Tag Archives: automation

Artificial Intelligence and Automation

When asked how he tells his kids to prepare for the future of working with artificial intelligence, Peter Norvig said, “I tell them… Wherever they will be working in 20 years probably doesn’t exist now. No sense training for it today. Be flexible,” he said, “and have the ability to learn new things. 

Future of work experts and AI scientists believe that in the future there will be less full-time traditional jobs that require a single skill set, less routine administrative tasks, and less repetitive manual tasks—many jobs, then, will be all about “thinking” machines. 

From managers to janitors, everyone will adopt new ways of doing their jobs with machines in the next 20 years or so to come. One issue that is not clear, however, is whether the technological revolution will create more employment opportunities than it will destroy. 

According to Al Toby Walsh, copying (Al computer) code costs almost zero and takes as much time. He goes on to say that whoever thinks technology will create more job opportunities than it will destroy is lying to themselves because nobody knows for sure. The jobs that AI will create will be different from the ones that will be destroyed, and they will require entirely different skills. 

Hamilton Calder, CEO of Committee for Economic Development Australia, thinks that everyone should learn to code. However, Mr. Charlton disagrees strongly. He is confident that you need not compete with machines to be successful in the future economy. Professor Walsh argues that, even though machines will be far better coders than humans, for geeks, there is a great future in inventing the future. 

It is time that people stopped encouraging the young generation to work towards a ‘dream’ job, says CEO of FYA, Jan Owen. Nobody should focus on an individual job. Instead, people should aim at developing a transferable skill set which includes; digital and financial literacy, project management, collaboration and the ability to carefully evaluate and analyze information. 

Robert Hillard, a managing partner at Deloitte Consulting, believes that future work will be divided into three categories;

•    People who will work for machines like online store pickers and drivers.

•    People who will work with machines like surgeons who will be using the help of machines to diagnose.

•    People who will work on machines like designers and programmers. 

The human-machine teams will unite AI algorithms with human skills like emotional intelligence and judgment. According to Mr. Hillard, jobs will increase, but they probably will not be better. Those that will be working for the machines will have the most difficult time. 

Yes, being human is a skill that you could leverage for income. Computers barely have emotional intelligence. The social jobs that need emotional intelligence (marketing jobs, being a nurse, being a psychologist) are safe. 

In the future, being human could be a job by giving services that machines cannot give—services in the caring economy, such as being empathetic. Some of these unpaid volunteering jobs could become “service jobs of love” in future. 

Computers are not creative or imaginative. Surprisingly, some of the oldest jobs ever like being an artisan or a carpenter will be the most valuable ones. People would rather see something carved by a human as opposed to a machine. 

Even with all the preparedness for future work, Mr. Dawson thinks that everyone should plan for themselves. Develop the skills that will be needed and always pay attention.

Rise of Automation – Technology and Robots Will Replace Humans

NAB to axe 4,000 jobs in shift towards automation

National Australia Bank said it would axe 4,000 jobs — about 12 per cent of its workforce — over the next three years in an effort to automate and simplify its business using new technologies.
The Australian lender announced the job cuts on Thursday as it reported a cash profit after tax of A$6.6bn ($5.1bn) for the 2016-17 financial year — a rise of 2.5 per cent on the previous year. The performance was boosted by growth in home and business lending and stronger markets and treasury income. “As we simplify, we automate processes and things move to digital channels, we will need less people and as that happens we estimate that there will be 6,000 less people needed in three years’ time,” said Andrew Thorburn, NAB chief executive. “Having said that, we’re hiring 2,000 people with different capabilities: data scientists, AI, robotics, automation, technology people, digital people, so the net [loss] will be 4,000 and that’s just a reshaping that’s going to happen.” Shares in NAB fell as much as 3 per cent to A$31.81 in early trading on an otherwise flat ASX. NAB’s job cuts follow a global pattern as lenders introduce new technologies such as artificial intelligence to replace customer support staff and digital channels that eliminate in-branch jobs. In September Vikram Pandit, who ran Citigroup from 2007 to 2012, joined a chorus of industry leaders predicting disruption when he forecast 30 per cent of banking jobs could disappear over the next five years because of technology.
NAB said it would invest an extra A$1.5bn in new technologies and products to the end of 2020 in a bid to boost growth, particularly at its business and private banking units. Mr Thorburn said digitisation, fintech and new global banking players were entering NAB’s market and it needed to adapt, particularly in the face of an uncertain global economy. “I’d rather face into this environment from a position of strength — and we’re in that position today — rather than drift into it or someone else forces us to do it,” he said. NAB said the outlook for Australia and New Zealand economies remained supportive of solid growth. “Some slowing in the housing cycle and a moderation in housing credit is expected, but downside is likely to be limited by strong population growth and low unemployment,” said the bank. The net reduction in employee numbers will cost the bank A$500m-A$800m in the first half of 2018. NAB said it was targeting cost savings of more than A$1bn by the end of 2020. NAB’s net interest margin fell 3 basis points in the 12 months to end September, compared with the same period a year earlier. Net operating revenues grew 2.7 per cent to A$17.89bn. UBS said the result was “solid” but that the bank had flagged higher than expected costs in coming years.



Automation threatens 800 million jobs, but technology could still save us

A new report predicts that by 2030, as many as 800 million jobs could be lost worldwide to automation. The study, compiled by the McKinsey Global Institute, says that advances in AI and robotics will have a drastic effect on everyday working lives, comparable to the shift away from agricultural societies during the Industrial Revolution. In the US alone, between 39 and 73 million jobs stand to be automated — making up around a third of the total workforce.

But, the report also states that as in the past, technology will not be a purely destructive force. New jobs will be created; existing roles will be redefined; and workers will have the opportunity to switch careers. The challenge particular to this generation, say the authors, is managing the transition. Income inequality is likely to grow, possibly leading to political instability; and the individuals who need to retrain for new careers won’t be the young, but middle-aged professionals.

The changes won’t hit everyone equally. Only 5 percent of current occupations stand to be completely automated if today’s cutting-edge technology is widely adopted, while in 60 percent of jobs, one-third of activities will be automated. Quoting a US government commission from the 1960s on the same topic, McKinsey’s researchers summarize: “technology destroys jobs, but not work.” As an example, it examines the effect of the personal computer in the US since 1980, finding that the invention led to the creation of 18.5 million new jobs, even when accounting for jobs lost. (The same might not be true of industrial robots, which earlier reports suggest destroy jobs overall.)

As with previous studies on this topic, there’s much to be said for taking a skeptical view. Economic forecasting is not an exact science, and McKinsey’s researchers are keen to stress that their predictions are just that. The figure of 800 million jobs lost worldwide, for example, is only the most extreme of possible scenarios, and the report also suggests a middle estimate of 400 million jobs.

Nevertheless, this study is one of the most comprehensive in recent years, modeling changes in more than 800 occupations, and taking in some 46 countries, accounting for 90 percent of world GDP. Six nations are also analyzed in detail — the US, China, Germany, Japan, India, and Mexico — with these countries representing a range of economic situations and differently organized workforces.



With immigrants targeted, U.S. farms look to automation

The Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigrants has hit the U.S. agricultural sector rather hard, especially when seven out of 10 farm workers are undocumented. Rather than fight this policy, many farms are looking to automation and robotics.

“I get calls on a daily basis and it typically starts with, ‘I don’t want to deal with this labor headache anymore’,” Steve Fried, the sales manager for Lely North America, which makes robotic dairy milking and feeding systems tells Reuters.


The administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration has resulted in an increase in arrests and tougher border enforcement, and in turn, has created problems for farmers. There has also been legislation introduced in Congress that would require all employers to check social security numbers against federal databases to ensure their workers are in the country legally. This has been voluntary in the past.

Sadly, this policy change, along with possible tax, trade and environmental changes being considered, has put the agricultural sector in a bind. Commodity prices are at historic lows, and many farmers are continuing to experience net operating losses and mounting debt.


A study in 2014 by the Pew Research Center showed 26 percent, or one in four, of all U.S. farmworkers, were in the country illegally. And more recently, the Federation for American Immigration Reform has estimated that stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration laws could drive up labor costs by as much as 12 percent.


The industry being forced into technology


This get-tough approach “has created a great deal of anxiety,” said Tom Vilsack, chief executive of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, who was U.S. Agriculture Secretary for eight years under President Barack Obama.

Monitoring a crop using the Internet of Things.

Monitoring a crop using the Internet of Things.

With new governmental directives, a slipping commodity market, questions over trade agreements and an aging workforce, the agricultural sector is being forced to embrace new technologies in order to survive. And this includes not only farmers but the food companies in the supply chain.


Dairy farmers are being encouraged to buy robots to milk their cows, Poultry companies are streamlining processing and automation is now being seen in crop production and harvesting. Soon, harvesting romaine lettuce by hand will be a thing of the past.


“You’d be a fool to not have a plan that moves you that way,” said Duff Bevill, who owns a vineyard management company in Sonoma County, California.

Agriculture drone in acrtion.

Agriculture drone in acrtion.

Futuristic technology for the agriculture industry


Energias Market Research released their Global Agriculture Robots report on November 6, 2017, noting that the global market in agriculture robotics was $1,030.4 million in 2016, and is expected to reach USD $4,721.1 million by 2023. North America accounts for the major market share and is expected to hold the largest market share during the forecast period.


The report also notes the main drivers in the growth of agricultural robotics is due to three main forces — Increasing population, growing food consumption and the decrease in agriculture labor worldwide. In 2016, driverless Tractors held the major market share of the global agriculture robots market. Field Farming is the largest segment of global agriculture robots market in 2016.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/tech-and-science/technology/with-immigrants-targeted-usa-farms-look-to-automation/article/507446#ixzz4yLMBlnIz

Field of machines: Researchers grow crop using only automation

A farm in the United Kingdom is the first in the world to successfully plant, tend and harvest a crop without a single person ever setting foot in the field, according to researchers and developers involved in the project.


From sowing the seeds to picking the grain, human workers were replaced with automated machines operated from a control room. The project, called Hands Free Hectare, was completed last month with a yield of 4 1/2 tons of barley, according to news releases.
The automated farm was a joint venture by Harper Adams University in Shropshire, England, and Precision Decisions, a farming specialist company in York.
“Previously, people have automated sections of agricultural systems, but funding and interest generally only goes towards one single area,” said Kit Franklin, an agricultural engineer on the project.
Experts agree that automation technology has been available for some time now, but in recent years its implementation has been accelerated by decreasing costs and changing demographics in the workforce.
“The rising cost of labor is a huge driver in the field of agriculture technology,” explained Matt Nielsen of Autonomous Solutions, a Utah-based company that converts vehicles from manual to robotic control. “It makes sense when you compare the cost of technology to the cost of labor.”

Harbinger of what’s possible

However, there are limitations still to be assessed. For example, fresh fruits and vegetables are more delicate than sturdy grains and may be more susceptible to bruising in a harvest void of human touch.
There are also social and country-specific considerations. In Japan, for instance, agricultural automation may be a necessity; in India, it could mean unemployment for millions.
“Technically, complete automation is feasible everywhere, but economically and socially it only makes sense in certain situations,” said David Zilberman, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Berkeley.
Nonetheless, the complete mechanization accomplished in the UK is a harbinger of what’s possible in agriculture production, according to experts.
At Hands Free Hectare, agronomists and engineers used customized tractors and drones to cultivate the barley from an area roughly equivalent to two and a half acres.
Drones with multispectral sensors took aerial images of the field, while smaller machines at crop level took samples to assess what fertilizers to apply and where. Live camera feeds were used to detect invasive weeds or disease.
Earlier this year, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization stressed the need for technological innovation to create alternatives to high-input and destructive farming practices — methods that are unsustainable to meet global food needs, the FAO warned.

How Vulnerable Is Your Job to Automation?

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Training and education may not be enough to robot-proof your job, a recent report dealing with the impact of automation and offshoring on job loss shows.

The 10 jobs most vulnerable to automation include mathematical science occupations and insurance underwriters, according to a Ball State University study. A college degree is usually required for these occupations, both of which have median annual salaries of more than $65,000.

Many of the other top 10 jobs most vulnerable to automation pay less and don’t require the same level of education.

However, all on the list have something in common, according to “How Vulnerable are American Communities to Automation, Trade and Urbanization?”

“The study found that low risk of automation is associated with much higher wages, averaging about $80,000 a year,” states a news release on the report. “Occupations with the highest risk of automation have incomes of less than $40,000 annually.”

Only one of the jobs least at risk of automation — occupational therapist — paid about $80,000 a year, according to the updated report released last week, but published in June.

Like most of the other robot-proof jobs, occupational therapist is a “high touch” occupation, or one in which direct interaction with clients and/or colleagues is routinely required. Most of the least vulnerable jobs are in health care and related fields.

The study looked at communities throughout the United States that are most at risk of job loss due to automation. No Ohio counties made the top 25 list. Ranking first was the Aleutians East Borough, Alaska followed by Quitman County, Georgia and Aleutians West Census Area, Alaska.

“Automation is likely to replace half of all low-skilled jobs,” said Michael Hicks, director of Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research, in the release. “Communities where people have lower levels of educational attainment and lower incomes are the most vulnerable to automation. Considerable labor market turbulence is likely in the coming generation.”

The report also looked at jobs most at risk of being off-shored. Several of them had median annual salaries in the $80,000 range or higher. They included: computer programmers ($79,530), computer and information research scientists ($80,110), actuaries ($97,070), mathematicians ($111,110) and statisticians ($110,620).

One in four of all U.S. jobs will be at risk of being lost to foreign competition in the coming years, the report says.

The report incorporates research on automation and offshoring published in recent years, as well as an analysis of government and other data.


1. Data entry keyers. Annual median wage is $29,460

2. Mathematical science occupations, $66,210

3. Telemarketers, $23,530

4. Insurance underwriters, $65,040

5. Mathematical technicians, $46,600

6. Hand sewers, $23,640

7. Tax preparers, $36,450

8. Photographic process workers and processing machine operators, $26,590

9. Library technicians, $32,310

10. Watch repairers, $34,750


1. Recreational therapists. Annual median wage is $45,890

2. Emergency management directors, $67,330

3. First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers, $63,010

4. Mental health and substance abuse social workers, $42,170

5. Audiologists, $74,890

6. Healthcare social workers, $52,380

7. Occupational therapists, $80,150

8. Orthotists and prosthetists, $64,430

9. Health technologists and technicians, $41,260

10. Hearing aid specialists, $49,600



A Chinese warehouse reportedly cut its labor costs in half with a fleet of tiny robots

It’s a disconcerting narrative to the American government, but the US is being outspent and out-scaled by the implementation of robots in China. Asia produces more robots than the rest of the world combined, and Chinese workers fear unemployment at the hands of robots more than anyone else. Even the Obama White House warned (pdf) that to stay competitive America needed to further invest in artificial intelligence and software that helps allow robots to operate in dynamic environments.

Shentong Express, a Chinese shipping company, showed off a mildly-dystopian automated warehouse last week that reportedly cut its labor costs by half, according to the South China Morning Post. In a video, tiny orange robots made by Hikvision ferry packages around an eastern China warehouse, taking each parcel from a human worker, driving under a scanner, and then dumping the package down a specific chute for it to be shipped.

The human’s main job in the video appears to be picking up packages and placing them label-up on top of the robot, a task modern robotics is only just starting to put into warehouse production. A spokesperson told the Post that Shentong is using the robot in two of its warehouses, and hopes to expand use to the rest of the country.

Just because little robots appear to be sorting boxes in this warehouse doesn’t we’ll all be out of work—data from Amazon suggests that even with 45,000 of its own robots in fulfillment centers, the American company still is looking to hire more and more humans for other tasks.


A Chinese warehouse reportedly cut its labor costs in half with a fleet of tiny robots

Lyft offers 400 scholarships for online self-driving car course

Online learning portal Udacity launched its first 36-week “nanodegree” course for self-driving car engineering last year. There’s a new, introductory course available now as well, focused on bringing students with minimal programming into the larger program. Even better, Udacity has partnered with Lyft (which has self-driving plans of its own) to provide scholarships to the intro course in order to increase diversity to the program. 400 scholarships are available to US-based students with “varying levels of experience;” the application window closes October 1st.


Lyft says that people “from all backgrounds and perspectives” should have the opportunity to contribute to the future of transportation in the form of self-driving cars. “Diversity is crucial for creating solutions that serve everyone, and ridesharing is for everyone,” the company writes on its website. “That’s why these scholarships will specifically target communities that are underrepresented in technology in the US.”


In addition, Lyft will provide mentorship opportunities through its lyf, which is where the company houses its self-driving division. The nanodegree itself will cover topics like “machine learning, object-oriented programming and probabilistic robotics.”


Of course, if self-driving cars aren’t your thing, you can always enroll in Udacity’s new Flying Car nanodegree (which really focuses more on drones than actual airborne autos).



Wary of robots taking jobs, Hawaii toys with guaranteed pay

HONOLULU — Driverless trucks. Factory robots. Delivery drones. Virtual personal assistants.

As technological innovations increasingly edge into the workplace, many people fear that robots and machines are destined to take jobs that human beings have held for decades–a trend that is already happening in stores and factories around the country. For many affected workers, retraining might be out of reach —unavailable, unaffordable or inadequate.

What then?

Enter the idea of a universal basic income, the notion that everyone should be able to receive a stream of income to live on, regardless of their employment or economic status.

It isn’t an idea that seems likely to gain traction nationally in the current political environment. But in some politically progressive corners of the country, including Hawaii and the San Francisco Bay area, the idea of distributing a guaranteed income has begun to gain support.

Over the past two decades, automation has reduced the need for workers, especially in such blue-collar sectors as manufacturing, warehousing and mining. Many of the jobs that remain demand higher education or advanced technological skills. It helps explain why just 55 percent of Americans with no more than a high school diploma are employed, down from 60 percent just before the Great Recession.


Hawaii state lawmakers have voted to explore the idea of a universal basic income in light of research suggesting that a majority of waiter, cook and building cleaning jobs — vital to Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy — will eventually be replaced by machines. The crucial question of who would pay for the program has yet to be determined. But support for the idea has taken root.

“Our economy is changing far more rapidly than anybody’s expected,” said state Rep. Chris Lee, who introduced legislation to consider a guaranteed universal income.

Lee said he felt it’s important “to be sure that everybody will benefit from the technological revolution that we’re seeing to make sure no one’s left behind.”

Here are some questions and answers:

What is a universal basic income?

In a state or nation with universal basic income, every adult would receive a uniform fixed amount that would be deemed enough to meet basic needs. The idea gained some currency in the 1960s and 1970s, with proponents ranging from Martin Luther King Jr. to President Richard Nixon, who proposed a “negative income tax” similar to basic income. It failed to pass Congress.

Recently, some technology leaders have been breathing new life — and money — into the idea. Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and others have promoted the idea as a way to address the potential loss of many transportation, manufacturing, retail and customer service jobs to automation and artificial intelligence.

Even some economists who welcome technological change to make workplaces more efficient note that the pace of innovation in coming years is likely to accelerate. Community colleges and retraining centers could find it difficult to keep up. Supporters of a universal basic income say the money would cushion the economic pain for the affected workers.


Lyft is bringing another self-driving car pilot program to the Bay Area

Lyft is partnering with yet another self-driving car startup — this time with Drive.ai in the San Francisco Bay Area — to launch a pilot program that will shuttle ride-sharing customers to their destinations in vehicles controlled by artificial intelligence, not humans.

The partnership is just the latest step in Lyft’s plan to offer up its vast network of passengers and drivers to companies developing self-driving cars. Lyft already has partnerships with GM, Boston-based NuTonomy, and Waymo, the Google self-driving car project that spun out to become a business under parent company Alphabet.

Drive.ai and Lyft did not specify when this pilot program will start actively shuttling passengers in autonomous vehicles. Executives with Drive.ai and Lyft say they expect to launch “soon.”

Initially, the pilot will involve a small set of passengers who will opt in to this program, Taggart Matthiesen, senior director of product of Lyft, told The Verge. He did not provide a specific number of vehicles or participants, but noted the self-driving car will have a Drive.ai safety driver behind the wheel to take over in case the artificial intelligence controlling the car fails, and of course, to meet California regulations.

Once a ride is requested, Drive.ai’s software will evaluate whether or not the route is feasible, said Carol Reiley, co-founder and president of Drive.ai. This may be a route that has been pre-selected, Reiley said, adding that the company’s self-driving technology can handle rainy and nighttime conditions.

Drive.ai, which was founded by former graduate students working in Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab, will use the pilot to test the limits of the self-driving car technology and further develop it so the riding experience is consistent, regardless of the conditions of route, Reiley said. A consistent and safe ride is something all companies developing self-driving car technology are chasing, with varying degrees of success.


Despite the lack of logistical details, the partnership is a milestone for the lesser-known Drive.ai, which received an autonomous vehicle testing permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles in April 2016. This partnership — the first that Drive.ai has publicly announced — gives the startup the opportunity to potentially bring its self-driving cars to the 350 cities in 40 US states where Lyft operates.

Drive.ai uses a different approach from other companies racing to deploy autonomous vehicles. Startups generally train their self-driving vehicles with deep learning technology, a sophisticated form of artificial intelligence algorithms that allow a computer — essentially the car’s brain — to learn by using a series of connected networks to identify patterns in data. Traditionally, deep learning is used to teach the car how to recognize objects, such as the ability of the car to detect a traffic light or a pedestrian. In general, the use of deep neural networks is limited to this task.



Increasing Minimum Wage Puts More Jobs at Risk of Automation

When the minimum wage goes up, the robots come for people’s jobs. That’s the upshot of a paper published today on the National Bureau of Economic Research’s website (abstract, full PDF paywalled), which analyzed how changes to the minimum wage from 1980 to 2015 affected low-skill jobs in various sectors of the U.S. economy. 

Federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, the same level it’s been at since 2009. But 30 states have laws on the books that mandate a higher wage—it’s $11 in Washington State, for example, and Seattle recently voted to phase in a pay hike that would bring it to $15 by 2022. Such measures are designed to ensure that “minimum wage” is the same thing as a “living wage.”

Interestingly, a study of Seattle’s new law, released in June, suggested that cuts to working hours meant people were actually losing as much as $125 a month.

The new analysis, by Grace Lorden of the London School of Economics and David Neumark at the University of California, Irvine, suggests that there’s a similar negative effect among people who work minimum-wage jobs that machines can do. The researchers found that across all industries they measured, raising minimum wage by $1 equates to a decline in “automatable” jobs—things like packing boxes or operating a sewing machine—of 0.43 percent.

That may not sound like much, but we’re talking about millions of jobs across the entire U.S. economy. And certain industries were affected far more than others—in manufacturing, an uptick of $1 in minimum wage drove employment in automatable jobs down a full percentage point.

Of course, we know that automation is already gobbling up jobs in the U.S. (see “Who Will Own the Robots?”). This latest study suggests that even wage policies designed to help America’s workforce may instead be speeding up that process.



Autonomous Cars Will Make Money, Change the World

A new study commissioned by computer chipmaker Intel estimates that economic opportunities created by autonomous vehicles will accelerate from $800 billion a year in 2035 to $7 trillion annually by 2050 and dramatically change our concepts of mobility. That potential for profit, and the risks to existing businesses from that disruption, are reasons why automakers and tech companies are investing so much.

The futurist study by Strategy Analytics forecasts the economic impact of a new global “passenger economy” driven by autonomous vehicles that will replace today’s sharing economy and private car ownership (as well as the corps of drivers employed by transportation and freight companies). It would be an economic disruption, it says, on the order of the internet and cellphones. The study sees the first fully autonomous vehicles within five years or so and slower growth through 2035, after which it will take off.

Intel has, of course, a vested interest in the forecast. The company is investing heavily to become a leader in autonomous technology development, including partnerships with Delphi and BMW as well as recently paying $15.3 billion to buy vehicle camera and sensor maker Mobileye.

The study looks at changes for both businesses and consumers. “Less than a decade ago, no one was talking about the potential of a soon-to-emerge app or sharing economy because no one saw it coming,” said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, in a statement. “This is why we started the conversation around the passenger economy early, to wake people up to the opportunity streams that will emerge when cars become the most powerful mobile data-generating devices we use and people swap driving for riding.”

The study breaks down the $7 trillion economic impact of the new passenger economy and buying mobility as a service by 2050 as:

  • Businesses will account for 43 percent, or $3 trillion in revenues, including transportation and delivery companies. It sees this taking off fastest as automation potentially pays for itself.
  • Consumers will account for 55 percent, or $3.7 trillion in revenue, for buying mobility services.
  • New apps and services created by self-driving vehicles will have an impact of $200 billion, such as by media companies and advertisers.

It also looks at scenarios for potential changes in how we’ll live and interact with the vehicles as we get around, including:

  • Safer travel. The study predicts that 585,000 lives could be saved and $234 billion in related public safety costs prevented due to self-driving vehicles from 2035 to 2045.
  • A lot of free time while we’re in the vehicle, but not driving. Self-driving vehicles could free up more than 250 million hours of commuting time per year in the most congested cities.
  • In-car services, “from onboard beauty salons to touchscreen tables for remote collaboration, fast-casual dining, remote vending, mobile health care clinics and treatment pods, and even platooning pod hotels, vehicles will become transportation experience pods.”
  • In-car entertainment. “Media and content producers will develop custom content formats to match short and long travel times.”
  • Ads targeted to your location and to you thanks to all the data vehicles will be accumulating about you. “Location-based advertising will become more keenly relevant, and advertisers and agencies will be presented with a new realm of possibilities.”
  • Mobility services as a perk. “Employers, office buildings, apartment complexes, university campuses and housing estates will offer [mobility services] to add value to and distinguish their offer from competitors or as part of their compensation package.”
  • Car as a business. The smaller number of people who choose to own a vehicle will share it via an app when they aren’t using it. Or they might buy just a time-share of the vehicle from car companies.

Disrupting Public Transit and Other consequences

One interesting note in this study, which does not come up much in the discussion of autonomous vehicles, is the potential for these vehicles to disrupt not just the auto and transportation industries and private car ownership, but also our current models of mass transit, including buses, light rail and subways. Door-to-door service-on-demand from an app would be hard to resist.

The study predicts that cities may rethink public transit and even get into municipal ownership of fleets of self-driving vehicles.

Perversely, this also could mean more traffic, not less. It could be more orderly as the vehicles cruise along at fixed speeds with fixed spacing, and you could spend the time on entertainment or working during the ride since the car is driving.

Privacy also will become a bigger issue, since an unprecedented amount of data will be gathered about you and your activities, purchases and travel patterns. And so will security; if you think hacking email is dangerous, consider how hacking could affect a world of interconnected and computer-driven autonomous transportation.



Lyft is working with a third self-driving tech company

While Uber is busy trying to build its own self-driving technology, Lyft has opted to focus on what it is good at: Building a network for cars.


The younger ride-hail player, which recently closed a $600 million round valuing the company at $7.5 billion, has left the autonomous tech development to the autonomous tech companies — most recently Alphabet’s Waymo.

Today, the company announced it has struck a third autonomous tech deal with self-driving startup nuTonomy. NuTonomy, which was co-founded by Karl Iagnemma and Emilio Frazzolli, was spun out from MIT and develops autonomous vehicles. It already has pilots running in Boston as well as Singapore.

The deal: There’s no financial exchange, according to Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green. For now, the two companies are focusing on researching and later developing technology and software that will help with the passenger experience.


That means Lyft and nuTonomy will be working to answer the question: How will passengers interact with a “driver” that isn’t there? Green said the company expects to have a physical console in the car that will allow riders to connect to the Lyft app.


The deal will also give both Lyft and nuTonomy crucial data to later loop back into the software the companies are developing. Lyft, for instance, doesn’t have robust data on how its app should perform when hailing another human versus when it’s hailing a car.

The company is also working on ways to make the experience more instructive in order to help customers better understand how the car is working.


Eventually, nuTonomy will plug in a handful of its test vehicles into the Lyft platform to eventually chauffeur customers around Boston — which should be happening in the next few months.

Ultimately, the companies hope to ramp the nuTonomy vehicles on the Lyft platform up to “thousands” of vehicles.

Before Waymo and nuTonomy, Lyft partnered with General Motors — which also invested in the company — and its subsidiary Cruise. Unlike its deal with General Motors, Lyft’s partnership with nuTonomy and Waymo essentially puts the burden on the self-driving tech companies to come up with automaker partnerships.


NuTonomy, for its part, has a relationship with the PSA group which it announced in early May. For now, the company is only working with two Peugeot cars but expects to add more as time goes on. Waymo also has a deal with Fiat Chrysler which it’s just beginning to expand.

The deal with Lyft — and a sure path to commercialization — might help nuTonomy secure more partnerships with carmakers.

Yet unclear, however, is which company will own the vehicles in this ecosystem. Will automakers simply sell their autonomous vehicles to the networks, will the self-driving tech company buy a few thousand and retrofit them (probably not), or will Lyft take on that overhead?

Also unclear is how the revenue share agreement will be settled.

Neither Green nor Iagnemma had an answer. “The economics are still being worked out,” Green said.

“My job is to make sure nuTonomy will be part of the winning team,” Iagnemma said. “[That’s what] Lyft is for us when we look at North America.”


In Singapore, nuTonomy has a similar partnership with the Southeast Asian ride-hail player Grab. When it comes to the international self-driving landscape, it’s easy to see how several partnerships with local players will work out for companies like Lyft and Grab.




Nigeria, others to lose 66% of jobs to automation —World Bank

The World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, on Thursday in Washington, said developing countries, including Nigeria, faced the risk of losing two-thirds of all jobs that currently exist to automation.

He also counseled developing countries to look beyond aids to foreign direct investment which he said has stronger impact than aids just as he called for the mobilization of idle trillions of dollars “sitting on the sidelines…to help meet the exploding aspirations of people all over the world.”

Kim Yong said these in his opening remarks at the ongoing World Bank/International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington.

According to him, “We estimate that two-thirds of all jobs that currently exist in developing countries will be wiped out by automation.”

He added that this is not something that would happen in the future as it had already started happening.

He said “Let me just give you one example. Two, three years ago we were arguing about whether 3D printing would ever be capable of taking over garment assembly because garment manufacturing, has been sort of the classic light industry that goes from country to country based on wages.

“Two years ago, I was told, ‘no way, garment manufacturing still requires human hands.  This will always be the way it is.  It’s going to be this way for at least another decade’. But I just met a woman who told me an exciting story about how she is making couture cotton T-shirts and other clothing in Haiti with 3D printers.  And she said, ‘you know, it’s exciting in the sense that we know that Haitians now can run 3D printers,’ but the downside is that there are far fewer jobs.”

He continued, “So something we were arguing about two or three years ago of whether it was possible, is already happening right now in Haiti.  And so for every country in the world, we have to think very seriously about what investments we need to make right now in order to prepare ourselves for the economy of the future. And for developing countries it’s definitely one of the most important things is more investment in human capital.”

On what The World Bank Group is doing to mitigate the effects of this, he said, “We have to find new and innovative ways to reach the poor, and make the world more secure and stable. We have to start by asking whether the private sector can finance a project. If the conditions aren’t right, we will work with our partners to de-risk that project or, if needed, de-risk entire countries or sectors.”

He added, “There’s never been a better time to find those win-win solutions. There are trillions of dollars sitting on the sidelines, earning little interest, and investors are looking for better returns. That capital should be mobilised to help us meet the exploding aspirations of people all over the world. And with the crises we face, our task is much more urgent than we ever thought.”

While responding to a question on aid effectiveness, Yong Kim said, “One of the things that we found is that foreign direct investment often has a much higher impact, much stronger impact on improving institutions and government than aid by itself.

“This is why we’re trying to bring together the financing we provide to governments and also the financing that comes from the private sector to create better institutions, more investment, more jobs, more economic growth, in a much more synergistic way.

“I think that’s the one thing we need to do much more effectively than we have in the past, because even inside the World Bank Group, the public sector side of the organization and the private sector side of the organization, for the most part, worked almost independently.

“Now, what we’re going to do is try to help both institutions evolve so that we can talk about de-risking entire countries with policy reform, improving the business environment, and at the same time facilitate the movement of private capital in a way that will lead to, we hope, more economic growth throughout the developing world.”

The World Bank president said his group was taking the issue of corruption concerning its interventions in countries seriously.

He said, “We at the World Bank Group have all kinds of measures, and we audit every single project.  We follow the possibility of corruption very, very closely. So, on corruption and misuse of loans and grants that don’t give any outcomes, we have been following that for a long time, but I think the big question now for us in terms of aid effectiveness is we have got to stop fighting each other for the low hanging fruit projects.”

Yong Kim urged countries to take education seriously as it is the bulwark against the impending employment crisis.

“You’ve got to reduce childhood stunting. You’ve got to improve your educational system, improve health outcomes.  And part of the reason that we’re focusing so much on private sector investments for infrastructure is so that we can try to free up resources to invest more in human beings so that more developing countries can be ready for the great complexity that’s about to come.”



Automation Could Slash Jobs in Developing Countries

World Bank President Jim Kim warns that two-thirds of jobs in developing nations could be wiped out by automation, a situation that could boost conflict and refugee flows.

Kim spoke Thursday in Washington as economic and political leaders from around the world gathered for meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Kim says it is not clear how fast automation would cut jobs. He says the threat to employment opportunity comes as near-universal access to the internet means people in the poorest nations understand that others have much more comfortable lives. The result, Kim says, is soaring aspirations. Without economic growth and opportunity, those unmet aspirations could lead to frustration, unrest, or more refugees seeking jobs in other nations.

The World Bank president says the issue is urgent because the world already faces serious problems with conflict, climate shock, famine and the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Kim says the solution is to mobilize trillions of dollars in private capital that currently is earning little or no interest. He says World Bank experts are seeking ways to help commercial lenders make such investments in ways that are less risky and more commercially viable. According to Kim, this is the only way to move with enough force and speed to manage a problem of this size.


In the United States, worries about jobs being lost to computers and automation grow out of the millions of manufacturing jobs lost since 1999. While some politicians blame trade for these employment losses, many economists say most of those jobs vanished because of automation.

While manufacturing jobs proved vulnerable to automation, research shows different results in banking, where the addition of hundreds of thousands of Automated Teller Machines, or ATMs, was accompanied by a slight increase in jobs for humans. Workers who were displaced when robots took over repetitious, tedious work moved to jobs that were less predictable or that required human, emotional connections, such as sales.



Why Amazon’s use of self-driving technology would be a game changer

Self-driving vehicles have yet to hit the road in a major way, but Amazon already is exploring the technology’s potential to change how your packages are delivered.

Amazon is the nation’s largest online retailer, and its decisions not only turn heads but influence the entire retail and shipping industries, analysts say. That means any foray into the self-driving arena – whether as a developer or customer – could have a significant effect on the technology’s adoption.

Amazon has assigned a dozen employees to determine how it can use the technology as part of its business, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. It’s unclear what shape Amazon’s efforts will take or how far along they might be, although the company has no plans to create its own vehicles, according to the report.

Nevertheless, the Amazon group offers an early indication that big companies are preparing for the technology’s impact.

Transportation experts anticipate that self-driving cars will fundamentally alter the way people get around and the way companies ship goods, changes that stand to disrupt entire industries and leave millions of professional drivers without jobs. The forthcoming shift has attracted the money and attention of the biggest names in the technology and automotive industries, including Apple, Uber, Google, Ford, General Motors and Tesla, among others.


In particular, the technology could make long-haul shipping cheaper and faster because, unlike human drivers, machines do not command a salary or require down time. That would be important to Amazon, whose shipping costs continue to climb as the company sells more products and ships them faster, according to its annual report. Amazon even invested in its own fleet of trucks in December 2015 to give the company greater control over distribution.

If Amazon adopts self-driving technology, it may push others to do the same.

“When Amazon sneezes, everyone wakes up,” said Satish Jindel, president of SJ Consulting Group, a transportation and logistics advisory firm.

The company said it shipped more than 1 billion items during the 2016 holiday season.


An Amazon spokeswoman declined a request for an interview, citing a “long-standing practice of not commenting on rumors and speculation.” The company’s chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.

Amazon has become something of a pioneer in home delivery, in part by setting the standard for how quickly purchases arrive on your doorstep. The company has begun using aerial drones in an effort to deliver goods more quickly, completing its first successful flight to a customer in the United Kingdom in December. Like self-driving vehicles, drones will need to overcome regulatory hurdles before they’re widely deployed.

In its warehouses, Amazon has used thousands of robots that pull items from shelves and pack them. Last summer, Deutsche Bank analysts found the robots reduced the time to fulfill an order from more than an hour to 15 minutes, according to business news site Quartz. They also saved Amazon about $22 million per warehouse. Amazon acquired Kiva, the company that makes the robots, in 2012 for $775 million.




Splashlight Partners With Looklet On Fashion Photo Automation

For retailers, keeping pace with consumer demand on eCommerce and social media is no small task and often requires the aid of the latest technology and automation. This need extends beyond the marketing, logistics and customer support ends—creative departments and services also find they need to leverage the latest tech to enable retail clients and compete in the market.

This is something that Splashlight, a leading visual content (photography and video) creation company for eCommerce and social media, knows well. Founded in 2002, Splashlight began as a traditional fashion photo studio, but that quickly changed, said SVP Sales and Marketing Gilles Rousseau, when the company began to serve eCommerce clients, beginning with Macy’s in 2003.

“The trend is to be as fast as possible on eCommerce and social media,” Rousseau said. “The sooner the photo is taken, the sooner it’s uploaded on the website and the more time they have to sell the product. In some ways, it’s almost contradictory to creative services, but that’s we’re dealing with.”

To meet the fashion photography demands of its largest eCommerce clients—which today include Target, Victoria’s Secret and Aldo Group, among others—Splashlight had to build a system of methodologies and technologies to maintain and track productivity.

“Even though the output is photo and video production,” Rousseau said, “at the heart of the system is an end-to-end, cloud-based technology which allows us to manage all of the workflows throughout the production process.”

Rousseau noted that prior to joining with Splashlight, it would take some retail clients weeks to get photographs taken for a given product. By leveraging Splashlight, the same client can see fashion photographs in 3 days.

For their larger eCommerce clients, Splashlight can shoot between 2,000 and 3,000 products on-model per month per client. With each item requiring 3 to 4 different images, this means Splashlight needs to produce between 6,000 and 12,000 usable images.

These fashion photography volumes are relatively standard for major retailers across the industry, Rousseau noted, saying, “You really need to have bulletproof systems in place. Without technology, you will not be able to be competitive in the marketplace.”

Add in the near real-time production requirements that social media levies, the need for technology has become more pertinent than ever.

Recently, Splashlight announced a strategic distribution partnership agreement with photo capture and personalization solutions software company Looklet, a leading software company providing advanced photo capture and personalization solutions for e-commerce fashion photography.

Together, Splashlight and Looklet will utilize turnkey technologies and methodologies that work to serve the needs of the online fashion world via automation. Rousseau said Splashlight will integrate Looklet into its photography solutions portfolio and sales channels.

“The fit with Looklet is a very natural one,” Rousseau said, “in the sense that our business specialty is to scale high quality, high volume, high-velocity video and photo production. And Looklet is serving two needs in the ecosystem: automation and personalization.”

On the automation end, the software technology allows products to be photographed without the need for a model or to rent studio space. Photographers simply need to put the clothing item on a green mannequin and follow a standardized image capture process.

Using this image, one can apply the product to and style it on the model images stored in the software database. As of now, the software features 37 different female models and 15 male models to choose from. From there, users can personalize the styling of the outfit.

Rousseau noted a few different ways the software creates a more cost effective and time efficient creative process. For one, a single photo can be placed on multiple models to target different regional markets more effectively.

“It’ll almost be like the Uberization of the model industry,” noted Rousseau.

The styling can be altered to the same effect.

“Let’s say that in Alaska they prefer the dark-green version of the product and in Los Angeles they prefer the yellow version,” Rousseau said. “Depending on the market you can style the product on the model with different colors without reshooting.”

Likewise, online retailers can use the software to update or switch out the product images on their eCommerce sites if the stock of a color or print available for a garment is starting to run low.

These automation and personalization capabilities will fit right in with the production demands levied on the fashion photography industry by online retailers. As these ecosystems continue to evolve, expect to see even more automation capabilities rolled out to enable the speediest, most efficient processes technology can offer.



As Wendy’s Is Proving, Target Has Shown, Higher Minimum Wages Lead To Job Losses

We people who know our economics keep insisting that raising the minimum wage will lead to people employing less labour. That’s just what people do when the price of something rises, they buy less of it. The other name for people using less labour is that we will lose jobs, there will be unemployment. A number of theories are put forward for why this won’t happen but happen it still does. As the twin stories of Target and Wendy’s show us.

For example:

Wendy’s Chief Operating Officer, Bob Wright, stated the company experienced a five percent wage inflation and they expect wages to rise at least four percent in 2017. He addressed possible options to accommodate the rising costs of business and inflation, and the unfortunate answer was to eliminate 31 hours of labor each week.

Wages, the price of an hour of labour, go up, the number of hours of labour purchased goes down. That’s just what people do:


Last year, the kiosks were coming. It didn’t take them long to get here.

Wendy’s plans to install self-ordering kiosks in 1,000 of its stores — about 16 percent of its locations — by the end of the year.

Kiosks are capital expenditure rather than labour. And when you change the relative price of labour to capital then you’ll change the decision people make about how much to use of either. This isn’t a tough thing to understand despite the manner in which it befuddles all too many:


Who could have seen that coming? As we noted previously, minimum wage laws – while advertised under the banner of social justice – do not live up to the claims made by those who tout them. They do not lift low wage earners to a so-called “social minimum”. Indeed, minimum wage laws — imposed at the levels employed in Europe — push a considerable number of people into unemployment.

There are really only three possible reactions to a rise in labour costs. One is to cut the profit margin. Wendy’s seems to make about 8% on sales as net margin. Not a lot of room there to cut that. The stockholders are going to want something back for providing their capital to the company after all. Another possible move is to increase prices, or perhaps not be quite as cheap as everyone else. This doesn’t seem to work very well as Target has just found out:

Target to cut prices, update stores amid ‘seismic shift’ in retail industry

Cutting prices now being an obvious sign that trying to raise them isn’t going to work. Consumers just aren’t in the mood to pay more. At which point there’s only one possible tactic left to deal with wage rises. Use less labour. Which is exactly what Wendy’s is trying by automating the ordering process with those kiosks. Do note that this is exactly the same thing as raising productivity. For those fewer workers left will have the same old sales as the old larger workforce. That is, output per hour per worker will be higher with the kiosks, that is a rise in productivity.

As I’ve been saying all along here a rise in the minimum wage is going to mean a fall in the demand for labour, to mean unemployment for some unfortunates.



McKinsey: Automation could save $16 trillion in wages

  • Realizing automation’s full potential will require people and technology to work together, according to a new McKinsey Global Institute report.
  • The report, which was based on scenario modeling, predicts physical tasks “in highly structured and predictable environments, as well as data collection and processing” will be the first to be automated. But those jobs make up a little over half of activities in the economy, accounting for almost $2.7 trillion in wages, so the effects could be dramatic.
  • The firm also acknowledges almost all occupations — both blue collar and white collar — have potential for some automation, which could result in a savings of about $16 trillion in wages.

Dive Insight:

Its clear automation will affect the enterprise in coming years, but putting numbers to those changes is challenging. Meanwhile, McKinsey estimates automation could raise productivity growth globally by 0.8 to 1.4% annually. But when it comes to replacing workers altogether, McKinsey estimates that could only work in less than 5% of occupations.

Ultimately, however, all types of jobs will see some automation. Earlier this month, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance said it is replacing some human insurance claim workers with an artificial intelligence-based system from IBM.

Ultimately, McKinsey predicts, workers will have to adapt for automation and perhaps learn new, more complex skills that they then perform alongside machines. It will therefore be more a matter of better assisting machines rather than being replaced by them.

In an interview with Bloomberg during the DLD conference in Munich, Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella agreed that AI and automation should help people use their time better.

“The fundamental need of every person is to be able to use their time more effectively, not to say, ”let us replace you’,” Nadella said.

Fighting cybercrime using IoT and AI-based automation

Last November, detectives investigating a murder case in Bentonville, Arkansas, accessed utility data from a smart meter to determine that 140 gallons of water had been used at the victim’s home between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. It was more water than had been used at the home before, and it was used at a suspicious time—evidence that the patio area had been sprayed down to conceal the murder scene.

As technology advances, we have more detailed data and analytics at our fingertips than ever before. It can potentially offer new insights for crime investigators.

One area crying out for more insight is cybersecurity.

By 2020, 60 percent of digital businesses will suffer a major service failure due to the inability of IT security teams to manage digital risk, according to Gartner. If we pair all this new Internet of Things (IoT) data with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, there’s scope to turn the tide in the fight against cybercriminals.

We’re not just talking about identifying vulnerabilities, risks and cybercrimes, but also automatically combatting them.

Automated threat detection and mitigation

Security professionals face a difficult task in keeping enterprise networks safe. They must uncover vulnerabilities in a continuously growing and increasingly complex landscape of devices and software. When data breaches do occur, they must identify them, limit the damage and track those responsible. Investigations take time, and false positives are all too common.

What if AI platforms or cognitive security solutions could be employed to cut through the noise? Researchers from MIT were able to create a virtual AI analyst that successfully predicted 85 percent of cyber attacks by incorporating input from human experts. Not only is that three times better than most current, rules-based systems, but it also reduced the number of false positives by a factor of five.

The secret sauce here is that the system is constantly learning. Every time a human analyst identifies a false positive or a genuine threat, the system adjusts to accommodate that feedback and creates new models to detect threats. The more feedback it gets, the more accurate it becomes. Not only does this improve threat detection, but it also frees up human analysts to investigate the complex cases that really require their attention. If they’re not bogged down in false positives, it’s possible to make better use of their expertise.

Optimism about the potential of AI and machine learning

With nearly 60 percent of security professionals in agreement that cognitive security solutions can significantly hamper cybercriminals, according to IBM research, there’s reason to be optimistic. Among the top benefits cited by 700 security professionals surveyed were improved intelligence (40 percent), speed (37 percent) and accuracy (36 percent).

Several Fortune 500 companies are enrolled in IBM’s Watson for Cyber Securitybeta program. It can help organizations identify suspicious behaviour, weed out false-positive anomalies and tackle the genuine threats. Many other major companies, from Google to Cisco, are working on analytical AI that might also offer cybersecurity insights.

As these systems evolve, they might go from highlighting threats to autonomously mitigating them by changing policies, automating updates and even rewriting software to close loopholes.

Race against cybercriminals

Vulnerabilities, exploits, malware and data breaches are all inevitable to some extent. The sheer rapidity of IoT adoption is creating enormous risk. In many ways, we are engaged in a race to find threats and mitigate them before the cybercriminals can take advantage. Security coverage is always balanced with convenience and usability, so if we can’t create an impregnable system, it’s vital that we detect and respond to threats as fast as possible.

Consider that 60 percent of enterprise information security budgets will be allocated for rapid detection and response approaches by 2020, up from just 30 percent in 2016, according to Gartner.



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