More trouble with Robots.

I recently wrote a snarky piece about robots taking jobs away from low and semi skilled blue collar workers. One of my readers pointed out that there is already software being written that writes. (H/T Ms Jackie)

Well, it seems that the threat isn’t confined to just low and semi skilled blue collar workers, or even to writers. The robots or actually in this case, computer software is also gunning for highly skilled white collar office workers.

The Robots Are Coming for Wall Street

This might sound like bragging. But Nadler was primarily recounting those reactions as a way of explaining his concern about the impact that start-ups like his are likely to have on the financial industry. Within a decade, he said, between a third and a half of the current employees in finance will lose their jobs to Kensho and other automation software. It began with the lower-paid clerks, many of whom became unnecessary when stock tickers and trading tickets went electronic. It has moved on to research and analysis, as software like Kensho has become capable of parsing enormous data sets far more quickly and reliably than humans ever could. The next ‘‘tranche,’’ as Nadler puts it, will come from the employees who deal with clients: Soon, sophisticated interfaces will mean that clients no longer feel they need or even want to work through a human being.

‘‘I’m assuming that the majority of those people over a five-to-10-year horizon are not going to be replaced by other people,’’ he said, getting into the flow of his thoughts, which, for Nadler, meant closing his eyes and gesticulating as though he were preaching or playing the piano. ‘‘In 10 years Goldman Sachs will be significantly smaller by head count than it is today.’’

Goldman executives are reluctant to discuss the plight of their displaced financial analysts. Several managers I spoke to insisted that Kensho has not yet caused any layoffs, nor is it likely to soon. Nadler had warned me that I would hear something like that. ‘‘When you start talking about automating jobs,’’ he said, ‘‘everybody all of a sudden gets really quiet.’’

Goldman employees who lose their jobs to machines are not likely to evoke much pity. But it is exactly Goldman’s privileged status that makes the threat to its workers so interesting. If jobs can be displaced at Goldman, they can probably be displaced even more quickly at other, less sophisticated companies, within the financial industry as well as without.

So there you have it. In the quest for ever higher profit margins, certain members of the ultra elite 1 percent, are pouring money into developing both machines and software that basically are designed to replace human beings. I have to laugh somewhat at this though. If they succeed, then eventually not only will they replace all of their employees, but it is almost certain that they will find themselves bitten by the law of unintended consequences.

Therefore, I ask this Reductio ad absurdum question? If software can replace the highly skilled white collar financial analysts at Goldman Sachs, then how long after that before they can and do replace senior executive level management? How long after that before we see the first billionaire robots?

Google is threatening the end of manual labour.

Google robot is ‘the end of manual labor’: VC

Kensho, whether Nadler realizes it or not, is threatening the end of intellectual labour. Where is the insatiable lust for ever greater profit margins leading? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist level genius to see what is coming. The top 1 percent of the 1 percent owning pretty much everything until they themselves suddenly find themselves made redundant by their own creations. In a world where machines do all the labour, not just the manual labour, but all labour, how do the 99 percent feed themselves? How do they pay their bills? How do they purchase the products and services that allow the 1 percent to be the 1 percent?

Good looking out guys, what could possibly go wrong, eh?


EDIT: Ok, so I just had a strange thought, with the Robots taking everyones jobs, what about politicians? Would you vote for a Robot politician? Would you vote for a Robot Congressman or Senator? How about a Robot President of the United States of America?


25 thoughts on “More trouble with Robots.

  1. would you consider a ‘player piano’ a robot…
    been around for hundreds of years…
    I have been to piano bars lately where the ‘auto player’ is the only player..
    thus keyboardist are displaced…
    many keyboard makers still make them today… with high quality bits… they sound great..
    now there is no ‘touch’ like a duke ellington or Oscar Peterson would put in..
    but you can buy a grand piano with killer sound that plays itself.. robotics??

  2. hate the machine,,, don’t hate the machine designer…
    automatic welding robots have been on the assy line since the early 80’s
    robots have been launched into space before that… wasn’t pioneer 10 a robot??
    the simple ice maker replaced the ice mans deliveries and his horse…
    robots aren’t always bad… look how machines help the war vets walk again..
    I am surprised you didn’t mention how machines have infiltrated the music world..
    after you strum your last note on your guitar ,, from there to the market place is loaded with robotics.. I know you’ve seen a CD printing plant..

  3. America has been an innovator. We have always embraced technology and grown with it. As much as I agree that the work landscape will change, I can;t help but to read it and think of all those operators who were out of a job once phone switchboards were automated. Will manual labor keep being replaced by automation: of course. It’ll have to so that businesses can stay afloat when paying the new higher minimum wages and every increasing amounts for insurance and healthcare.
    As much as I’ve thought about our job woes, it all comes back tot the fact that people either want to buy the cheapest items they can or they are forced to because it’s all they can afford. Either way, cheap and disposable wins the day today. Until people can afford to and will buy higher quality, higher priced items business will be forced to figure out ways to control costs through technical improvements.

  4. What I find most interesting is that among the innumerable variations in the configuration of robot design the articulation and versatility of the humanoid form has found to be inescapable.

    The human hand alone is a marvel of nature.

  5. Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were far less guilty, in terms of creating poverty, unemployment, and despair, than those who are ushering in the “The Age of AI”.

    Those who are resourcing “The Age of AI” are also developing AI with military and police applications.

    Let’s hope the revolting peasants of the world will be even more creative and resourceful.

  6. Nice post, sir.

    So, once the high-tech robots take our jobs, what then? They’ll expect higher pay and more perks. More expensive upgrades.

    I foresee a huge (YUGE?) influx of illegal alien robots. Undocumented robots. Robots overstaying their visas. Foreign robots that will do the jobs that American robots don’t wish to do.

  7. “Soon, sophisticated interfaces will mean that clients no longer feel they need or even want to work through a human being.”

    Not true in my world of insurance. It’s complicated and people want a live person to meet with to discuss everything under the sun, so they can make their choices. The Ins. Co’s have many online services…the majority of the people I deal with don’t use them..they want me to hold their hand. Anyway..was just thinking about what I do.
    Due to Obamacare and some other reasons..I’m thinking about going back to school for something medical related. I think hat’s a safe move. Considering now all you’re going thru personally, are you done with school? I would think welding would be safe as well.

    But yeah..I think robots and technology will replace specific jobs…

    Good post Oscar.

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