The Robots Aren’t Coming For Your Job–Get Back To Work!

robots taking jobs
A Robot Taking a Job
Image: Sebastian Lund

What I like is something that surprises me.

If it goes against a generally accepted principal, something that gets repeated so often that we stop questioning it, even better.

Robots taking jobs is a perfect example. In this article from Wired magazine by James Surowiecki (remember ‘Wisdom of Crowds‘?) explains why, while robots have started doing many jobs humans currently do (especially low-skilled jobs) there are plenty of other jobs that are being created in the larger economy.

We usually think of the supposed impending robot takeover of jobs as a tech issue, but if we look at the **actual** economic data about some of the assumptions we seem to be collectively making, we get another picture entirely.

I wanted to point Digital Media Minute readers at the article, despite the fact that it’s more about economics than tech, for exactly that reason.

Here are some of the reasons why at least so far we might have less to worry about than we think:

First, productivity–even in the manufacturing sector–hasn’t been rising as fast as it would be if the process of ‘robots taking all the jobs’ had really begun to any significant degree.

Second, unemployment is very low historically, and wage growth is rising faster than inflation and productivity. Wouldn’t be happening if all the jobs were going to robots.

Third, people moving from job to job (job churn) as robots supposedly take over just isn’t happening, and in fact is at a historic low.

An economist who’s been a proponent of the idea that automation will usher in a ‘second machine age’ puts it this way in the article:

“If I had to do it over again, I would put more emphasis on the way technology leads to structural changes in the economy, and less on jobs, jobs, jobs. The central phenomenon is not net job loss. It’s the shift in the kinds of jobs that are available.”

The article argues that the drop in US Manufacturing jobs in the last 20 or so years hasn’t been about automation anywhere near as much as it has been about Chinese manufacturing displacing US manufacturing.

The article ends by pointing out that you can’t mourn the supposed ‘secular stagnation’ that our economy has been going through and be simultaneously afraid that the robots are taking all the jobs.

If it happens as many people fear, the overall effect on the economy–a big rise in GDP, huge productivity gains, etc.–would be a huge positive, not negative.

The full article is definitely worth a read. Back to our regularly schedule tech-obsessed content tomorrow!

Chill: Robots Won’t Take All Our Jobs




Apple Building Mothership-City Council To Approve

People who are irritated by Steve Jobs for one reason or another might want to skip this post, but I found his presentation to the Cupertino city council regarding Apple’s plans for a new campus to be fascinating. He starts with a story of how he called Bill Hewlett one day when he was 13 to ask for some parts and ended up with his first job, and explains that the property in question became available as a result of consolidation at HP.

The centerpiece of the proposed building, assuming Apple gets approval, will be a ring-shaped building in which more than 12,000 people will work. Even Jobs describes it as a spaceship-like. If you’re long Apple stock you’ll be encouraged by the confidence Apple is showing regarding their growth expectations. It’s also amusing to watch the awe-struck council members lob softball questions at him: “What would this expansion do for Cupertino residents?” “Well we are the largest taxpayer in Cupertino.” I’m thinking this expansion is mostly likely a slam dunk…

Kevin Kelly On Future Media

Kevin Kelly–a digital prophet. If you are interested in some of the bigger questions behind the media in which you will be swimming for the rest of your days, this video will give you lots to ponder. As fast as things are changing relative to media in the largest sense nowadays, it’s surprising that we don’t take more time to analyze where exactly we’re headed on the macro level. Maybe the questions are simply too large; that’s why people like Kelly are important to pay attention to.

Among many other things in this 25-minute video, Kelly address the question of how, in an age when everything can be copied, creators will be able to make money to continue creating…

Here Comes Digital Banking

We did a post a while ago on BankSimple, the soon-to-be-live online digital bank that’s promising a totally new way of banking, with better customer service, greater emphasis on mobile banking and fewer fees. I think there’s a huge market for a different way of doing things in retail banking-how about you? BankSimple’s launch comes sometime in 2011, but they have launched the preview site where you can sign up for a beta account. Stay tuned, I’ll definitely be reviewing my BankSimple experience.

Update:  I’ll be watching this even closer than I had planned to when I originally wrote this post a year ago; it seems that the general unhappiness with large banks that has led to the Occupy movement has positioned Bank Simple–which is now known simply as ““–very well if they execute properly.

Four Ways Of Recycling Electronic Scrap For Money

For a lot of people cash is getting harder to come by nowadays. Chances are you have a few items that you wouldn’t mind converting into money or gift cards, stuff you aren’t using anyway. But where to go? And, maybe it sounds like a lot of trouble to haul everything across town to trade it in.

The good news is that it’s easier than you think to recycle your old electronics, scrap or otherwise, for maybe more than a few bucks. You can run your old gadgets through the following sites: includes free shipping when you sell your unused electronic devices to them. They take just about any desktop or laptop computer, smartphones, PDAs, and gaming equipment, working or not. Very simple interface to help you determine what your old gadget is worth.

NextWorth will accept all kinds of old electronics like cell phones, cameras, iPods & iPhones, gaming consoles, e-Readers, laptops, video games, GPS units, media & audio players, DVD Movies, etc., although you will get a target gift card in return rather than cash. Still, chances are you have all kinds of unused gear that you could convert into new cool stuff!

If you have an old working or non-working iPod or iPhone, you can try Tunecycle and their automated process for determining how much they will give you for it, depending on its condition and whether you can provide accessories with it.

Inside-Secrets-to-an-iPhone-AppAs an example, even a 1st generation 8GB iPhone working/in good condition/with no accessories is worth $68.

Apple also has a program for recycling your old computer, and depending on the condition of your iMac, Macbook, MacBook Pro or iPhone/iPod Touch, or old PC, they might give you credit towards a purchase if the unit is in working condition. (I have first hand experience of this recently, and I can confirm that they would at least take even an old unworking iMac at an Apple store to recycle, though they gave me nothing for it).

If there is a downside to electronic recycling for money I don’t see what it is. Trading in electronic scrap for cash means you’ll feel better about doing your part to help the environment, and the money will help your bottom line.

Insider Trading Tips

OK, maybe a better title for this post is: insider trading tip-offs. What does it have to do with programming and web development? A Canadian law student and programmer has created a website that will tell you, supposedly within two minutes of the SEC making the information public, when an insider has made a trade in any company you’d care to follow. Simply enter the ticker symbol and leave your email, and you’ll receive ‘instantaneous’ alerts. Yahoo! HackU was the original inspiration for this idea, and I guess it’s too useful not to continue. There is another proprietary system that gives insider trading info, but it’s neither free nor real-time. Talk about one programmer taking the bull (as it were) by the horns and doing something really subversive. He even makes the source code and YQL tables available, allowing anyone access to real-time SEC data:

“The main RSS scraper for this application is a YQL statement that trims down the SEC’s feed and spits it out in JSON.”

Bingo. The site is a triumph of simplicity.

A little background: insider trading is by no means necessarily illegal. ‘Insiders’, often officers of a given company, are certainly allowed to buy and sell stock issued by the company for which they are officers, but they must do so within strict guidelines established by the SEC. Sophisticated traders/investors often use insider trading stats as one of dozens of indicators that might help them accurately forecast stock prices.


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