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Every human used to have to hunt or gather
to survive. But humans are smart-ly lazy so

we made tools to make our work easier. From
sticks, to plows to tractors we’ve gone

from everyone needing to make food to, modern
agriculture with almost no one needing to

make food — and yet we still have abundance.
Of course, it’s not just farming, it’s
everything. We’ve spent the last several

thousand years building tools to reduce physical
labor of all kinds. These are mechanical muscles

— stronger, more reliable, and more tireless
than human muscles could ever be.

And that's a good thing. Replacing human labor
with mechanical muscles frees people to specialize

and that leaves everyone better off even though
still doing physical labor. This is how economies

grow and standards of living rise.
Some people have specialized to be programmers
and engineers whose job is to build mechanical

minds. Just as mechanical muscles made human
labor less in demand so are mechanical minds

making human brain labor less in demand.
This is an economic revolution. You may think
we've been here before, but we haven't.

This time is different.
## Physical Labor
When you think of automation, you probably
think of this: giant, custom-built, expensive,

efficient but really dumb robots blind to
the world and their own work. There were a

scary kind of automation but they haven't
taken over the world because they're only

cost effective in narrow situations.
But they are the old kind of automation, this
is the new kind.

Meet Baxter.
Unlike these things which require skilled
operators and technicians and millions of

dollars, Baxter has vision and can learn what
you want him to do by watching you do it.

And he costs less than the average annual
salary of a human worker. Unlike his older

brothers he isn't pre-programmed for one specific
job, he can do whatever work is within the

reach of his arms. Baxter is what might be
thought of as a general purpose robot and

general purpose is a big deal.
Think computers, they too started out as highly
custom and highly expensive, but when cheap-ish

general-purpose computers appeared they quickly
became vital to everything.

A general-purpose computer can just as easily
calculate change or assign seats on an airplane

or play a game or do anything by just swapping
its software. And this huge demand for computers

of all kinds is what makes them both more
powerful and cheaper every year.

Baxter today is the computer in the 1980s.
He’s not the apex but the beginning. Even

if Baxter is slow his hourly cost is pennies
worth of electricity while his meat-based

competition costs minimum wage. A tenth the
speed is still cost effective when it's a

hundred times cheaper. And while Baxtor isn't
as smart as some of the other things we will

talk about, he's smart enough to take over
many low-skill jobs.

And we've already seen how dumber robots than
Baxter can replace jobs. In new supermarkets

what used to be 30 humans is now one human
overseeing 30 cashier robots.

Or the hundreds of thousand baristas employed
world-wide? There’s a barista robot coming

for them. Sure maybe your guy makes your double-mocha-whatever
just perfect and you’d never trust anyone

else -- but millions of people don’t care
and just want a decent cup of coffee. Oh and

by the way this robot is actually a giant
network of robots that remembers who you are

and how you like your coffee no matter where
you are. Pretty convenient.

We think of technological change as the fancy
new expensive stuff, but the real change comes

from last decade's stuff getting cheaper and
faster. That's what's happening to robots

now. And because their mechanical minds are
capable of decision making they are out-competing

humans for jobs in a way no pure mechanical
muscle ever could.

## Luddite Horses
Imagine a pair of horses in the early 1900s
talking about technology. One worries all

these new mechanical muscles will make horses

The other reminds him that everything so far
has made their lives easier -- remember all

that farm work? Remember running coast-to-coast
delivering mail? Remember riding into battle?

All terrible. These city jobs are pretty cushy
-- and with so many humans in the cities there

are more jobs for horses than ever.
Even if this car thingy takes off you might
say, there will be new jobs for horses we

can't imagine.
But you, dear viewer, from beyond 2000 know
what happened -- there are still working horses,

but nothing like before. The horse population
peaked in 1915 -- from that point on it was

nothing but down.
There isn’t a rule of economics that says
better technology makes more, better jobs

for horses. It sounds shockingly dumb to even
say that out loud, but swap horses for humans

and suddenly people think it sounds about

As mechanical muscles pushed horses out of
the economy, mechanical minds will do the

same to humans. Not immediately, not everywhere,
but in large enough numbers and soon enough

that it's going to be a huge problem if we
are not prepared. And we are not prepared.

You, like the second horse, may look at the
state of technology now and think it can’t

possibly replace your job. But technology
gets better, cheaper, and faster at a rate

biology can’t match.
Just as the car was the beginning of the end
for the horse so now does the car show us

the shape of things to come.
## The Shape Of Things to Come
Self-driving cars aren't the future: they're
here and they work. Self-driving cars have

traveled hundreds of thousands of miles up
and down the California coast and through

cities -- all without human intervention.
The question is not if they'll replaces cars,
but how quickly. They don’t need to be perfect,

they just need to be better than us. Humans
drivers, by the way, kill 40,000 people a

year with cars just in the United States.
Given that self-driving cars don’t blink,

don’t text while driving, don’t get sleepy
or stupid, it easy to see them being better

than humans because they already are.
Now to describe self-driving cars as cars
at all is like calling the first cars mechanical

horses. Cars in all their forms are so much
more than horses that using the name limits

your thinking about what they can even do.
Lets call self-driving cars what they really

Autos: the solution to the transport-objects-from-point-A-to-point-B
problem. Traditional cars happen to be human

sized to transport humans but tiny autos can
work in wear houses and gigantic autos can

work in pit mines. Moving stuff around is
who knows how many jobs but the transportation

industry in the United States employs about
three million people. Extrapolating world-wide

that’s something like 70 million jobs at
a minimum.

These jobs are over.
The usual argument is that unions will prevent
it. But history is filled with workers who

fought technology that would replace them
and the workers always loose. Economics always

wins and there are huge incentives across
wildly diverse industries to adopt autos.

For many transportation companies, the humans
are about a third of their total costs. That's

just the straight salary costs. Humans sleeping
in their long haul trucks costs time and money.

Accidents cost money. Carelessness costs money.
If you think insurance companies will be against

it, guess what? Their perfect driver is one
who pays their small premium but never gets

into an accident.
The autos are coming and they're the first
place where most people will really see the

robots changing society. But there are many
other places in the economy where the same

thing is happening, just less visibly.
So it goes with autos, so it goes for everything.
## Intellectual Labor
### White Collar Work
It's easy to look at Autos and Baxters and
think: technology has always gotten rid of

low-skill jobs we don't want people doing
anyway. They'll get more skilled and do better

educated jobs -- like they've always done.
Even ignoring the problem of pushing a hundred-million
additional people through higher education,

white-collar work is no safe haven either.
If your job is sitting in front of a screen

and typing and clicking -- like maybe you're
supposed to be doing right now -- the bots

are coming for you too, buddy.
Software bots are both intangible and way
faster and cheaper than physical robots. Given

that white collar workers are, from a companies
perspective, both more expensive and more

numerous -- the incentive to automate their
work is greater than low skilled work.

And that's just what automation engineers
are for. These are skilled programmers whose

entire job is to replace your job with a software

You may think even the world's smartest automation
engineer could never make a bot to do your

job -- and you may be right -- but the cutting
edge of programming isn't super-smart programmers

writing bots it's super-smart programmers
writing bots that teach themselves how to

do things the programmer could never teach
them to do.

How that works is well beyond the scope of
this video, but the bottom line is there are

limited ways to show a bot a bunch of stuff
to do, show the bot a bunch of correctly done

stuff, and it can figure out how to do the
job to be done.

Even with just a goal and no example of how
to do it the bots can still learn. Take the

stock market which, in many ways, is no longer
a human endeavor. It's mostly bots that taught

themselves to trade stocks, trading stocks
with other bots that taught themselves.

Again: it's not bots that are executing orders
based on what their human controllers want,

it's bots making the decisions of what to
buy and sell on their own.

As a result the floor of the New York Stock
exchange isn't filled with traders doing their

day jobs anymore, it's largely a TV set.
So bots have learned the market and bots have
learned to write. If you've picked up a newspaper

lately you've probably already read a story
written by a bot. There are companies that

are teaching bots to write anything: Sports
stories, TPS reports, even say, those quarterly

reports that you write at work.
Paper work, decision making, writing -- a
lot of human work falls into that category

and the demand for human metal labor is these
areas is on the way down. But surely the professions

are safe from bots? Yes?
## Professions
When you think 'lawyer' it's easy to think
of trials. But the bulk of lawyering is actually

drafting legal documents predicting the likely
outcome and impact of lawsuits, and something

called 'discovery' which is where boxes of
paperwork gets dumped on the lawyers and they

need to find the pattern or the one out-of-place
transaction among it all.

This can all be bot work. Discovery, in particular,
is already not a human job in many firms.

Not because there isn't paperwork to go through,
there's more of it than ever, but because

clever research bots sift through millions
of emails and memos and accounts in hours

not weeks -- crushing human researchers in
terms of not just cost and time but, most

importantly, accuracy. Bots don't get sleeping
reading through a million emails.

But that's the simple stuff: IBM has a bot
named Watson: you may have seen him on TV

destroy humans at Jeopardy — but that was
just a fun side project for him.

Watson's day-job is to be the best doctor
in the world: to understand what people say

in their own words and give back accurate
diagnoses. And he's already doing that at

Slone-Kettering, giving guidance on lung cancer

Just as Auto don’t need to be perfect -- they
just need to make fewer mistakes than humans,

-- the same goes for doctor bots.
Human doctors are by no means perfect -- the
frequency and severity of misdiagnosis are

terrifying -- and human doctors are severely
limited in dealing with a human's complicated

medical history. Understanding every drug
and every drug's interaction with every other

drug is beyond the scope of human knowability.
Especially when there are research robots
whose whole job it is to test 1,000s of new

drugs at a time.
Human doctors can only improve through their
own experiences. Doctor bots can learn from

the experiences of every doctor bot. Can read
the latest in medical research and keep track

of everything that happens to all his patients
world-wide and make correlations that would

be impossible to find otherwise.
Not all doctors will go away, but when doctor
bots are comparable to humans and they're

only as far away as your phone -- the need
for general doctors will be less.

So professionals, white-collar workers and
low-skill workers all have something to worry

But perhaps you're still not worried because
you're a special creative snowflakes. Well

guess what? You're not that special.
## Creative Labor
Creativity may feel like magic, but it isn't.
The brain is a complicated machine -- perhaps

the most complicated machine in the whole
universe -- but that hasn't stopped us from

trying to simulate it.
There is this notion that just as mechanical
muscles allowed us to move into thinking jobs

that mechanical minds will allow us all to
move into creative work. But even if we assume

the human mind is magically creative -- it's
not, but just for the sake of argument -- artistic

creativity isn't what the majority of jobs
depend on. The number of writers and poets

and directors and actors and artist who actually
make a living doing their work is a tiny,

tiny portion of the labor force. And given
that these are professions that are dependent

on popularity they will always be a small
part of the population.

There is no such thing as a poem and painting
based economy.

Oh, by the way, this music in the background
that your listening to? It was written by

a bot. Her name is Emily Howel and she can
write an infinite amount of new music all

day for free. And people can't tell the difference
between her and human composers when put to

a blind test.
Talking about artificial creativity gets weird
fast -- what does that even mean? But it's

nonetheless a developing field.
People used to think that playing chess was
a uniquely creative human skill that machines

could never do right up until they beat the
best of us. And so it goes for all human talent.

## Conclusion
Right: this might have been a lot to take
in, and you might want to reject it -- it's

easy to be cynical of the endless, and idiotic,
predictions of futures that never are. So

that's why it's important to emphasize again
this stuff isn't science fiction. The robots

are here right now. There is a terrifying
amount of working automation in labs and wear

houses that is proof of concept.
We have been through economic revolutions
before, but the robot revolution is different.

Horses aren't unemployed now because they
got lazy as a species, they’re unemployable.

There's little work a horse can do that do
that pays for its housing and hay.

And many bright, perfectly capable humans
will find themselves the new horse: unemployable

through no fault of their own.
But if you still think new jobs will save
us: here is one final point to consider. The

US census in 1776 tracked only a few kinds
of jobs. Now there are hundreds of kinds of

jobs, but the new ones are not a significant
part of the labor force.

Here's the list of jobs ranked by the number
of people that perform them - it's a sobering

list with the transportation industry at the
top. Going down the list all this work existed

in some form a hundred years ago and almost
all of them are targets for automation. Only

when we get to number 33 on the list is there
finally something new.

Don't that every barista and officer worker
lose their job before things are a problem.

The unemployment rate during the great depression
was 25%.

This list above is 45% of the workforce. Just
what we've talked about today, the stuff that

already works, can push us over that number
pretty soon. And given that even our modern

technological wonderland new kinds of work
are not a significant portion of the economy,

this is a big problem.
This video isn't about how automation is bad
-- rather that automation is inevitable. It's

a tool to produce abundance for little effort.
We need to start thinking now about what to

do when large sections of the population are
unemployable -- through no fault of their

own. What to do in a future where, for most
jobs, humans need not apply.

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Humans Need Not Apply

34409 Folder Collection
Chamber published on February 13, 2016
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