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Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future Paperback – July 12, 2016
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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"Compelling and well-written.... In his conception, the answer is a combination of short-term policies and longer-term initiatives, one of which is a radical idea that may gain some purchase among gloomier techno-profits: a guaranteed income for all citizens. If that stirs up controversy, that's the point. The book is both lucid and bold, and certainly a starting point for robust debate about the future of all workers in an age of advancing robotics and looming artificial intelligence systems."―ZDNet
"For nonfiction, I tip my hat to Martin Ford's Rise of the Robots, which is vacuuming up accolades and is recommended reading for IIF staff. Ford's analysis, in a somewhat crowded field of similar books, offers a sobering assessment of how technology (robotics, machine learning, AI, etc.) is reshaping labor markets, the composition of growth, and the distribution of income and wealth, and calls for enlightened political and policy leadership to address coming, accelerating disruptions and dislocations."―Timothy Adam, Bloomberg Business
"Mr. Ford lucidly sets out myriad examples of how focused applications of versatile machines (coupled with human helpers where necessary) could displace or de-skill many jobs.... His answer to a sharp decline in employment is a guaranteed basic income, a safety net that he suggests would both cushion the effect on the newly unemployable and encourage entrepreneurship among those creative enough to make a new way for themselves. This is a drastic prescription for the ills of modern industrialization--ills whose severity and very existence are hotly contested. Rise of the Robots provides a compelling case that they are real, even if its more dire predictions are harder to accept."―Wall Street Journal
"An alarming new book."―Esquire
"A thorough look at how far machines have come"―Washington Post, Innovations blog
"Ford offers ideas on changes in social policies, including guaranteed income, to keep our economy humming and prepare ourselves for a more automated future."―Booklist
"A careful and courageous examination of automation and its possible impact on society."―Kirkus Reviews
"In Rise of the Robots, Ford coolly and clearly considers what work is under threat from automation."―New Scientist
"Martin Ford has thrust himself into the center of the debate over AI, big data, and the future of the economy with a shrewd look at the forces shaping our lives and work. As an entrepreneur pioneering many of the trends he uncovers, he speaks with special credibility, insight, and verve. Business people, policy makers, and professionals of all sorts should read this book right away--before the 'bots steal their jobs. Ford gives us a roadmap to the future."―Kenneth Cukier, Data Editor for the Economist and co-author of Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think
About the Author
Martin Ford, the founder of a Silicon Valley-based software development firm, has over twenty-five years of experience in computer design and software development. The author of The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology, and the Economy of the Future, he lives in Sunnyvale, California.
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"When the automobile was invented it DID destroy many jobs. Makers of buggy whips and horse troughs were put out of business. But many more NEW jobs were created to replace those older jobs. Witness all the gas stations, auto mechanic shops, car factories, etc."
About 8 years ago I lost faith in the buggy whip argument. I realized that, as the technology of AI advanced, a point would be reached in which intelligent software and general-purpose robots could perform all tasks (both mental and physical) that are currently achievable only by highly educated humans. Once one intelligent robot exists with a high level of general intelligence, it can be mass produced. There have been many advances in AI in recent years (in neural networks, planning and learning systems). Machine learning systems can now learn a number of complex cognitive tasks simply by observing the past performance of human experts.
I have always been an admirer of the combination of modern capitalism and (relatively) free markets as the major drivers of wealth. However, modern capitalism (with its corporations, stock and dividends) is less than a few centuries old. There is no reason to believe that it must last forever. Its "reign" over older economic systems may well end abruptly in the near future.
At one time I toyed with writing a book about my concerns regarding intelligent automation and its future effect on political and economic systems but Martin Ford has a done a 100-times better job that I could have ever done. His book is very persuasive in pointing out why the "buggy whip" argument will cease to remain persuasive.
I only have two complaints about Ford's book: (a) the title sounds a bit too much like a title for a pulp-fiction work and so I fear that not enough people will read it and (b) the first 75 pages consist of a standard summary of current economic facts and principles and so I fear that some readers may quit reading his book before they get to the really interesting parts, which in my opinion, start after page 75.
Chapters 5, 6, and 8 on higher education, health care, and the overall national economy discuss political and social implications of the rise of the robots and AI. The US political system is totally unprepared to address, and may be incapable of addressing, what will likely happen in the next 10 to 20 years. I'm 67 years old and I hope I will still be alive around 2030 or 2040. I think it will be very interesting to observe how the American society and it's political system deals with all this. As the ancient Chinese curse goes "May you live in interesting times!"
Martin Ford provides numerous examples about how technological change is displacing and de-skilling jobs, including even those of professionals and well educated workers. He depicts a world of declining and narrowing opportunities. He suggests one answer to the anticipated sharp decline in employment -- a guaranteed basic income. Economist Jeffrey Sachs writes: "Smart machines, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and the “Internet of things” are transforming every sector of the economy. Machines can outperform workers in a rapidly widening arc of activities. Will smart machines lead to a world of plenty, leisure, health care, and education for all; or to a world of inequality, mass unemployment, and a war between the haves and have-nots, and between the machines and the workers left behind? " Ford asks all the right questions and introduces us to the broad debate in a first rate read and book.