What does increased automation mean for our economy?

The Terminator is a 1984 American science fiction action film which depicts Schwarzenegger playing the Terminator, a cyborg assassin sent back in time from the year 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor, played by Hamilton. Biehn plays Kyle Reese, a soldier from the future sent back in time to protect Sarah.

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In a post-apocalyptic 2029, 'Ai'machines seek to exterminate what is left of the human race, by initiating a nuclear holocaust. Two beings from this era travel back in time to 1984 Los Angeles: One is a Terminator(Arnold Schwarzenegger), a cyborg assassin programmed to kill Sarah Connor(Linda Hamilton); the other is Kyle Reese(Michael Biehn), a human resistance fighter sent to protect her.

Kyle explains that in the near future an artificial intelligence network called Skynetwill become self-aware and initiate a nuclear holocaust designed to kill off mankind. Sarah's yet-unborn son will rally the survivors, and lead a resistance movement against Skynet, and it's army of machines. With the Resistance on the verge of victory, Skynet has sent a Terminator back in time to kill Sarah before John can be born, as a last-ditch effort to avert the formation of the Resistance. The Terminator is an emotionless and efficient killing machine with a powerful metal endoskeleton, but with an external layer of living tissue that makes it resemble a human being.

What strikes me about the Terminator is that we can begin to pick out the first precursors to these kinds of technologies. I can perceive a time where we look back at the 'Stuxnet' virus, and understand how the threat of nuclear war has been taken out of the hands of politicians. Large corporations will increasingly develop automated technologies to handle jobs that humans currently do. Maybe Google glasses are the first step in creating intelligent endoskeletons.

Lot's of this type of analysis is pure speculation, and nobody can predict the future. However, we can see just what is over the horizon for the next few years. I read with some interest that Google's automated Car technology has just passed it's first 300k miles testing phase.So, what does increased automation mean for our economy?

Its hard to deny that robots & computers are taking over from humans in many industries;I recently explained my own experiences. Already we've seen how robots like the 'Flexpicker' and 'Adept Quattro' excel at sorting & moving goods in a manufacturing environment. More humanoid creations, like Hondas ASIMO, could take on even more human-like tasks. We are now seeing how sports journalists and other news people are being replaced by serious competition from virtual writers and performers. Even vending machines are starting to eliminate the needs for some human workers. Have you noticed how supermarkets are starting to increase the number of automated tills?

Modernists believe that protesters suffer from Luddite Fallacy the false belief that labour saving technologies will increase unemployment. However, I believe that will only hold so far as human capability exceeds technological capability. I'm beginning to wonder if machines are already starting to out perform humans in certain tasks. Once a superior automated workforce is created, what would stop them taking over a large portion of the jobs in our global market?

Already, the US and many European countries are outsourcing tech support and similar positions to India. Maybe the next logical step is to outsource positions to computers.With few high paying jobs, there will be fewer people able to buy goods. Sure, a few robotics corporations and software companies will create a new generation of trillionaires, but the number of consumers with middle class purchasing power will diminish. Maybe we are already seeing these tensions arise in the prominence of the 99%?

Which brings me back to the Google automated car. What will happen to all of the taxi drivers, bus drivers, and lorry drivers? Sure, at first nobody will be prepared to trust a computer driven car, but it won't be long before everybody will be doing it. Indeed, Google are already claiming that it will cut road deaths in the US by half, and if that is even halfway right, then it will increase the pressure on legislators via campaigners.

I'm not advocating any particular solutions, and I'm certainly not trying to predict the future. Just putting the question out there for debate in the pubs, clubs & coffee houses. What I do know, is that it will be a while before computers can compete with artists, and that is something I'll be encouraging in my own children.

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Posted in Publishing and Printing Post Date 03/12/2015






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