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Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

Page history last edited by swanson@... 4 years, 8 months ago

Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford


“The virtuous feedback loop between productivity, rising wages, and increasing consumer spending will collapse.”

P. xvi

Ford, Rise of the Robots


He points to 1970s as point where post-war “Goldilocks” economy started to fail.


Jobs have equaled purchasing power.

Right now too 5% of households does 40% of spending.


His key question: “Can accelerating technology disrupt our entire system to the point where a fundamental restructuring may be required if prosperity is to continue?” p xviii


Robot Operating System (ROS) is free & open source.


Just like platforms like mobile have led to an explosion of innovative software of all types, ROS is poised to do the same. Formula: standard operating system + cheap & easy programming = explosive development of new ideas.


Willow Garage has made TurtleBot


The impact of automation may be felt by China & other countries that rely on low-wage work. In US, manufacturing makes up 10% of job market. Some jobs are moving back to US in automated factories.


McDonald’s employs 1.8 million workers in 34,000 restaurants. Fast food was an easy job to get but may not be true


Redbox is Chicago region has 7 people servicing & filling machines. Move to kiosk retail.


Seven Deadly (Economic) Trends:

1) Stagnant Wages: The year 1973 marks the decline in wages.

2) "A Bear Market for Labor's Share, and a Raging Bull for Corporations" --labor's share of national income drops and corporate share goes up

3) Declining Labor Force Participation--since 2008 unemployment looked better largely because people stopped looking and were not included in labor force.

4) "Diminishing Job Creation, Lengthening Jobless Recoveries, and Soaring Long-Term Unemployment" --in past 50 years, "the US economy has become progressively less effective at creating new jobs" (p.43). We had "recoveries" that didn't produce more jobs. 

5) Soaring Inequality--over half of increase in US income went to top 1% of households. 

6) "Declining Incomes and Underemployment for recent College Graduates"

7) Polarization and Part-Time Jobs--as jobs are destroyed, they are replaced by jobs that are not as good. 


He sites ebook Race Against the Machine. 


Universal basic income

—basic level into middle class

—everyone gets it (Not “means-tested) no matter income. This avoids disincentives where people avoid earning more in order to keep benefit.

—encourage education so that people have a chance at more income. Perhaps have different levels based on education. Society needs to value education. Better use of free time through education.

—needs to be income where people are free to spend where they like not food or housing subsidies like now.




Automation has the possibility of a consumption/growth death spiral. Avoiding this is important 

Some call universal basic income the “citizen’s dividend”



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