Katia N'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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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 the exponential technology development and the depicted future apocalypses (aka feudal society with closed-gate communities and the crowds of savages around it). I’ve read thoroughly the described trends in the automation and the AI. They actually appeared less scary than I thought. For example, I thought 3D printers could in future replace all production lines (silly me). Apparently, they would be used more like our home printers now for small unique objects. The book of course talks about much bigger variety of technological advances and which jobs potentially would go. But overall the scale of the evidence presented is not matching with the bleak social scenario depicted in the later chapters.

The main risk according the the author is the lack of jobs would lead to the sharp drop of mass consumption which would initiate the downward spiral. in the economy. I would argue though, that a bit less consumption would not hurt. We all complain about consumerism and its impact on our culture and the environment. I know that the impact should be monitored, and stopped at some stage, but per se, it is not such a bad thing.

Fortunately, when i was getting closer and closer to the end of the book, feeling more and more desperate and grim, the author came to my help and gave me the glimpse of hope:

“While the machines clearly seem destined to take on more and more work over time, there is no question that the economy will remain heavily dependant on human labor for the foreseeable future.”

I personally think, the inequality, or climate change, or geopolitical issues (how silly is that in the 21st century!) might get us to that bleak feudal reality quicker, unfortunately, if we do not tackle them.

Fortunately, the suggested remedies offered by the author might (if taken seriously) help to solve the current economic issues: universal income; investment into infrastructure; increased productivity (especially for the UK).

He is a bit more sceptical about education - he considers it as a minimum requirement not to fall behind the curve. But imho, the school education level in maths and computer science in the UK and in the US is so primitive that by improving it one would definitely increase productivity.

The book has also brought me some revelation: apparently Hayek was supporting the universal income in some form. There is a proper reference on his work in the book. I just put a quote here:

“A society that has reached a certain level of wealth can afford to provide for all.”

I cannot imagine Koch brothers or their tea-party grassroots quoting this one. Have you ever heard this one quoted in any political debate from the right?

In spite of some subjective criticism above, the book is definitely clever, daring and worth reading.

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Reading Progress

February 10, 2017 – Started Reading
February 10, 2017 – Shelved
February 16, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Jan (new)

Jan I agree, this topic is very, very timely and our conservatives will be flummoxed due to their zeal for ideological purity.

Дмитрий Филоненко Thanks for such a good review! This topic is quite appealing to me. I would also recommend Ray Kurzweil books. He's rather known person behind AI (Watson project, native language technologies at Google, etc.) and at the same time a courageous futurist regarding problem 'human vs AI'. He shares an interesting viewpoint on the issue raising some old-good philosophical riddles about consciousness, etc. He's very optimistic though maybe not much convincing in his optimism for a skeptical reader. :) Anyway it's yet another view on the issue.

Katia N Jan wrote: "I agree, this topic is very, very timely and our conservatives will be flummoxed due to their zeal for ideological purity."

Thank you, Jan. I think they should be. And the claim made my Trump to return the jobs into the US would certainly be tested by technology. It looks it is not much to return as it is being replaced by automation. But it would not be the first ungrounded promise he makes.

Katia N Дмитрий wrote: "Thanks for such a good review! This topic is quite appealing to me. I would also recommend Ray Kurzweil books. He's rather known person behind AI (Watson project, native language technologies at Go..."

Thank you! This book mentioned him a few times. Is he the one from the Singularity movement? I am sure technologically there are lots of grounds for optimism. Even on a very basic level: it takes me at least 4 days to read 1 book. It would take a machine a few nanoseconds isn't? So who would be faster in learning?

I was more interested in economic effect of all of this on the society. For example, the big issue now is to return the jobs to the west which were outsourced before. But is it possible? Also if routine office jobs would start to disappear (a totally welcoming trend for me personally), would it be any perspective to utilise those people elsewhere in the economy? As well as the scale and urgency of the issue...

Based upon this book, the scale might vary, and the urgency - not immediately. (At least how I've read it). But basic economics he uses is very interesting and made me want to revise my economics knowledge actually.

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