“The ‘smarter’ machines get, the more and more jobs they’ll replace. Including mine. And yours.”
-- Reader Comment
Martin Ford’s prize-winning “Rise of the Robots” (2015) underlies this three-part set of guest posts for Caleb Newquist's Going Concern, looking at the prospects that drones, robots and cognitive technology will rapidly displace jobs and careers at all levels of the Big Audit model, and that the speed with which those learning organisms will surpass that of even high-judgment humans is dramatically under-appreciated.
The span of initial reader reactions included the expected denial and resistance -– “the obligatory weekly robot article” and “tired of this argument” –- part of the automation dialog since the dawn of the Industrial Age when artisanal weavers led by Ned Ludd burned factories and destroyed looms in England out of their anxiety over an uncertain future.
More substantively, this part starts with the comment (compressed and emphasis added) that “Automation has been here forever… Since we who are still here have adapted in the past, I assume the majority of us will continue to adapt in the future.”
That’s a reader stating the “induction fallacy” -– namely, that past conditions are not only expected to continue, but provide guidance as to the likelihood that conditions will not change -– both a common and instinctive human reaction, and in general quite misleading. (For those so inclined, see the insightful if eccentric Nassim Nicholas Taleb in “The Black Swan” (2007) and, better, Daniel Kahneman’s brilliant "Thinking, Fast and Slow” (2011).)
Not “This time it’s different” –- but “The future is already arriving”
To start, the MOTS skepticism needs to be dispelled. The fatal accident on May 7, 2016 involving a Tesla Model S in “autopilot” mode, where the car’s system was somehow blinded and unable to recognize a white truck turning across its path, will not slow down the arrival of driverless vehicles. Quite the contrary -– now unleashed, the genii of technology will not be re-captured. The discussion has already shifted from capability to liability and responsibility. It’s no longer “if?” -- but “how?” and “how soon?”
For the rest of the piece, please continue here at Going Concern for August 11.
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