Sunday, April 16, 2017

From ENIAC and EMERAC to ... HAL and Siri

There were three questions in this quiz. Ahem, I scored three out of three!

Go ahead, take that quiz, and come back for the rest of this post.  OK?

Alright, you are back.  Well, you never left, did you? ;)

Consider the statistics in the following image:

Yes, even Kenya.  Wherever one is, the bottom-line is no different:
For all the differences between countries, many of automation’s challenges are universal. For business, the performance benefits are relatively clear, but the issues are more complicated for policy makers. They will need to find ways to embrace the opportunity for their economies to benefit from the productivity growth potential that automation offers, putting in place policies to encourage investment and market incentives to encourage innovation. At the same time, all countries will need to evolve and create policies that help workers and institutions adapt to the impact on employment.
For regular readers of this blog, this is all same-old, same-old, right?

Unfortunately, such stuff is not discussed on Fox & Friends, which is where the current president learns about what is happening around the world and in the US!

On the other hand, news programs like this one that the president and his 63 million fucking minions do not care for, remind him:
President Trump has very specific talking points when it comes to jobs in the U.S. They go kind of like this: China — bad. Mexico — bad. Outsourcing — bad. Made in America — great. Hiring American — even better.
Trump and his supporters have spent a lot of time focusing on trade policies and how to bring back jobs lost to globalization, but experts say most of those jobs are not coming back. The key issue facing the American workforce — and therefore America’s prosperity and stability moving forward — is not trade, but technology.
Ah, those supporters of his are soon going to figure out that they are nothing but 63 million suckers!

So, what can be done?
“The jobs that we’re preparing them for haven’t even been created yet, and really, that’s a hurdle that we need to figure out how to get over, because how do you prepare them for the unknown?”
Ahem, I have written plenty about this.  Even as op-eds.  Like this one in which I wrote about educating for a world of unscripted problems.  
Unscripted because we do not know what the future holds. But, we do have a sense of how we might be able to reasonably prepare for that future, by developing skills that will help people to constructively engage with the unscripted problems.
Yet, contemporary public policy discussions on higher education and workforce preparation rarely ever go into serious and sustained thinking about the “world of unscripted problems."
Some day, after I am gone, maybe a couple of people will remark that people should have listened to me ;)


Ramesh said...

I got 2 out of 3. Since you lot don't speak English, I didn't understand what a "freight mover" is and thought it was eminently automatable.

Disagree with the chart. It does not take economics into consideration when it says jobs are automatable. Sure much of jobs in the poor world are automatable today with yesterday's technology, but they aren't simply because they are not economically worthwhile. We don't move stocks in pallets which are fork lifted. Instead people move it by carrying it on their heads.

Sriram Khé said...

Yes, that carrying it on their heads then contributes to the nearly 50% that cannot be automated.
It is based on economics--it is from McKinsey.
Here's an example to think about it: Take automobile production in India. The high degree of automation in the industry means that auto manufacturing no longer needs as many humans as labor as it once needed. Which is a major reason why the auto manufacturing industry when growing in India does not have the kind of job-growth implications that it once had. Even in India, manufacturing might bring in rupees but not as many jobs as it once did.

Understanding the implications of automation has become a high enough priority that the US National Academies of Sciences commissioned a report on it:

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