If that earlier bout of technology-fuelled disruption brought such deep social and fiscal dislocation, then it may pale in comparison to the effects of the latest advances in robotics and artificial intelligence. "The number of jobs lost in 1890-1914 was nothing like today," Mr Mokyr says.
But a sweeping impost on the fruits of robotics and AI - the driving forces behind expected disruptions such as driverless cars and smart computers capable of replacing many human analysts - would represent a fiscal intervention on an entirely different scale.
Mr Gates is among the pessimists. "You cross the threshold of job-replacement of certain activities all sort of at once," he said. The result could be the eradication of whole classes of work at the same time - including "warehouse work, driving, room clean-up". Others agree that the impact of job losses will force some form of redistribution through the tax system. "If you compare this to the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution, it's pretty clear we are moving at four to five times the speed - and those revolutions came with pretty big social dislocation," says Mr Moore. "If you increase productivity but make the distribution of wealth crazily worse, that would not make the world better." The idea of paying a flat stipend to all citizens, called a universal basic income, is one response that has been gaining ground with some economists. Stopping short of that, Mr Gates proposed using robot tax receipts to train workers for the jobs the robots cannot do - particularly in the caring professions, which may offer the best hope for avoiding mass human unemployment.
Shinzo Abe probably made another attempt to persuade the US to buy bullet trains when he met Donald Trump. But he may have more luck with another Japanese export: robots.
Since Mr Trump's victory last November, shares in Japanese robot-maker Fanuc have risen 20 per cent. Yaskawa Electric recently hit a year high. Factory automation specialists such as Siemens and Emerson have upgraded profit forecasts for 2017.
Plain old dollar appreciation explains some of that movement. But so too does the idea that Mr Trump's "hire American" policy will be a bonanza for robot-makers and automation specialists. Rather than take on US workers on relatively high wages, manufacturers will simply replace cheap labour in emerging markets with robots in the rust belt.
Robots were on a roll even before last year; sales of industrial robots hit a record in 2015. As their dexterity improves, their use is spreading from traditional strongholds such as automotive into consumer industries; Adidas is now using them to make trainers.
But it is premature to conflate Mr Trump's campaign pledges about reshoring manufacturing with a step change in spending on automation. Companies were already reshoring. Low US energy prices, rising wage costs in China and a desire to simplify supply chains have all been factors. Changing tax laws may influence future decisions about where to locate production capacity.
Robo-Bees Could Aid Insects with Pollination Duties
February 08, 2017
The opening of this article is as follows:
Mini drones sporting horsehair coated in a sticky gel could one day take the pressure off beleaguered bee populations by transporting pollen from plant to plant, researchers said.
Roughly three-quarters of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world's food crops depend on animals to pollinate them, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Some of nature's most prolific pollinators are bees, but bee populations are declining around the world, and last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed a native species as endangered for the first time.
Woodside Petroleum is to work with NASA to develop teams of robot workers that might do the unpleasant, the untimely, the dangerous and the downright boring work on its offshore oil and gas platforms and in its onshore gas processors. The plan, which is slated for public confirmation later this week and represents a first in the embrace of artificial intelligence for the oil and gas industry, will see NASA work on where and how its Robotnaut 2 technologies might best eventually replace people.
The disruptive potential of automation to the traditional demographics of the workplace stands as one of the emerging challenges of our working times.
NASA's robot, which began its life in space as a torso but was given legs in 2014, was developed in alliance with General Motors and the New York listed, Houston-based deepwater oil and gas engineering firm Oceaneering.
There are an awful lot of jobs on offshore rigs and in liquid natural gas plants that have to be done at unsocial times, in unpleasant climes and in dangerous places. Apparently boss Peter Coleman sees a future where a team of R2 might be clambering around the scaffolding of his offshore rigs or reading the meters of Pluto's flare at 3 o'clock on a stormy Pilbara morning.
Foxconn is the Taiwanese company that manufactures Apple's iPhones in plants in mainland China. Foxconn once emplyed 1 million workers in its manufacturing plants. It is replacing most of its workers with robots.
30/December/2016 "iPhone manufacturer Foxconn plans to replace almost every human worker with robots"
'Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturing giant behind Apple’s iPhone and numerous other major electronics devices, aims to automate away a vast majority of its human employees, according to a report from DigiTimes. Dai Jia-peng, the general manager of Foxconn’s automation committee, says the company has a three-phase plan in place to automate its Chinese factories using software and in-house robotics units, known as Foxbots.
The first phase of Foxconn’s automation plans involve replacing the work that is either dangerous or involves repetitious labor humans are unwilling to do. The second phase involves improving efficiency by streamlining production lines to reduce the number of excess robots in use. The third and final phase involves automating entire factories, “with only a minimal number of workers assigned for production, logistics, testing, and inspection processes,” according to Jia-peng.'
Chinese workers being replaced by robots. Some youtube clips:
Robots cost 5Euro/h, Germans 50Euros, Chinese 10Euros
January 12, 2017
Robots are taking jobs in the developed world AND the developing world. They mary even steal the path to development for emerging countries. Here are a few quotes from this Bloomberg article:-
However, building a large manufacturing sector has traditionally been the path emerging economies have taken to raise living standards. Now, robots and other types of automation are a threat to that development model. In November, the United Nations warned two-thirds of jobs in developing countries are at risk.
German robot maker Kuka AG, acquired last year by China’s Midea Group Co., estimates a typical industrial robot costs about 5 euros ($5.28) an hour. Manufacturers spend 50 euros an hour to employ someone in Germany and about 10 euros an hour in China.
China is installing more industrial robots than any other country in the world
If you're prone to fretting about robots eating your job, or the jobs of your kids, get over it.
We will eventually become indistinguishable from robots, says Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor of robotics at Osaka University. Ishiguro is a pioneer builder of human-like androids and had a cameo role in the 2009 Bruce Willis film Surrogates, in which people lived their lives through remote‑controlled surrogates from the safety of their own homes.
In about 100 years, Ishiguro says, only 10 to 20 per cent of us will actually work. The rest will spend time learning how to interact with ever more complex robots in order to be able to work – or will be cared for by robots when we can no longer learn to work.
Some fear that technological disruption will speed to its logical conclusion and put vast swaths of humans out of a job. In the past, forebodings of this kind have never been realised. It is easier to imagine the jobs that will be usurped by emerging technologies than the jobs that will be created their stead.
Factories in China are replacing humans with robots in a new automation-driven industrial revolution. How will this effect be felt around the globe?