Procrastinating on September 9, 2016

Must-Read: Kaila Colbin: The Real Reason This Elephant Chart Is Terrifying:

The real reason this elephant chart is terrifying NewCo Shift

A shock-and-awe wake-up call about the nature of exponentially accelerating technology...

...I show the crowd a recent headline: Apple’s Foxconn factory in China just fired 60,000 people and replaced them with robots.... We’ve heard it for more than a century: “Factory workers replaced by automation.” Not so much the next headline: “Artificially intelligent lawyer, Ross, hired by law firm.” Or the following one: “Artificially intelligent chatbot successfully contests 160,000 parking tickets in London and New York.” Or the following: “Artificially intelligent teaching assistant helps students online for an entire semester and nobody noticed.”...

Let’s start with the tip of the trunk. This is the global 1%, and they’re doing pretty well.... The top of the elephant’s head, around the 50–60th percentiles, is also a happy story. Those are the jobs created by the industrialization of China and India.... These folks are[n't] getting rich. As Milanovic points out:

Chinese and Indian GDP per capita has increased by 5.6 and 2.3 times, respectively, over the period… [but the] people around the global median are, however, still relatively poor by Western standards. This emerging ‘global middle class’ is composed of individuals with household per capita incomes of between 5 and 15 international dollars per day....

Where the trunk dips. The 75–90th percentiles. Those are basically poor people in rich countries.... The fact that GDP in the US, for example, went up over the 20-year period in the elephant graph doesn’t mean that wages went up, or that workers are better off. They did not, and they are not. This is the hollowing out of the American middle class....

The thing that is increasing exponentially is the price-performance of technology.... Machine learning has now gotten so good a robot can do your job, Ms. Knowledge Worker. But the Foxconn headline? The 60,000 workers replaced by robots? That’s the price side of the price-performance equation, and it’s a lot scarier. Technology has gotten so cheap that it is now more economically viable to buy robots than it is to pay people $5 a day. And technology only gets cheaper over time....

Yes, we have 200 years of headlines saying the robots were going to take our jobs. Yes, historically new technologies have created more jobs than they’ve done away with. Yes, we have no idea what kind of creativity will be unleashed when 3 billion new minds come online in the next five years. But we have a rocky road ahead. It is not a simple transition to go from assembling iPhones to starting your own micro-enterprise...

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