Tag: robots

Gates calls for Robot tax

Software king and sworn enemy of the mosquito, Sir William Gates III, has been suggesting that companies pay a tax on the robots they use.

Gate’s reasoning is that if a robot takes human job, it should continue to pay that human’s taxes.

In a recent interview with Quartz, Bill Gates said the move would temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment.

Money gained from taxing robots could then be used to finance jobs taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools — jobs which humans are particularly well suited for:

Gates said that governments must oversee such programs rather than relying on businesses, to redirect the jobs to help people with lower incomes.

EU lawmakers considered a proposal to tax robot owners to pay for training for workers who lose their jobs. In the end though the legislators rejected it. Gate said that governments should be willing to raise the tax level and even slow down the speed of automation.

He said that technology and business cases for replacing humans in a wide range of jobs are arriving simultaneously, and it’s important to be able to manage that displacement.

“You cross the threshold of job replacement of certain activities all sort of at once,” Gates said. Warehouse work is already doomed.

EU wants mandatory kill switches on robots

humans-channel4-amc-sci-fi-tv-seriesThe European Parliament’s legal affairs committee wants all robots to be equipped with emergency “kill switches” to prevent them from causing excessive damage and taking over the world.

Legislators have also suggested that robots be insured and even be made to pay taxes.

Mady Delvaux, the parliamentarian who authored the proposal said that a growing number of areas of daily lives were increasingly affected by robotics. To ensure that robots are and will remain in the service of humans, there needed to be a robust European legal framework.

The proposal calls for a new charter on robotics that would give engineers guidance on how to design ethical and safe machines. Designers should include “kill switches” so that robots can be turned off in emergencies. They must also make sure that robots can be reprogrammed if their software doesn’t work as designed.

The proposal states that designers, producers and operators of robots should generally be governed by the “laws of robotics” described by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. The proposal adds that robots should always be identifiable as mechanical creations.

That will help prevent humans from developing emotional attachments and start thinking that a robot is a human and loves you.

The proposal calls for a compulsory insurance scheme — similar to car insurance — that would require producers and owners to take out insurance to cover the damage caused by their robots.

The proposal explores whether sophisticated autonomous robots should be given the status of “electronic persons.” This designation would apply in situations where robots make autonomous decisions or interact with humans independently.

It would also saddle robots with certain rights and obligations — for example, robots would be responsible for any damage they cause. If advanced robots start replacing human workers in large numbers, the report recommends the European Commission force their owners to pay taxes or contribute to social security.

Nearly half of our current jobs will be gone in 25 years

Robby the Robot - Wikimedia CommonsWharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania has warned that all the developed nations on earth will see job loss rates of up to 47 per cent within the next 25 years.

The statistic is based on a recent Oxford University study and includes blue and white collar jobs. So far, the loss has been restricted to the blue collar variety, particularly in manufacturing so no one has cared that much as this has been happening since the 1960s.

The new trend is not creating new jobs either. By 2034, just a few decades, mid-level jobs will be by and large obsolete.

So far the benefits have only gone to the ultra-wealthy, the top 1 per cent. This coming technological revolution is set to wipe out what looks to be the entire middle class.

Accountants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, bureaucrats, and financial analysts beware: your jobs are not safe. Soon computers will analyze and compare reams of data to make financial decisions or medical ones. There will be less of a chance of fraud or misdiagnosis, and the process will be more efficient. Not only are these folks in trouble, such a trend is likely to freeze salaries for those who remain employed, while income gaps only increase in size.

Unfortunately the report suggests that it is too late to turn Luddite and break up the machines. Governments will need to sort out some form of retraining, although it is not clear what the nasty fleshy pink lumps can do that robots can’t.



Rich and powerful to replace peasants with robots

5After gutting the middle-classes, the rich and powerful want to replace the lower paid with robots.

At the Milken Institute’s Global Conference in  California, at least four panels so far have focused on technology taking over jobs.

Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute said that most of the benefits we see from automation is about higher quality and fewer errors, but in many cases it does reduce labour.

The four-day annual conference, which began on Sunday, invites only 3,500 of the richest and smartest in the world. More than 700 speakers have pointed out that technology has not only done away with many low-wage, low-skill jobs already.

They cited robots operating trucks in some Australian mines, corporate litigation software replacing employees hired to look at pre-trail documents; and on Wall Street, the automation of jobs previously done by bankers with MBAs or PhDs.

Daniel Nadler, chief executive of Kensho, a financial services analytics company partly owned by Goldman Sachs Group  warned that anyone whose job is moving data from one spreadsheet to another is is going to get automated.

The good news Nadler said that it will not be his job that is going. Goldman Sachs will be in here in 10 years, JPMorgan will be here. They’re just going to be much more efficient in terms of operating leverage and headcount.

Banks have slashed tens of thousands of jobs in recent years as businesses like bond trading have become less profitable. Under tremendous pressure from investors to boost profits, but unable to grow revenue much, banks have increasingly turned to technology to reduce costs.

It is also expected that a third of banking jobs will disappear in the US and Europe in the next decade.

Martin Ford, an author and entrepreneur, argued that while the so-called gig economy has created temporary jobs for independent contractors, the next step is to get rid of them. Uber, for example will build cars that do not need drivers.

Billionaire investor Steve Cohen said it would take awhile before robots replace stockpickers like himself.


Siemens’s spider make plastic products not webs

portable.3dx1000Siemens thinks that it will not just be engineers, designers, and workmen on a project, but an army of small robot spiders, 3D printing and weaving together plastic.

In a lab in Princeton, New Jersey, the company’s researchers are testing spider-like robots that extrude not silk but plastic, thanks to portable 3-D printers. The robots can work together autonomously to create simple objects.

The robots use onboard cameras as well as a laser scanner to interpret their immediate environment. Each robot autonomously works out which part of an area it can cover, while other robots use the same technique to cover adjacent areas.

The project leader Hasan Sinan Bank said that by dividing each area into vertical boxes, the robots can work collaboratively to cover even complex geometries in such a way that no box is missed.

“No one else has attempted to do this using mobile manufacturing,” he said.

The work in shifts,  after two hours of work, a tired spider will transmit its data to a replacement, and then walk back and recharge itself.

The technology is all new but could be earmarked for large projects like shipbuilding or construction work.

The robots are partially automated, but will eventually become more fully autonomous, learning how to interact with their environment.

Of course it is not a real spider, it only has six legs, but it might grow a pair and the project develops.


Google sells part of its Robot division

Robby the Robot - Wikimedia CommonsGoogle has placed part of its robotics division, up for sale because it can’t think of any way of making cash from it.

Boston Dynamics, was bought by Goolge in 2013 and has been churning out robots which are often co-developed or funded by the US military.

Possible buyers include Amazon and Toyota’s research and development company the Toyota Research Institute.

So far the outfit has made the Cheetah, which it claims to be the world’s fastest legged robot as well as RiSE, a robot that climbs vertical terrains such as walls, trees and fences.

Amazon uses shedloads of Boston Dynamics robots for its warehouses to cut operating costs and get packages out of the door more quickly.

The TRI also recently hired a team of scientists and engineers to help drive research into artificial intelligence and robots.

Developers fear being replaced by robots

Robby the Robot - Wikimedia CommonsA survey of 550 software developers by Evans Data has found that the biggest thing that keeps them awake at night is being replaced by AI.

Nearly a third said that this was the most worrisome thing in their careers – even more than the second-most identified worry, which was that the platform the developer is working on will become obsolete (23 per cent), or doesn’t catch on (14 per cent).

Concerns about A.I. replacing software developers has academic support. A study by Oxford University, The Future of Employment, warned that the work of software engineers may soon become computerised. Machine learning advances allow design choices that can be optimised by algorithms.

These systems can also detect bugs “with a reliability that humans are unlikely to match,” the study said.

The Oxford researchers, Michael Osborne, of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science, and Carl Benedikt Frey said that big databases of code also offer the eventual prospect of algorithms that learn how to write programs to satisfy specifications provided by a human.

Janel Garvin, CEO of Evans Data, the thought of obsolescence due to A.I., “was also more threatening than becoming old without a pension, being stifled at work by bad management, or by seeing their skills and tools become irrelevant.”

Concerns about A.I. shouldn’t discourage people from becoming developers, “but it does provide a good case for developers to keep on top of the latest development practices,” he said.

Robots to exterminate 5.1 million jobs

Daleks_appearenceThe rise of robots and artificial intelligence, will result in a net extermination of 5.1 million jobs over the next five years in 15 leading countries.

Beancounters working for Davos [shurely Davros.ed] told the World Economic Forum (WEF), that there will be 7.1 million jobs lost which would offset by a gain of 2 million new positions.

The 15 economies covered by the survey account for approximately 65 percent of the world’s total workforce.

To make matters worse, this will co-incide with an expected rise in global unemployment of 11 million by 2020.

Two-thirds of the projected losses are expected to fall in the office and administrative sectors as smart machines take over more routine tasks.

The WEF has made “the fourth industrial revolution” – a topic covering robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology – the official theme of this year’s Davos meeting, which runs from Jan. 20 to 23.

The “Future of Jobs” report concluded that jobs would be displaced in every industry, although the impact would vary considerably, with the biggest negative losses likely to be in healthcare, reflecting the rise of telemedicine, followed by energy and financial services.

At the same time, however, there will be a growing demand for certain skilled workers, including data analysts and specialist sales representatives.

Women will be the biggest losers as their jobs are often concentrated in low-growth or declining areas such as sales, office and administrative roles, the report said.

While men will see approximately one job gained for every three lost over the next five years, women face more than five jobs lost for every one gained.


Nvidia releases Jetsons for drones and robots

what-you-can-learn-from-the-jetsons-about-home-automation-image-0Graphics card maker Nvidia has lifted the kimono on its Jetson TX1 developer kit which it hopes will encourage people to build drones and robots.

The credit card sized TX1 kit is the size of a credit card but has a 1 teraflop of horsepower.

Jesse Clayton, product manager at Nvidia said that robots and drones require autonomous and smoother navigation capabilities, and the TX1 will help.

The TX1 has 256 graphics cores to process images so Robots can recognize objects and avoid collisions using “deep-learning” algorithms and image processing engines.

Clayton said Nvidia was also providing a software development kit for theTX1, including a debugger, compiler, libraries and other tools. The SDK will help programmers load applications that allow robots and drones to be truly autonomous.

The software uses Nvidia’s CUDA parallel programming framework, and taps into technologies such as OpenCV, OpenVX and Nvidia’s VisionWorks for image recognition. The board also supports OpenGL and OpenGL ES graphics standards.

The board can connect to more powerful cloud services for post-processing of images, Clayton said.


The TX1 is three times faster than last year’s original Jetson board, which delivered 300 gigaflops of horsepower. It uses the Tegra X1 chip which Nvidia is putting under the bonnets of cars and tablets. They use 64-bit ARM CPUs.Additional specifications include 4GB of DDR4 memory, 16GB of storage, Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The developer board will be available starting on November 16 for $599 through online retailers like Amazon and Newegg, it will be in the shops next year.

Robots could bring manufacturing back to the US and EU

humans-channel4-amc-sci-fi-tv-seriesThe falling cost of intelligent robots may help bring back car manufacturing to the EU and US

Donald Walker, Chief Executive of auto supplier Magna suggested that rising wages in China and the cost of importing heavy components like electric car batteries into Europe may lead established car makers to introduce more highly efficient automated manufacturing closer to home.

Speaking at the Frankfurt auto show Walker said that assembly plants were evolving and the cost of robots was going down.

By 2025 the total cost of manufacturing labor is projected to fall between 18 and 33 percent in countries which already deploy industrial robots, including South Korea, China, the U.S. Germany and Japan, a study on advanced manufacturing technologies by the Boston Consulting Group showed.

The emergence of hybrid and electric cars means auto makers have seen an increasing demand for large batteries, Walker explained.

“If you look at a battery, it is a big heavy thing to ship. The things that hold the battery, the bumpers, the wheels, those are big bulky parts,” Walker said.

“I think you will still see cars made where the market is. And based on that, the big bulky parts and a lot of the technology in there, will probably be made locally,” Walker said