Category Archives: Artificial Intelligence

American workers giving up on work? Or is work giving up on them?

From PJ Media:

When I was growing up, there used to be something called the “dignity of work.” It was a Christian concept (from which the proto-Marxists stole their “labor theory of value”and monetized it) that declared the inherent nobility of work — any kind of work — as contrasted with idleness, drunkeness, indolence, etc. It seems a bit old-fashioned now, but while it was a widely held “American value,” the country was a better place.

It was a better place insofar as a hard worker was a person of value.

Today, not so much:

Forty percent of Americans who are capable of working but who don’t have a job say they have completely given up looking for work, according to a new report.

The findings of a survey conducted by Express Employment Professionals show that the longer an individual has been out of the labor force, the more likely they are to say they have given up looking. More than half – 55 percent – of those out of work for more than two years say they have given up, while 21 percent of those out of labor force for three months or less say the same. More.

Reality check: File under: The early stages of the post-employment society. Machines are slowly reaching the point where they can produce enough good and services, with a few smart techs on hand, to keep vast hordes in an underclass North American standard of living.

Which means obese, with a closet full of clothes, and in no danger of freezing to death—spending one’s days lost in dope, sex, and junk media, if not bitterness and violence.

But only their minders—who live separately at a social worker standard of living—actually “need” them. They need the formerly employed precisely for their needs, whether they happen to be in public housing, rehab, or jail.

I’ve sometimes talked about how all this will impact civil liberties. Consider, there is a fundamental difference between the post-employment society and, say, mediaeval serfdom. The mediaeval baron needed his serfs’ muscles, just as he needed their donkeys’ muscles.

Yes, he could and did oppress them, but he actually needed them. So there were points beyond which he could not go, in his own interests.

In terms of trends, look for the growing popularity of consensual euthanasia. If you want to die, fine, you are just an expense anyway. 

Historically, an argument against legalizing attempts at suicide was that they deprived the king of a subject.  That sounds bizarre and oppressive today, but remember it assumes that the king needs a subject. What if he didn’t?

Civil liberties developed in part because citizens were needed. They won’t likely survive the post-employment society, though grievance cultures and identity group politics certainly will—people fighting over the badges of obsolescence.

A man who might have said, “I can fix practically any car” will be saying “I’m a victim of bigotry.” He won’t tell you about the deal he could get you on a good used, but about his ethnicity or sexuality.

As before, I don’t think these developments can be prevented. But a way must be found for people who want to live a civilized life in their midst to do so.

It is a long, covered retreat for a civilization in which, say, intellectual freedom was meaningful on campus, and banning “White Christmas”  (racist, see?) was not. And tearing up the Constitution would have been an outrage.

See also: High minimum wage closes low-income friendly stores File under: The early stages of the post-employment society.

Will robots take all jobs? No. But a great many.

But who actually needs Millennials? Except for votes?

Will the junior jackboots of Asshat U finally get “justice”? (Yes, but read on … )


High minimum wage closes low-income friendly stores

From Breitbart Big Journalism:

WaPo Buries: Minimum Wage Increase Cost Inner-City DC Two Walmart Stores

The Washington Post headline screams, “District leaders furious Walmart breaking promise to build stores in poor neighborhoods.” So you would think that the primary reason behind the so-called broken promise would be near the top of the story, correct? Well, not if you’re reading the Washington Post when the reason for the broken promise is inconvenient to one of the Left’s favorite narratives — the minimum wage.

On top of three current D.C. Walmart stores already doing worse than expected, Walmart is backing out of the other two because the cost of doing business in DC is just too high. The DC minimum wage is already an inflated $11.50 an hour, and that could jump to $15 in November. Naturally the left-wing Washington Post buries that inconvenient news under more than a dozen paragraphs:

Evans said that, behind closed doors, Walmart officials were more frank about the reasons the company was downsizing. He said the company cited the District’s rising minimum wage, now at $11.50 an hour and possibly going to $15 an hour if a proposed ballot measure is successful in November. He also said a proposal for legislation requiring D.C. employers to pay into a fund for family and medical leave for employees, and another effort to require a minimum amount of hours for hourly workers were compounding costs and concerns for the retailer.

“They were saying, ‘How are we going to run the three stores we have, let alone build two more?’?” Evans said.

Thanks to the Left’s stupid economic policies, hundreds of jobs that would have paid $7.25 an hour and up, are now gone. Hundreds of people in DC’s inner-cities that would have had work will now make nothing. More.

Reality check: File under: The early stages of the post-employment society. Demands for a minimum wage are an easy banner to rally a crowd under. Few will stop to consider that the situation is fundamentally different today from what it was a century ago.

A century ago, a higher minimum wage gave more buying power to lower income people, resulting in a broader distribution of (once deemed) luxury goods. Today, it merely hastens the pace of automation.

WalMart might act upset, but probably isn’t really. WalMart Canada, for example, is moving fast toward “order online and enjoy home delivery.” The clerk who might have had a high minimum wage—if she still had a job—is not the company’s responsibility but the taxpayers’.

It’s the same principle as with the US Chamber of Commerce encouraging amnesty. New immigrants will keep costs down by accepting low wage jobs. Once those jobs are automated, the former workers will not be the companies’ expense but the taxpayers.

Aren’t companies taxpayers? Yes, but if they are big enough they can manipulate, scheme, and deal on a much more equal basis with government. Their execs probably hold their assets safely offshore.

I doubt that much can be done about the trend as such. My concerns are

1. A growth in pointless public disorder. People who, decades ago, would have worked and acquired status and property that they didn’t want to lose will have little to do but develop and vent grievances.

2. Concurrently, we will see a reduction in civil liberties, as opposed to freedom to act out. The bong pipe everywhere, but only small, tightly monitored “free speech” zones.

Both trends are now well established at universities, which train our future leaders.

My guess is that intellectual freedom—which was won by people who did not depend on government to fed, clothe, house, and vet them—will not survive the post-employment society. My concern is not to “stop” all this (probably no one can) but to help those who do not want to be a part of it find a civilized way of life in its midst.

See also: Will robots take all jobs? No. But a great many.

But who actually needs Millennials? Except for votes?

Will the junior jackboots of Asshat U finally get “justice”? (Yes, but read on … )


Will robots take all jobs?

No. From Rebel:

Dashing the dreams of science fiction, if we want to explore planets outside our solar system, we will likely need such equipment.

More generally, though, if anyone supposes that the robot is doing the research, well, they may as well say that, in an everyday lab, the researcher’s sterile gloves are doing the research.

Research belongs to the world of ideas, and robots belong to the world of things we create in order to develop our ideas. More.

Reality check: There are laws of conservation of information as there are of matter and energy. In the latter case, that is why there is no perpetual motion machine. There is also no perpetual idea machine.

That said, many white collar jobs that not-especially talented people used to get can be and are being automated. Think title searching and medical dicta, for example.

Not how to  keep the peace between deadly enemy property owners or explain to a patient why cancer treatment is or isn’t worthwhile in a given case.

So, to understand the campus Asshat Rebellion, we need to ask ourselves, who would hire these people and for what? If the answer is, nobody except someone who needs to unleash trouble, well … get ready to be blamed, just for existing and seeming productive.

See also: What kind of jobs will the junior jackboots get when they graduate from We’ll Fix U?


Canada’s David Frum says the unsayable on US immigration

From The Atlantic:

The immigration debate is defined by legal categories: migrant versus refugee; illegal versus legal. Those legal categories are subordinated, however, to a central political division: migrants who are chosen by the receiving country versus those who choose themselves. That political division in turn is connected to a fateful economic division: migrants who arrive with the skills and attitudes necessary to success in a modern advanced economy versus those who don’t.

Those divides are highlighted by a massive new study by the National Academy of Sciences of the acculturation of new immigrants to the United States: “The Integration of Immigrants into American Society.” The first reports on the study in October headlined comforting news: recent immigrants to the United States were assimilating rapidly—arguably more rapidly than their predecessors of the pre-1913 Great Migration. One must read deeper into the report to encounter the worrying question: Assimilate to what? Like the country receiving them, immigrants to the United States are cleaved by class. Approximately one quarter of immigrants arrive with high formal educational qualifications: a college degree or more. Their record and that of their children is one of outstanding assimilation to the new American meritocratic elite, in many ways outperforming the native-born. …

By contrast, about one-third of immigrants arrive with less than a high-school education. Immigrants from Latin America—the largest single group—arrive with the least education: Only about 13 percent of them have a college degree or more. They too assimilate to American life, but to the increasingly disorderly life of the American non-elite. Their children make educational progress as compared to the parents, but—worryingly—educational progress then stagnates or retrogresses in the third generation. For many decades to come, Latino families educationally lag well behind their non-Latino counterparts. The static snapshot is even more alarming: While 60 percent of Asian Americans over age 25 have at least a two-year diploma, as do 42 percent of non-Latino whites and 31 percent of African Americans, only 22 percent of Latino Americans do. Ironically, one of the biggest obstacles to Latino success is that so many attend schools taught by large numbers of only slightly less recently arrived Latinos: as the National Academy of Sciences report glancingly observes, one important cause of poor performance of Latino immigrant children is the weak English proficiency of the Latino immigrants often hired to teach them.

Cultural sensitivity, right?

Partly as a result, as David Card and Stephen Raphael observe in their 2013 book on immigration and poverty, even third-generation Hispanic Americans are twice as likely to be poor as non-Latino whites.

When children of immigrants grow up poor, they assimilate to the culture of poorer America. More.

Reality check: Probably only a Canadian could have said this safely. Sure, Frum will be called a racist, but as Mark Steyn says, “Is THAT all you got on me?”

What makes this especially hard on the United States is that technological achievement matters and drives the economy there.

In other words, long-term low educational achievement among huge minorities — low achievement that is accepted as normal by members of the group (whatever they may tell the sob sisters from the government or government PR media, out in force) — is bound to be a drag on the economy, compared to which resettlement costs are peanuts.

But the main effect will be experienced by the working and middle classes. The millionaires in gated communities can quote the Bible about refugees and warn darkly about “hateful attitudes” without experiencing in their own lives the effect of a cultural drift away from achievement.

Kudos to Frum for – however futile it may prove to be – moving toward an honest discussion.

We need more of the same in Canada, but of course he daren’t do it here.


See also:

Yes, high tech IS killing white collar jobs and Silicon Valley is disrupting unions.


Academic: Never mind the news, we live in safe times


Finland to introduce guaranteed annual income

Finland is introducing a universal basic income:

Finland isn’t the only European locale flirting with a universal basic income. Greece is currently testing a pared-down minimum-income plan. Next year, Switzerland will hold a vote on the issue. The Swedes are at least aflutter about it. And in January, some low-income residents of Utrecht, the fourth-largest city in the Netherlands, will begin receiving a guaranteed monthly income (about $1,000 per month for a single adult or $1,450 for a couple or family) instead of their current welfare benefits. In about 50 of these test cases, the payment will be unconditional. Since Utrecht announced this plan, at least one other Dutch city has pledged to follow suit and six others are considering it. More.

The reason given is, to simplify many overlapping programs in face of high unemployment.

Reality check: I suspect an underlying reality: Artificial intelligence wants your job.

Developing the right policy around welfare entitlements requires first grappling with the fact that vast numbers of people who were employable in vital sectors when my parents (96 and 91) were young may not be employable in a decade’s time, due to AI.

AI is not going to destroy everyone’s job, of course. But many less skilled white collar jobs will disappear. Increasingly, jobs will be the special creations of people who can originate information or otherwise do things that can’t really be automated.

I’m struggling to understand all this myself, but so far: It’s no use shouting at a person to go get a job if his skills are limited to recounting how angry he is with the pronoun structure of English or people who wear leather.

Won’t the main thing be, how to keep him from interfering with more fortunate people who either have a job to do in life or accept that they don’t, without making themselves a problem? Thoughts welcome.

See also: Silicon Valley is disrupting unions?


Artificial intelligence wants your job

From The Rebel:

Legal secretaries, we are told, have a 97.6% chance of being automated. Medical secretaries, have an 81.5% chance of being automated.

But veterinarians have only a 6.1% chance of being automated, and landscape architects have only a 4.5% chance.

Here’s the 2013 study, where the authors estimate 47% of total US employment is at risk.

Young people in particular should aim for jobs that cannot be replaced by a computer program based on the training manual. More.

Reality check: There may be no jobs available for the angry artsies at Asshat U. Possibly, they know that. They may need social extortion and economic rent for survival.

See also: Yes, high tech IS killing white collar jobs


Yes, high tech IS killing white collar jobs

From Forbes:

“What globalization did to blue collar jobs and the working class economy over the past 30 or 40 years, big data, artificial intelligence and robotics will do to the white collar economy — and at a much, much faster pace,” says Greene.

It’s a problem that will only exacerbate the growing gap between the rich and the poor, he claims, because we’ve left ourselves unprepared for the inevitable automation of many jobs traditionally done by humans.

“This is a much bigger issue than any of the presidential candidates are acknowledging,” says Greene, who unsuccessfully ran for a Senate seat in 2010, pointing to a Harvard Business Review study that claims as many as 40 million Americans may soon have job skills that have no economic value. More.

But they will have one big heap of resentment, about everything, anything, and nothing—above all, their “identity,” which is everything to them and nothing to anyone else.

Reality check: No, of course AI isn’t killing the jobs where we have to originate new information. It is killing the ones where people pushed/lugged paper around all day, every day.

When .pdf killed the Post Office, it did not make documents write themselves. But it did cut the number of people required to provide a document very considerably—usually down to its author, and maybe an editor/Web master.

See also: Will artificial intelligence kill our jobs? That depends. It depends in part on what we understand our jobs to be.


Respecting one’s heroes but taking issue – Thomas Sowell edition


Silicon Valley is disrupting unions?

Of course. From Breitbart:

Silicon Valley is coming after unionized industries. A top investor in the Valley, Paul Graham, lit up Twitter, saying, “Any industry that still has unions has potential energy that could be released by startups… (I don’t mean in simply paying people less, but rather that industries afflicted by unions are sclerotic so have left lots undone.)”

The lack of innovation leaves unionized industries susceptible to startups, which are increasingly moving into new forms of labor, from driving and delivery to education. Google recently announced a new partnership for creating cheap, online business school courses. Generally speaking, these types of online courses don’t need the permission of universities or teacher unions to set salaries, allowing tech companies to provide very low-cost education.

Interestingly enough, Graham’s comments illustrate how Silicon Valley represents a new pro-capitalism, anti-union political category. Employees from Graham’s investment company, Y-Combinator, give exclusively to Democrats, according to OpenSecrets. Many of these Silicon Valley stars prefer Democrats because they see a role for the federal government as an investor in education and scientific research, but not as a regulator from capitalism. More.

Reality check: Instant IQ test = can we see what is happening here? Silicon Valley’s employees will be more like management than labour. Valley need hire only clever AI types who work brutally hard and get paid tons of money. And what’s $10k here or there to land a promising young genius? They’re available globally now.

The people who used to be union labour in North America will be lucky to have jobs in service industries threatened by AI. If they unionize or demand high minimum wages, AI will just move faster. They will end up on the public dole, not the corporate payroll.

As for Silicon Valley supporting Democrats? That party will form the base of technocratic progressive government in the future. It’s fine with them if former union labour is on lifetime benefits. One suspects society will be somewhat like a human wildlife sanctuary but then that’s the Brave New World that looms.

See also: More good news: Tax analyst Stephen Moore gets it too, re Asscrat U, USA (The precious little asshats are in training to manage the unemployed/underemployed classes, a job for which they will not need conventional academic thinking skills. And in fairness to them, they sense that.)


Book review: ‘Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future’

Martin Ford has seen the future, and it doesn’t work. To be more precise, it generates wealth while obliterating demand for work. “Go West, young man”, was the career advice of the 19th century. Today’s equivalent is “get an engineering degree”. Alas, the latter is not as rewarding as the former.

A third of Americans who graduated in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) are in jobs that do not require any such degree. Up and down the US there are programmers working as fast-food servers. In the age of artificial intelligence, they will only drift further into obsolescence, says Ford.

Though Ford is a software entre­preneur, it is easy to dismiss his prognosis as the rantings of a latter-day Luddite. That is how many responded to his last book The Lights in the Tunnel (2009), which warned of a future in which even highly skilled occupations were vulnerable.

Rise of the Robots is Ford’s answer to those critics. Unlike his first book, which was based on a thought experiment about tomorrow’s world, this one is grounded in today’s economy. It is well researched and disturbingly persuasive.

Continue reading


The Machine Vision Algorithm Beating Art Historians at Their Own Game

Classifying a painting by artist and style is tricky for humans; spotting the links between different artists and styles is harder still. So it should be impossible for machines, right?

Few areas of academic inquiry have escaped the influence of computer science and machine learning. But one of them is the history of art. The challenge of analyzing paintings, recognizing their artists, and identifying their style and content has always been beyond the capability of even the most advanced algorithms.

That is now changing thanks to recent advances in machine learning based on approaches such as deep convolutional neural networks. In just a few years, computer scientists have created machines capable of matching and sometimes outperforming humans in all kinds of pattern recognition tasks.

Today, we see just how advanced these approaches have become in the hands of Babak Saleh and Ahmed Elgammal at Rutgers University in New Jersey. These guys have used these new machine learning techniques to train algorithms to recognize the artist and style of a fine-art painting with an accuracy that has never been achieved before.

What’s more, the results reveal connections between artists, and between entire painting styles, that art historians have labored for years to understand.

Saleh and Elgammal begin with a database of images of more than 80,000 paintings by more than a 1,000 artists spanning 15 centuries. These paintings cover 27 different styles, each with more than 1,500 examples. The researchers also classify the works by genre, such as interior, cityscape, landscape, and so on…


Derbyshire: The Case for Natural Stupidity

All of us by now, with the possible exception of some Sentinelese Islanders, are acquainted with the notion of Artifical Intelligence (AI). Most of us have read the news stories about how some alarming proportion of jobs—including middle-class careers like doctoring, lawyering, and accountancy—will soon yield to automation.

It’s scary. How will our kids make a living?

Allow me to reassure you. After pondering the matter in depth while flossing my teeth this morning, I have the solution. Pay attention, please!

Plainly the opposite of Artificial Intelligence is Natural Stupidity (NS). Therein lies our salvation. While robots take over all the work requiring intelligence, we humans must retreat behind the ramparts of NS, where the smart machines will not venture.

To help my own kids with their career planning, I have drawn up a list of ten occupations for which, on the evidence, the principal cognitive requirement is NS. Today I shall share that list with you, for the enlightenment of your own offspring. You’re welcome!

(1) Harvard Professor of Economics. Steve Sailer has been having great sport tossing and goring Prof. Raj Chetty’s absurd theories about social mobility, which Hillary Clinton is incorporating into her campaign speeches.

Prof. Chetty’s prize exhibit is a map of the U.S.A. with districts colored to show the most and least socially mobile. It looks uncannily like a map showing local proportions of blacks….


AI Has Arrived, and That Really Worries the World’s Brightest Minds

On the first Sunday afternoon of 2015, Elon Musk took to the stage at a closed-door conference at a Puerto Rican resort to discuss an intelligence explosion. This slightly scary theoretical term refers to an uncontrolled hyper-leap in the cognitive ability of AI that Musk and physicist Stephen Hawking worry could one day spell doom for the human race.

That someone of Musk’s considerable public stature was addressing an AI ethics conference—long the domain of obscure academics—was remarkable. But the conference, with the optimistic title “The Future of AI: Opportunities and Challenges,” was an unprecedented meeting of the minds that brought academics like Oxford AI ethicist Nick Bostrom together with industry bigwigs like Skype founder Jaan Tallinn and Google AI expert Shane Legg.

Musk and Hawking fret over an AI apocalypse, but there are more immediate threats.