the cloud. But focusing on hamburger-flipping androids is a distraction from where the real revolution is taking place. In any case, automation doesn’t really explain the decline in factory employment: manufacturing-sector investment in information technology has been flat or declining for more than a decade; and productivity, a critical indicator of (and the purpose of) automation has also been flat. Factories are actually underinvested in technology.

But Silicon Valley has been busy building software that will transform businesses, particularly those associated with shopping malls, Hollywood, hotels, taxis, newspapers, broadcast TV, finance, and even education. Some algorithms can teach basic math better than most humans with a B.Ed. Next up are the many paperwork tasks currently administered by bureaucrats and regulators....MORE 
*At the conference Mr. Musk also said:
"The thing that is the most dangerous — and it is the hardest to ... get your arms around because it is not a physical thing — is a deep intelligence in the network.

"You say, 'What harm can a deep intelligence in the network do?' "Well, it can start a war by doing fake news and spoofing email accounts and doing fake press releases and by manipulating information"
but I imagine the Governors were still thinking "Not my job, the people need me!"

Here's the C-SPAN video and transcript segments.