Friday, January 15, 2016

Prepare to do (complex) manual labor

There are millions of students in India, China and other developing countries doing everything they can to take the highest paying jobs available.  In the U.S. if you don't work for the government (and that isn't increasing), there will be a steady transition (20-30 years) towards the service and labor industries before labor drops off completely.

Local small businesses like plumbers, knife sharpeners and gardeners are the new middle class.  They own small businesses that are difficult enough and require expertise or complex machines to reduce competition but not so much that they can't compete with the conglomerate.  Electricians, Home Inspection and Tutoring are businesses where certification is an expected but the other barriers to entry are low.  Expect these businesses to grow as people look for alternatives to the corporate ladder.  This trend of local labor intensive entrepreneurship will grow for the next 15-20 years until robotics and battery technology begin to compete.

Medical Doctors commonly had their own private practice, but with the past 40 years of regulation, the private practice is going away.  Dentists, chiropractors, and attorneys are, so far, less affected by these changes. As a business owner they needed to know so much more than they do now, they needed broader perspectives and an ability to manage incredible risk, and they are making proportionately less than ever.

Professions have changed from being traditionally business owners to being equivalent to tradesmen. 100 years ago, engineering firms were often 1 person companies, now these businesses are being outsourced overseas.  Accountants, financial consultants, software developers and every other profession that doesn't require hands-on participation will continue to see a shifting of the workforce. This shift may even expand to those physical professions as robotics extend our digital world.  The small businesses who cut your grass, serve your food and wash your car are becoming more common.
We have more pressure to earn advanced degrees, and less real world incentive, as education in previously "third world" countries skyrocket and wages race to bring balance. The high earners in the U.S. are finding themselves not middle class, but top of the lower class.   Earning $100k was once a benchmark for success, now it means having granite countertops and owning a newer vehicle.

The U.S. workforce will change in several ways.

There will be massive amounts of highly qualified people who won't be employable.  They may still be productive and valued by society but they will no longer have Jobs or be seen as contributors to the economy.  Some real innovation and creativity will certainly come from this group.

There will be a group of people who continue to push forward in the traditional work environment, competing with the best the rest of the world for a shrinking number of jobs for the highly educated as machines and humans compete.

Fewer and fewer will consider themselves truly poor and the difference between professionals like software developers, engineers, entrepreneurs and people not working in a traditional sense will be less and less noticeable.

Some might say that there could be a massive revolt, but I find that unlikely as the cost of goods, services, transportation and energy drop.  It is unlikely that people will feel repressed, overburdened or unable to express themselves.  I want to state, that this isn't communism.  This is a natural progression of the mix of capitalism and socialism that we are currently in.  Goods simply cost less, to the point where in 40 years, Maslow's hierarchy of needs will be an after thought. Life will cost nothing to live, and work will be what you want it to be.  Getting to that point could be interesting, quite scary for most and painful for many.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Islands of Truth

In a post, The End of Work, I promoted the strengthening of bonds between cultures.  My fear was that 3d printing would eventually drive a wedge between cultures as we are less dependent on the financial bonds that have pushed us over the centuries to communicate across so many boundaries.

What do you assume about Porsche owners?
My brother' reply to this was that 'We are already experiencing this because of companies like WalMart and even more so with Amazon.  We don't know who we are buying from, and we no longer care.  We don't need to interact with them.'

Not only was he right, but he hit on the crucial behavioral characteristic of the problem.  We like to interact with those who reinforce our beliefs.  Instead of enabling dialogue, the web has enabled this isolating behavior.  We are becoming a self divided society.  We are slicing our society into segments, and we are becoming intolerant of opposing ideas.

What is happening at Missouri and across the nation is an attack on ideas.  It is so easy to assume we are right and they are wrong.  We have adopted this moral obligation to help others, protect them and the rest of society from the evils of strange thoughts.

The Starbucks Coffee cup is another great example of this.  The cup is red, and the only news I noticed was from a liberal perspective that claimed Christians were inflamed.  Never did I see any actual Christians upset by the cup, but by the claim that they were upset.

On the other side of this crazy world of intolerance a woman refuses to do her job on religious grounds and is made a hero, a martyr even going to jail for the act.  This woman is forever in people's minds as either an idiot or a hero.  How would you like it if your life was summed up into one act?

Ask Monica Lewinsky who was not the first who was destroyed by our modern way of jumping to conclusions.

Driving on the highway my son pointed out a VW Beetle.  I casually mentioned that it was a great car, and it was a point of pride for Adolph Hitler.  My son was aghast.  The idea that Hitler, had done something most people would say is good was certainly Dad pulling his leg.  Moreover I told him of Hitler's involvement in the development of our modern Highway system, and again he was incredulous.  A person as evil as Hitler couldn't do things that helped humanity, it was unthinkable.  Make no mistake, having people killed because you can is evil, but as Mr. Ollivander from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone described Voldemort, "After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things. Terrible! Yes. But great."

I have no idea the particulars of these events and I don't care to.  What I do want is for people to somehow stop thinking they always have the answers.  I make silly guesses, and I don't presume to be correct.  I do attempt to think things through but my perspective is as narrow as anyone's.

Its going to take talking, working and playing with each other to make this world better.  The next time you see someone who makes you feel uncomfortable, I hope you say Hi, smile and strike up a conversation, it could be very enlightening.

Friday, October 23, 2015

FAT Dumb and Happy?

Last night I watched a TED talk by Mel Robbins, "How to stop screwing yourself over", and today I was reflecting on a book that I am writing.  It features Fat-dumb-happy people.

It was classic TED, simple and mind blowing.  My two takeaways were, you must be your own parent and force yourself to do the things you should be doing but don't want to do and "Fat, Dumb and Happy people" are simply comfortable.  Yes I know, shock, profound.  But I really made the connection that I have allowed myself to lecture my kids on work ethic while projects I have been "Starting" for years languish.  I am comfortable, plain and simple.

America is comfortable, we don't do what we know we could or even should do, because we're comfy.

I see a future where most people just exist.  Taking chances is unnecessary.  'No pain, no gain' is replaced by 'no pain no pain'.  Exercise may soon be accomplished by a pill and that will thrill many including myself.  Safety will be the norm and any risk will be shocking.  Male contraception and Basic Guaranteed Income may eliminate extreme poverty and create a low income leisure class never before seen in history.

I'm not sure Mel's TED talk will sway many.  My guess is that time with family, screens and no explicit needs will yield an ever increasing group of Fat-dumb and happy people, even if medicine makes us all fit and smart.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The road to domestic automation

Our vision of the domestic robot of the future is Rosie from the Jetsons or Robin Williams portrait of a home robot in Bicentennial Man. The reality right now is iRobot's Roomba , and many robots with little immediate potential for everyday people.

Some believe the ultimate solution is the "Internet of things" which is cool, and this model probably has a good shot at becoming ubiquitous.  I don't know however if people want to or will care to have 'Intelligence' built into everything.  It just doesn't seem necessary. 

The military has embraced 'Drones' or semi autonomous robotics.   These drones are land and air based and have many things in common.  While there are some non-military drones those too are far removed from the everyday life of  most people.

My bet is that drones will be available that can carry out many different jobs around the home.
Imagine having someone from anywhere in the world driving a robot in your kitchen, helping it when it gets stuck or teaching it a new task. These tasks and the information they learn would become part of the collective information about objects, and activities.  This task of programming, training and guidance needs just a few steps of hardware capability to become reality.

This vision is an extension of Baxter from and other teachable robotics. The second and most challenging issue is mobility.  Current user friendly general purpose robots aren't about to have the mobility necessary to mow  your lawn, climb stairs, get in and out of a vehicle and scrub your bathtub, but they are on their way. 

By 2020 there will be robots  that combined with human drivers will do many tasks around wealthy homes.  They will be the precursor to wide spread domestic automation.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Your Grandkids Grandkids won't be Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers or Plumbers

While these kids will need to be tech savvy, their kid’s future is much less certain.  No level of education can keep pace with the pace of technology.  Employees of 2100 will not perform any function that we think of as work today.

Few people are proposing answers to questions about our future.  Most know that we can't know what the future will bring.  Almost all posts about the future are really just re-asking the question what should we do?  I want to give legs to an idea I had, and I hope others can get passionate about it.

If it will happen is no longer a real question.  We can question when, but that too is of little consequence because we will certainly need to have built a new societal structure before it is absolutely necessary in order to stave off revolution. 

There are at least 5 ways humanity will meet the singularity... please comment with yours.

1)      People will evolve, as we have to include technology
a.      Education
b.      Different jobs
c.      Add internal circuitry

2)      Everything will be free
a.      Just add drugs
b.      Guaranteed Income

3)      Encourage other pursuits, potentially competing, possibly coexisting with technology
a.      Learning
b.      Teaching
c.      Creating
d.      Exploring

4)      Caring for people, expanding the tribe
a.      Human time & companionship as a valued resource
b.      International human relations being valued
c.      Intra racial relations
d.      Intra religious relations
e.      Intra generational relations

5)      People will revolt there is no future

I have very specific reasons for hoping for #4, but I would assume we will have some of all of these things. 

We must focus on understanding fear at a cultural level, then encourage outreach as a bridge to help unite our world.  This will expand on a personal level our ability to empathize and relate to others thereby reducing our fear of differences and any us vs. them mentality.

There is no level of education that can keep pace with the pace of technology.  Employees of 2100 will not perform any function that we think of as work today.  Expanded brains and bodies will not change this.  'Our' work will be insignificant.

'Let the miners be miners, let the loggers be loggers, let the farmers be farmers.'  The facts don't play out well.  I don't need statistics to tell you that these jobs have been automated. 

Even the technical roles for these fields have diminished.  It is true that as we increase performance the technical aspects to these and about any other field change and expand, however as these performance increases progress the level of automation increases, and our ability to use intuition decreases.  Computers can now be programmed to mimic intuition, but more importantly they can assess every possibility, especially the ones we wouldn't think of.

In this new world we will not just rely on computers but our ability to understand our world will depend on our ability to eliminate the barriers between ourselves and our machines.

I constantly see posts that expect history to continue on the same path, assuming that we will develop new jobs that we can’t yet imagine and other ways to ward off the impending machine age.

It is time that we look toward the future with eyes wide open and focus on what can be done not relying on what we have done.

Would a guaranteed income solve our ills?  Please tell me the last time you saw someone live a happy life without spending at least 10 hours a week producing, serving or competing.  That’s not to say that we should stay the same, but expecting everyone to be able to deal with free time in a constructive manner is irrational.

Within 10 years 90 percent of the US population will have expectations that everything we call work today will be replaced by machines in their lifetimes.

Sometime soon, we need to break down the walls, spend time with one another and build a culture where people no longer fear each other, and that is what I think we need to focus on.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The End of Work

Very soon we as a race will be made aware that we are much less capable than our creation in every way.

It is critical that we begin to value humanity now.

We will no longer need to drive
We will no longer need to cook
We will no longer be the best window washers or artists or programmers or engineers. 

Soon products will be produced locally, at higher quality and with more personalization at a much lower cost than could ever be produced by a human today.

Service jobs will be better executed by robots powered by powerful computers that are constantly learning everything, sharing everything and executing with precision.

My last post, Technological Unemployment  was an answer to a question posed by Peter H. Diamandis. In it I propose that we begin to pay the hospice worker a fitting wage.  We should pay the soccer coach for the real human value they provide.  In this post I want to explore the why.  Why do we need work.  

People have asked me 'why' so many times that I am astonished.  Most people simply dream of a day when they can "do what they want".   While others assume that there will be little value in any human endeavor. 

People need to work in order to relate to one another.

Economy built all of the cities in the world, it built all of the cultures of the world.  If we allow it to fail, our need for one another, and our compassion for one another will fail as well.  We will build prejudice based on ignorance.

I am a fan of Ray Kurzweil but I disagree with him when it comes to humanity.  His expectation is that we will continue to find new ways to employ ourselves.  He is so passionate about this I have begun to wonder if he has questioned himself lately.  The challenge I have is that he focuses on our joining with technology to accomplish this.  His belief that this will happen is the flaw in his argument.

People will change, people will incorporate technology, but it is inconsistent with logic that we would accept technological change within ourselves at any pace that could keep up with a singularity.  

For us to create jobs for ourselves in a traditional sense we need to provide at least equal capability either physically or mentally to any competition.  I think it is clear that we have no chance of equality with our creation, even if we remain in control of it.  We cannot create new jobs, we must embrace the most basic ones.

For technology to create jobs for us is for us to require it to deceive us, which could prove less than ideal.

The jobs I propose would be jobs that we would prefer a human perform.  These jobs are currently low value.  The hospice worker, the poet and yes the cubmaster are all jobs that we see the value in but currently we won't pay for.  We must import soccer coaches, and export tennis trainers.

Currently many companies are generous by sponsoring Junior Achievement and other good works. These programs are a step, but they are not enough.

If large companies gave 1 month paid family global volunteerism opportunity for 5 years of service and granted a month of service to another cultures family in return the affect would be dramatic.  This models emphasis is on how we build relations with cultures based on human centered activities.  This model is the beginning of a solution to two problems.

It gives humanity a job, and it strengthens the bonds between cultures.  

We must promote international humanitarian efforts by ensuring all cultures and all economic levels are understood and appreciated by one another.  

This move toward capital valuation of human centered endeavors starts with corporations being aware of the destabilization of the workforce and it completes with humanity's recognition of itself as valuable in itself. 

I fear that the world will need to be destabilized by mass unemployment, increasing cultural division or other factors before we begin down the path, but I have hope that the value of this model or something better can accelerate the change from product based economy to a human centered one.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Technological Unemployment

Peter H. Diamandis asks the question what will we do when when technology displaces us.  link ...  

We need jobs around love and caring.  These will be about helping people interact and form bonds. 

Social Services are a new value model, love and relationships are a currency.  I am a Cub Scout leader, care giver, husband, father, and we need to use these kinds of community service, leadership and personal growth positions as our new value model.  

The business sector needs to start valuing these previously volunteer or low paid positions as we emerge into a society that is less about producing and more about loving.  Walmart and every other corporation is looking to the future for how they can build a consumer base.  Instead of how to build a consumer base they need to look at how to be a part of stabilizing the labor base. People cannot continue to live behind a desk, or in boxes.  

If someone wants to help others our society should help them do that.  This experiment is not one of charity; it is an expression of the value we place on Humanity.  It is the underlying community of appreciation for us and our children that must be addressed.

Our school system is becoming irrelevant, and our workforce evaporating into oblivion.  In its place we must fill and overfill that void by valuing good works, teaching, and caring.  Spending afternoons with the elderly or playing in the park with kids should pay well because it is these behaviors that bind us, these behaviors that guide us and these behaviors that are inherently human. 

I don't mean to say that corporations should pay people to stay home.  We need to pay people to produce results.  These things can be measured, and bonuses can be paid for exceptional results.  The company derives value not only from public image but also from contributing to civil society.

A big fear that I have is that the program will be handed to the government or treated as a charity.  In the wrong hands the value will not be measured, the benefits will not be attained.  This loving society must be capitalistic to ensure that human nature is accounted for.  Measures must be in place, and value derived.

I can see by 2035 we will have a significant presence in this space and as “Society crumbles” we will be building into this new framework for us and our posterity.

I have had some good feedback and I understand there is a huge segment of society that we fear.  People who don't care people who you don't want to care for or be cared by.  To that I say that is why we need this model.  The only way to understand one another is to care for people different from ourselves.  

After some good dialogue with +Uche Eke  I realize that I need to add some supporting perspective to this guess.  Robert Wright has a couple of TED talks that will help to understand why I have the perspective that I do.  He argues that compassion beyond family is based on mutual benefit.  I will let him explain. 

Robert Wright - Optimism 
Robert Wright - Compassion 

I realize that sighing one 'expert' doesn't amount to evidence but this is just a silly guess.

So what do you think?   Go ahead and tell me that I'm wrong.  This is just a silly guess.