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A World Without Work: Robotic Automation Won't Be as Bad as We Think
Job automation won't be as bad as we think, so we need to learn how to stop working and prepare so we're not dragged into the future kicking and screaming.
The average employed American works about nine hours a day, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Twice as many of them are unhappy at work than happy. The commute to and from work, which is also considered work, only deepens the misery. That’s why most of us are excited by the prospect of robots taking over the job market in the near future – even if we’re scared about being left jobless.
That fear is justified. IT research firm Gartner predicts that one-third of jobs will be replaced by software, robots, and smart machines by 2025. Our own Ray Kurzweil backs that up by insisting that robots will reach human levels of intelligence by 2029. Both projects are stark, and difficult to verify given the inconsistent advancement of artificial intelligence, as we’ve told you before. But the technology continues to advance in that direction, so some day in the near-ish future you should expect a machine to take over your job. IT expert Andrew MacAfee explains how – even for highly skilled workers:
As McAfee points out, we used to think that automating jobs would create a permanent underclass of unskilled cheap labor. Recent advancements in AI and deep learning are proving that to not be the case. It’s now simply a matter of time before a robot takes your job. If you want to prepare for that, you need to redefine what work means to you.
Right now, work signifies different things to different people. Economically speaking, work is a means of earning and distributing purchasing power. Personally speaking, work is a major source of identity, purpose, and even self-fulfillment. In a post-work world, work will be none of these things. Without work to give us meaning, we might drive ourselves nuts. In fact, if we don’t have work in our lives, we already drive ourselves nuts. 20 percent of Americans who’ve been unemployed for at least a year report having depression, according to this Gallup poll. That’s double the rate for working Americans. The Atlantic found even more research, including reports that suggest “the explanation for rising rates of mortality, mental-health problems, and addiction among poorly-educated, middle-aged people is a shortage of well-paid jobs. Another study shows that people are often happier at work than in their free time.”
Combine that self-torture with our cultural tendencies to demonize people who avoid work and we’ve got a society that has no idea how not to work. “People who avoid work are viewed as parasites and leeches,” John Danaher of National University of Ireland told The Atlantic. “Perhaps as a result of this cultural attitude, for most people, self-esteem and identity are tied up intricately with their job, or lack of job.”
That’s only going to get worse when robots do all the work.
As The Guardian reports, we’re not good at coping with that now:
Labour [sic] markets have coped [with robotic automation] the only way they are able: workers needing jobs have little option but to accept dismally low wages. Bosses shrug and use people to do jobs that could, if necessary, be done by machines. Big retailers and delivery firms feel less pressure to turn their warehouses over to robots when there are long queues of people willing to move boxes around for low pay. Law offices put off plans to invest in sophisticated document scanning and analysis technology because legal assistants are a dime a dozen. People continue to staff checkout counters when machines would often, if not always, be just as good. Ironically, the first symptoms of a dawning era of technological abundance are to be found in the growth of low-wage, low-productivity employment.
James Manyika of The White House Global Development Council agrees, and explained the nuts and bolts of it to us here:
As a society, we need to figure out how to live without work – not just for our sanity and self-esteem, but for the future of our species. There are tons of benefits to being a post-work society. The biggest immediate benefit is that we can reinvest the time we spend at work toward pursuits that make us happier. According to research out of Stanford, families that spend more time together experience a higher degree of happiness and life satisfaction that people who don’t. “Researchers [at Harvard] have found that having close relationships is the number-one predictor of happiness, and the social connections that a work-free world might enable could well displace the aimlessness that so many futurists predict,” The Atlantic reports.
Without work, we could finally fix our educational system and make it work for every single child. “The primary purpose of the educational system is to teach people to work. I don’t think anybody would want to put our kids through what we put our kids through now,” Gray told The Atlantic. Education may become a one-on-one approach that’s a best fit for every child instead of a factory pumping out future workers.
We could also make strides to end income inequality. Without work to define and distribute income, it could be distributed by the state “through the payment of a basic income, for instance, or direct public provision of services such as education, healthcare and housing. Or, perhaps, everyone could be given a capital allotment at birth.,” The Guardian speculates.
Best of all, we can find deeper, meaningful ways of contributing to the world around us. “If greater numbers of people were using their leisure to run the country, that would give people a sense of purpose,” Randolph Trumbach of Baruch College told The Atlantic.
But all of those options will only be possible if we figure out how to make them happen. And if we’re going to do that we need to do it now, before we’re thrust into it. If we don’t, “pushing people out of work will simply redirect the flow of income from workers to firm-owners: the rich will get richer,” as The Guardian puts it.
In a post-work world, that outcome might spell disaster.
A new study finds that dogs fed fresh human-grade food don't need to eat—or do their business—as much.
- Most dogs eat a diet that's primarily kibble.
- When fed a fresh-food diet, however, they don't need to consume as much.
- Dogs on fresh-food diets have healthier gut biomes.
Four diets were tested<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjY0NjIxMn0._w0k-qFOC86AqmtPHJBK_i-9F5oVyVYsYtUrdvfUxWQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="1b1e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="87937436a81c700a8ab3b1d763354843" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: AntonioDiaz/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tested refrigerated and fresh human-grade foods against kibble, the food most dogs live on. The <a href="https://frontierpets.com.au/blogs/news/how-kibble-or-dry-dog-food-is-made" target="_blank">ingredients</a> of kibble are mashed into a dough and then extruded, forced through a die of some kind into the desired shape — think a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_extrusion" target="_blank">pasta maker</a>. The resulting pellets are sprayed with additional flavor and color.</p><p>For four weeks, researchers fed 12 beagles one of four diets:</p><ol><li>a extruded diet — Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe</li><li>a fresh refrigerated diet — Freshpet Roasted Meals Tender Chicken Recipe</li><li>a fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Beef & Russet Potato Recipe</li><li>another fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Chicken & White Rice Recipe.</li></ol><p>The two fresh diets contained minimally processed beef, chicken, broccoli, rice, carrots, and various food chunks in a canine casserole of sorts. </p><p>(One can't help but think how hard it would be to get finicky cats to test new diets. As if.)</p><p>Senior author <a href="https://ansc.illinois.edu/directory/ksswanso" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Kelly S. Swanson</a> of U of I's Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences, was a bit surprised at how much better dogs did on people food than even refrigerated dog chow. "Based on past research we've conducted I'm not surprised with the results when feeding human-grade compared to an extruded dry diet," he <a href="https://aces.illinois.edu/news/feed-fido-fresh-human-grade-dog-food-scoop-less-poop" target="_blank">says</a>, adding, "However, I did not expect to see how well the human-grade fresh food performed, even compared to a fresh commercial processed brand."</p>
Tracking the effect of each diet<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NjY1NTgyOX0.AdyMb8OEcjCD6iWYnXjToDmcnjfTSn-0-dfG96SIpUA/img.jpg?width=980" id="da892" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="880d952420679aeccd1eaf32b5339810" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: Patryk Kosmider/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tracked the dogs' weights and analyzed the microbiota in their fecal matter.</p><p>It turned out that the dogs on kibble had to eat more to maintain their body weight. This resulted in their producing 1.5 to 2.9 times the amount of poop produced by dogs on the fresh diets.</p><p>Says Swanson, "This is consistent with a 2019 National Institute of Health study in humans that found people eating a fresh whole food diet consumed on average 500 less calories per day, and reported being more satisfied, than people eating a more processed diet."</p><p>Maybe even more interesting was the effect of fresh food on the gut biome. Though there remains much we don't yet know about microbiota, it was nonetheless the case that the microbial communities found in fresh-food poo was different.</p><p>"Because a healthy gut means a healthy mutt," says Swanson, "fecal microbial and metabolite profiles are important readouts of diet assessment. As we have shown in <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jas/article/92/9/3781/4702209#110855647" target="_blank">previous studies</a>, the fecal microbial communities of healthy dogs fed fresh diets were different than those fed kibble. These unique microbial profiles were likely due to differences in diet processing, ingredient source, and the concentration and type of dietary fibers, proteins, and fats that are known to influence what is digested by the dog and what reaches the colon for fermentation."</p>
How did kibble take over canine diets?<p>Historically, dogs ate scraps left over by humans. It has only been <a href="https://www.thefarmersdog.com/digest/the-history-of-commercial-pet-food-a-great-american-marketing-story/" target="_blank">since 1870</a>, with the arrival of the luxe Spratt's Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes—made from "the dried unsalted gelatinous parts of Prairie Beef", mmm—that commercial dog food began to take hold. Dog bone-shaped biscuits first appeared in 1907. Ken-L Ration dates from 1922. Kibble was first extruded in 1956. Pet food had become a great way to turn <a href="https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/animal-by-products/" target="_blank">human-food waste</a> into profit.</p><p>Commercial dog food became the norm for most household canines only after a massive marketing campaign led by a group of dog-food industry lobbyists called the Pet Food Institute in 1964. Over time, for most households, dog food was what dogs ate — what else? Human food? These days more than half of U.S. dogs are <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/03/magazine/who-made-that-dog-biscuit.html" target="_blank">overweight or obese</a>, and certainly their diet is a factor.<span></span></p><p>We're not so special among animals after all. If something's healthy for us to eat—we're <em>not</em> looking at you, chocolate—maybe we should remember to share with our canine compatriots. Not from the table, though.</p>
What makes some people more likely to shiver than others?
Some people just aren't bothered by the cold, no matter how low the temperature dips. And the reason for this may be in a person's genes.
Eating veggies is good for you. Now we can stop debating how much we should eat.
- A massive new study confirms that five servings of fruit and veggies a day can lower the risk of death.
- The maximum benefit is found at two servings of fruit and three of veggies—anything more offers no extra benefit according to the researchers.
- Not all fruits and veggies are equal. Leafy greens are better for you than starchy corn and potatoes.