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What's More Important: 4 Million Jobs or a $7 Trillion Economy?
The rise of driverless cars will save lives, time, and spark a $7 Trillion "Passenger Economy." But it will also destroy jobs. What should we do?
Will the rise of driverless cars kill or create jobs?
While truck and taxi drivers may go the way of the dodo bird, new positions such as a "remote vehicle operators" may crop up to offset the job losses. The problem, however, is that the workers being displaced through emerging technology might not naturally transition into the newly-created jobs (given the different skill-sets needed). The growth of autonomous vehicles is a major societal disruption that is presenting stark choices with protecting current livelihoods versus opening new fields of economic activity. As a recent piece in MIT Technology Review pointed out, "Self-Driving Cars Endanger Nearly Four Million Jobs but Could Create a $7 Trillion Industry."
Society will have to make some tough choices. Unlike countries such as Sweden, where a strong social safety net may lower the fear of being replaced by technology, policy decisions often quickly create winners and losers (for example, do we protect the employment of coal miners or transition more towards solar? The unemployed coal miner may not easily transfer into the solar industry.).
"Imagine self-driving electric cars that cost about $15,000 or $20,000 in the year 2025. What do you think is going to happen to GM, Ford, Toyota, all of these companies? We’ll still need one or two electric companies, but more likely than not they’ll be some upstarts from Silicon Valley or from New Delhi or from São Paulo that put the right technologies together, that are inexpensive, that start disrupting the entire transportation industry."-Vivek Wadhwa, Distinguished Fellow of Policy & Research, Singularity University
A $7 Trillion Passenger Economy?
This staggering figure comes from the projections of the research firm Strategy Analytics, in a report commissioned by Intel. The report, Accelerating the Future: The Economic Impact of the Emerging Passenger Economy, defines the "Passenger Economy," a term coined by Intel, as:
"The Passenger Economy is the economic and societal value that will be generated by fully autonomous (SAE Level five) pilotless vehicles."
The $7 Trillion global figure is pegged to the year 2050, and represents the value of products and services that may arise when society is using full autonomous, driverless vehicles. The number also includes the indirect savings of time and money that would occur with driverless vehicles. For example, the report predicts that autonomous vehicles would save 585,000 lives between the years of 2035 and 2045. According to a recent survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Americans spend 17,600 minutes a day driving--the equivalent of seven 40-hour workweeks. The report estimates that these pilotless vehicles will great upwards of 250 million hours of commuting time each year in heavily congested cities.
This disruption, according to the report, will move consumers away from vehicle ownership and move towards "Mobility-as-a-Service." Uber's likely trajectory is a stark example of this: raising a substantial amount of capital from its success of organizing a network of independent contractor taxis which is used to invest in autonomous taxi vehicles. In other words, today's Uber driver is tomorrow's Uber passenger (in a driverless vehicle).
What about the Nearly 4 Million Jobs?
The thought of redirecting the considerable amount of hours spent driving sounds both luxurious and efficient. But what about the trade-offs? As noted in the MIT Technology Review article, 3.8 million people earn their livelihood through the operation of motor vehicles--jobs that may likely soon disappear. As the MIT Technology Review article points out, truck driving is the most popular profession in 29 US states. Innovation, however, is not going to slow down. But what about the truck drivers?
The answer to this dilemma may lie in the approach taking by Scandinavian countries, as mentioned in the recent New York Times article, The Robots Are Coming, And Sweden Is Fine. "The jobs disappear, and then we train people for new jobs," said Ylva Johansson, the Swedish minister for employment and integration. "We won’t protect jobs. But we will protect workers.”
The rise of autonomous vehicles is sure to disrupt, and destroy, the employment of today's truck drivers (and others who make their likelihood by driving vehicles). In order to be future-ready, we may need to spend less time saving jobs and more time advancing and protecting the underlying people.
An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.
- A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
- A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
- Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.
The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.
Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .
The Barry Arm Fjord
Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach
Image source: Matt Zimmerman
The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.
Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest
Image source: whrc.org
There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.
The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.
"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."
Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.
What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord
Moving slowly at first...
Image source: whrc.org
"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."
The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.
Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.
Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.
While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.
Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."
How do you prepare for something like this?
Image source: whrc.org
The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:
"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."
In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.
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.