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Robot Workforce Threatens Education-Intensive Jobs

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the they-can-already-govern-california dept.

AI 496

An anonymous reader writes "For years, robots have been replacing workers in factories as technology has come to grips with high-volume, unskilled labor. An article in Slate makes the case that the robot workforce is poised to move into fields that require significantly more training and education. From the article: 'In the next decade, we'll see machines barge into areas of the economy that we'd never suspected possible — they'll be diagnosing your diseases, dispensing your medicine, handling your lawsuits, making fundamental scientific discoveries, and even writing stories just like this one. Economic theory holds that as these industries are revolutionized by technology, prices for their services will decline, and society as a whole will benefit. As I conducted my research, I found this argument convincing — robotic lawyers, for instance, will bring cheap legal services to the masses who can't afford lawyers today. But there's a dark side, too: Imagine you've spent three years in law school, two more years clerking, and the last decade trying to make partner — and now here comes a machine that can do much of your $400-per-hour job faster, and for a fraction of the cost. What do you do now?'"

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sue (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520788)

the manufacturer and retire....

Re:sue (3, Informative)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520922)

Nah, they will move the lawyer jobs to India, then to China, then to some island country....

Whoops, it is already happening. Doctors on India are viewing your x-rays and diagnosing your issues. (I know this to be true because I helped set it up.)
But anyways, just look at low paying unskilled jobs now.... robots did not take over like the article seems to indicate, nope... instead they went to China, where you work in a building and rent a refrigerator box in another from the same company you work for. It is still cheaper than robots.

Re:sue (4, Interesting)

rabtech (223758) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521034)

Nah, they will move the lawyer jobs to India, then to China, then to some island country....

Whoops, it is already happening. Doctors on India are viewing your x-rays and diagnosing your issues. (I know this to be true because I helped set it up.)
But anyways, just look at low paying unskilled jobs now.... robots did not take over like the article seems to indicate, nope... instead they went to China, where you work in a building and rent a refrigerator box in another from the same company you work for. It is still cheaper than robots.

This is only true while labor is really cheap. There are a huge number of goods you can make in the US or China at basically the same cost but in China you pay pennies to manual laborers, in the US you program robots to do it. That is happening in China right now as Foxconn is investing in robots due to rises in Chinese labor rates.

Granted there are some new jobs overseeing the robots, programming them, etc but overall the number of warm bodies required per unit of economic output will continue to go down over time.

We will eventually need to shift to a shorter work-week for the same relative pay or we'll need to find new areas for expansion in space. The alternative is to jump back to feudalism prior to the black death when labor was cheap and most people worked as serfs barely scratching out a living. I would point out that the black death brought about a huge increase in labor mobility as there weren't enough hands to till the fields; people migrated (including illegally) to work for new lords that offered better benefits and pay. I really hope we can avoid that fate this time around (massive death via war or disease required to change the status quo).

"jump back to feudalism" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37521112)

Rick Perry 2012

Re:sue (3, Interesting)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521194)

I read some of the article and it appears to be a futurist's ramblings on what s/he thinks robots will do, of course they will go terminator style eventually and kill us all, etc..

1. Please please replace my IT job with a robot, I would love to see it fail, and do nothing about it.
2. The concept of AI is beyond the scope of this article, but I believe the consensus is that it is not truelly achievable meaning... robots will never be able to: emotionally reason, have consciousness, or reproduce short of a factory.

I wouldn't hire a robot lawyer... what if the DA is plea bargaining, what if a bit of social engineering is required? : robotic processor overload.

All in all, I don't feel threatened, if they could take the fast food jobs, then HMMM :)

Re:sue (3, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521254)

Doctors on India are viewing your x-rays and diagnosing your issues. (I know this to be true because I helped set it up.)

A few years ago there was a kerfuffle about the transcribing of patient records being outsourced to India (or somewhere) because (I believe) that it broke some regulations about patient confidentiality etc. So how does your system hold up under a regulatory eye, and what protections do the patients have under malpractice etc (assuming that they even know their records are going offshore). Are these doctors in India considered staff of the medical clinic? Or have the clinics using your system washed their collective hands of the issue?
 
I'm not implying that doctors in India are bad, just that patients expect their doctors to be working under the regulatory guidelines of where the clinic is located.

Re:sue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37521014)

Sue the robots. Or. be more like Microsoft, sue those who use robots.

Cry me a river (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37520806)

Lawyers and doctors crying over their salaries?
Talk to me when my IT job can be replaced with an automated service that tells them to "turn it off, then turn it on again."

Oh wait...

(CEOs could totally be replaced by machines. Oh yes.)

Re:Cry me a river (4, Funny)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520940)

(CEOs could totally be replaced by machines. Oh yes.)

I was under the impression that most CEOs were already poorly programmed machines. And you can't tell me that Steve Jobs isn't at least part robot.

Re:Cry me a river (1)

BasharTeg (71923) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520976)

How can that be true? If Steve Jobs is living tissue over metal endoskeleton, he should last 120 years with his existing power cell...

Re:Cry me a river (5, Insightful)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521000)

2-3 years, not 120. The most an Apple laptop battery lasts is 2-3 years.

Re:Cry me a river (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521036)

And Steve has to be taken back to the Genius Bar to replace his battery pack.

Yup, it fits all the facts.

Simple (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37520808)

Learn to build and maintain those machines.

Re:Simple (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521008)

Or just learn to be better than the machines.

Seriously, technology rarely kills an industry.

Re:Simple (2)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521118)

A machine may be able to interpret the law; what is law, but software?

But, I ask you, can it follow The Three Laws?

1) If the facts are against you, argue the law.
2) If the law is against you, argue the facts.
3) If both the law and the facts are against you, attack opposition's character.

Re:Simple (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521220)

The more amusing version:

1) If the facts are against you, pound on the law.
2) If the law is against you, pound on the facts.
3) If both the law and the facts are against you, pound on the table.

Re:Simple (2)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521228)

Seriously, technology rarely kills an industry.

Technology hasn't really been competitive with people in the past though. And we'll need less and less people managing said machines. There are already "lights out" factories where a few people prep the factory and it just runs unattended for days/weeks.

Sure you might need a couple people as a failsafe but thats 2 jobs vs 200. Those 198 people you now say are "free" to find other jobs but the costs of goods don't necessarily reduce. Just their old salaries go into say.. 80% capital (factory) and 20% savings.

So you lose 100% of your paycheck but the price of goods only drops by 20%. Amazon has already started knocking out retail jobs around the country (Best Buy, Circuit City etc..) and it takes a lot less man power to run a few warehouses and a website than hundreds of stores. Not to mention a warehouse job is easy to automate down the road and web development gets continually simpler. eCommerce site developers are seeing diminishing returns. At some point it just makes sense to all use one website with different skins.

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37521122)

Fatal flaw in that formerly good plan is that one of the first tasks that robots will be designed for is building and maintaining other robots.

Well (2)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520816)

If you're getting $400/hour for something a machine can do, then you wasted your time in law school and clerking. Computers are getting better, but AI still isn't that good. If a computer is making you obsolete, then it's time for you to step up to the next level, use the computer for what it's good at, use your brain for what it's good at, and come up with a package that's actually worth the $400/hour you want people to pay you.

Re:Well (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520944)

The Law is Black and white anyways... I mean how much more True/False can you get?

Re:Well (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520996)

The Law is Black and white anyways... I mean how much more True/False can you get?

I hear the spirit of the law is white as a bedsheet.

Re:Well (3, Insightful)

Snotman (767894) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521176)

You have a misunderstanding of law. For one, if law was black and white, there would be no need for judges which may be your point. People may miss judges if we went with black/white law because there will be no evolution in law. There are always new issues to litigate and ponder like stem cells, hacking, deep packet inspection, copyright on the internet, robotic rights, clones, artificial intelligence, etc. How does a robot respond to new ideas that are not covered by law? Constitutionalists seem to argue this point frequently as they would prefer the law was black and white and administered the way the authors of the constitution "intended". Robots would suit them nicely, but I am sure they are not prepared for the consequences of living with law that was made centuries ago.

Re:Well (3, Insightful)

anagama (611277) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521186)

The Law is Black and white anyways... I mean how much more True/False can you get?

Laws are often ambiguous or conflict with each other -- a large purpose of appellate courts is resolving such issues. But setting that aside, even if we were to assume perfect black/white laws, the facts that must be fed to these laws are often gray and very often completely opposed.

Car analogy: Take the simple legal proposition that if you cause a car wreck, you are going to have to pay for the other party's medical expenses caused by your negligence (but not for any conditions not caused by your negligence). At trial, two equally qualified medical experts testify, one stating that the rearendee's neck condition was a direct result of the physical forces of the accident, and the other that the physical forces were too weak to cause any harm, rather, the neck condition is nothing more than the natural progression of injuries suffered ten years ago while skiing. Both doctors explain their opposite positions well and back up their opinions with peer reviewed medical science.

The law itself doesn't answer this question of causation -- it merely creates a framework of liability rules and admissible evidence in which the question of causation can be asked of a jury or a judge. A simple T/F computer program would not be able to make a decision in such a case on any basis other than chance. While a jury might use gut feeling rather than a coin flip to decide the issue, and ultimately that is perhaps much like a decision based on chance, most people would probably object to having their cases decided by dice or the digital equivalent.

Re:Well (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521218)

The Law is Black and white anyways...

The law would be more black and white if laws were better drafted. But they're not. They've often appallingly sloppily drafted - which means they're open to interpretation.

Re:Well (4, Interesting)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521022)

Some $400 per hour jobs have that salary becuase it is that difficult to do and requires an exceptional person to be able to perform it. Others pay that much because while easy enough, no-one wants to do that job so it is offered with a stupendous salary to make it more attractive.

A few examples of highly paid jobs that could be done by just about anyone with a little training:
- Mine Removal - sure there is training, but the majority of the pay is for the danger, not the expertise required to do the job.
- Drug Running - Okay, not an official job title no doubt, but drug trafficers are payed loads of money to do a really simple job. It is just risky as buggery.

Other highly paid jobs such as working on an Oil Platform or in a Mining Pit may not require a huge range of training and experience, but due to location you might well be apart from friends and family for weeks on end. Recently in Australia there has been a bit of a mining boom in Western Australia. The mining companies are paying insane salaries just to entice people to go work in the middle of the Australian desert.

If your $400 hour job falls into the second bracket and there is indeed now a robot that can do the job, tough luck. Find something else that no-one wants to do :)

Re:Well (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521098)

I didn't really think of that aspect of it... I usually see it as a positive thing that robots can now do risky work, so we don't have to put people in danger to do it. I didn't stop to think that those people in danger were being paid very well to do so.

I guess the natural transition for those people would be to learn how to operate the robots that did the job they used to do. Probably won't need as many people doing that though, so there's still a lot of people looking for work.

The doctor bot better be better then watson (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37520820)

as messing a city is one thing the but that can kill people.

Re:The doctor bot better be better then watson (2)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521062)

Whoah... one of the prototypes is posting on Slashdot!

retrain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37520826)

...in AI programming and master your robotic masters.

What do you do now? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520828)

Imagine you've spent three years in law school, two more years clerking, and the last decade trying to make partner — and now here comes a machine that can do much of your $400-per-hour job faster, and for a fraction of the cost. What do you do now?

Buy one. It's a tool, not a lawyer.

Re:What do you do now? -- (1)

Krishnoid (984597) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520978)

Even better,
  1. buy two
  2. set up the courtroom equivalent of these events [steelgetsreal.com]
  3. pitch the idea to the broadcast networks
  4. Profit!

The possibilities are endless.

Teleroboxer (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521232)

If the concept behind Nintendo's Teleroboxer wasn't good enough to save the Virtual Boy, what makes you think the broadcast networks will want it?

Lawyers will be OK, the rest of us are screwed (1)

ipv6_128_lgwb (70428) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520830)

Lawyers will make sure laws are enacted to protect their jobs.

The rest of us are screwed.

Just like outsourcing. I have been speculating for 25+ years on what happens to the workforce when we are replaced with AI. My brother told me a few years back, "who needs AI with you have very cheap real human intelligence available."

Re:Lawyers will be OK, the rest of us are screwed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37520886)

If everyone is replaced with machines, nobody will have any money anymore to create demand for what the machines do. Perhaps we finally become a money-less society, where the people no longer need to have a job and can instead focus on what they like or want to do, rather than be a wage-slave.

Re:Lawyers will be OK, the rest of us are screwed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37520968)

yeah, 'cause that's how it's gonna happen... maybe in some utopia imagined by roddenberry.... here in the real world, you'll see the already segregating class war continue to widen the divide and you'll more likely wind up with some dystopian future more closely resembling blade runner or deus ex... i very much doubt this is in the best interests of the larger society

Re:Lawyers will be OK, the rest of us are screwed (1)

dslbrian (318993) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521234)

Lawyers will make sure laws are enacted to protect their jobs.

Then the robot lawyers will move in and enact laws to protect the robot jobs. And just wait until the robot unions get involved, those parasites - but of course where there are unions, soon there is the mafia - thats right, the robot mafia. Where does it all end - let me tell you, it's not pretty. Soon we will be paying our tax dollars to support the robot welfare state, while those deadbeats leech off government at our expense. The epi-center of this disastrous robot future world - Detroit naturally. But there is hope, a man who can save us from the robot tyranny, I think his name is Neo...

You sit on a park bench (1)

high_rolla (1068540) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520838)

I'm reading this on the park bench next to my gavel.

Park Benching [creativitygames.net]

Build robots, duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37520844)

If you can't beat them.... join them.

I have always wondered about this (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520850)

I vaguely understand the economic theory that says this is good in the long run. However, I have always wondered what we will do as a society when there is nothing left to do... One thing is for sure, we will need police and military robots to keeps us in check. 7 billion pairs of idle human hands sounds bad. Perhaps we will begin to leave the planet at that point.

Re:I have always wondered about this (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520872)

Perhaps when there is nothing left to do we can spend some of our idle time getting food to the other 6 billion that don't have any.

Re:I have always wondered about this (1)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521004)

+1 Funny!

Re:I have always wondered about this (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521016)

I am going on the assumption that in a matter of decades robots will also be autonomously handling farming and food distribution as well - everything in fact. It seems inevitable. Perhaps my take on the future in a bit radical. After all, I also believe we will merge with technology wholly and completely. Think singularity. However, I can see period of time in between the rise of machines and our merger that might be a bit awkward if not frightening.

Re:I have always wondered about this (1)

squidflakes (905524) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521192)

As long as the robot/machine that I am to merge with can be made (or my brain can be made to interpret) to look like Lucy Liu, then I'll have no problem.

Re:I have always wondered about this (1, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520894)

The problem is that in order for that to work, there needs to be some guarantees that people will still be able to feed themselves. It doesn't matter whether there's a huge mountain of food on the neighbors table and if all the work is being done by robots if you're starving.

In the US we've chosen to subscribe to the radical notion that the poor deserve to be poor because clearly it's less work to work two jobs for minimum wage than to work one that pays substantially more.

Re:I have always wondered about this (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521076)

In the US we've chosen to subscribe to the radical notion that the poor deserve to be poor because clearly it's less worthwhile work to work two jobs for minimum wage than to work one that pays substantially more.

If I leave my job, the management has to go through a difficult and lengthy process of finding a good replacement (made harder by them not understanding the details of what my job requires knowledge-wise). If Jim the gas station attendant or Marge the grocery clerk leave their jobs, it's easy enough to replace them... or maybe just cut their position and make the customers do their job with a minimal amount of automation and some cameras to keep everyone honest.

Re:I have always wondered about this (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520958)

I vaguely understand the economic theory that says this is good in the long run. However, I have always wondered what we will do as a society when there is nothing left to do...

Marshall Brain's science fiction novella, Manna [marshallbrain.com] , is based on this premise.

Manna is an AI that was developed to replace middle "manna"gement at fast food restaurants. As its usefulness expands, workplace norms change, and the progression ends with... well, that'd be a spoiler. Suffice it to say that the end state of an economy driven by rotework to an economy driven by AIs isn't a function of what technology you use, but a function of other variables.

Virtual Doc: You've got: leprosy. (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520854)

Lisa: Maybe I ought to check with the doctor.
                [Lisa, Bart, and Homer gather around Lisa's
                computer. She starts a program that displays a
                medical logo -- the one with two snakes wrapped
                around a staff]
Snake 1: Welcome to "Virtual Doctor."
Snake 2: From the makers of "Dragon Quest," and
                "SimSandwich."
Snakes 1 + 2: Enter symptoms now.
Lisa: Let's see. [types on keyboard] Crusty sores?
Homer: Yes.
Lisa: Horrible wailing?
Homer: Yes, yes!
Lisa: Any exposure to unsanitary conditions?
Bart: Duh! We're pigs.
Lisa: [finishes typing] Okay. And ... diagnose. [pushes
                a key]
Virtual Doc: You've got: leprosy.
Homer +
  Bart: Leprosy?! Aaah! [point at one another] Unclean!
Bart: Unclean!
Homer: Unclean! Help us virtual Doc! Look at me -- I'm on
                my knees.
Virtual Doc: Goodbye. [leaves the virtual office]
                [Homer and Bart whimper]
Lisa: [to herself, Burns-like] Excellent.

Oh the horror.. (1)

Boona (1795684) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520862)

Becoming more efficient in these hard economic times ... oh the horror!

Datacenter Techs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37520874)

don't forget IT.

already large corporations are spending billions on development of diagnostics for hardware/networking and software.
after spending 10 years doing hardware and network diagnostics, my job was basically relegated to "swap this" by automation.

soon your average datacenter technician will be nothing more than a set of hands for the systems developed.
until they just do away with that and install robotics for that section too.

why spend 80+k / year on an accomplished technician when you can install a robot and software that will do it in less time, 24x7.

self checkouts seems to be on the way out so maybe (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520876)

Premise is pretty silly, but... (1)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520878)

Imagine you've spent three years in law school, two more years clerking, and the last decade trying to make partner — and now here comes a machine that can do much of your $400-per-hour job faster, and for a fraction of the cost. What do you do now?'"

The answer is: write the AI code for such a robot.

I'm assuming that a law-trained robot is not possible with just a small code base and a library of law texts. If such a robot is possible at all, it will require thousands of hours of laboriously writing the code for it. The only ones with the experience to write such code would be law professionals, so they still have jobs.

If, on the other hand, a team of 20 law professionals can write all the software for all situations themselves, then the rest of the industry will need to find new jobs. If this is the case, then we have to deduce that it was not a highly educated field after all, and that work in the law profession is actually manual labor after all.

Ask a silly question, get a silly answer, and all that...

Luddite Fallacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37520882)

Luddite fallacy, anyone?

robot lawyers (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520892)

Wow, cool. So other than some monetary issues, we will now finally get to shoot all the lawyers without facing murder charges. I'm all for it, where's my 50 cal...

What do you do? (1)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520896)

...you get a subsidy, kick part of it back to your pet senator, and sue your way into perpetual employment.

Think of all the buggy-whip manufacturers! Think of all the typewriter repairmen! And the telegraph operators! It's an assault on the wooooooooorkers!

Not really a joke. For displaced workers, it's going to be a problem, and the first things you reach for are always the lawyers and the politicians. The first thing you seek is protectionism. Career-for-life as an idea is as deeply ensconced as it is unrealistic. The problem is that it's everyone else who pays the cost (doubly so when it's a government function or "public service" job that needs to be deprecated).

completely, utterly, tragically, wrong (2)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521074)

this is not 'buggy whip manufacturers'. this is mass unemployment on an unprecedented scale. there is no 'automobile industry' to replace the "buggy whip industry" in 2011, there is just a yawning, gaping void. once you automate automation itself, there is nothing to go on to. people cannot afford to go back to college a 2nd or 3rd time and get retrained, owing $40,000 in loans, and then, 3 years later, have to go back again and get re-retrained. computer science graduates are a dime a dozen, and a bunch of them are serving lattes and saying 'thank you for calling Verizon how can i help you'.

the middle east and spain and other areas of the world are full of highly educated, highly trained youth with no jobs and no money. they are trying to immigrate, alot of them cant. they just sit there. no work experience, no opportunity, no nothing. its like the people who run society would prefer that they simply ceased to exist. "oh but they simply arent willing to work" .. .yes, they arent willing to work as prostitutes or slaves. Dubai is a perfect example. half the people are prostitutes and slaves who die by the dozen in construction projects, the rest are over stuffed, well fed man-children living in a fake economic bubble that is set to burst any time.

it is echoes of the early 1900s (especially the 10s and the 30s). the only thing we are missing is a world war and mass starvations to prompt some kind of revolution where dogmatists can take power and engage in bizarre social experiements like bolshevism or maoism. if millions of people are starving to death, 'why the hell not, lets get rid of property.. my whole family just died, i dont give a shit, anything is better than the existing system'

people in their ivory towers are the last to understand what is happening in the street.

Re:completely, utterly, tragically, wrong (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521198)

this is not 'buggy whip manufacturers'. this is mass unemployment on an unprecedented scale.

I'm sure they said that two hundred years ago when automated looms took over from people working at home by hand. Oddly, there are far more people working today than there were back then.

Make the machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37520900)

The answer is simple. You want to be the one that makes the machines. If you can handle some cross-disciplinary work between your field of choice and engineering, you will be golden in the future. Alternatively if your field of choice is engineering, pick up something else along with it.

Re:Make the machines (1)

dunng808 (448849) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521028)

I could make more money organizing Flesh Fairs. FUD is FUD.

If they can oursource MBA's by using robots... (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520902)

It will all have been worth it.

Will a robotic lawyer be able to be a public defen (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520904)

Will a robotic lawyer be able to be a public defender or will it fail a constitution test?

This is robotics - its AI - and good luck... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37520910)

People were predicting that AI would do all sorts of things that people do 20 years ago (which is to say, since I was in grad school studying AI). To date, this hasn't happened. Even tasks such as looking up documents based on content is only roughly done with a variety of statistics that have only marginal success. We are no where near building a system that has anywhere near the cognitive capabilities required to do something like render a legal opinion. Simply designing a system which can understand natural language in any meaningful way is still an open research question. Color me not worried in the least about AI replacing me. Contracting food, water and land resources will get us long before a program can do my job.

been to a library lately? (2)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521132)

stock & commodities exchanges - tens of thousands of traders out of work

checkout registers - countless cashiers out of work

news aggregators - tens of thousands of journalists out of work

lawyering - tons of laywers from top schools cannot find jobs other than 'document highlighting monkey' paying 12/hour

libraries - people with MLS degrees now say 'oh, reboot it' all day long

book stores - experts in literatue, classic, and modern, now say 'you need to upgrade your firmware' and 'venti or grande'

banks - they replaced mortgage lending clerks with 'robo signing' software .... now, they wiped away several centuries of property law, and accidentally screwed up the entire global economy in the process, but hey. it sure was efficient. and they got bailed out by the taxpayer in the end so.. whatever.

You could recolonize Australia ... (2)

Krishnoid (984597) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520912)

Marshall Brain described two possibilities of the social impact of ubiquitous robots in Manna [marshallbrain.com] -- definitely worth a read.

here's a third- also worth a read- if a bit darker (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521200)

http://www.freebooks4u.net/ScienceFiction/Radiant_Doors.html [freebooks4u.net]
--and a snippit--
"It was automation that did it or, rather, hyperautomation. That old bugaboo of fifty years ago had finally come to fruition. People were no longer needed to mine, farm, or manufacture. Machines made better administrators, more attentive servants. Only a very small elite–the vics called them simply their Owners–were required to order and ordain. Which left a lot of people who were just taking up space."

writing stories just like this one (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520916)

In the next decade, we'll see machines barge into areas of the economy that we'd never suspected possible — they'll be diagnosing your diseases, dispensing your medicine, handling your lawsuits, making fundamental scientific discoveries, and even writing stories just like this one.

Yeah right. Like i'd believe anything written by a robot.

Re:writing stories just like this one (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521092)

Actually that's already happening [statsheet.com] , too. Granted, sportswriting is more formulaic than most, but it falls squarely in the category of previously exclusively human activity.

What we really need is... (1)

SeanBlader (1354199) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520928)

We really need robots that can farm, harvest, ship commodities, make food, and ship food, for free. Then we can stop worrying about that and then just worry about housing. After that we can start automating the rest of the world, like making robots that fix the broken farmer robots. The idea isn't to put the farmers out of work per-say, but to give the farmers more time to do whatever the hell else they want, even if it's just to stay in the farmhouse and watch pron. Then I'd want to move into the farming industry myself.

Ah, naivety (3, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520936)

First, at the high end, I suspect that a $ 400 per hour lawyer with a robot assistant would run rings around a robot lawyer, and that that would be true regardless of the quality of the robot lawyer (as the $ 400 / hour guy would be able to afford a robot assistant of the same quality.

Second, there is something that is not being broached here - who benefits from this ? And what determines that ? Suppose that robots could do all jobs. So, what, everyone, being unemployed, just sits in the dark and starves ? Or, everyone except a few robot owners sits in the dark and starves ? And, how, exactly, would those starving people afford the goods and services being turned out by the robots ? Believing that would happen is naive in the extreme. Doesn't mean what will happen is necessarily going to be good, but it will be different.

Re:Ah, naivety (2)

Krishnoid (984597) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521002)

Marshall Brain came up with a couple scenarios in Manna [marshallbrain.com] , an interesting read. People don't sit in the dark and starve, but something comparable.

Re:Ah, naivety (3, Insightful)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521140)

So, what, everyone, being unemployed, just sits in the dark and starves ?

I think that would be one of the best times to scrap our money-driven society.

Re:Ah, naivety (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37521170)

Or, everyone except a few robot owners sits in the dark and starves ? And, how, exactly, would those starving people afford the goods and services being turned out by the robots ?

I believe the technical term for that situation is "Republican Wet Dream".

You get a job making widgets... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37520938)

Oh wait. We're not a manufacturing economy anymore and there's already a robot or offshored worker doing that.

OK. You get a job in the service industry. Whoops. Forgot we're not a service economy anymore. Also offshored.

OK. You train for several years in a different field and get a job in a knowledge-related field. Oops. Also offshored.

Um... you go on unemployment and then live under a bridge when that runs out.

Dibs on the dry spot near the end.

This should be obvious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37520942)

Education should not merely keep up with where things were a hundred years ago, education should be providing advanced enough knowledge that you'll be employable next year and enough research skills that you'll remain employable until retirement age.

Businesses form an employment pyramid. You have two choices -- allow slave labour or robot labour to replace a layer in that pyramid, or raise the pyramid and place the new layer into the slot that is no longer occupied.

Option 1 creates massive unemployment and generations of the unemployable. The mistake made in the Industrial Revolution that upset Ludd so much.

Option 2 creates entirely new lines of work, nobody becomes unemployed, things grow rather than stagnate and rot, you can absorb all the foreign and robotic labour you like without impacting anyone else, and everything remains entirely functional. Nobody does this because it requires that you replace the comfortably familiar with constant (and expensive) change. People react badly to change, especially if it's expensive. That it's long-term profitable to move forwards doesn't matter. You can't put your income from a decade from now on your balance sheet, nor will those you owe money to be sympathetic and hold off interest until then.

What? Why is the level of education important? (1)

BasharTeg (71923) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520948)

How about the same thing the factory worker does when he's replaced by automation or his job is outsourced to cheaper labor markets. Survive. Adapt. Why is it so unthinkable that highly educated people would be put out of work by progress, instead of simply the low wage laborers?

Re:What? Why is the level of education important? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37521012)

Maybe because uneducated people do not make the same investment in their careers?

Maybe because we have been taught that education is the way to avoid a job that can easily offshored/ inshored, or replaced by a machine?

Re:What? Why is the level of education important? (2)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521018)

It used to be that education was the way to "survive and adapt". If that changes we'll have to come up with something to substitute for it.

and we wonder where the jobs are... (1)

pdfsmail (2423750) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520950)

WE build robots to do work... then we build robots to build the robots that do the work... Then the robots take all of the work... And we wonder why we have no jobs and lots of unemployment... Maybe I should buy a share in a working robot and earn a dollar for every so many it makes... that way I can still have an income.

When robots can design and build other robots..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37520952)

I think the whole of humanity will get a well earned retirement into a glorious labor free future.

Until that day then I at least will have a job.

Charge less or learn to maintain your AI masters. (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520956)

Rework your assumption that having studied law allows you to charge $50 for reading my email while on the John. I forked over about $60k to have a lawyer help me with the intricacies of overseas inheritances. In practice, it amounted to little more than telling me what documents I needed to have, and then forwarding them to the IRS. I always felt weird wearing shorts and t-shirt to the face-to-face meetings. Then I figured that they were the same as the $2k suit that the lawyer was wearing - after all, I was paying him the money that allowed him to dress the way he did, and that meant that I couldn't spend those on the same suit.

As others have pointed out, it means that jobs that are basically expensive bayesian inference engines need to change how much they charge for their services, and how much the industry charges for teaching the knowledge. There will always be a place at the top for smart people, or at least at the bottom servicing the machines.

What about etiquette and protocol? (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520962)

Do you understand anything they're saying?

Oh, yes! Remember that I am fluent in over six million forms of communication.

What're you telling them?

Hello, I think... I could be mistaken. They're using a very primitive dialect, but I do believe they think I am some sort of god.

Well, why don't you use your divine influence and get us out of this?

I beg your pardon, General Solo, but that just wouldn't be proper.

"Proper?!"

It's against my programming to impersonate a deity.

Or maybe not (1)

spopepro (1302967) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520974)

Robots, due to the initial investment, may not turn out to be as cost effective as imagined. When Toyota opened their first plant in Japan in the last 18 years [cnn.com] , they went for low cost of building the factory, and fast manufacturing times instead of complex robotics to minimize wages/benefits.

In an age where things like company agility is valued, and start-up capital (including commercial lines of credit) is very limited, I'm not sure that robots are going to beat humans on price any time soon.

It's happened before (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520988)

In the 1400s and 1500s with the invention of the printing press, book-makers who hand-copied books found their craft obsolete.

With the invention of photography, typing, and modern photocopying, the need to hand-copy for small print runs disappeared as well.

On the other hand, some technical inventions have changed but not ruined some skilled crafts. Prior to the invention of recorded music (phonograph) and robotic sound machines (player piano, etc.), musicians made money off of live performances. While they still make money that way they also make money off of recordings and in some cases off of being sampled.

Things Will Not Get Cheaper (0)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520994)

Did grocery store prices plunge dramatically when they introduced self-checkout? Did they reduce at all? Or did they keep the extra they skimmed from laying off cashiers? What about banks, do banks charge less the more automated tellers they have? Lets try airports, walk into any major hub and there's so many automated check-in machines, yes, those sure reduced ticket and baggage prices! Hmm...red light cameras! Yes! They allow us to be safer at intersections, so they can get rid of police officers...err...wait. Let's see....phone trees! Soooo many phone trees....all those real people who don't run the logic sequence to get you to your endpoint, we as consumers sure got those savings for the services we seek by phone....eerrmmm...uuuhhh..not that either.

My point is that the savings are not usually passed to the consumer. They are pocketed and either hoarded or reinvested. If the 'free-market' worked 100%, then OK maybe competition would trickle savings down to the consumer. But a free-market is not to be found anywhere, for collusion and revolving doors keep Washington's interest in line with the golden-parachutist of Wall St., while Joe and Jane consumer must suck up more debit card fees and lower savings interest rates. And who can afford a house when inflation outpaces rises in raises! Brave New World.....of bullshit.

red light cameras are about income and not safety (1, Informative)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521082)

red light cameras are about income and not safety if they where about safety then why was yellow time cut at some palaces with red light cameras?

Self-checkout still needs some to watch over them so you save like what the costs of 1-2 works per shift? likely less as over night you may of only had like 1 cashier any ways. So with self-checkout you don't need to pull as many people off of other jobs at rush times.

Re:red light cameras are about income and not safe (1)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521102)

I was being sarcastic about the red light cameras-they followed suit in my theme that adding automation does not immediately benefit the peons/citizens, it benefits the people who automate.

self-checkout makes theft / lost go up (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521104)

http://mobile.courant.com/p.p?m=b&a=rp&id=856353&postId=856353&postUserId=47&sessionToken=&catId=6225&curAbsIndex=2&resultsUrl=DID%3D6%26DFCL%3D1000%26DSB%3Drank%2523desc%26DBFQ%3DuserId%253A47%26DL.w%3D%26DL.d%3D10%26DQ%3DsectionId%253A6225%26DPS%3D0%26DPL%3D5 [courant.com]

"There certainly is intentional theft, but some of it is not intentional," Claire D'Amour-Daley, Big Y spokeswoman said Friday.

In particular, fruits, vegetables and self-serve bakery items can be misidentified by customers using a self-checkout terminal, D'Amour-Daley said.

"We don't just carry one type of apple. We carry apples in a bag, we carry loose applesso it could be an identification problem. It can be tricky," she said.

Losses at stores with self-checkout lines were 20 percent to 65 percent higher than at retailers with all traditional check stands, according to a report by Adrian Beck and Colin Peacock, two British researchers. In total, not just including self-checkout, retail losses in 2009 attributable to theft, mispriced and mis-scanned items and other factors totaled an estimated $278 billion, or 1.65 percent of retail sales. Cutting those losses by one-half, could boost retailers profits by as much as 36 percent, the study said.

Re:Things Will Not Get Cheaper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37521164)

The amount passed on to the consumer depends on the relative price elasticities of supply and demand, and whether or not the market is efficient (prerequisites for this: low transaction costs, minimal barriers to entry... probably "airports" are the worst offender on your list.) So: have you conducted rigorous economic analysis of price changes at companies which did or did not introduce self-checkouts and phone trees and the like? Or are you just talking out of your rear end?

Usually, if some company is much more efficient, they're willing to cut prices to gain market share (mostly at the expense of their competitors). See also: Wal*Mart.

Lawyer (1)

no_opinion (148098) | more than 3 years ago | (#37520998)

Anyone who works regularly with lawyers (as I do, (and I'm a geek (as demonstrated by these nested parens))) will know that it will take nothing short of full strength AI to replace them, lawyer jokes aside. There is so much nuance, subtlety, and tweaking of agreements that a using a simple computerized approach won't work for a substantial portion of what (say) normal corporate law firms do. If we magically move to a machine readable contract language, portions of contract verification might be automated, but certainly not the writing. And good luck getting lawyers to move to such a thing any time soon.

What to do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37521006)

But there's a dark side, too: Imagine you've spent three years in law school, two more years clerking, and the last decade trying to make partner — and now here comes a machine that can do much of your $400-per-hour job faster, and for a fraction of the cost. What do you do now?

Get out of the buggy whip business and move with the times?

This will finally kill capitalism. (3, Insightful)

VAElynx (2001046) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521010)

Since, it can't cope with people not being needed, as even if it'd be economically feasible, it refuses to provide people with anything free. When human work becomes obsolete, and unemployment crosses some threshold, there will be widespread revolts. Compare with industrial revolution and Luddites.

Sabotage, obviously (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521030)

Then Communism.

Sabot (2)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521044)

Throw your sabot at the computer

Use fear to pass laws (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37521052)

Lobby for a law that requires a human to do your job!

Pharmacists have no need to sweat. They've already passed laws that require a human to do their job. Despite the fact that machines can much more accurately and quickly count your pills and dispense them and instantly check for harmful interactions, they still get paid 6 figure salaries because they're required by law to count the pills. They used fear mongering tactics that "You might die!" if your neighborhood pharmacist doesn't get to know you.

Real estate agents fall into the same category.

These fears have been around for decades, at least (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521068)

Remember the Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn movie "Desk Set?"

What about that Twilight Zone episode "The Brain Center at Whipple's?"

Go do something else. (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521070)

And if you can't, too bad.

robot website (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37521108)

good websites are money earning robots. think adsense !

What Would Lawyers Do? (4, Funny)

McGruber (1417641) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521206)

"Imagine you've spent three years in law school, two more years clerking, and the last decade trying to make partner — and now here comes a machine that can do much of your $400-per-hour job faster, and for a fraction of the cost. What do you do now?'"

Sue!

No way no how (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37521224)

lololol
More overhyped expectations for AI & Robotics. The time frame for this is more like 50-100 years, not 10.

This is the point of Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37521250)

I'm a graduate student in a Robotics Lab at a University, and this is what people in our field are working so hard for. Technology is here to make things easier for human beings. Robots aren't here to take our jobs, they're here to help us make our lives easier.

Suppose we progress, as a species, to a state of abundance (Everything is done/provided for us by robots). I'm not sure what will happen, but I'm pretty sure people won't be idle all day. Humans are creative, proactive, curious animals. Call me an optimist, but I'm actually really looking forward to what people will do when we get to this point.

Scarcity. (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 3 years ago | (#37521278)

This is just another scarcity that is being encroached on. Scarcity of labor. Once all scarce needs of humans are met by a self-sustaining system then we will be in the "Star Trek Economy" future where you just do what you want and status is what you fight over by being exceptionally good at something. Like providing "status" human-made (not robot made!) food.
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