Jobs for Robots

Jobs for Robots ISBN: 9780984972890, Prestige Professional Publishing. The expanding robot deployment is examined here in e-book format by Jason Schenker.

Sub-titled: Between Robocalypse and Robotopia, the book consists of an Introductory brief overview; nine chapters; an extensive number of pertinent references listed chapter by chapter; a list of the author’s degrees and certificates; an impressive compilation of his ‘Forecaster Accuracy Rankings’ with respect to economic indicators and associated factors; a note about his Publishing House (Prestige Professional); short synopses of his other books; and Disclaimers, both personal and for the publisher. The chapters provide details on: Why He Wrote the Book – to emphasize the need for education and for entitlement reform; The Past of Work: What’s in a Name – how they derived from one’s vocations; The Present of Work – current economic and labor market conditions; Robocalypse – advent causing possible loss of work opportunities; Robotopia – the reverse; Unreformed Entitlements – probable results; and three final self-explanatory chapters: Problems of Universal Basic Income; The Future of Education; Robot-Proof Your Career.

Discussion: The author obviously is immensely qualified to expound upon this most timely subject and has set forth some very cogent ideas. He also has accomplished this feat remarkably well in that he has presented the material in a scholarly and well-referenced manner, yet in a way the average reader will find to be most readable and easily understood. The only troublesome feature of the presentation for this reviewer is the considerable amount of repetition that judicious editing would have been able to eradicate.

One feature of the discussion that may disenchant some readers is the use of today’s term of ‘entitlement’ when speaking about Social Security. He begins with the seldom mentioned, and probably little known, bit about Social Security that it is virtually a direct ‘steal’ from Otto von Bismarck’s system established in Prussia and the expanding Germany in the 1800’s. It is granted that even von Bismarck admitted his program was a manner of combatting the rising tide of socialism. However, as admittedly one of the earliest enrollees in the program, this reviewer is aware of much of the program’s history and, as it was explained by Roosevelt, this was not a government ‘entitlement’ as in allowance, dispensation or ‘handout’. Rather it was something the recipient earned by his/her salary contribution plus that of the employer that would be placed in a trust which, with the number of contributors and the interest accrued, would continue to provide sufficient monies for the retirees. This was an extremely sensitive matter in 1935 when the population that had been a self-reliant group with a strong work ethic and pride in ‘being able to take care of themselves’ were still struggling with the devastation wreaked by the stock market collapse of ’29. There still are many who believe this and probably this could well have sufficed if the original program had continued. HOWEVER, in 1954 disability coverage was added, then Medicare in 1965, a few additional ‘coverages’ in the ‘90’s and finally in the past several years innumerable and diverse individuals additionally seem to have acquired a ‘piece of the action’. So, I heartily concur with the author that with the decrease in workforce, longer living retirees, the huge number of recipients and other factors, there is a pressing need for addressing the matter of an increase in the financial supply to ‘entitlements’ or whatever name that should be assigned. I also believe that the author has missed a golden opportunity to be number 1 in another predictive area. He has valiantly presented a solid base for Robotopia and I believe he seriously believes that education, along with large changes in the government programs, can keep us from Robocalypse. Regrettably, and although my degrees and credits are nowhere near his most impressive numbers, I believe my list is credible enough to allow me to humbly disagree. Perhaps because my activities have been in science rather than economics, it has caused me to become quite pragmatic. Furthermore, one of my degrees is in Clinical Psychology where professional interaction with individuals has caused me to differ from his belief that individuals will willingly seek constant new educational opportunities. Today’s generations do not seem, generally speaking, to embrace the strong work ethic of earlier generations. Thus regrettably, I fear most, or at least a large portion of today’s population of average intelligence will take the easier road. Granted, boredom may set in, but they will find another electronic game to play. With respect to the government making the necessary moves to counteract the advent of robots, again my pragmatism makes me wonder if it will be possible for human beings, such as compose our congress, to make such adjustments. (And PLEASE do NOT infer any political meanings in the following – it simply is a statement of fact.) When the admittedly greatly divided country can elect a president (unquestionably greatly flawed and totally disliked by many, but still the person elected) presents an agenda full of change and the majority leader of the senate, a member of the same party, states that the president is a newcomer and doesn’t understand how political matters work, there is a BIG problem. The president is proposing a change. BUT it is ONLY a change that will accomplish a reform that that ‘political’ leader and all of the rest of his party has been clamoring for over an eight year period. It would seem that the people’s elected representatives main function is to have as their mantra an old adage that will insure their reelection regardless of accomplishment. The adage, of course: “When all is said and done, much has been said, but little done” or perhaps more bluntly: “Talk it to death (to let your constituents know you are working) but don’t bother accomplishing anything”. A jaded view of the situation, no doubt, but it ‘is what it is’.

3* Actually 3 ½* Fascinating, rightfully respected author’s view with suggested caveats.

The Digital Rabbit Hole

The Digital Rabbit Hole ISBN: 9780982836345, Futurebooks,info publisher, e-book by Larry Kilham,

The book is subtitled: “How we are becoming captive in the digital universe and how to stimulate creativity, education, and recapture our humanity.” The book contains an Introduction followed by a presentation in three parts with magnificent references contained in a section at the end of the book pertinent to statistics and statements offered in the body of the work. PART 1 – The New World of the ‘Knowosphere’ contains 6 chapters detailing entrée into, good and bad features, effect on children and young adults, addictive features, definition of, its best uses and ‘shadows of artificial intelligence’. Part 2 –What to Learn and How to Think in the Age of Google has 3 chapters detailing decisions to be made and considerations that must be taken into account, evolution of new thought processes where the mind merges with the internet providing collective intelligence, and advancement, education and creativity considerations. PART 3 – Escape From the Rabbit Hole contains 4 chapters examining the “Erosion of Human Values”, “Recapturing Our Minds”, “Preparing the New Generations” and finally “The Road Ahead”.

Discussion: This is perhaps one of the most scholarly, and yet most simply written discussions on the subject of today’s almost universal servitude to the digital universe that this reviewer has read. Pertinent material from recognizably knowledgeably sources not only is presented in abundance but provided in a most enjoyably readable form. The author states: “Mankind’s thinking process is changing because reality will come through computers and digital devices.” He offers a relevant quote from prominent neuroscientist Susan Greenfield: “You’re just a consumer, living at the moment, having an experience, pressing buttons but not having a life narrative anymore. You’re not defined by your family, or by what you know, or by specific events in the real world, because most of your time is spent in cyberspace. So what are you? Could it be that we just become nodes on a much larger collective thought machine?” He states further that the main entry is through the smartphone with, as of 2015, 64% of North American adult ownership and with Facebook installed in 76%. There is a noticeable “erosion of human values at a price we have become willing to pay for the costless convenience of Google, comforts of Facebook, and the reliable company of iPhones”. The decline in youth studying humanities is quite noticeable. Mark Bauerlein, English professor and social analyst asks how can historical tales of leaders/battles/other, and architecture compete with the Digital democracy that even seems to be a contributor to declining interest in classical music. Sirus XM and satellite radio has 9 jazz channels, 20 Latin, 2 traditionally classical and the core classical music public in NYC is no more than 20,000 – ¼ % of city’s 8.4 million people. These are all part of the Internet driven democratization of cultural opinion. The average user checks his/her phone 100 times/day. Children use them constantly, often for advice/guidance but many unfortunately have become self-absorbed to the exclusion of everything else. It already has been proven to lessen attention span which already is at an all-time low of slightly over 8 seconds. It provides instant gratification – a message from a boy/girlfriend, photos from a party, shopping, a game, even a ‘selfie’. Obviously the traditional interests cannot compete with such prominently ‘important’ features. All of the former activities require a desire to learn which in turn requires effort. The latter do not, and they are selected simply because human nature traditionally takes the route requiring the least effort, and especially when gratification is so easily attained by doing so. Further, this concentration on one’s digital life decreases human intercourse and companionship and is leading to an increasing U. S. population of insecure, isolated and lonely individuals and, according to frightening statistics, have been shown to provide abysmal levels in literacy, mathematics and problem solving when compared to the accomplishments of those in other countries. Studies have shown that “as the smartphone ownership increases, literacy decreases.” The author admits that “the Digital age envelops us and forces us to engage whether we like it or not” and that almost every job now requires some level of digital literacy. However, we must approach it intelligently to use it as a base for new enterprises and further education. It should not be wasted simply for social media access, entertainment, purchases, and daily routines. He concludes by providing suggestions for accomplishing this goal. This is a most timely discussion set forth in a scholarly but simply and easily read format. (96 references listed)

5* Highly recommended examination of today’s digital world.