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Robocalypse Now?: Technology and the Future of Work
September 11 @ 4:00 am - 5:30 pm
The process of technological displacement of workers began in the automobile industry in the 1960’s, and with the rise of connectivity and AI it is accelerating rapidly. For example, it may be no surprise, given what’s happened in the automobile industry, that the world’s first farm that is completely run by robots has just opened in Japan; or that a new robot is available for the construction industry that can lay bricks three times faster than a human. This kind of displacement of manual labor happened in previous industrial revolutions as well. More surprising, however, is the breadth of jobs that can be replaced by intelligent automation; it isn’t just manual labor that’s being replaced: even writers, for instance, are being displaced by computer software. In January, 2016, “the Associated Press (AP) revealed that [a software program called] Wordsmith has been rolling out content since July 2014 without any human intervention.” This Wordsmith software has been generating 1000 stories per month, which is “14 times more than the previous manual output of AP’s reporters and editors.” In terms of sheer productivity, human writers cannot keep up with computers and robots. So what can we do as a society to compensate for technological unemployment, and to prevent the poverty, dislocation, and even violence that might follow, as it has in past industrial revolutions? My talk will present both the problems and possible short and longterm solutions to them.