Today’s bits: Skynet and the future of AI

Are you ready for the future? An era of technological unemployment, in which computer scientists and software engineers essentially invent us out of work, and the total number of jobs declines steadily and permanently.

Sound like science fiction? Like in Terminator 2 when Skynet gains self-awareness and the robots take over. While I don’t expect to see a future where Arnold and the T-1000 will come back in time to fight to save and/or destroy John Connor, a future without you working is quite conceivable.

Are you saving for your future? A future when the robots will take you job? It may be coming sooner than you think. Some projections expect there will be a net loss of over 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies by 2020. That’s just three years from now. Even if you don’t believe these projections, it seems inevitable that more and more jobs will disappear. What will you do? How will you make ends meet? Are you preparing for your future financially?

Robots will steal your job: How AI could increase unemployment and inequality

The future is supposed to be a glorious place where robot butlers cater to our every need and the four-hour work day is a reality. But the true picture could be much bleaker. (Business Insider)

If machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?

The rise of robots and AI in the workplace seems almost inevitable. At a recent conference on financial technology, pretty much every startup presenting included AI in some form or another and the World Economic Forum made “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”

Robots, automation, and AI will replace 5 million human jobs by 2020

“The fourth industrial revolution” and is transforming the labor markets beyond all recognition from decades ago, it will lead to a net loss of over 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies by 2020.

A world without work

In the past few years, even as the United States has pulled itself partway out of the jobs hole created by the Great Recession, some economists and technologists have warned that the economy is near a tipping point. When they peer deeply into labor-market data, they see troubling signs, masked for now by a cyclical recovery. And when they look up from their spreadsheets, they see automation high and low—robots in the operating room and behind the fast-food counter.

Unemployment is currently just over 5 percent, and 2014 was this century’s best year for job growth. One could be forgiven for saying that recent predictions about technological job displacement are merely forming the latest chapter in a long story called The Boys Who Cried Robot—one in which the robot, unlike the wolf, never arrives in the end. (The Atlantic)

The Future of jobs

It is estimated that 7.1 million jobs could be lost through redundancy, automation, or disintermediation, while the creation of 2.1 million new jobs, mainly in more specialized areas such as computing, math, architecture, and engineering, could partially offset some of the losses. (Weforum)

Pizza 2.0

The 5 Jobs Robots Will Take First

Oxford University researchers have estimated that 47 percent of U.S. jobs could be automated within the next two decades. But which white-collar jobs will robots take first? (Shelly Palmer)

The 5 Jobs Robots Will Take Last

Make no mistake: at some level, every job can (and will) be done by machine. It is not a question of if; it is just a question of when. (LinkedIn)

What We Know About the 92 Million Americans Who Aren’t in the Labor Force

This sounds like a shocking statistic: 92 million Americans don’t work but also aren’t considered unemployed by the Labor Department. The Labor Department only classifies people as unemployed if they are actively looking for work. All those who don’t have a job and aren’t looking are lumped together under the fishy-sounding classification “not in the labor force.” The share of Americans not in the labor force has been climbing for nearly 15 years, a development that even many economists and demographers failed to anticipate. (WSJ)


Are you 50? You may not be employable

When anyone loses there job, it’s a terrible thing. When people 50 and over lose their jobs, it may lead to permanent unemployment. Nearly two-thirds of unemployed workers age 55 and up say they’ve been actively looking for work for over a year, according to a recent survey by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

Women over 50 who lose their jobs are considered unemployable. That’s not me talking, that a direct quote from PBS. By 2012-13, older jobless women accounted for half of the long-term unemployed. That said, there are more older men who are unemployed. While during the recession, older workers were less likely to lose their jobs, that’s not the case today.

Recent data from AARP indicates that all people, 50 and over, have a difficult time finding new jobs. If they are fortunate enough to find a new jobs, it is usually at a lower rate of pay.

Those over 50 who are fortunate enough to find jobs will spend a greater amount of time unemployed than younger folks. This is due in part to their skill set. People who’ve spent a long time developing a specific skill set have more limited options when they go out looking for something new. Roughly 53 percent of re-employed respondents said they had to change occupations/careers in order to secure employment. Employers, consciously or otherwise, are reluctant to hire older workers because with their retirement age approaching, there’s an expectation that the older folks won’t stay with the company long, so why make a long term commitment?

Fidelity offers buyout

Instead of hiring people 50 and over, companies are frequently looking for ways to “package out” older workers. And why not… they’re expensive, they may not be willing to work as many hours as younger employees, they may not be as technically savvy as others. Getting rid of them and lowering the overall expense of the corporation might make sense viewed from a purely financial position. Lots of companies do this.

The most recent large employer to offer such a deal is Fidelity Investments. Last week, the American multinational financial services organization offer employees 55 years of age an over, who have been with the company for at least ten years, the opportunity to retire early. Payouts were not going to carry you until your retirement date. The company is offering roughly 3,000 employees — that’s roughly 6.7 percent of the 45,000 current employees — between six and 24 months’ pay, depending on their longevity with the company. Two years pay isn’t going to get most of us to Easy Street.

Regardless of your age, you need to plan for the unexpected. You could be jobless earlier than you think. Sixty percent of people over the age of 50 who lose their jobs involuntarily end up in unanticipated early retirement.

The times they are a-changing

Maybe the automation of jobs will eventually create new, better jobs. Maybe it will put us all out of work. But as we argue about this, work is changing. Today’s jobs — white collar, blue collar or no collar — require more education and interpersonal skills than those in the past. And many of the people whose jobs have already been automated can’t find new ones. Technology leads to economic growth, but the benefits aren’t being parceled out equally. (The Upshot)

A future without jobs

In the utopian (dystopian?) future projected by technological visionaries, few people would have to work. Wealth would be generated by millions upon millions of sophisticated machines. But how would people earn a living?

Silicon Valley has an answer: a universal basic income. While there are different flavors of the UBI, the basic concept is that everyone just gets money for existing—this, in theory, would help keep the economy running smoothly even as people are working less. But what does that have to do with today’s job market, with many Americans squeezed by globalization and technological change?

Two columnists for Business Day, Farhad Manjoo, who writes State of the Art on Thursdays, and Eduardo Porter, author of Economic Scene on Wednesdays, have just taken on these issues in different ways. So we brought them together for a conversation to help sharpen the debate about America’s economic future. (New York Times)



image credits: Wall St Journal, Washington Post/AARP, Flickr/Rog01, New York Times


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