Arts for Action's Sake

The Robot Revolution=Robotic Evolution

April 25, 2018

Tags: Robots, jobs

Early Androids
You can’t escape them. Turn on the TV, pick up a magazine or newspaper, search the Internet. Robots started off as a futuristic threat, quickly became a nervous, jokey prediction about lost jobs for humans, and now are in danger of becoming a meme.

Still, other than the occasional Roomba vacuum cleaner or Robomow lawnmower (my favorite), most of us still haven’t seen a robot in action. That’s because they work largely behind the scenes on the factory floor. It’s also because they tend to look nothing like the bipedal, anthropomorphic, android robots of our imagination and our toy stores. Today’s robots are designed to do very specific functions (more…)

The Robots Are Coming? The Robots Are Coming?

March 21, 2018

Tags: Robots, jobs, fast food

Flippy waiting for humans to catch up
Well, I do still think they are, and sooner than we think, although in the spirit of fair play there have been a flurry of reports that suggest otherwise. Or insist that if and when they do come, they will have minimal impact on American jobs.

The most recent apparent setback was the death of a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, on Monday, struck by an “autonomous” Uber car, despite the presence of a human safety-driver. In response, Uber has suspended all tests of self-driving vehicles until an investigation is complete. There were several mitigating circumstances: it was dark, (more…)

The Robots Are Here!

March 7, 2018

Tags: Robots, jobs

"Look, Ma, no hands!"
Here are a couple bulletins from the AI front. It’s worth noting that all appeared in the New York Times yesterday and today.

Uber has announced it’s been operating driverless trucks for several months, serving customers in Arizona. They still have a human in the cab, ready to take over if anything goes awry, but they plan to phase out the carbon-based life form over time. Uber’s strategy is to have so-called “autonomous” trucks for highway long hauls between “transfer hubs,” where humans can take over, driving the final few miles to the customer’s loading dock. Uber claims that driverless trucks will increase driving jobs, in part because of greater demand, spurred by decreasing costs. The company also has a bridge to sell you.

Google has unveiled new research that helps explain how machines reach their decisions, using neural networks, complex computer programs that learn by analyzing vast amounts of data. (more…)

His 2020 Campaign Message: The Robots Are Coming

February 19, 2018

Tags: Robots, politics

Mr. President? Credit Guerin Blask/The New York Times
What follows, without editorial comment, are excerpts from an article by Kevin Roose that first appeared in the business section of the New York Times, February 10, 2018.
Among the many, many Democrats who will seek the party’s presidential nomination in 2020, most probably agree on a handful of core issues: protecting DACA, rejoining the Paris climate agreement, unraveling President Trump’s tax breaks for the wealthy.

Only one of them will be focused on the robot apocalypse.


That candidate is Andrew Yang, a well-connected New York businessman who is mounting a longer-than-long-shot bid for the White House. Mr. Yang, a former tech executive (more…)

Is the Populist Revolt Over? Not if Robots Have Their Way

January 31, 2018

Tags: Robots, Trump, Populism

President Trump before he addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week. Credit Tom Brenner/The New York Times
What follows, without additional comment, is an excerpt from an article by Eduardo Porter that first appeared in the business section of the New York Times, January 31, 2018.

Does President Trump represent the new normal in American politics?

As the world’s oligarchy gathered last week in Davos, Switzerland, to worry about the troubles of the middle class, the real question on every plutocrat’s mind was whether the populist upheaval that delivered the presidency to the intemperate mogul might mercifully be over.

If it was globalization — or, more precisely, the shock of imports from China — that moved voters to put Mr. Trump in the White House, could politicians get back to supporting the market-oriented order once the China shock played out?

As Frank Levy of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology noted this month in an analysis on the potential impact of artificial intelligence on American politics, “Given globalization’s effect on the 2016 presidential election, it is worth noting that near-term A.I. and globalization replace many of the same jobs.” (more…)

The Robots Are Coming? Or Are They Already Here?

January 4, 2018

Tags: Robots, jobs, fast food

"Flippy" working the grill
Robots Will Transform Fast Food” reads the headline in the online edition of The Atlantic, and “That might not be a bad thing.

The Atlantic article goes on to describe how Japan—where else?—is already ahead of the curve, with a fully functioning okonomiyaki restaurant that makes a gin and tonic to serve along with the cabbage-and-meat-topped pancakes. Here in the US we’re still in the development and test phase, with “Sally,” a boxy robot from Chowbotics that assembles salads ordered on a touch screen, and “Flippy”—the inspiration for the McRobots in The Piketty Problem—who’s turning out 150 burgers an hour (more…)

Jobs for Robots

December 15, 2017

Tags: Robots, jobs

Better than a minimum wage worker on a bicycle?
Jobs and robots have been making news recently, but in unexpected ways.

Economists and business leaders are finally realizing that the tax bill that President Trump and the Republican congress is trying to ram through as a Christmas present to corporations and the 1 percent, will create more jobs all right—for robots! A provision (more…)

The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming

October 31, 2017

Tags: Robots, fast food, income inequality, Carl's Jr.

Knowing my concerns about the danger of robots making the already corrosive economic inequality in our country even worse, a friend and former colleague of mine passed on a blog post that is a must read: The Real Story of Automation Beginning With One Simple Chart by Scott Santens. The one simple chart shows that when the number of oil rigs began to rebound after the 2016 decline in oil prices, the number of oil and gas industry employees didn't budge. The reason? Robotic "Iron Roughnecks" now perform the repetitive task of connecting drill pipe segments as the well is drilled deeper and deeper. What once took a crew of 20, will soon take a crew of 5.

The trend is difficult to ignore. And there are so many other good points (more…)

Germs or Jobs?

October 20, 2017

Tags: Robots, income inequality, fast food

Those of you who have had a chance to take a look at my new novel, The Piketty Problem, or The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming, know that its underlying theme is the impending impact of robotics on fast food in general and McDonald’s in particular. For those of you who might think I was stretching novelistic license, I thought this recent article about Chowbotics (now that’s a stretch!) in the New York Times might be of interest. The company has come up with a salad-making robot (more…)