from the world's big
The pandemic has given us an early glimpse at how truly disruptive the fourth industrial revolution may be, and the measures we'll need to support human dignity.
- The coronavirus crisis has acted as a catalyst for two powerful transformative forces: automation and universal basic income.
- These two intertwined forces will undoubtedly gain steam, writes Frederick Kuo, and the pandemic will hasten the acceptance of them from a scale of decades to years or mere months.
- This crisis has ushered in a glimpse of what a dystopian future could look like as a rapidly advancing fourth industrial revolution inevitably causes severe disruption in our economy and labor structure.
COVID-19 will expedite automation<p>As the mobility of human beings grinds to a halt due to public health directives and fears of infection, our need for food, resources and social connection has forced us to increasingly rely on technology to fill urgent gaps. In the United States, Amazon is seizing this opportunity to further entrench its <a href="https://nypost.com/2020/03/31/coronavirus-is-only-making-jeff-bezos-and-amazon-more-powerful/" target="_blank">domination</a>, while in China, robots are being deployed to serve those in <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/18/how-china-is-using-robots-and-telemedicine-to-combat-the-coronavirus.html" target="_blank">quarantine</a>. In a world where fear of contact with other humans has become pervasive, businesses that can adapt quickly and significantly automate their supply lines and cut points of human contact stand to thrive in this new market. </p><p>Whereas before this crisis, the need for automation was mainly driven by the desire for increased profits and improved efficiency, the momentous shift in public consciousness today regarding simple human contact may make automation almost a necessity for many businesses to survive. When humans trust a robot to handle or deliver their food or goods more than they trust another human, or when crowded workplaces present public health hazards, jobs for humans will be unceremoniously eliminated. Given existing technologies, experts have estimated <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/03/24/the-robots-are-ready-as-the-covid-19-recession-spreads/" target="_blank">36 million jobs</a> may be vulnerable, ranging from trucking and delivery to food service and repetitive white collar jobs, the labor market may face a significant restructure driven by <a href="https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/3/31/21200010/coronavirus-recession-automation-brookings-mark-muro" target="_blank">new technology</a> and a radically altered market for those technologies. In a recent survey conducted by auditing firm <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/30/bosses-speed-up-automation-as-virus-keeps-workers-home" target="_blank">Ernst & Young</a>, more than half of company bosses throughout 45 countries had begun implementing existing plans to fast track automation.</p>
Mainstream acceptance of UBI<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="44c33c426c79ad9f2c6148d8f9f63bc4"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UEsK7hpIkVI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>In early 2019, <a href="https://time.com/5804656/ubi-yang-coronavirus/" target="_blank">Andrew Yang</a> began gaining news coverage regarding the central theme of his presidential campaign: $1,000 a month in universal basic income (UBI) dispersed to every American. His primary argument for the necessity of this safety net rested on the belief that the coming age of automation was about to inundate vast scores of our current jobs with a shrinking percentage of elite tech corporations gobbling up more and more of the profit. When Yang first introduced his vision, it seemed to belong to a remote dystopian future with little relevance to the booming economy and low unemployment figures that was the reality until only weeks ago. On the right, he was lambasted as a communist seeking to turn American citizens into dependents to the state. On the left, his ideas were dismissed as other Democratic hopefuls touted the Green New Deal and job programs.</p><p>Fast forward to today and Andrew Yang's UBI theory has moved straight into the forefront. Trump, perhaps cognizant that the "Yang Gang" pulled a great deal of support from his own supporters, quickly recognized the popularity of his ideas and the need to provide supplemental income to Americans as shelter-in-place directives began to take hold throughout the country. The massive <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/coronavirus-checks-direct-deposits-are-coming-here-s-everything-you-n1168936" target="_blank">$2 trillion</a> coronavirus emergency stimulus will provide every American earning $75,000 or less, regardless of current employment, a check of $1,200 per person and $500 per child for the duration of the crisis. There has been little debate over the necessity of this measure because it has proven to be widely popular to the public, regardless of political standing. It lifts some of the immediate and pressing need to work and helps take some of the edge off from isolating at home, thus contributing to a quicker resolution of this health crisis by sending fewer people out into the streets.</p>
UC Berkeley researchers create a robot that learns by playing and can predict the future of its actions.
Here's why coding skills alone won't save you from job automation.
The conventional wisdom developing in the face of job automation is to skill up: learn how to code, become a member of the rising tech economy. Venture capitalist Scott Hartley, however, thinks that may be counterproductive. "Just because you have rote technical ability, you may actually be more susceptible to job automation than someone who has flexible thinking skills," he says. Retraining yourself in tech-based areas is smart, but the smartest way to survive job automation is to develop your soft skills—like improvisation, relational intelligence, and critical thinking. Believe it or not, those 'softer' assets will rule in the digital age, so play to what makes you human. In time, everything else will be done by a robot. Scott Hartley is the author of The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World.
It's not just for the lols. If you're up for some soul-searching, they need you to contribute to this MIT research survey...
I recently had a conversation with a colleague that works with me in the MIT AgeLab. He specializes in AI and machine learning. As we walked and discussed his current work on autonomous vehicles, I asked him, “Where would you like to take your research?” Without missing a beat he responded, “I would like to build a robot that you would want to have a conversation with.”
Author and robot expert Dr. David Levy explains how marriage with robots will come in the next several decades as technological and societal transformations take place.
The pool of potential romantic partners is about to increase dramatically. Author and robot expert Dr. David Levy thinks that before 2050 we’ll be marrying robots.