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AI Robotics Hardware

Robot Workforce Threatens Education-Intensive Jobs 496

Posted by Soulskill
from the they-can-already-govern-california dept.
An anonymous reader writes "For years, robots have been replacing workers in factories as technology has come to grips with high-volume, unskilled labor. An article in Slate makes the case that the robot workforce is poised to move into fields that require significantly more training and education. From the article: 'In the next decade, we'll see machines barge into areas of the economy that we'd never suspected possible — they'll be diagnosing your diseases, dispensing your medicine, handling your lawsuits, making fundamental scientific discoveries, and even writing stories just like this one. Economic theory holds that as these industries are revolutionized by technology, prices for their services will decline, and society as a whole will benefit. As I conducted my research, I found this argument convincing — robotic lawyers, for instance, will bring cheap legal services to the masses who can't afford lawyers today. But there's a dark side, too: Imagine you've spent three years in law school, two more years clerking, and the last decade trying to make partner — and now here comes a machine that can do much of your $400-per-hour job faster, and for a fraction of the cost. What do you do now?'"
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Robot Workforce Threatens Education-Intensive Jobs

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  • Re:Cry me a river (Score:5, Insightful)

    by djmurdoch (306849) on Monday September 26, 2011 @06:30PM (#37521000)

    2-3 years, not 120. The most an Apple laptop battery lasts is 2-3 years.

  • by VAElynx (2001046) on Monday September 26, 2011 @06:31PM (#37521010)
    Since, it can't cope with people not being needed, as even if it'd be economically feasible, it refuses to provide people with anything free. When human work becomes obsolete, and unemployment crosses some threshold, there will be widespread revolts. Compare with industrial revolution and Luddites.
  • Re:Ah, naivety (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Monday September 26, 2011 @06:45PM (#37521140)

    So, what, everyone, being unemployed, just sits in the dark and starves ?

    I think that would be one of the best times to scrap our money-driven society.

  • Re:Well (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Snotman (767894) on Monday September 26, 2011 @06:48PM (#37521176)

    You have a misunderstanding of law. For one, if law was black and white, there would be no need for judges which may be your point. People may miss judges if we went with black/white law because there will be no evolution in law. There are always new issues to litigate and ponder like stem cells, hacking, deep packet inspection, copyright on the internet, robotic rights, clones, artificial intelligence, etc. How does a robot respond to new ideas that are not covered by law? Constitutionalists seem to argue this point frequently as they would prefer the law was black and white and administered the way the authors of the constitution "intended". Robots would suit them nicely, but I am sure they are not prepared for the consequences of living with law that was made centuries ago.

  • Re:Well (Score:4, Insightful)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Monday September 26, 2011 @06:50PM (#37521186) Homepage

    The Law is Black and white anyways... I mean how much more True/False can you get?

    Laws are often ambiguous or conflict with each other -- a large purpose of appellate courts is resolving such issues. But setting that aside, even if we were to assume perfect black/white laws, the facts that must be fed to these laws are often gray and very often completely opposed.

    Car analogy: Take the simple legal proposition that if you cause a car wreck, you are going to have to pay for the other party's medical expenses caused by your negligence (but not for any conditions not caused by your negligence). At trial, two equally qualified medical experts testify, one stating that the rearendee's neck condition was a direct result of the physical forces of the accident, and the other that the physical forces were too weak to cause any harm, rather, the neck condition is nothing more than the natural progression of injuries suffered ten years ago while skiing. Both doctors explain their opposite positions well and back up their opinions with peer reviewed medical science.

    The law itself doesn't answer this question of causation -- it merely creates a framework of liability rules and admissible evidence in which the question of causation can be asked of a jury or a judge. A simple T/F computer program would not be able to make a decision in such a case on any basis other than chance. While a jury might use gut feeling rather than a coin flip to decide the issue, and ultimately that is perhaps much like a decision based on chance, most people would probably object to having their cases decided by dice or the digital equivalent.

  • Re:Simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by epine (68316) on Monday September 26, 2011 @07:11PM (#37521370)

    Seriously, technology rarely kills an industry.

    Coitus rarely leads to conception. Asteroids rarely strike planets. I don't think that word means what you think it does. A mortal blow matters every time. For a long time machines only had brawn, speed, or stamina. Things are changing at tremendous speed.

    We're already seeing a sharp rise in income disparity in America and similar economies. The displacement is incremental, but potent nevertheless, and recent trends suggest this process is accelerating. No one has a convincing model for what the labour force will look like 50 years from now.

    As it stands right now, Gary Kasparov would have trouble defeating a high-end cell phone over the chess board. This is an artificial task. Watson is less so. And so it will go. The word "rarely" answers no pressing question.

  • Re:sue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Monday September 26, 2011 @07:38PM (#37521568)
    But what the people in the US don't understand is that if labor were free, it's still cheaper to ship the raw materials from Cupertino to Shenzhen, manufacture in China, then ship the product back to Cupertino to be sold. Why? Environmental regualtions and such. We are exporting our toxic waste to China by sending out the manufacturing. There's more to cost of manufacture than just assembly, but nobody on Slashdot ever seems to consider such things.
  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Monday September 26, 2011 @07:48PM (#37521654) Homepage

    "We are exporting our toxic waste to China by sending out the manufacturing. There's more to cost of manufacture than just assembly, but nobody on Slashdot ever seems to consider such things."

    This is insightful; thanks. This is a major problem with "free trade" agreements, not accounting for externalities.

  • by khallow (566160) on Monday September 26, 2011 @08:44PM (#37522016)

    Since, it can't cope with people not being needed, as even if it'd be economically feasible, it refuses to provide people with anything free. When human work becomes obsolete, and unemployment crosses some threshold, there will be widespread revolts. Compare with industrial revolution and Luddites.

    Socialism will up against the wall before capitalism because its workers will be more expensive and hence, obsoleted first. I can see several endstates (none of which are mutually exclusive): 1) some degree of rejection of technology, enabling humans to compete for certain jobs, 2) improving humans so that they can compete with the new robotics (this probably would entail a merging of human and machine), or 3) we find that there are comparative advantages to human labor that don't go away.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Monday September 26, 2011 @09:14PM (#37522186) Homepage

    The article doesn't contain what the /. summary says it contains. The article is actually a come-on for a promised series of blog entries which are supposed to substantiate the claims it makes. The article claims that within about 20 years (i.e., soon enough to "steal your job"), a whole bunch of intellectually demanding professions (including writing magazine articles and doing scientific research) will be automated. It offers no evidence for that claim. Maybe he believes that strong AI is coming within 20 years. Maybe he believes that computers can do these jobs without strong AI. Neither of those predictions seems plausible to me, and since he doesn't give the slightest hint of what he has in mind, there's not much to discuss.

"Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward" -- William E. Davidsen

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