Our Robot Masters, AI and Automation
What if what you do could be done by a robot? Think about it. It is already happening in small minute ways already. In some stores, there is no cashier. You simply go to the counter and because everything in your buggy has an RFID chip (Radio Frequency Identification) basically a very small passive device that says hey, here is my barcode. Think of it as a barcode with a radio transmitter. Amazon Go stores go beyond this. They use cameras, machine learning and artificial intelligence to detect what you pickup and put in your cart. Other stores have been testing out similar technologies. There is a link to a video to show you how it works.
Then there is Flippy from Miso Robotics, the burger and fry cook robot. White Castle has been testing it out and businesses are starting to buy these robots that flip burgers and can drop baskets of food into fryers. I will have a link on the site to a video so you can watch Flippy in action. Oh by the way, if you have some cash, they are looking for investors.
So now the afterschool job of many teenagers could be replaced by a robot. This came about for multiple reasons and the pandemic caused it to surge. It became harder to find staff for fast food restaurants during the pandemic. There are positive things about this robot, 1)many are burned each year working a hot grill. 2)It is easier to keep a robot clean and sanitary than a human. We are just messy animals. But on the negative side it means less jobs. Now these robots are not cheap so it will take years to earn back the money from buying these robots.
But McDonald’s has gone a step beyond and replaced their wait staff in some stores. You now order via a kiosk. So rather than having to talk to a human you simply push buttons on the screen to place your order and as voice recognition technology keeps getting better and better, soon you will be able to speak your order into kiosks. So how do I pick up my food? Ah, so far, there are still humans who hand over the food.
But imagine ten years from now, potentially less. Flippy is making your burgers and fries, you voice order your food or order it from your phone, a series of conveyors bag your food and place it in front of you for pick up. There is one human working in the restaurant. His job, make sure the robots and automation keep working as expected. He may even be skilled in how to fix some things if they break.
Okay. So what do you do for a living? Stop and think. Is there anything you currently do that you could envision being done via robotics or artificial intelligence? How much of your job do you spend doing that thing that can be replaced? 20%? 60%? 80%? Or maybe you have a job that requires a lot of intricacies. Maybe you are a welder? Oh, wait, robots do a lot of the welding in automobile factories. Wait, robots also paint cars in factories too. I posted another link.
What are you trying to say you may be thinking? Am I about to be replaced by a robot? Maybe but not yet. Darrel M. West from the Brookings Institute says they believe in 30 years, ⅓ of all working age men will not have jobs. I believe because of the way technology, politics, and society moves, it will happen much sooner like a self inflicted wound.
See the show links to get more information about these ideas.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVGOAbTACB4 (Darrell M. West – The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation)
Technology is moving so fast that basic jobs that normally do not require college degrees will slowly go away. Many jobs that require manual labor will eventually be replaced by robots, artificial intelligence and automation. Entry level jobs will be replaced with AI and automation. Eventually you will have to have a college degree in order to find jobs that are not taken away by these supposed innovations. And when we all have degrees, then it will be those who have the advanced degrees who get the jobs. This all sounds dystopian and it is hard for it not to sound and seem that way. And this will widen the income gap even more. Even more people will be in poverty and technology will expand the haves and the have nots.
So how do we prepare for a world like that? First we have to be prepared to reinvent ourselves more often. Think about your first job. What did you do? I was a bagger in a grocery store. I then worked for a major retailer in a distribution center. I reached a deadend and I realized I wanted more. So I then as an adult finally went to college. I retooled myself before to become an Information Technology professional. I was into computers at a very young age and it made sense for me. As I worked for a company for a long time I was promoted several times. I went to school again to learn new skills. We have to be prepared for a world where we have to always be learning. Albert Einstein is noted as saying, “once you stop learning you start dying”. What if every ten years we need to learn brand new skills to keep employed? This is the type of world we are heading toward. In a previous episode of the podcast and my live stream, we talk about how cars now have so many computer processors, they have had to stop making cars for periods of time (and will continue to do so) because there is a major chip shortage that will not go away overnight. In fact it will take years to overcome. The point being is that our future is wrapped up in technology. Self driving cars are coming. You won’t need Uber drives or taxi drivers. With self driving cars you will have more self driving transit buses and trains. You will eventually not need a car at all if you live in a major city and eventually smaller towns and cities will move this direction
And as the pandemic has shown us, it will become harder and harder to get jobs as more and more companies allow remote work forces. Think about it. A company is in your town but they allow remote work. When you apply for a job, you are no longer competing against those who are in your area, you are competing with people potentially all over the world. When the market is ultra competitive and there are too many people who are skilled in the same skill, you will see wages drop. Why hire someone making $75,000 a year when you can hire someone for the same job with the same skills for $50,000.
The point is, it is time to start thinking about the next ten years. What are you skilled at now and what can you get skilled at to future proof your next ten years. Let that noodle around your brain for a while. By the way, programming, data science, and Cyber Security are the hottest jobs right now and will remain so for at least the next ten years. What will be hot after that, I do not know.
What is Universal Basic Income and why should I care?
So according to the Urban Institute, (https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/103656/2021-poverty-projections_0.pdf), the current level of poverty in America (the United States where most of my viewers live) is 13.7%. The United States government considers family of four making $24,500 or less to be living in poverty. So imagine you can’t find a good paying job nor can your spouse. The US Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. If you work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year at that wage, you will make $15,080 before taxes. But if all you can find are part time jobs, you could effectively become the working poor. Imagine not making enough money to put food on the table and a roof over your head. Average Rent in US 2021 $784 per month. So at that wage you make almost $1,257 a month. Minus the rent, that leaves you with $472.67. If you live by yourself on that, you could make it work perhaps, but if you have a child or more than one child, can you make that work? Nearly 8% of all households in the US are single parent homes. (https://www.prb.org/u-s-household-composition-shifts-as-the-population-grows-older-more-young-adults-live-with-parents/). If your children are in school and you have to pay for an after school program so you can work, that cuts into your food budget even more. And what about power and water and maybe even gas for your car and heating for your apartment? You can be nickeled and dimed to the point you do not have any money and are constantly fighting to live. In the US, the poverty level is $12,880 (according to US Department of Health and Human Services https://aspe.hhs.gov/2021-poverty-guidelines). So if you make the 40 hour job at minimum wage, you are below poverty level if you have a child as a family of two’s poverty level is $17,420 and for a family of four $26,500. But if all you can find are part time jobs because you do not have an education, you are in a pit you can never come out of.
So in 2019 in Stockton, CA, an experiment gave 125 residents who were living below the poverty level $500 a month with no restrictions. It was theirs to do whatever with. Did they run off and buy drugs? No, in fact because the folks in the study were healthier, had less stress, it allowed folks to work on paying off debt. Most were able to go and look for better jobs than the ones that kept them in poverty. This one year experiment called SEED (Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration) https://www.npr.org/2021/03/04/973653719/california-program-giving-500-no-strings-attached-stipends-pays-off-study-finds
The study only lasted one year. But the benefits have continued for those who were in the program. I know many would say the pandemic has shown that folks getting extra unemployment have had less incentive to see employment and right now we are seeing lots of low wage jobs having trouble finding employees. That isn’t exactly accurate but it does have some relevance. You can’t and shouldn’t paint everyone with the same paint brush. If this were geared toward folks living in poverty and had a set start and end like this program did, then maybe the results could continue on.
Why do I even bring this up? So imagine we do indeed no longer have jobs for everyone in 30 years. What do we do for those who can’t find jobs? We have time to fix things before they happen. Will we?
The purpose of this episode is not to solve these problems but to get you thinking about these problems and how we as a society solve it.
This episode was too cerebral to do it proper justice. And really a recorded video might have done it a lot more justice.
Next Week’s Episode, Big Brother and My Cell phone.
Apple is trying to protect our privacy and Facebook is trying to steal it.
Bonus Food for Thought: