What, then, is to be done? Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, said: “We were promised flying cars, and instead what we got was 140 characters.” He was right of course; Twitter is not comparable to the invention of printing. Yet in another sense, he was wrong. We live in a world where everyone with a grievance wields more power in the palm of their hands than the computers that sent Apollo 14 into orbit. Ours is a super-democratic age. Ford does not believe technological progress can be stopped, nor that it would it be desirable to try. Yet the robot economy is inexorably squeezing our rewards in the jobs market. Ford’s answer is to pay every adult a minimum basic income — or a “citizen’s dividend”. There is logic to his remedy but not much realism. My forecast is that cars will fly before that happens.
These trends have contributed to record levels of income inequality. “There is not a lot of disagreement that technology is changing the skills and occupations in demand,” says Tyson. “And that will continue to increase income inequality.”
Or take social media. In 2006, Google bought YouTube for $1.65bn. It had 65 employees. The price amounted to $25m per employee. In 2012, Facebook bought Instagram, which had 13 employees, for $1bn. That came to $77m per employee. In 2014, it bought WhatsApp, with 55 employees, for $19bn, at a staggering $345m per employee.
Ford finds two big holes in this Panglossian outlook. In contrast to earlier disruptions, which affected particular sectors of the economy, the effects of today’s revolution are “general-purpose”. From janitors to surgeons, virtually no jobs will be immune. Whether you are training to be an airline pilot, a retail assistant, a lawyer or a financial trader, labour-saving technology is whittling your numbers — in some cases drastically so. In 2000, financial services employed 150,000 people in New York. By 2013 that had dropped to 100,000. Over the same time, Wall Street’s profits have soared. Up to 70 per cent of all equity trades are now executed by algorithms.
It’s an impressive scene highlighting signs, if you know where to look, of some of the world’s leading research into robotics and automation. But it is also almost deadly quiet. There are a few cars in the parking lots—those of the engineers and programmers involved in the various robotic ventures, and probably some visitors. Beyond that, there are no signs of workers anywhere.
Almost any job that involves sitting in front of a screen and
manipulating information is threatened
But it is Ford’s second point that is the clincher. By skewing the gains of the new economy to a few, robots weaken the chief engine of growth — middle-class demand. As labour becomes uneconomic relative to machines, purchasing power diminishes. The US economy produces more than a third more today than it did in 1998 with the same-sized labour force and a significantly larger population. It still makes sense for people to obtain degrees. Graduates earn more than those who have completed only high school. But their returns are falling. The median pay for US entry-level graduates has fallen from $52,000 in 2000 to $46,000 today. It has stagnated for postgraduates. Education is by no means a catch-all solution, says Ford. Not everyone can get a PhD. Assuming that highly skilled jobs can take up the slack is “analogous to believing that, in the wake of the mechanisation of agriculture, the majority of displaced farm workers would be able to find jobs driving tractors,” he says.
Though Ford is a software entrepreneur, it is easy to dismiss his prognosis as the rantings of a latter-day Luddite. That is how many responded to his last book The Lights in the Tunnel (2009), which warned of a future in which even highly skilled occupations were vulnerable. Rise of the Robots is Ford’s answer to those critics. Unlike his first book, which was based on a thought experiment about tomorrow’s world, this one is grounded in today’s economy. It is well researched and disturbingly persuasive.
This has drawn billions of dollars from Silicon Valley and elsewhere, a welcome development in a city whose economy has been moribund for decades. And the effects are visible. Self-driving cars out for a test ride are a common sight, as are lines outside the trendy restaurants in what civic boosters call “Robotics Row.”
Review by Edward Luce
Such riches are little comfort to the thousands of engineers who cannot find work. Facebook’s data servers are now managed by Cyborg, a software programme. It requires one human technician for every 20,000 computers. Almost any job that involves sitting in front of a screen and manipulating information is either disappearing, or will do soon. Offshore workers in India are just as vulnerable as their counterparts in the west. China is the fastest- growing market for robots. No human can compete with the relentlessly falling costs of automation. Software can now drive cars and mark student essays.
Ford’s contention is that our current technological revolution is different from earlier ones. Most economists would disagree. Their view is that today’s displacement is similar to the shift from agriculture to industry. Roughly half of Americans were employed on farms in 1900. Today they account for just 2 per cent of the workforce. Just as ex-farm labourers found work in the factories, so laid-off manufacturing workers were re-employed in the service industries. The IT revolution will be no different, economists say. It is all part of the natural cycle of creative destruction.
Martin Ford has seen the future, and it doesn’t work. To be more precise, it generates wealth while obliterating demand for work. “Go West, young man”, was the career advice of the 19th century. Today’s equivalent is “get an engineering degree”. Alas, the latter is not as rewarding as the former. A third of Americans who graduated in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) are in jobs that do not require any such degree. Up and down the US there are programmers working as fast-food servers. In the age of artificial intelligence, they will only drift further into obsolescence, says Ford.
原标题：美利坚合众国老工业集散地的苏醒 | 斯坦福技能商酌
Part of what he’s describing is the so-called productivity paradox: while big data, automation, and AI should in theory be making businesses more productive, boosting the economy and creating more jobs to offset the ones being lost, this hasn’t happened. Some economists think it’s just a matter of time—though it could take many years.
机器人步入曾经的炼钢厂，那所城市中大约从不人会忽略这种象征意义。毕尔巴鄂重生，使用来源其高校中的自动化、机器人和人造智能，尤其是Carnegie梅隆学院，正在构建一种高科技(science and technology)经济。
Gauging the net gain or loss of jobs due to robotics and AI is a tricky business. But it’s clear that the kinds of jobs in demand are changing as the need for manual labor declines and that for digital and human skills soars.
The gem of the redevelopment effort is Mill 19, the former coke works. A structure more than a quarter-mile long, sitting amid the empty fields, it has been stripped clean to a three-story metal skeleton. Crews of workers are clearing away remaining debris and preparing the building for its reincarnation. By next spring, if all goes according to plan, its first occupant will move in: the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute.
“The naïve view among macroeconomists for several decades has been that technology will always create jobs,” says Acemoglu. “The alarmists’ is that this time is different and it will destroy jobs.” Though in the past the economic benefits from new technologies have always been enough to create more jobs than were lost, he says, “lately, for a variety of reasons, there has been a much more job-destroying face to technology.”
That criticism resonates in a place that prides itself as a working-class city with strong unions and a rich history of progressive politics. Mayor William Peduto helped attract Uber to the city, but he has since soured on the San Francisco–based company.
But the factory jobs lost through the years aren’t coming back. As a country, we’re struggling to imagine how to build an economy with plenty of good jobs around AI and automation.
This movie has, of course, played out before. In 1900, about 40 percent of US workers were on farms; today fewer than 2 percent are. In 1950, about 24 percent of the jobs were in manufacturing; today around 9 percent are. Similar shifts are occurring in other developed countries. But today’s changes are happening faster and more broadly than before, leaving little time for people to adapt.
There is no sillier—or more disingenuous—debate in the tech community than the one over whether robots and AI will destroy jobs or, conversely, create a great abundance of new ones. In fact, the outcome depends on various economic factors. And how it will play out as the pace of AI intensifies, no one knows.
Many are simply giving up on finding a decent job. Labor-force participation—basically, the proportion of people working or seeking work—is showing a troubling drop, especially for men aged 25 to 54.
In the US, demand for low-paying work in places like warehouses and restaurants is growing; so is demand for well-paying work in occupations requiring lots of technical skills, such as programming. At the same time, many traditionally middle-class jobs in areas like manufacturing and data processing are shriveling.
But if Amazon picks Pittsburgh, that’s likely to exacerbate the anxiety over how to match residents with new high-tech jobs. “There is nowhere near enough people in the city and the region with the technical skills,” says CMU’s Moore. “We’re great in terms of the rare genius leaders, but [Pittsburgh] really needs to skill up the local population to take part in this.”
Automation and robots have certainly wiped out many jobs over the last few decades, especially in manufacturing. In one of the first attempts to quantify the impact of industrial robots, research by Daron Acemoglu at MIT and his colleagues, based on data from 1990 to 2007, found that for every robot on the factory floor, some six jobs are lost. That means as many as 670,000 jobs for the years that they looked at, and as many as 1.5 million jobs at 2016 levels of robot usage in the US.
Lawrenceville, five miles from Hazelwood, has become a center for US development of self-driving cars. Uber Advanced Technologies occupies a handful of industrial buildings; self-driving startups Argo AI and Aurora Innovation are nearby. Even Caterpillar has set up shop, working on autonomous backhoes and other heavy machines that could one day operate themselves.
Melissa Kearney and Katharine Abraham, economists at the University of Maryland, have looked at why. They think there may be several causes, but they say robots and automation are a critical one. Many people without a college degree simply think the prospects of finding a well-paying job are too slim to make it worth looking.
While many longtime residents complain of skyrocketing home prices near the tech firms’ headquarters and test facilities, they’ll also tell you these are the best days the city has seen in their lifetimes.
These days the old steel site, called Hazelwood Green by its developers, is coming back to life. At one edge, fenced off from prying eyes, is a test area for Uber's self-driving cars. A new road, still closed to the public, traverses the 178 acres of the site, complete with parking signs, fire hydrants, a paved bike path, and a sidewalk. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture it bustling with visitors to the planned park along the riverfront.
And not far from the city and its elite universities, in areas where the main hope for prosperity lies in coal and natural gas from fracking rather than self-driving cars, well-paying jobs are scarce and towns are being devastated by opioid addiction.
Automation is changing work
The culprits: high rates of suicide, drug addiction, and alcoholism, which Case and Deaton call “diseases of despair” because they don’t seem related to poverty per se, but rather to disappointment; in a reversal of expectations, people are realizing they won’t be better off than their parents.
Princeton economist Anne Case and her coauthor Angus Deaton have identified what’s likely a related trend. They found that mortality is rising among middle-aged white people in the US with a high school diploma or less.