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Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

sjbe China and India are now in the game (627 comments)

Humankind faces a surplus of employable bodies, and a deficit of employer positions, in the industrialized world.

That's because China and India have been on the economic sidelines for the last 100+ years. Now that they have gotten their act together somewhat they have flooded the labor market and created an oversupply situation. This has almost nothing to do with automation - merely supply and demand. We have had 1/3 of the human population sitting on the economic sidelines and now they have entered the market in a big way with a flood of relatively cheap labor. That is naturally going to create an economic brake on wages and employment levels in the rest of the world.

Nature used to auto-correct overpopulation problems, with food supply vs. demand being the major engine. Is that what we're going to see when the whole world becomes third world?

Perhaps you hadn't noticed but when economic conditions improve, birth rates tend to fall. Often they fall below replacement.

yesterday
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Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

sjbe Debt is not the cause of wage stagnation (627 comments)

The banking system should eventually go bust. Probably not tomorrow, but all we have managed to do so far is delay the inevitable

Based on what? Why should I believe that the banking system is suddenly untenable to a degree that it's demise is inevitable? Please present actual evidence rather than soundbite opinions. There are FAR simpler and more compelling arguments (I outline one below) regarding why wages are stagnating recently than debt levels.

The loans they have issued cannot be repaid. The only question is how we are not going to repay them. Either we go bankrupt, or we find some other way to wipe off the debt.

Can't repay them? The US debt as a percent of GDP isn't even the highest it has ever been. It was higher right after WWII. The way to reduce the debt is simple - either raise taxes or reduce spending or both. We merely lack to political will to do this at the present. The notion that we have debts that "cannot" be repaid is nonsense. As for individuals there is copious data showing that individuals and households have been paying down debt levels significantly since 2008. Companies have balance sheets that are historically very strong with large amounts of cash and relatively low debt levels overall.

The Great Depression started with the stock crash of 1929, lasting for the next 10-ish years. But it was the rising debts of the 1920's that were the real problem. Through the depression, those debts started to reduce. But it took the huge spending effort and industrialisation, fighting WWII to really eliminate them. Setting us up for the boom years of the 50's and 60's.

The boom years of the 50's and 60's were largely because the US economy was the only one left standing after WWII. Once the rest of the world recovered the US then had to compete on a more even footing and so the easy money was gone. Our debt level as a percent of GDP was higher after WWII than it is now. That's not to say that our current debt level is responsible in any way but we aren't in uncharted territory either.

The BIG thing that people seem to be overlooking is that we have had about 1/3 of the human population in China and India on the sidelines economically for the last 100+ years. We have a sudden flood of labor into the market in the last 30 years which wasn't a meaningful part of the economy previously. When you have to compete on labor costs against someone else with lower labor costs it tends to hold back wages. The US has among the highest per-capita GDP in the world and the EU on average isn't far behind. There is no reasonable argument to be made that the US is somehow special and will manage to maintain those high wages indefinitely. A reversion to the mean should not surprise anyone.

yesterday
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Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

sjbe Paging chicken little (627 comments)

About 33 percent said technology was a central reason that median wages had been stagnant over the past decade, 20 percent said it was not and 29 percent were unsure.

Which means nobody has any real idea and the data isn't conclusive yet one way or the other. Furthermore economists are noted for being unable to come to a consensus. There's an old joke that if you ask 10 economists about something you'll get 11 opinions. If they do come to a consensus about something THAT is worth paying attention to. Otherwise it is pretty much business as usual. I also think that you'll find that those percentages correlate heavily with the political leanings of the economists being polled in this very unscientific poll.

More than 16 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960s; 30 percent of women in this age group are not working, up from 25 percent in the late 1990s.

Umm, perhaps that has quite a bit to do with the fact that we're still recovering from the Great Recession. You know, the economic problems of the last several years that have NOTHING to do with AI or automation and EVERYTHING to do with finance run amok? Hell, prior to the crash in 2008-9 unemployment was at historic lows.

yesterday
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Microsoft To US Gov't: the World's Servers Are Not Yours For the Taking

sjbe Not legal (192 comments)

I could buy this analogy if the email originates in the U.S. or is destined for and accessed by a person within the U.S. But if neither circumstance applies, then like the airmail scenario the U.S. would have no reasonable jurisdiction.

Yes they would if the document was under subpoena. If you mail the document before it is subject to a request for it then you might (emphasis might) be ok, but once the document becomes relevant to a court proceeding you are obligated to produce it AND to ensure that it remains producible. If you mail away or destroy a document then the court generally has the right to treat that action as incriminating. And well they should otherwise everyone could simply destroy any document or mail them away to avoid self-incrimination.

about two weeks ago
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CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

sjbe "Uncomfortable"? (768 comments)

According to this, Bush approved the general program in 2002 but wasn't briefed on the specifics of the brutal methods being used until 2006, with which he was uncomfortable:

I doubt he asked either because then he wouldn't have plausible deniability. And if he was "uncomfortable" with the specifics once he became aware of them it didn't seem to cause him to act on his supposed discomfort. He was the president at the time and if he told them to stop they (probably) would have. If he didn't tell them to stop then he was the spineless misanthrope many of us suspected him to be.

about two weeks ago
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CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

sjbe Hey man Strawman (768 comments)

If torturing one prisoner could demonstrably save millions of lives, the act might still be immoral but it would certainly be welcomed by nearly everyone

That my friend is the very definition of a strawman argument with a bit of Reductio ad absurdum thrown in for good measure.

That's a fancy way of saying your argument is nonsense.

about two weeks ago
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CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

sjbe Plausible deniability (768 comments)

Oh just fuck off. If you actually read TFA, you'd see that it also indicates that Bush had little to no knowledge of the specifics of the interrogations or their brutality

Ahh, plausible deniability. I'm pretty sure he didn't ask either and it wasn't as if no one ever brought the subject up. Almost everyone involved reports to him so he is responsible on some level regardless of whether he knew all the details or not.

Also, waterboarding was done on 3 prisoners, though the media would have you believe every single prisoner in gitmo had it done to them. The onus here is on the CIA, primarily.

The CIA reports to the president. Even if it was just 1 person that is 1 too many. I expect our leaders and those trusted with protecting this country to behave better.

about two weeks ago
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CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

sjbe That there are worse things is no excuse (768 comments)

They didn't have fun, to be sure, but brutal it wasn't.

Your ability to think of something more horrific does not mean it was not brutal. All you proved is that there are even more horrible things that can be done but that does not in any way mitigate or excuse needlessly harsh treatment of another human being. Just because you don't leave a mark doesn't mean it isn't torture and certainly doesn't make it right.

about two weeks ago
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How Relevant is C in 2014?

sjbe Great but unusable? (640 comments)

C is a great language, it's just that most humans are incapable of using it safely and securely

That sentence is self-contradicting. To my mind C cannot simultaneously be a "great language" and be impossible for most people to use safely. I would posit that to be considered a great language, the ability to use the language safely and securely by someone of ordinary skill in programming is a necessary condition.

Since we are so fond of automotive analogies here... While the power and utility of C is undeniable, it's kind of like a car with too much horsepower and not enough traction. Really talented people can handle it but most should drive something else. It might be amazing in the right hands but that doesn't make it great.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Can a Felon Work In IT?

sjbe Test yourself for drugs (717 comments)

Drugs you can show completion of a program, swear you've been clean for two years, have testimonials from your preacher, rabbi and yoga instructor.

Better idea is to voluntarily test yourself on a regular (monthly?) basis. I know doctors who do this so that in the event of a lawsuit they can prove that they were not chemically impaired. If anyone questions them then they can produce a multi-year stack of clean drug tests.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Can a Felon Work In IT?

sjbe The line between felony and misdemeanor (717 comments)

However, there's a big difference between a felony and a misdemeanor, depending on the crime.

Often there is very little or very illogical differences. In many places a teenager voluntarily sending a picture of themselves without clothing to someone else counts as a felony (considered child porn) whereas an adult doing the exact same thing to the exact same person for the exact same reason would not be considered a crime at all in some cases. In fact the teenager in that case may get the privilege of registering as a sex offender for the rest of eternity even if the picture was just sent to a boyfriend/girlfriend. It's absurd but it happens. The line between felony and misdemeanor is an often arbitrary and capricious one and not all felonies are particularly serious crimes.

That said, if someone is a cocaine addict I definitely wouldn't want him or her in my organization, especially if he had access to valuable information or resources that he could sell to pay for his next week of fixes.

That's an awfully broad brush you have there. I have an alcoholic who works for me. Served time in prison because of it and lost his driver's license for over a decade. He's been sober for some years now but he'll always be an alcoholic. He's a good worker, nice guy and very reliable. He just had a problem with addiction. You could easily substitute alcohol for cocaine and the situation would identical. Just because someone has/had a problem with substance abuse does not mean they cannot ever be trusted again. They have to prove they can handle the responsibility but a blanket ban against people who have had a problem in the past is needlessly harsh. You have to address it on a case by case basis.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Can a Felon Work In IT?

sjbe Not specific to IT (717 comments)

I keep running into potential employers who tell me they'd like to hire me but can't because of my past record (expunging won't work, I'm in Ohio). Does anyone have any suggestions for me? Should I just give up and change careers?

Sadly that problem will not be confined to IT. Even if you try to change careers a felony record is going to follow you and (right or wrong) there aren't a lot of employers who are going to be willing to take a chance on an ex-con. Companies just generally do not want to take on avoidable known risks and a felony makes a job candidate into an avoidable known risk.

Your best chance is probably through personal networking but it's going to be tough. The good news is that there are companies that will work with people with troubled pasts but finding them usually takes a lot of work. If your skill set is in IT and your convictions aren't for things related to IT then I see no particular reason to switch because the same problem will exist regardless of what type of job you seek.

about two weeks ago
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The Moment of Truth For BICEP2

sjbe Not as much as it seems (52 comments)

Whenever I read articles about astrophysics, it always sounds very detached from reality.

It's not but I can see how it might seem that way. A lot of the physics is pretty out there and not all of it can be experimentally confirmed, at least not directly. The logical underpinnings and evidence used are fairly sound but there is a LOT we don't really know. There is a lot of "if A is true then B must be true" going on but sometimes we're not actually sure A is really true. It's not faith but much of it is very theoretical. Almost everything relating to stuff like black holes should be taken with a huge grain of sodium chloride.

And then they start throwing around numbers that we couldn't possibly be sure that we're measuring correctly.

Sometimes that is true and sometimes it isn't. There are plenty of measurements we are quite confident about. Others not so much. Unfortunately for the lay person it can be hard to tell the difference. Apparently sometimes it can be difficult for those in the field to tell the difference too sometimes.

about two weeks ago
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Big Banks Will Vie For Your Attention With Cardless ATMs and VR

sjbe Depends on how you do it (76 comments)

In America, a money transfer from one bank to another can take days to clear

Generally only true if you write a check which can take a few days to clear sometimes. Other methods of payment or funds transfer are considerably faster. ACH transfers take a few hours usually. Wire transfers are nearly instant.

about two weeks ago
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Armies of Helper Robots Keep Amazon's Warehouses Running Smoothly

sjbe Tax policy is a marginal effect (110 comments)

Actually, tax rates could be adjusted to bring highly skilled jobs back.

You could reduce the tax rates to zero and it would have at most a marginal impact. The biggest driver by far is wages and benefits. The tax burden on companies is trivial by comparison. When you are talking $1/hour labor in China versus $15/hour labor in the US, it doesn't matter how much tax the US charges if the companies are competing directly. The rate could be zero and most of the business would still move to china if the labor content is high enough. Sure it would affect a few companies right on the fence but that doesn't apply to most of them.

The simple fact is that US labor rates are MUCH higher than in many other parts of the world and you should expect the osmotic gradient of high labor content jobs to flow to where labor costs are lowest. If labor rates in China rise substantially (and they have been) you will see the business move back across the Pacific or elsewhere. Anything the President of Congress does will be a very tiny impact by comparison.

about two weeks ago
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Armies of Helper Robots Keep Amazon's Warehouses Running Smoothly

sjbe You don't live in the right place (110 comments)

I'm not going to pretend that I know what technology will bring in the next 50, but it would seem to me that quite a few jobs are going to disappear, and I don't really see a lot of low qualification jobs opening up.

That's because you don't live in the right place. There are LOTS of unskilled labor jobs available in parts of the world other than the US and EU. Go visit China for a while and tell me there are no jobs for low qualification workers. Go out to a farm and tell me there are no jobs for low qualification workers.

Yes a lot of jobs we currently have will disappear and others we cannot even conceive of yet will appear. It's easier to visualize the former since we know what those are. Could you have anticipated the job of Web Developer 50 years ago? Probably not - at least not without invoking science fiction. Same thing will happen 50 years from now most likely. We have a hard time guessing about things that haven't been invented yet.

about two weeks ago
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Armies of Helper Robots Keep Amazon's Warehouses Running Smoothly

sjbe Investment involves multiple accounting periods (110 comments)

AMZN is not losing money because they are reinvesting back into their operations. That is not how accounting works.

I'm a certified accountant so I'm kind of giggling over you telling me "how accounting works".

That is not how accounting works. "Earnings" is a balance sheet operation

I presume you are talking about Retained Earnings which is on the balance sheet. Retained Earnings != Earnings. Earnings = Profit and that comes from the Income Statement, not the balance sheet.

"Investment" is a balance sheet operation

Investment is FAR more complicated than simply transferring items around a balance sheet and it touches the Balance Sheet, Income Statement and Statement of Cash Flows.

Think about this way – If I invest $100m of profits in US Treasury Notes, how does that affect my earnings?

It depends on why you are investing the profits into those Treasury notes and whether you are investing in them as a profit making venture or merely as a place to park cash intended for other uses. The accounting is substantially different depending on the purpose of the investment. Furthermore the effect on earnings can be substantial in future accounting periods which I should think would be obvious.

If I invest $100m in property, plant, and equipment, how does that affect my profits?

The effect on profit depends on the return on the investment though in the immediate period the effect is either neutral or negative most likely. You're making the mistake of only considering the current accounting period. If you buy a building and capitalize the expense it has some effect on the current accounting period but the real effect on profit is depends on what you can do with that asset. It may reduce future profits or enhance them. Without more information no one can say more.

What if I paid out a dividend?

Then you are returning earnings to the shareholders rather than reinvesting them in the company or other assets. Basically a dividend is an admission by the company that the expected return from available investment opportunities is low. The company is foregoing future opportunities so the long term effect on earnings to the company is either neutral or negative.

It does not – in all cases one's profit is 100m.

Not correct and even if it were you aren't considering the net present value of that $100m.

The issue is that AMZN is trading profit margin for market share. Expanding quickly today to reap the profits of tomorrow – in theory.

Which is another way of saying they are investing in the business. Amazon is introducing products (tablets, phones, etc), investing in infrastructure (warehouses, IT) and similar. They have a long term perspective and aren't worrying about quarterly results. Perhaps this will burn them in the end but my thesis that they are investing in the business remains intact.

about two weeks ago
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Armies of Helper Robots Keep Amazon's Warehouses Running Smoothly

sjbe Science fiction (110 comments)

The only thing stopping that is that it's still too expensive to build machines to do certain jobs. But that won't last forever.

That isn't likely to change in the lifetime of anyone reading this. You actually even explained why below. To eliminate all need for human direct labor you would have to invent a machine that is as flexible as a human and costs less per unit. In other words a human level AI on the cheap. That simply isn't likely to happen anytime soon. (and don't give me any BS about the so called singularity or other paranoid hypothetical dystopian futures) Any scenario where we get human level AI in a robot body for less money than a human would cost is simply science fiction for the foreseeable future.

Eventually, with the progress of technology, it will become very economical to replace workers with machines. Some jobs may require a robot that requires 20 years to pay itself off, that probably isn't worth it for a lot of businesses.

That is exactly why your hypothesis is wrong. The return on investment is simply too long for many projects to make certain types of automation economically feasible without the invention of robots with human level AI at absurdly cheap prices. To make automation practical you have to have large enough volume of product (measured in dollars) to achieve an economic return within the lifetime of the project. There are countless manufacturing projects where the lifetime and/or dollar value of the project is too short to justify complete automation and this will not change any time soon. The labor content of manufactured goods will minimize to a limit function but the need for human labor will not go to zero without invoking science fiction level advances in technology. If you need a model to look at check out agriculture. A lot of automation has gone into agribusiness but the equipment is VERY expensive (and not getting cheaper) and has not come even close to replacing the need for human labor and won't anytime soon either.

The notion that robots will replace all human workers in manufacturing is a paranoid delusion from people who aren't actually involved in manufacturing. I run a manufacturing company. I deal with this daily.

about two weeks ago
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Armies of Helper Robots Keep Amazon's Warehouses Running Smoothly

sjbe No progress in 40 years? (110 comments)

My point is that none of this is new. It is neither interesting nor innovative.

That's pretty much the same statement as saying nothing interesting or innovative has happened in IT in the last 40 years. Just because someone did a crude version of something 40 years ago doesn't mean there has been no advancement or innovation in the mean time.

about two weeks ago
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Armies of Helper Robots Keep Amazon's Warehouses Running Smoothly

sjbe Reinvesting in the business (110 comments)

And yet they still lost money and have been for at least the last 2 years (possibly 3 once this years numbers come out).

Because they are reinvesting in the business and experimenting with new businesses. Unless you have a very short term Wall Street-esqe investment horizon that isn't really a big deal. Amazon could be substantially profitable tomorrow if they chose to be.

about two weeks ago

Submissions

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Creationists Editing Darwin's Origin of Species

sjbe sjbe writes  |  about 5 years ago

sjbe (173966) writes "Proponents of intelligent design have been distributing an edited version of Darwin's "Origin of Species". The edited version reportedly contains a 50 page introduction written by Ray Comfort favoring creationism. The full original text of the book is included with the new version. Over 1000 copies were allegedly handed out near Washington University in Saint Louis without any notice to or approval from the university. The author reportedly draw connections between Hitler and Darwin so Godwin's Law may need to be invoked."
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XM Sirius Merger approved by DOJ

sjbe sjbe writes  |  more than 6 years ago

sjbe (173966) writes "A year after announcing the merger the Justice Department has given the thumbs up to the proposed merger between satellite radio companies XM and Sirius. The FCC still has to give their approval but historically the two organizations rarely contradict each other on proposed mergers. It will be interested to watch if the merger can stop all the red ink from these two money losing companies."
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Ziff Davis Files For Bankruptcy

sjbe sjbe writes  |  more than 6 years ago

sjbe (173966) writes "Ziff Davis Media Inc., publisher of PC Magazine has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The filing is reportedly to reorganize the company's capital structure, particularly with regard to subordinated debt. Papers were filed in the US Bankruptcy court in Manhattan. The company's parent Ziff Davis Holdings Inc. also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Full details are available from Bloomberg."
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Lax TSA Website Exposes Traveller's Information

sjbe sjbe writes  |  more than 6 years ago

sjbe (173966) writes "According to a January 2008 report from the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, from October 2006 through February 2007 traveller's who utilized the TSA website to attempt to remove their name from the No-Fly list risked having sensitive data, including social security numbers, exposed due to poor security practices. The contractor responsible, Desyne Web Services was awarded a no-bid contract to design the website. The TSA's technical lead on the project reportedly had a conflict of interest having been a former employee of Desyne. The security vulnerabilities were pointed out by Chris Soghoian, a Ph.D. student at the University of Indiana's School of Informatics. The TSA has since taken action to remedy the vulnerabilities but no action was taken to sanction the responsible parties for the vulnerabilities."
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