Opinion – This is what robots mean for the economy | World Economic Forum – John Gelmini

BigDog robots trot around in the shadow of an ...

BigDog robots trot around in the shadow of an MV-22 Osprey. BigDog is a dynamically stable quadruped robot created in 2005 by Boston Dynamics with Foster Miller, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Harvard University Concord Field Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr Alf brings us a thoughtful article about robotics and automation which looks into the past for answers but fails to see what is happening now and what is likely to happen in the future.

Robots will replace the need for soldiers on battlefields and dashing fighter pilots in “Top Gun” mode; already Boston Dynamics, a subsidiary of Google, have created a fighting and storming robot, a robot that sniffs explosives, a mule robot and one like a horse that can carry heavy loads and operate in mountainous terrain.

In Japan robots are used as car park attendants, supermarket checkout operatives, care workers, street sweepers, drivers of tractors, lift attendants, hotel receptionists, factory sewing robots making car seats, warehouse picking robots similar to the ones being used by Amazon in its warehouses.

The sheer amount of knowledge is doubling every 3 years, something I was told first-hand by professors at the University of the West of England 18 months ago. Ray Kurzeweil, Google’s Chief Futurist and CTO, says the same thing and that as the rate of increase in new knowledge accelerates we will not be able to keep up.

Thus what Dr Alf did as a younger man, getting a DBA, learning languages and working abroad will not yield the same dividends now as they did then.

Kurzeweil, and people like Elon Musk, envisage the “Singularity” whereby computers will no longer be on our desks, in our phones or on tablets but in our heads. Learning a new skill, languages and other competencies will be a matter of injecting a nanochip with an embedded expert system to “augment” human intelligence.We will therefore have no need of universities, colleges, lecturers, teachers, deans, dons or intellectuals as we now know them.

The model for this was shown to us 15 years earlier in the 1990s with the film the “Matrix” where we saw the hero played by the now 51 year old actor Keanu Reeves being given a “jump programme” inserted into his brain so that he could levitate and leap impossible distances from one building to another.
An American inventor unable to communicate with his new French girlfriend has invented a tiny pea sized translator device which fits unobtrusively into the human ear so that he speaks in English, his girlfriend hears him in French and vice versa.

Essentially all blue collar work and process based work such as law, basic book-keeping, basic accounting, insolvency practice, surgery and probably most basic medical diagnosis will be dealt with by expert systems, either built into robots or as standalone machines coupled with machine learning.
Eric Schmidt of Google put the rate of overall job loss in America at 50% by 2033 whilst speaking at the Grove Hotel in Watford in 2013 to an audience of European world leaders,with Dr Kissinger, Hilary Clinton and our own David Cameron, attending in an “official capacity”. Schmidt repeated these remarks on You Tube a year later.

Oxford University subsequently did a survey of their own and predicted 50% of the world’s jobs would go in 30 years.

The UK and Europe have worse worker productivity than America, so the UK figure could be as high as 75% job losses with Europe not far behind.This takes into account 3D Printing of houses, body parts, car spare parts and other applications currently handled by engineering workshops but not the rate of advance of machine learning or rates of population growth in Africa and the 3rd world which are going to mean even more people chasing fewer jobs.

Assuming no global war, the question then is who is going to choose those people who are going to have their intelligence “augmented” and what happens to everyone else?

Bill Gates suggests taxing robots and perhaps a Universal Income but our politicians are strangely silent about how things will work.

In 2015 at the Interlapen Hotel in Austria the Bilderbergers discussed AI at great length but the details of their minuted discussions were never published, in spite of the BBC being in attendance along with the editors of the Economist, Financial Times, CNN and other global media outlets.

John Gelmini