As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up

A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published.

Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years — allowing machines to mimic the human mind — are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.

And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise. Even with the economy’s recent improvement, the share of working-age adults who are working is substantially lower than a decade ago — and lower than any point in the 1990s.

Economists long argued that, just as buggy-makers gave way to car factories, technology would create as many jobs as it destroyed. Now many are not so sure.

….there is deep uncertainty about how the pattern will play out now, as two trends are interacting. Artificial intelligence has become vastly more sophisticated in a short time, with machines now able to learn, not just follow programmed instructions, and to respond to human language and movement.

At the same time, the American work force has gained skills at a slower rate than in the past — and at a slower rate than in many other countries. Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 are among the most skilled in the world, according to a recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Younger Americans are closer to average among the residents of rich countries, and below average by some measures.

Clearly, many workers feel threatened by technology. In a recent New York Times/CBS News/Kaiser Family Foundation poll of Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 who were not working, 37 percent of those who said they wanted a job said technology was a reason they did not have one. Even more — 46 percent — cited “lack of education or skills necessary for the jobs available.”

By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER – New York Times –

The Future of AI: Immortality or Human Extinction?

By Michael Howard – Esquire.com –

Elon Musk has joined everyone from the Unabomber to James Cameron (sometimes) to grandfathers worldwide in their fear of future technology. The difference is that Ted Kaczynski is a crazy murderer, whereas Musk is a sane philanthropist and technology expert whose respected vision of the future beckons genuine concern.

Musk spoke to MIT’s Aeronautics and Astronautics department at their Centennial Symposium:

I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with artificial intelligence.
I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.

With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. You know those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water and he’s like, yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon, [but] it doesn’t work out.

Unlike the Unabomber, Musk isn’t exploding humans to show his concern for humans. He’s putting his money where his fear of dystopian apocalypse is. In March, he invested in an AI startup, Vicarious, alongside other tech billionaires such as Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerburg. Musk told CNBC his investment comes “not from the standpoint of trying to make any investment return” but because he wants to monitor the “potentially dangerous outcome” of AI.

 
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Ten Horrifying Technologies That Should Never Be Allowed To Exist

By George Dvorsky –

As we head deeper into the 21st century, we’re starting to catch a glimpse of the fantastic technological possibilities that await. But we’re also starting to get a grim sense of the potential horrors. Here are 10 frightening technologies that should never, ever, come into existence….

 
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