Hey Bill Nye! Will We All Lose Our Jobs to Robots?
Job automation will need to strike a delicate balance — we want enough to make our lives more comfortable, but no more than that.\r\n
Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. Making science entertaining and accessible is something Bill has been doing most of his life.
In Seattle Nye began to combine his love of science with his flair for comedy, when he won the Steve Martin look-alike contest and developed dual careers as an engineer by day and a stand-up comic by night. Nye then quit his day engineering day job and made the transition to a night job as a comedy writer and performer on Seattle’s home-grown ensemble comedy show “Almost Live.” This is where “Bill Nye the Science Guy®” was born. The show appeared before Saturday Night Live and later on Comedy Central, originating at KING-TV, Seattle’s NBC affiliate.
While working on the Science Guy show, Nye won seven national Emmy Awards for writing, performing, and producing. The show won 18 Emmys in five years. In between creating the shows, he wrote five children’s books about science, including his latest title, “Bill Nye’s Great Big Book of Tiny Germs.”
Nye is the host of three currently-running television series. “The 100 Greatest Discoveries” airs on the Science Channel. “The Eyes of Nye” airs on PBS stations across the country.
Bill’s latest project is hosting a show on Planet Green called “Stuff Happens.” It’s about environmentally responsible choices that consumers can make as they go about their day and their shopping. Also, you’ll see Nye in his good-natured rivalry with his neighbor Ed Begley. They compete to see who can save the most energy and produce the smallest carbon footprint. Nye has 4,000 watts of solar power and a solar-boosted hot water system. There’s also the low water use garden and underground watering system. It’s fun for him; he’s an engineer with an energy conservation hobby.
Nye is currently the Executive Director of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space interest organization.
Ian: Hey Bill. My name’s Ian and I’m a computer science student. So the fields of machine learning and robotics have been making technological advances and replacing human labor at a blinding speed. And at this point it seems almost inevitable that virtually all jobs are going to be automated in the future. So my question is this: When and if machines replace our jobs, what should we spend our lives accomplishing instead? Is there some greater goal that we should aim toward? Thank you so much.
Bill Nye: Machines are going to replace every job? What about this job right here man?! What about that, I’m thinking! What about that man?
So I think there will still be a great many jobs that require human involvement. After all, why have humans build machines if there isn’t something humans want to do? Like play baseball or argue about what machines are going to do.
So I claim that there’s a lot of jobs that we would all prefer machines do. I don’t know if you’ve ever made pancake batter mixing it by hand; It’s okay. Cake batter, mixing it by hand; It’s okay. But it’s easier to do it with an electric mixer.
I don’t know if you’ve gotten up every morning and adjusted the thermostat in your apartment or house, and then when you leave for work or school you turn it back down. And then when you come home you turn it back up, and then right before you go to bed you turn it back down. I don’t know if you’ve done all that, but automating that seems to me cool and nice.
I don’t know how much welding you’ve done of auto bodies. It’s a cool skill to develop, but it’s not one that really we all are going to need in the future.
My grandfather went into World War I on a horse. He was apparently a skilled enough horseback rider to live through it. It’s not a skill that most – I grew up driving a stick shift in a car. I can drive a stick shift. It’s not a skill you need anymore. I mean very seldom.
So it’s okay man! As jobs become automated humans will go do what humans want to do: Come up with new machines, come up with new ideas, new techniques in mathematics that will simplify things even more. Make discoveries of life on another world.
And what I still love about movies and television and computer videos: it’s still handmade. I so love that. The lights are put in by hand. We make these decisions about what questions to take from you by hand (or by brain). And I still love that.
So yes, we want to automate the world to the extent that is comfortable, but no more. We can do this man! It’s going to be great.
You go to the airport. You get on the train between terminals you trust that it’s going to drive you from one place to another without crashing because engineers have been very diligent setting it up. The train figures how much people weigh and their luggage, provides the right amount of electricity to accelerate and decelerate the train and we trust that. That’s good. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to want to travel. It’s good.
That’s a good question though. Carry on man.
There are two schools of thought about job automation: one rejects the idea as robots "stealing" human jobs, while the other cannot wait to put its feet up and tuck into some Proust — finally, free time for all those 3,000-page beasts of literature! The reality, as usual, is somewhere in between. An increasing number of professions will become automated, but Bill Nye believes there will always be a place for human ingenuity. We started building complex machines centuries ago because there are things we would rather be doing — like building new machines, refining mathematics, continuing our education, or exploring the universe. There are some jobs it would be better for robots to have: industrial welding, driving trains, packing warehouse orders, admin — why not make our lives less strenuous? "We want to automate the world to the extent that is comfortable, but no more," Nye says. Job automation is scary in the way that large-scale change usually is, but Nye thinks it will be a positive inflection point for humanity, enriching our existence with more debate, art, invention, sport, and discovery. Bill Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.
Political activism may get people invested in politics, and affect urgently needed change, but it comes at the expense of tolerance and healthy democratic norms.
- Polarization and extreme partisanships have been on the rise in the United States.
- Political psychologist Diana Mutz argues that we need more deliberation, not political activism, to keep our democracy robust.
- Despite increased polarization, Americans still have more in common than we appear to.
An amateur astronomer discovers an interstellar comet on its way to our Sun.
Take the circumstances in your life seriously, but not literally. Here's why.
- Galileo was quite controversial, in part, because he argued that Earth moved around the sun, despite people's senses deluding them that the world was static.
- Evolution may have primed us to see the world in terms of payoffs rather than absolute reality — this has actually helped us survive. Those who win payoffs are more likely to pass on their genes, which encode these strategies to get to the "next level" of life.
- It's important to listen to people's objections because they may bring something to your attention outside your ken. Learn from them to make your ideas sharper.