Eldar Shafir - Living Under Scarcity
When the robots disrupt the workplace, it’s clear that one group of society will be first in the firing line: the middle classes.
The latest to warn of this class attack is the UK’s university and science minister David Willetts, who said this week that the jobs most at risk of usurpation by robots were white-collar professions. Speaking at an event held by the think tank Policy Exchange, Willetts emphasized that the kind of work we tend to think involves sophisticated cognitive abilities is actually easier for a robot to do than many motor tasks we would consider very basic. As he put it, “Giving a cup of tea to a little old lady is a bigger IT robotics challenge than doing chess against Kasparov.”
Where robots once seemed best suited to production line drudgery, they’re increasingly proving themselves adept at the kind of jobs that fit better with middle class aspirations, like accountancy and journalism. They’re not heavy lifters; they’re office drones.
(more at motherboard.vice.com)
Robots are getting smarter, but they still need step-by-step instructions for tasks they haven’t performed before. Before you can tell your household robot “make me a bowl of ramen noodles,” you’ll have to teach it how to do that. Since we’re not all computer programmers, we’d prefer to give those instructions in English, just as we’d lay out a task for a child.
But human language can be ambiguous, and some instructors forget to mention important details. Suppose you told your household robot how to prepare ramen noodles, but forgot to mention heating the water or tell it where the stove is.
In his Robot Learning Labo, Ashutosh Saxena, assistant professor of computer science at Cornell University, is teaching robots to understand instructions in natural language from various speakers, account for missing information, and adapt to the environment at hand.
(more at phys.org)
Are robots stealing our jobs? Is human labor destined to become obsolete? This is a scary topic that has been debated for more than 100 years. Economists even created a term for this—the Luddite Fallacy—referring to the 19th-century English textile artisans who protested against newly developed labor-saving machinery. But fast-forward to today and you can see a startling trend emerging. Almost unnoticed, computer power is growing exponentially, and it is advancing efforts to mechanize the labor force.
(more at cnbc.com)
This is big. A computer has successfully managed to fool a bunch of researchers into thinking that it was a 13-year-old boy named Eugene Goostman. In doing so, it has become the first computer in the world to have successfully passed the Turing Test.
The test is named after computer pioneer Alan Turing. To pass it, a computer needs to dupe 30 percent of human judges in five minute text-based chats, a feat that until now had never been accomplished.