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Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  8,951 ratings  ·  804 reviews
What are the jobs of the future? How many will there be? And who will have them? We might imagine—and hope—that today's industrial revolution will unfold like the last: even as some jobs are eliminated, more will be created to deal with the new innovations of a new era. In Rise of the Robots, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Martin Ford argues that this is absolutely not the ca ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by Basic Books
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Daniel The Republican Party in the United States always wants to de-fund Planned Parenthood. Evidently they think the best response to the coming tsunami of …moreThe Republican Party in the United States always wants to de-fund Planned Parenthood. Evidently they think the best response to the coming tsunami of technological unemployment is to create more babies to compete for the shrinking supply of jobs.

To answer your first question, I'm not seeing much in the book about how to solve the problem. The book is more about explaining what the problem is than how to fix it. The first step in fixing a problem is to acknowledge that it exists, and so far I haven't heard of a government anywhere on the planet that acknowledges this one. We're basically stampeding toward massive, permanent unemployment with absolutely no plan. A guaranteed minimum income is one possible policy response, but it's hard to see that becoming a reality. It might not stand up to robotic deflation anyway - as people start losing jobs, they consume less, so the economy shrinks, so the gazillionaires have less money we could tax away to fund the guaranteed minimum wage. Basically, technological progress says the human population needs to shrink, like the horse population did when horses became obsolete, There's no nice way to do that. No politician could get elected on that platform.(less)

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Start your review of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future
A popular campfire ghost story among businesses and economists these days is the ‘jobless future’ – the idea that rampant industrial automation and computerisation will soon mean a world where intelligent robots can do everything we can better and more efficiently than we can do it. At this year's World Economic Forum, everyone seemed keen to argue against this scenario, and I spent most of the week trudging across Davos from one freezing interviewee to another who wanted to tell me why it wasn' ...more
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a remarkable book, not least since it is so lucid – the writer has a good grasp of IT and economics and this makes for some uncomfortable reading. I was in a meeting the other day with about half a dozen other people – all academics – and I mentioned I had been reading quite a lot lately about technology and employment and I was becoming quite concerned that we are about to face a kind of jobs apocalypse. Mostly, the people in the meeting thought I was crazy. One of them said she had rea ...more
Update September 2018: (previous updates after my review)

I lost track of this review, otherwise I would have written this update in May 2018.

A few paragraphs down, I point out that there was a video that came out in June 2015 that showed robots failing amusingly — see it here: At least they tried: Robot ‘epic fails’ compilation from DARPA Robotics Challenge. They can’t open a door without falling down! They sometimes fall over just trying to walk! It was hilarious, and I’m sure a lot of folks to
Clif Hostetler
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-events
The premise of Rise of the Robots is simple: technology is accelerating so rapidly that automation is on the verge of taking over not just straight-forward physically oriented jobs but also "brain power" jobs as well in such fields as law, healthcare, journalism, engineering, and computer programming.

Similar sorts of warnings have been around since the time of the Luddites. So it's easy to disregard these warnings as one more dystopian prediction of the technological future (e.g. Where's the fl
Mal Warwick
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Warren Buffett, who ought to know, recently told shareholders of his investment company, Berkshire-Hathaway, that the development of driverless cars poses a “real threat” to the insurance industry. Buffett cares a lot about insurance, because he’s got billions invested in it. But he might have broadened his concern to encompass the entire economy. Because the emerging application of robotics poses a “real threat” to the future wellbeing of our country and the world. In Rise of the Robots, Silico ...more
Jul 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
“Rise of the Robots" begins with a survey of the technology landscape – an over-clocked world where change seems to follow Moore's Law – doubling in speed every couple of years. Ford paints a picture of the capabilities of robots and the dismal economic climate for humans that has existed since the mid-seventies: real wages are declining; wealth is being concentrated in the hands of 1% of the nation; half of all college graduates are not finding work that can use their college education; even hi ...more
May 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: technology
Martin Ford is a Silicon Valley software entrepreneur and to put it simply, a polymath. He did not without reason win the 2015 Financial Times Best Business Book of the Year Award: Rise of the Robots – Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future is the first book in the 21st century which succeeds to combine the impacts of technology and economics onto mankind. It therefore rightly deserves to take the book award from the 2014 winner Capital in the 21st century, because Thomas Piketty’s analys ...more
Scott Sigler
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Frankly, this is some scary shit. The robots are coming for ... our jerbs!

I highly recommend this book to anyone under 30 (and especially under 20), as it will be y'all that face the full ramifications of this book's predictions. Hopefully most of us old farts will be retired and enjoying the care of robot nurses and doctors by that time.

Machine learning algorithms are going to heavily impact white collar jobs the same way robotics heavily impacted blue collar factory work. If your job involves
Maciej Nowicki
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Rise of the Robots shows what are the jobs of the future and reflects many doubts about the future of the job market. People hope and imagine that the current industrial and technological revolution will eliminate some of the jobs, nevertheless, more positions will be created in order to deal with new possibilities and innovations. So, when we talk about technology we talk about the positives in terms of growth and the ability to enhance productivity.

Unfortunately, Martin Ford, the author o
Clare O'Beara
Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a top-class, broad look at our use of machinery to do our work in the past, present and somewhat scary future.
We look at how co-operative strategies such as the co-ordinated build, factory, design teams and production line speeded up our work and production.
But today we have better tools to make the tools that make the machines, and we have faster, smarter computers. We are even approaching machine intelligence in some areas, and as I write the chess and go champions have been beaten b
Bryan Alexander
Mar 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Rise of the Robots is a brisk, accessible overview of current thinking about the possibilities of automation.

Martin Ford takes us through the major issues, technologies, and problems. He begins with several chapters exploring what we mean by automation (robotics plus good software), the importance of developments over the past decade, and the macroeconomic context. Then the chapters advance through the potential impact of automation on white collar jobs (management, professions), education, hea
Most of this book makes a pretty convincing case that automation is going to replace most jobs in the next 50 years, maybe less. I think I buy that, and thus I am personally worried, since a good portion of my job as a software engineer is probably automatable (in large part the actual coding I do involves writing boilerplate and figuring out how to integrate third party software, which, in theory, a machine could do quite well, with far less angst; in short, I am already a blue-collar coder, an ...more
Dec 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book to start the New Year off with as it really makes you consider the future.
It doesn't sound too appealing though - mass unemployment, increasing inequality as all but the highest level jobs get replaced by machines and ultimately the threat that we aren't in control at all as the machines become super intelligent. And of course the problem, for the economy that machines might be cheaper but they aren't consumers - liked the story of Henry Ford II and his union leader - Ford: "How a
May 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you decide to read one piece of nonfiction this summer, let this be it.

Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future is one of the most intelligent and important works of futurism to date. Although the book’s title might trigger images of popcorn and 3D glasses rather than a sober analysis of Earth’s economic future, Ford’s arguments are politically balanced, meticulously supported, and cleanly presented for non-specialists. His message––that technological un
Katia N
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book is a bit patchy in the quality of its analysis. But, I guess, the author is pioneering the new area in a wider public discourse. I could not find any other mainstream, relatively impartial and newer book on the subject.

What I liked about the book was the detailed and clear analysis of the current economic trends, such as the decline of labour share in GDP, inequality, inability of recent graduates to find suitable jobs etc.

What i did not find so convincing was the casual link between
William Kyle Spratt
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Argues for larger taxes and a guaranteed income globally to combat the displacement of jobs due to technology. A lack of understanding of economics drives the author to this incorrect conclusion that taxes will create prosperity rather than individuals be responsible on acquiring new skills to adjust to the shift in jobs available. Author also cites incorrect statistics on productivity and wages and spends little time on the emergence of new technology and what the world will look like. I sugges ...more
Son Tung
Dec 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
The first book which introduces me to the real advancement + implication/speculation of AI tech for future economy. There is a prospect that not only old jobs but also white collar jobs will be replaced by the rise of more and more sophisticated intelligent machines. The results are serious, its about the widening gap of wealth, work crisis and social inequality.
Ford sets out the case for worrying about the advances being made in the fields of robotics and AI and the impacts they can be expected to have on society. He agrees that it is a familiar trope – machines replacing human workers, causing unemployment and hardship for those affected – and that the many predictions made in the past for an impending jobs armageddon have not come to pass. But he marshals a large amount of data that tells us that this time it will be different.

Drawing on mainly US ev
Feb 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
Very informative book written by an author that has over 20 years of experience in computer science. I expected this book to be quite technical and full of latest complicated IT terms, but actually it is not that much. Rather an accessible read. As he has also done an MBA, the author introduces a lot of economics analyses throughout his book. This combination works just great. Moreover, he makes reference to many authors that most probably were in his research list for this book.

What I didn’t li
Dec 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Just read the second industrial age instead. Though this book is a nice update to that one and outlines the details of the robotics changes, it is shallower in theory and in history and way way too optimistic about UBI (again with the UBI. Bezos is apparently quite convincing in this echo chamber). I didn't care much for the proposals, but it was still a useful overview and also was pretty nuanced in analyzing some of the hysterics around the singularity ...more
Max Nova
May 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: economics, automation
Where Ford's first book was a revelation, his second book is a disappointment. He adds very little new to the conversation with "Rise of the Robots" - for the most part this book is a recycled laundry list of popular news articles about cool startups and technologies that are making progress in various areas of automation. If you've read his first book, The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future or Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolut ...more
Dec 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015
Rise of the Robots (RoR) was voted as the Financial Time's Business Book of the Year* for 2015.

I found the book to be a disappointment. RoR goes over well trodden territory around automation, the shift of from a labour driven economy to a capital driven economy and the impending collapse of the consumption due to the shrinking middle class. Mr. Ford also provides a brief tour of the issues around the emergence of general purpose Artificial Intelligence** and nano technology. The book concludes w
Quintin Zimmermann
Aug 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Rise of the Robots begins and ends like a dry, dense textbook replete with graphs, charts and statistics.

It is the middle part of the book that was the most illuminating and fascinating at times. I expected the author to delve solely into the loss of the blue-collar, menial jobs to robots, only to realise that the white-collar professionals are just as vulnerable to technological innovation.

Narrative Science's Quill software has already automated the creation of news articles for many widely kn
Doichin Cholakov
Jun 02, 2016 rated it did not like it
With the Swiss Referendum on the universal basic income coming in three days you might be interested in the intellectual undercurrents that made the idea so widely popular lately.

This book actually is a good point to start. It is atrociously primitive in terms of both style and quality of the research, but seems to powerfully strike a chord and has collected a good amount of raving reviews and distinctions. The argument goes like that - since when we open the whatever media we are reading we see
May 28, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is more of an extended edition of “the lights in the tunnel”. The author made significant updates on the present and future of smart machine or robot. On the other hand, he didn’t add too much on potential strategies to prevent disappearance of “lights”---including tax system and virtual jobs, which I feel to be main strength of his works.
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Seems to me the first part of this book is the better half with all the charts and data backing up Ford's general premise that workers are being replaced by technology and the widening economic gap between the top 5% and everyone else isn't helping. First, robots and automation can do simple, repetitive tasks. Next robots and AI with deep learning capability can connect and communicate with each other; robots can now "learn" on their own, correct their mistakes, and become more efficient. Compan ...more
Rod Van Meter
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I finished this book several weeks ago, and a number of my thoughts are already starting to fade, and the whole is starting to blend into an impression with details no longer sharp, so forgive the vagueness and brevity of the review. (The start and finish dates below are also approximate.)

Ford musters a fair amount of detail on how automation is taking over many industries, and the book is very timely, with a lot of fresh data (as of early 2015). He covers manufacturing, of course, but also cons
Aaron Arnold
Jan 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Star Trek replicator has long been a dream of humanity - completely automated provision of the means of subsistence, with the potential to eliminate unprecedented amounts of drudgery. Far from everyone being freed to pursue their dreams of becoming starship captains, though, it's entirely possible that the current dramatic increase in automation will simply put humans out of work, whether those humans are low-wage burger-flippers, manufacturing workers at home or offshore, or white-shoe corp ...more
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The bulk of the book may deserve 5 stars, but the recommendations at the end do not [see below].

The book manages to discuss an impressive range of topics directly or indirectly related to the automation of econonic activity and the impact on human employment. It does this without being a particularly long book. Of course, that means that some readers will find some topics are not covered in the depth and detail they would have preferred. However, I did not find that to be a general issue.

For ins
Дмитрий Филоненко
It's that type of book when you feel like in a conversation with an author. I started reading it and after 1-2 chapters I thought: "OK, that's pretty clear and obvious, although quite alarmistic. According this topic - I don't think that authorities are going to oversleep such moment, they will definitely be intervening. And according that topic - I see some potential solution. So, what is he going to write about in the rest 8 chapters? Just about yet more bogeys from the coming future?" But the ...more
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Martin Ford is the author of the two books Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future (2015) and The Lights In the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future (2009) — both dealing with the effects of automation and mass-unemployment. He is the founder of a Silicon Valley-based software development firm, and obtained a computer engineering degre ...more

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“I find it somewhat ironic that many conservatives in the United States are adamant about securing the border against immigrants who will likely take jobs that few Americans want, while at the same time expressing little concern that the virtual border is left completely open to higher-skill workers who take jobs that Americans definitely do want.” 13 likes
“In 2012, Google, for example, generated a profit of nearly $14 billion while employing fewer than 38,000 people.9 Contrast that with the automotive industry. At peak employment in 1979, General Motors alone had nearly 840,000 workers but earned only about $11 billion—20 percent less than what Google raked in. And, yes, that’s after adjusting for inflation.” 7 likes
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