Race with the machines

This post is ties really closely with the Software is eating the world post. In this TED talk, Erik Brynholfsson addresses the problem how as machines take on more jobs more and more people find themselves out of work. “Is this the end of growth? No, says Erik Brynholfsson — it’s simply the growing pains of a radically reorganized economy.” The description of the talk also suggests to watch the opposing viewpoint from Robert Gordon. (I watched his video too, but it doesn’t relate as much to our class).

Anyway, Erik argues that indeed at this moment people are losing their jobs, but this is just a growing pain for what he calls “The New Machine Age”. According to Erik at this moment in time productivity is at an all time high, and actually the numbers used to make this hypothesis are understated. He says that because a lot of the Internet is “free” economists miss about 300 billion dollars for the total GDP. Interestingly enough he will go on to incorporate a lot of the ideas that we have discussed throughout this course. He says that this new machine age will promote grow for three reasons. It’s digital, meaning it’s at virtually no cost. It’s exponential, like what Ray Kurzwiel says, and it’s combinatorial, meaning that new things will be building blocks for future implementation. His final point provides the most hope for our job situation. He states as an example that when Deep Blue played grandmaster Garry Kasparov, the machine won. And even today, a cell-phone app can beat even the most skilled grandmaster, but what is most hopeful is that today, the world champion is not a human or a machine. Today when humans work with machines, they can beat any human or any machine. This means that we need to race with the machines rather than race against the machines.

He also talks about Watson during the talk which can relate to the singularity.

And finally here is another TED talk that is unrelated to the first one, but I’ve been meaning to post it for some time. It describes the purpose of this class, and what we as developers should be doing, when making new software.

One Response to Race with the machines

  1. Like Erik had mentioned, there have been several huge innovations that have caused a shift in the demand for workers with a certain skill set. The rise of cheap and accurate internet tax software has caused a 17% decrease in workers in the tax field. This looks like technology is taking over our jobs making human workforce useless. I think it actually displaying a temporary setback that can be solved with innovations in other areas. According to this graph on the left, while automated machinery caused a drop in manufacturing jobs over the past 20 years, other industries have grown where human intellect is still needed. However, the figure on the bottom right does confirm that labor growth has been decreasing. This is a result of exponential technological growth decreasing the amount of laborer interaction needed without a resulting exponential growth in applications of human intellect. Eventually I suspect that computational power will grow so far that very few will be able to take advantage of it fully to implement it. This will cause a stagnation in job loss via technology and increase the demand for humans needed to learn and apply the vast power of technology.

    Side note: This is all under the impression that singularity does not occur. In that case I think we have something bigger to worry about other than our ability to find work.