Can We Shape the Robot Revolution?

7. October 2015

Date: 07-10-2015
Source: Technology Review

A robotics pioneer warns that technologists must consider how advances in machine intelligence will eradicate jobs.

BrooksRodney Brooks

New technologies are poised to have a profound impact on employment and society, robotics pioneer Rodney Brooks warned on Monday at Solve, a conference being held this week at MIT.

Brooks, a professor emeritus at MIT and one of the cofounders of the robotics company iRobot, said rapid advances threaten to upset many areas of work in the coming decades. “We see a common theme right now,” Brooks said, “which is digital technology changing the nature of work.”

Robotics is already playing a role in a major employment shift in manufacturing, in fact. Safer, cheaper, and smarter robots could foster a shift in employment in countries such as China in the coming years, as rising wages enable people to move from manufacturing to other kinds of employment. Brooks founded a company called Rethink Robotics that is making a robot designed to take over tasks currently done by hand on manufacturing lines.

During Solve, high-profile scientists and business leaders will consider trends that could affect the ability of millions of people to find meaningful employment. Sessions aimed at addressing the issue will include academics such as Erik Brynjolfsson, who has researched the issue of digital innovations and employment, and Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet (the company previously known as Google).

Brooks compared the broader coming technological shift to the invention of the cotton gin—a device for automating the process of separating cotton fibers from seeds. Read the rest of this entry »


Self-regard: You are not special

24. May 2015

Date: 24-05-2015
Source: The Economist

How to get from narcissism to thoughtfulness

The Road to Character. By David Brooks. Random House; 300 pages; $28. Allen Lane; £17.99. Buy from Amazon.co.uk

PEOPLE are too full of themselves, says David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times. Joe Namath, a star quarterback of the 1960s, once shouted to his bathroom mirror: “Joe! Joe! You’re the most beautiful thing in the world!”—with a reporter watching. But it is not just celebrities who puff themselves up, and the evidence is not just anecdotal. The proportion of American teenagers who believe themselves to be “very important” jumped from 12% in 1950 to 80% in 2005. On a test that asks subjects to agree or disagree with statements such as “I like to look at my body” and “Somebody should write a biography about me”, 93% of young Americans emerge as being more narcissistic than the average of 20 years ago.

With the rise in self-regard has come an unprecedented yearning for fame. In a survey in 1976, people ranked being famous 15th out of 16 possible life goals. By 2007, 51% of young people said it was one of their principal ambitions. On a recent multiple-choice quiz, nearly twice as many middle-school girls said they would rather be a celebrity’s personal assistant than the president of Harvard University. Read the rest of this entry »