Rushi's Reviews > Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford
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bookshelves: 2015, non-fiction
Read 2 times. Last read December 11, 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 with an argument for a universal, work appropriate basic income scheme and a discussion around the system of incentives that would make such a scheme work.

The book provides anecdotal commentary around the decimation of white collar jobs and the emergence of machine learning. It covers well trod territory on the failures of MOOCs and how a degree from a University may no longer guarantee a prosperous middle class life.

RoR comes across as a lament for the golden post-war age of increasing prosperity, high levels of employment and with the middle classes having a secure financial future. Mr. Ford mentions on a number of occasions that we are reverting to a feudal system with a small percentage of the population controlling access to capital and the majority of us becoming sharecroppers in a digital economy. I agree with this bleak prognosis but do not find Mr. Ford's solution of a increasing consumption via a universal basic income satisfactory.

I found RoR to be a sharp, succinct read with extensive foot notes and references. There are few mentions in the book of the sort of challenges facing countries like India that are not wealthy and where a basic income would be difficult to implement. India, like China before it, has staked it's economic future on creating millions of jobs through manufacturing and services. If these jobs are not to materialise due to the "Rise of the Robots", what options remain open? Regrettably, Mr. Ford does not offer much in the way of insight here.

I would recommend RoR as a primer on the type of issues that developed nations will face in the coming decades but find Mr. Ford's arguments for a solution unconvincing and his exploration on the deeper issues around ethics around general purpose AI unsatisfactory.

Notes:
* FT Business Book of the Year: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/45ea0f60-8d...

** Nick Bostrom's Superintelligence provides a detailed exploration around the issues behind the emergence of General Purpose AI: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December 11, 2015 – Finished Reading
Started Reading (Kindle Edition)
December 16, 2015 – Shelved (Kindle Edition)
December 16, 2015 – Finished Reading (Kindle Edition)
December 22, 2015 – Shelved as: non-fiction (Kindle Edition)
December 22, 2015 – Shelved as: 2015 (Kindle Edition)
December 26, 2015 – Shelved
December 26, 2015 – Shelved as: 2015
December 26, 2015 – Shelved as: non-fiction

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