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The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of Mass Unemployment Paperback – 2 Jun 2016
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‘Well researched and disturbingly persuasive.’
‘Everyone concerned with the future of work must read this book.’(Lord Robert Skidelsky, Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick)
“[The Rise of the Robots is] about as scary as the title suggests. It’s not science fiction, but rather a vision (almost) of economic Armageddon.”(Frank Bruni, New York Times)
“A fascinating journey into the near future world of unemployment. Ford issues a stark warning that automation in the form of robotics is moving beyond the menial jobs to put the rest of us out of work. Read it now before it is too late.”(Noel Sharkey, Emeritus Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, University of Sheffield)
“As Martin Ford documents in Rise of the Robots, the job-eating maw of technology now threatens even the nimblest and most expensively educated...the human consequences of robotization are already upon us, and skillfully chronicled here.”(New York Times Book Review)
“Compelling and well-written… In his conception, the answer is a combination of short-term policies and longer-term initiatives, one of which is a radical idea that may gain some purchase among gloomier techno-profits: a guaranteed income for all citizens. If that stirs up controversy, that's the point. The book is both lucid and bold, and certainly a starting point for robust debate about the future of all workers in an age of advancing robotics and looming artificial intelligence systems.”(ZDNet)
“In Rise of the Robots, Ford coolly and clearly considers what work is under threat from automation.”(New Scientist)
“Speaks with special credibility, insight, and verve. Business people, policy makers, and professionals of all sorts should read this book right away―before the 'bots steal their jobs.”(Kenneth Cukier, Data Editor for the Economist)
“An alarming new book.”(Esquire)
“Ford offers ideas on changes in social policies, including guaranteed income, to keep our economy humming and prepare ourselves for a more automated future.”(Booklist)
“If the robots are coming for my job (too), then Martin Ford is the person I want on my side, not to fend them off but to construct a better world where we can all―humans and our machines―live more prosperously together. Rise of the Robots goes far beyond the usual fear-mongering punditry to suggest an action plan for a better future.”(Cathy N. Davidson, Distinguished Professor and Director, The Futures Initiative, The Graduate Center, CUNY and author of Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn)
“Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots is a very important, timely, and well-informed book. Smart machines, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and the ‘Internet of things’ are transforming every sector of the economy. Machines can outperform workers in a rapidly widening arc of activities. Will smart machines lead to a world of plenty, leisure, health care, and education for all; or to a world of inequality, mass unemployment, and a war between the haves and have-nots, and between the machines and the workers left behind? Ford doesn’t claim to have all of the answers, but he asks the right questions and offers a highly informed and panoramic view of the debate. This is an excellent book that offers us a sophisticated glimpse into our possible futures.”(Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University and author of The Age of Sustainable Development)
“A careful and courageous examination of automation and its possible impact on society.”(Kirkus Reviews)
“Of all the moderns who have written on automation and rising joblessness, Martin Ford is the original. The Rise of the Robots is self-recommending.”(Marginal Revolution)
“It's not easy to accept, but it's true. Education and hard work will no longer guarantee success for huge numbers of people as technology advances. The time for denial is over. Now it's time to consider solutions and there are very few proposals on the table. Rise of the Robots presents one idea, the basic income model, with clarity and force. No one who cares about the future of human dignity can afford to skip this book.”(Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget and Who Owns the Future?)
"Lucid, comprehensive, and unafraid...an indispensable contribution to a long-running argument." -Los Angeles Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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The author is an information technology entrepreneur, and like may of us who have been involved in that industry for several decades, can see human labour is being almost everywhere challenged by machine intelligence. It didn't seem to matter much to the middle classes when automation reached manual work, but now professions that were considered impossible to automate - like the legal profession, sales, professional services, product design, education and health - are now being eroded, we're seeing something unprecedented. In Europe and the US, increasing numbers of graduates are unemployed or underemployed. Education and training are no longer sufficient conditions for middle-class life. In fact, the middle class is disappearing under a welter of household and student debt while real incomes are declining - for those lucky enough to be in work.
The author shows clearly how the 'jobless recovery' is working. While profits are rising, an ever greater share is going to investors and owners as labour makes up an ever smaller component of costs. The economies of the UK and US are now unable to create jobs fast enough to keep up with population growth. This in turn is collapsing demand for 'middle class' products. In the UK, for example, luxury brands like Burberry, and budget brands like Aldi and Poundland are doing well, catering for the new wealthy and the new poor respectively. Most other businesses are in a hole. This in turn has a depressing effect on demand as workers are laid off in those businesses. More and more, businesses find themselves in a 'winner takes all' marketplace, where heavy investment in technology destroys the competition. The great growth industries, employ few people. Places which have fought for and subsidised their presence frequently see little benefit to the local economy.
The book is a great tool with which to think about possible futures, at all levels. After reading it connections become clear in surprising ways. Why are large numbers of western companies bringing offshored work back home, for example? It's because information technology in the US and UK is even cheaper than poverty wages in the Far East. Will interest rates rise? Unlikely, because as wage-fuelled demand falls, only debt can sustain our economies. This is a very sobering book. At the moment, at the UK Conservative Party conference, ministers are stressing how important it is to remove income support in order to motivate people to work harder for less - but as this book shows, it's a lost cause. When some US info business are now being sold at billions, but with only a handful of workers, no-one can price themselves cheaply enough and survive. With our current leadership, and very large vested interests increasingly benefitting from technology gains for a small number of people, it's hard to see any way out of this problem. I suspect that many people felt something similar in the late 1930's - a feeling that the world was in trouble, and that it was drifting towards the inevitable, and no-one had the will or the ability to avoid the rocks.
The great thing about this book is that it doesn't offer any easy answers. It may just help us to prepare adequately for a coming storm.
Gave it 3 stars for the economics which doesn't go far enough, and would give it 2 for the AI/robot stuff.
The scarcity of resources is becoming less and less of a problem because of technology and a large number of previously scarce resources can now be comoditised and made available to general public at a fraction of the cost (e.g. Internet). This means that the problem lies within current policies that govern distribution of wealth or potentially with the economic theory assuming competition but the latter is a bit more difficult to undo if you beleive in Darwin's survival of the fittest theory. Eitherway it is interesting times we live in.
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