Ali Hangan writes – The Canary in the Cage: Black Families and the White Working Class

The Canary in the Cage: Black Families and the White Working Class

by Ali Hangan

Folks,

The black population’s history is one of tragedy and triumph. On the one hand, the population has suffered over 400 years of slavery and entrenched segregation. On the other hand, the Civil Rights movement is considered an American success story. The Civil Rights movement opened up a renewed sense of optimism for the future of the black working class and other oppressed groups. But in the late 1970’s and 80’s, that spirit of optimism began to wane.

American industry confronted with increased competition from abroad, cut costs by outsourcing work and adopting automation. A large swath of black workers in the cities that were once employed became unemployed and ultimately became unemployable. Those families that could move left to the suburbs leaving the remaining population on urban islands with few economic opportunities.

The lack of economic opportunities in the urban black communities provided a fertile ground for a drug economy. Crack cocaine and the culture associated with the drug began to spread at epidemic levels throughout the nation. In the wake of the crack epidemic more intensified policing policies arose in response. The purpose of these policies was not to stop crack per se, but rather to prevent its spread among the more politically organized suburban communities. The tactics to carry out these new policies became the genesis of increased militarization of the police.

The enhanced police tactics entered into the national consciousness by black Hip Hop th-6artists. In 1985, Toddy Tee produced “Battleram” about the LAPD armored vehicle used to smash in crack houses. In 1988, the song “Fuck the Police” by NWA told the story of police intimidation of young black males. And in 1990, “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy called upon black communities to defend themselves against the police.

While these songs brought a consciousness to the Gestapo tactics being used to police black communities, it paradoxically renewed old stereotypes about urban black males. With the music industry’s new marketing of music through videos in the 1980’s, they streamed images of black males as gang members into households across the country. This perception of a “black Armageddon” on MTV shifted public opinion toward support of a more comprehensive strategy to police urban black communities.

The new strategy fell under the auspices of the Federal drug enforcement policy, which became known as the “War on Drugs.” The War on Drugs began during the Nixon Administration in 1971. It was a Federal campaign for the prohibition of drugs and enhanced military intervention, with the stated aim being to reduce the illegal drug trade. In 1982, Vice President George H. W. Bush led a push for the involvement of the CIA and U.S. military in drug interdiction efforts. In 1989, under now, President George H. W. Bush, he authorized the creation of a Federal Drug Czar to oversee the war on drugs. Later, raised to a cabinet-level position by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Currently, the Federal Government spends 51 billion annually on the war on drugs. [citation]

The War on drugs has had a devastating effect on the black population:

“The US Department of Justice (DOJ) reports 2.2 million people are in our nation’s jails and prisons and another 4.5 million people are on probation or parole in the US, totaling 6.8 million people, one of every 35 adults. We are far and away the world leader in putting our own people in jail. Most of the people inside are poor and Black.” —- 40 Reasons Our Jails and Prisons Are Full of Black and Poor People, Common Dreams, June 2nd, 2015

“The War on Drugs targets Black people. Drug arrests are a big source of bodies and business for the criminal legal system. Half the arrests these days are for drugs and half of those are for marijuana. Despite the fact that Black and white people use marijuana at the same rates, a Black person is 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than a white person. The ACLU found that in some states Black people were six war-on-drugs1times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites. For all drug arrests between 1980 and 2000 the U.S. Black drug arrest rate rose dramatically from 6.5 to 29.1 per 1,000 persons; during the same period, the white drug arrest rate barely increased from 3.5 to 4.6 per 1,000 persons. ” [Ibid]

The same process that I have attempted to describe amongst the black population is reaching into much broader sections of the working class. Since the economic crash of 2008, capitalism has transitioned into a new stage of development. The increased demands on American companies to compete in the “Just in time” global economy has compelled each to be more flexible adopting more advanced automation and robots. The results have been increased productivity but at the expense of middle-income and unionized jobs impacting many white workers.

The latest wave of economic restructuring has had strong parallels to the process that began in the urban black communities in the 1980’s. This process of decay amongst the white working class has manifested in two visible ways:

1) The surge in the use of meth among the white population.
2) The groundswell of support by the white working class of Donald Trump’s proposals to scale back protectionist policies.

The first two articles that follow focus on the black population but, should be viewed more broadly as a canary in the cage for the entire American working class. In other words, the declining social conditions of the black population provides us with a window into the future for the entire working class as a whole. The flip side is this: As more sections of the working class become equally impoverished it creates a practical basis to move beyond silly notions of race to unify workers politically around a broader class struggle for their common economic survival.

What do you think?

One love,

AH
Excerpt from The incredible crushing despair of the white working class:

“Carol Graham, a happiness researcher at the Brookings Institution, recently analyzed Gallup’s data on life satisfaction and found that when it comes to their outlook on the future, the most desperate groups are poor and near-poor whites.

Gallup asks people to rate their current lives on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is the worst possible life they could be living and 10 is the best. Crucially, they also ask people to imagine what their lives will look like five years in the future.

Among the poor, whites are the demographic group least likely to imagine a better future for themselves, Graham found. Poor Hispanics were about 30 percent more likely to imagine a better future than poor whites. The difference for poor blacks was even larger: They were nearly three times as likely to imagine a better future than poor whites.”

“Part of the optimism gap is indeed because of “a shrinking pie of good jobs for low-skill/blue collar workers,” Graham said in an email. “Whites used to have real advantages (some via discrimination) that they no longer have … they are looking at downward mobility or threats of it, while poor blacks and Hispanics are comparing themselves to parents who were worse off than they.”

And paradoxically, while some inequalities between races are shrinking, other inequalities within races are growing. Across all races, for instance, the wealthy are gobbling up an ever-growing share of the income pie and leaving less behind for everyone else.”

The Average Black Family Would Need 228 Years to Build the Wealth of a White Family Today
KPCC Airtalk with Larry Mantle: The Movement for Black Lives platform and politics

Half of US jobs could be taken by robots in the next 20 years — here’s how likely it is that yours will be one of them

The incredible crushing despair of the white working class
— “The heights by great men [and women] reached and kept were not attained in sudden flight but, they while their companions slept, they were toiling upwards in the night.” —- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Nelson Peery: Why Is African American History The Heart of American History?

Portrait of David

Illustration from The Future Is Up To Us, Portrait of David, painting  by Diana Berek

This is the beginning of Black History Month, February 1, 2016, and I think it’s appropriate to quote from Nelson Peery’s The Future Is Up To Us:

WHY IS AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY THE HEART OF AMERICAN HISTORY?

To suggest such an analysis is bound to make the majority of eyebrows arch upward. African Americans have always been looked upon and treated as if they were at best on the periphery of our coun- try’s history. Their being marginalized in the social and economic sense reinforces this outlook. Nevertheless any serious inquiry into history will show that the control, manipulation and exploitation of the African American was at the heart of every major and most of the minor decisions of state prior to the Civil War, and a good many of them afterwards.

Let’s start at the beginning. For a number of ideological and political reasons, the American colonies resisted African slavery, pre- ferring to populate the New World with European indentured ser- vants. In the Caribbean, the plantation and slave system was being fine-tuned. There, unheard-of fortunes were accumulated on the basis of the most reckless expenditure of human life known to history. A goodly portion of the colonies’ economic intercourse was servicing the slave system of the Caribbean. The colonies were never discon- nected from African slavery. It was not some inopportune landing of a Spanish ship carrying twenty African captives that inaugurated

African slavery in the colonies. As the capitalist system evolved from the slave trade and the Caribbean plantations, capitalism became firmly planted in the colonies and slavery was its inevitable result. Every colony had slavery, and none of the colonies, north or south, could have accumulated and economically moved forward without the brutal working to death of the slave.

Rudimentary capitalist agriculture—that is agriculture for the market, rather than consumption—never reckoned with ecology or preservation of the land. This is especially true of cotton culture. The solution was the constant westward motion for virgin land. I often laugh at these falsifiers of history who wave the flag and talk about the westward move of liberty. In fact, it was the westward move of slavery. Two examples that come to mind are the removal of the five

“civilized” (i.e., slave-holding) Indian tribes from their native lands to the Oklahoma Territory. The “Trail of Tears” is an indelible moral condemnation of U.S. state policy for the expansion of slavery. The Indians suffered terribly on that journey. Can you imagine the con- dition of their African slaves?

The other instance was the annexation of Texas and later the war against Mexico and the ripping-off of half her national territory. There was no other reason for this expansionism but the promulga- tion of slavery. The westward march of liberty is a joke.

Most people understand that the Civil War was fought over the African Americans’ condition as slaves. Few realize that Wilson probably would not have been elected if Blacks were able to vote. Certainly, Roosevelt would not have won his third term without a solid African American vote. This goes for Truman and a number of presidents who changed the political direction of the country.

Take a look at the body of law developed around the control of labor. Every single one of these oppressive laws had their foun- dation in the control of the African American. If we go beyond the written law it is easily seen that the control of a disjointed working class was achieved through uniting the white worker and capitalist to exclude the African American.

In the realm of culture, if it weren’t for the African Americans we would still be dancing the minuet. At the heart of American cul- ture beats the culture of the African American people. They would not have created this culture if not for the isolation, brutality and segregation that lies at the heart of the African Americans as a people. Eleanor Roosevelt put it quite well when she said that apart from the culture of the Indian, the culture of the African American is the only American culture. Clearly everything else was an ethnic culture brought over from the old world. The other aspect is, it is becom- ing a world culture. Every time I’ve gone abroad, I’ve been shocked by the breadth of the assimilation of this culture into French, British, Egyptian—what have you—popular culture.

So when we say that the African Americans are at the heart of American history, we don’t mean to imply that they were in control of that history. The sad fact is that up until the integration period, con- trolling and manipulating the Black ten percent was the way to con- trol the white majority. This is the only way we can make sense of a history that gives the world the most exalted visions along with the most brutal and callous exploitation and destruction of human life.

Pedagogy, The Digital Age and The Precariat — Jandric and Giroux in Counterpunch

Critical Pedagogy in and for the Age of the Digital Media
Pedagogy of the Precariat (published in the June 12-14 2015 Counterpunch)
by PETAR JANDRIC and HENRY A. GIROUX
Haunted digital borders and alternative public spheresth

Petar Jandrić: Thank you a lot for agreeing to this conversation, Henry! One of the central concepts in your work is border crossing, which “prompts teachers and students to raise new questions and develop models of analysis outside the officially sanctioned boundaries of knowledge and the established disciplines that control them” (Giroux and Searls Giroux, 2004: 102). This concept gains additional relevance with the advent of another border – the so-called electronic frontier (Rheingold, 1995). Could you please apply your concept of border crossing to learning in the age of information technologies?

Henry Giroux: When I first started thinking about the concept, one of the things that I was concerned with was the way in which various borders operate in various formations and ideological and political locations to basically shut people down from asking dangerous questions or pursuing questions outside of established paradigms. At the heart of that concern was the question of the political. How do you theorise the americas-ed-deficit-300x449political in a world where borders are rapidly increasing? How do you theorise the political in a world where borders are really pushing people back into all kinds of silos – from those organised around prejudice and racism, to those organised around the instrumentalization of knowledge itself? And how are those borders organised in the ways that so limit what intellectuals and academics can do? At the university, academics often end up speaking in languages that are utterly abstract, languages that speak to five or six people. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that they have no sense what it means to speak to broader publics. At the same time, I was not arguing that difficult language is not sometimes necessary or that theory does not matter. On the contrary, I was arguing that theory needed to become worldly, unfettered by jargon, and be both accessible while addressing broader publics. Border crossing was a critique of theoreticism, theory for its own sake, unfettered by any interest in the larger world.

So the notion of border really took on several registers. One of the registers was political. How do you want to understand the notion of crossing borders in ways that expand the possibilities of people to be able to narrate themselves and understand the context in which they find themselves in order to, in some ways, both resist and overcome those kinds of barriers that shut down their capacity to be individual and social agents? The second issue is around the notion of social responsibility. What kinds of borders are put in play in ways that separate, for instance, instrumental knowledge from questions of social cost and larger social problems?

And I think, with regards to your question about how this applies to technology, that technologies are haunted by a ghostly presence to public memories rooted in a . . . read the whole article here.

Ali Hangan Shares Ideas About a New Society in Birth

Ali Hangan writes:

 

Folks,

Karl Marx points out in his critique of the capitalist mode of production that, “Capitalism creates its own gravediggers.” In other words, capitalist production rationally leads to labor less production or the replacement of living labor with dead labor. Marx’s basic logic is this: Competition among capitalists compel every capitalist to cut costs by replacing the worker with a machine/robot. Robots are a one-time capital expenditure and do not require wages, benefits and coffee breaks. The worker that is replaced by the robot is also the customer for the product that the capitalist produces. Without an income, the worker/customer cannot shop, and the capitalist has no customer resulting in a negation of the money based distribution system, that provides the grease for the wheels of capitalist production. While at the sametime, the productive capabilities of robotic production create the material possibilities for a post-capitalist society. A society that frees humanity up from the burden of work and toil. Certainly, in the present, the capitalist grave is not being dug just yet, but Martin Ford again lays out compelling evidence that a plot has been reserved in the cemetery for the capitalist system.
AH
:)RR

Robots are coming for your job: Amazon, McDonald’s and the next wave of dangerous capitalist “disruption” is followed by New York Times Book Review ‘Rise of the Robots’ and ‘Shadow Work’ and Store Where Robots Sell Robots

 

Excerpts from Robots are coming for your job: Amazon, McDonald’s and the next wave of dangerous capitalist “disruption”:

“Japan’s Kura sushi restaurant chain has already successfully pioneered an automation strategy. In the chain’s 262 restaurants, robots help make the sushi while conveyor belts replace waiters. To ensure freshness, the system keeps track of how long individual sushi plates have been circulating and automatically removes those that reach their expiration time. Customers order using touch panel screens, and when they are finished dining they place the empty dishes in a slot near their table. The system automatically tabulates the bill and then cleans the plates and whisks them back to the kitchen. Rather than employing store managers at each location, Kura uses centralized facilities where managers are able to remotely monitor nearly every aspect of restaurant operations. Kura’s automation-based business model allows it to price sushi plates at just 100 yen (about $1), significantly undercutting its competitors.”
“Vending machines make it possible to dramatically reduce three of the most significant costs incurred in the retail business: real estate, labor, and theft by customers and employees. In addition to providing 24-hour service, many of the machines include video screens and are able to offer targeted point-of-sale advertising that’s geared toward enticing customers to purchase related products in much the same way that a human sales clerk might do. They can also collect customer email addresses and send receipts. In essence, the machines offer many of the advantages of online ordering, with the added benefit of instant delivery.”

“In 2010, David Dunning was the regional operations supervisor responsible for overseeing the maintenance and restocking of Redbox movie rental kiosks in the Chicago area. Redbox has over 42,000 kiosks in the United States and Canada, typically located at convenience stores and supermarkets, and rents about 2 million videos per day. Dunning managed the Chicago-area kiosks with a staff of just seven…. While the jobs that Dunning and his staff have are certainly interesting and desirable, in number they are a fraction of what a traditional retail chain would create. The now-defunct Blockbuster, for example, once had dozens of stores in greater Chicago, each employing its own sales staff. At its peak, Blockbuster had a total of about 9,000 stores and 60,000 employees. That works out to about seven jobs per store—roughly the same number that Redbox employed in the entire region serviced by Dunning’s team.”

 

Salon.com
SUNDAY, MAY 10, 2015 10:30 AM PDT
Robots are coming for your job: Amazon, McDonald’s and the next wave of dangerous capitalist “disruption”
Says one builder: “Our device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient. It’s meant to completely obviate them”
MARTIN FORD
Robots are coming for your job: Amazon, McDonald’s and the next wave of dangerous capitalist “disruption”

Julie Hagerty and Leslie Neilsen in Airplane!” (Credit: Paramount Pictures)

In the United States and other advanced economies, the major disruption will be in the service sector—which is, after all, where the vast majority of workers are now employed. This trend is already evident in areas like ATMs and self-service checkout lanes, but the next decade is likely to see an explosion of new forms of service sector automation, potentially putting millions of relatively low-wage jobs at risk.

San Francisco start-up company Momentum Machines, Inc., has set out to fully automate the production of gourmet-quality hamburgers. Whereas a fast food worker might toss a frozen patty onto the grill, Momentum Machines’ device shapes burgers from freshly ground meat and then grills them to order—including even the ability to add just the right amount of char while retaining all the juices. The machine, which is capable of producing about 360 hamburgers per hour, also toasts the bun and then slices and adds fresh ingredients like tomatoes, onions, and pickles only after the order is placed. Burgers arrive assembled and ready to serve on a conveyer belt. While most robotics companies take great care to spin a positive tale when it comes to the potential impact on employment, Momentum Machines co-founder Alexandros Vardakostas is very forthright about the company’s objective: “Our device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient,” he said. “It’s meant to completely obviate them.” The company estimates that the average fast food restaurant spends about $135,000 per year on wages for employees who produce hamburgers and that the total labor cost for burger production for the US economy is about $9 billion annually. Momentum Machines believes its device will pay for itself in less than a year, and it plans to target not just restaurants but also convenience stores, food trucks, and perhaps even vending machines. The company argues that eliminating labor costs and reducing the amount of space required in kitchens will allow restaurants to spend more on high-quality ingredients, enabling them to offer gourmet hamburgers at fast food prices.

Those burgers might sound very inviting, but they would come at a considerable cost. Millions of people hold low-wage, often part-time, jobs in the fast food and beverage industries. McDonald’s alone employs about 1.8 million workers in 34,000 restaurants worldwide. Historically, low wages, few benefits, and a high turnover rate have helped to make fast food jobs relatively easy to find, and fast food jobs, together with other low-skill positions in retail, have provided a kind of private sector safety net for workers with few other options: these jobs have traditionally offered an income of last resort when no better alternatives are available. In December 2013, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked “combined food preparation and serving workers,” a category that excludes waiters and waitresses in full-service restaurants, as one of the top employment sectors in terms of the number of job openings projected over the course of the decade leading up to 2022—with nearly half a million new jobs and another million openings to replace workers who leave the industry.

In the wake of the Great Recession, however, the rules that used to apply to fast food employment are changing rapidly. In 2011, McDonald’s launched a high-profile initiative to hire 50,000 new workers in a single day and received over a million applications—a ratio that made landing a McJob more of a statistical long shot than getting accepted at Harvard. While fast food employment was once dominated by young people looking for a part-time income while in school, the industry now employs far more mature workers who rely on the jobs as their primary income. Nearly 90 percent of fast food workers are twenty or older, and the average age is thirty-five. Many of these older workers have to support families—a nearly impossible task at a median wage of just $8.69 per hour.

The industry’s low wages and nearly complete lack of benefits have drawn intensive criticism. In October 2013, McDonald’s was lambasted after an employee who called the company’s financial help line was advised to apply for food stamps and Medicaid. Indeed, an analysis by the Labor Center at the University of California, Berkeley, found that more than half of the families of fast food workers are enrolled in some type of public assistance program and that the resulting cost to US taxpayers is nearly $7 billion per year.

When a spate of protests and ad hoc strikes at fast food restaurants broke out in New York and then spread to more than fifty US cities in the fall of 2013, the Employment Policies Institute, a conservative think tank with close ties to the restaurant and hotel industries, placed a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal warning that “Robots Could Soon Replace Fast Food Workers Demanding a Higher Minimum Wage.” While the ad was doubtless intended as a scare tactic, the reality is that—as the Momentum Machines device demonstrates—increased automation in the fast food industry is almost certainly inevitable. Given that companies like Foxconn are introducing robots to perform high-precision electronic assembly in China, there is little reason to believe that machines won’t also eventually be serving up burgers, tacos, and lattes across the fast food industry.

Japan’s Kura sushi restaurant chain has already successfully pioneered an automation strategy. In the chain’s 262 restaurants, robots help make the sushi while conveyor belts replace waiters. To ensure freshness, the system keeps track of how long individual sushi plates have been circulating and automatically removes those that reach their expiration time. Customers order using touch panel screens, and when they are finished dining they place the empty dishes in a slot near their table. The system automatically tabulates the bill and then cleans the plates and whisks them back to the kitchen. Rather than employing store managers at each location, Kura uses centralized facilities where managers are able to remotely monitor nearly every aspect of restaurant operations. Kura’s automation-based business model allows it to price sushi plates at just 100 yen (about $1), significantly undercutting its competitors.

It’s fairly easy to envision many of the strategies that have worked for Kura, especially automated food production and offsite management, eventually being adopted across the fast food industry. Some significant steps have already been taken in that direction; McDonalds, for example, announced in 2011 that it would install touch screen ordering systems at 7,000 of its European restaurants. Once one of the industry’s major players begins to gain significant advantages from increased automation, the others will have little choice but to follow suit. Automation will also offer the ability to compete on dimensions beyond lower labor costs. Robotic production might be viewed as more hygienic since fewer workers would come into contact with the food. Convenience, speed, and order accuracy would increase, as would the ability to customize orders. Once a customer’s preferences were recorded at one restaurant, automation would make it a simple matter to consistently produce the same results at other locations.

Given all this, I think it is quite easy to imagine that a typical fast food restaurant may eventually be able to cut its workforce by 50 percent, or perhaps even more. At least in the United States, the fast food market is already so saturated that it seems very unlikely that new restaurants could make up for such a dramatic reduction in the number of workers required at each location. And this, of course, would mean that a great many of the job openings forecast by the Bureau of Labor Statistics might never materialize.

The other major concentration of low-wage service jobs is in the general retail sector. Economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics rank “retail salesperson” second only to “registered nurse” as the specific occupation that will add the most jobs in the decade ending in 2020 and expect over 700,000 new jobs to be created. Once again, however, technology has the potential to make the government projections seem optimistic. We can probably anticipate that three major forces will shape employment in the retail sector going forward.

The first will be the continuing disruption of the industry by online retailers like Amazon, eBay, and Netflix. The competitive advantage that online suppliers have over brick and mortar stores is already, of course, evident with the demise of major retail chains like Circuit City, Borders, and Blockbuster. Both Amazon and eBay are experimenting with same-day delivery in a number of US cities, with the objective of undermining one of the last major advantages that local retail stores still enjoy: the ability to provide immediate gratification after a purchase.

In theory, the encroachment of online retailers should not necessarily destroy jobs but, rather, would transition them from traditional retail settings to the warehouses and distribution centers used by the online companies. However, the reality is that once jobs move to a warehouse they become far easier to automate. Amazon purchased Kiva Systems, a warehouse robotics company in 2012. Kiva’s robots, which look a bit like huge, roving hockey pucks, are designed to move materials within warehouses. Rather than having workers roam the aisles selecting items, a Kiva robot simply zips under an entire pallet or shelving unit, lifts it, and then brings it directly to the worker packing an order. The robots navigate autonomously using a grid laid out by barcodes attached to the floor and are used to automate warehouse operations at a variety of major retailers in addition to Amazon, including Toys “R” Us, the Gap, Walgreens, and Staples.

A year after the acquisition, Amazon had about 1,400 Kiva robots in operation but had only begun the process of integrating the machines into its massive warehouses. One Wall Street analyst estimates that the robots will ultimately allow the company to cut its order fulfillment costs by as much as 40 percent.

The Kroger Company, one of the largest grocery retailers in the United States, has also introduced highly automated distribution centers. Kroger’s system is capable of receiving pallets containing large supplies of a single product from vendors and then disassembling them and creating new pallets containing a variety of different products that are ready to ship to stores. It is also able to organize the way that products are stacked on the mixed pallets in order to optimize the stocking of shelves once they arrive at stores. The automated warehouses completely eliminate the need for human intervention, except for loading and unloading the pallets onto trucks. The obvious impact that these automated systems have on jobs has not been lost on organized labor, and the Teamsters Union has repeatedly clashed with Kroger, as well as other grocery retailers, over their introduction. Both the Kiva robots and Kroger’s automated system do leave some jobs for people, and these are primarily in areas, such as packing a mixture of items for final shipment to customers, that require visual recognition and dexterity. Of course, these are the very areas in which innovations like Industrial Perception’s box-moving robots are rapidly advancing the technical frontier.

The second transformative force is likely to be the explosive growth of the fully automated self-service retail sector—or, in other words, intelligent vending machines and kiosks. One study projects that the value of products and services vended in this market will grow from about $740 billion in 2010 to more than $1.1 trillion by 2015.Vending machines have progressed far beyond dispensing sodas, snacks, and lousy instant coffee, and sophisticated machines that sell consumer electronics products like Apple’s iPod and iPad are now common in airports and upscale hotels. AVT, Inc., one of the leading manufacturers of automated retail machines, claims that it can design a custom self-service solution for virtually any product. Vending machines make it possible to dramatically reduce three of the most significant costs incurred in the retail business: real estate, labor, and theft by customers and employees. In addition to providing 24-hour service, many of the machines include video screens and are able to offer targeted point-of-sale advertising that’s geared toward enticing customers to purchase related products in much the same way that a human sales clerk might do. They can also collect customer email addresses and send receipts. In essence, the machines offer many of the advantages of online ordering, with the added benefit of instant delivery.

While the proliferation of vending machines and kiosks is certain to eliminate traditional retail sales jobs, these machines will also, of course, create jobs in areas like maintenance, restocking, and repair. The number of those new jobs, however, is likely to be more limited than you might expect. The latest-generation machines are directly connected to the Internet and provide a continuous stream of sales and diagnostic data; they are also specifically designed to minimize the labor costs associated with their operation.

In 2010, David Dunning was the regional operations supervisor responsible for overseeing the maintenance and restocking of Redbox movie rental kiosks in the Chicago area. Redbox has over 42,000 kiosks in the United States and Canada, typically located at convenience stores and supermarkets, and rents about 2 million videos per day. Dunning managed the Chicago-area kiosks with a staff of just seven. Restocking the machines is highly automated; in fact, the most labor-intensive aspect of the job is swapping the translucent movie advertisements displayed on the kiosk—a process that typically takes less than two minutes for each machine. Dunning and his staff divide their time between the warehouse, where new movies arrive, and their cars and homes, where they are able to access and manage the machines via the Internet. The kiosks are designed from the ground up for remote maintenance. For example, if a machine jams it will report this immediately, and a technician can log in with his or her laptop computer, jiggle the mechanism, and fix the problem without the need to visit the site. New movies are typically released on Tuesdays, but the machines can be restocked at any time prior to that; the kiosk will automatically make the movies available for rental at the right time. That allows technicians to schedule restocking visits to avoid traffic.

While the jobs that Dunning and his staff have are certainly interesting and desirable, in number they are a fraction of what a traditional retail chain would create. The now-defunct Blockbuster, for example, once had dozens of stores in greater Chicago, each employing its own sales staff. At its peak, Blockbuster had a total of about 9,000 stores and 60,000 employees. That works out to about seven jobs per store—roughly the same number that Redbox employed in the entire region serviced by Dunning’s team.

The third major force likely to disrupt employment in the retail sector will be the introduction of increased automation and robotics into stores as brick and mortar retailers strive to remain competitive. The same innovations that are enabling manufacturing robots to advance the frontier in areas like physical dexterity and visual recognition will eventually allow retail automation to begin moving from warehouses into more challenging and varied environments like stocking shelves in stores. In fact, as far back as 2005, Walmart was already investigating the possibility of using robots that rove store aisles at night and automatically scan barcodes in order to track product inventories.

At the same time, self-service checkout aisles and in-store information kiosks are sure to become easier to use, as well as more common. Mobile devices will also become an ever more important self-service tool. Future shoppers will rely more and more on their phones as a way to shop, pay, and get help and information about products while in traditional retail settings. The mobile disruption of retail is already under way. Walmart, for example, is testing an experimental program that allows shoppers to scan barcodes and then checkout and pay with their phones—completely avoiding long checkout lines. Silvercar, a start-up rental car company, offers the capability to reserve and pick up a car without ever having to interact with a rental clerk; the customer simply scans a barcode to unlock the car and then drives away. As natural language technology like Apple’s Siri or even more powerful systems like IBM’s Watson continue to advance and become more affordable, it’s easy to imagine shoppers soon being able to ask their mobile devices for assistance in much the same way they might ask a store employee. The difference, of course, is that the customer will never have to wait for or hunt down the employee; the virtual assistant will always be instantly available and will rarely, if ever, give an inaccurate answer.

While many retailers may choose to bring automation into traditional retail configurations, others may instead elect to entirely redesign stores—perhaps, in essence, turning them into scaled-up vending machines. Stores of this type might consist of an automated warehouse with an attached showroom where customers could examine product samples and place orders. Orders might then be delivered directly to customers, or perhaps even loaded robotically into vehicles. Regardless of the specific technological path ultimately followed by the retail industry, it’s difficult to imagine that the eventual result won’t be more robots and machines—and significantly fewer jobs for people.

Excerpted from “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future” by Martin Ford. Published by Basic Books, a division of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2015 by Martin Ford. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Martin Ford, the founder of a Silicon Valley–based software development firm, has over twenty-five years of experience in computer design and software development. The author of The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology, and the Economy of the Future, he lives in Sunnyvale, California. Follow him on Twitter at @MFordFuture

New York Times
Book Reveiw

Rise of the Robots’ and ‘Shadow Work

By BARBARA EHRENREICH
MAY 11, 2015
In the late 20th century, while the blue-collar working class gave way to the forces of globalization and automation, the educated elite looked on with benign condescension. Too bad for those people whose jobs were mindless enough to be taken over by third world teenagers or, more humiliatingly, machines. The solution, pretty much agreed upon across the political spectrum, was education. Americans had to become intellectually nimble enough to keep ahead of the job-destroying trends unleashed by technology, both robotization and the telecommunication systems that make outsourcing possible. Anyone who wanted a spot in the middle class would have to possess a college degree — as well as flexibility, creativity and a continually upgraded skill set.
But, as Martin Ford documents in “Rise of the Robots,” the job-eating maw of technology now threatens even the nimblest and most expensively educated. Lawyers, radiologists and software designers, among others, have seen their work evaporate to India or China. Tasks that would seem to require a distinctively human capacity for nuance are increasingly assigned to algorithms, like the ones currently being introduced to grade essays on college exams. Particularly terrifying to me, computer programs can now write clear, publishable articles, and, as Ford reports, Wired magazine quotes an expert’s prediction that within about a decade 90 percent of news articles will be computer-­generated.
It’s impossible to read “Rise of the Robots” — for review anyway — without thinking about how the business of book reviewing could itself be automated and possibly improved by computers. First, the job of “close reading,” now commonly undertaken with Post-its and a felt-tip red pen, will be handed off to a scanner that will instantly note all recurring words, phrases and themes. Next, where a human reviewer racks her brain for social and historical context, the review-bot will send algorithms out into the ether to scan every other book by the author as well as every other book or article on the subject. Finally, all this information will be synthesized with more fairness and erudition than any wet, carbon-based thinking apparatus could muster. Most of this could be achieved today, though, as Ford notes, if you want more creativity and self-­reflexivity from your review-bot, you may have to wait until 2050.
This is both a humbling book and, in the best sense, a humble one. Ford, a software entrepreneur who both understands the technology and has made a thorough study of its economic consequences, never succumbs to the obvious temptation to overdramatize or exaggerate. In fact, he has little to say about one of the most ominous arenas for automation — the military, where not only are pilots being replaced by drones, but robots like the ones that now defuse bombs are being readied for deployment as infantry. Nor does Ford venture much into the spectacular possibilities being opened up by wearable medical devices, which can already monitor just about any kind of biometric data that can be collected in an I.C.U. Human health workers may eventually be cut out of the loop, as tiny devices to sense blood glucose levels, for example, learn how to signal other tiny implanted devices to release insulin.
But “Rise of the Robots” doesn’t need any more examples; the human consequences of robotization are already upon us, and skillfully chronicled here. Although the unemployment rate has fallen to officially acceptable levels, long-term unemployment persists, and underemployment — part-time jobs when full-time jobs are needed, or jobs that do not reflect a worker’s education — is on the rise. College-educated people often flounder for years after graduation, finding temp jobs and permanent roommates. Adults of both sexes are drifting out of the work force in despair. All of this has happened by choice, though not the choice of the average citizen and worker. In the wake of the recession, Ford writes, many companies decided that “ever-advancing information technology” allows them to operate successfully without rehiring the people they had laid off. And there should be no doubt that technology is advancing in the direction of full unemployment. Ford quotes the co-founder of a start-up dedicated to the automation of gourmet hamburger production: “Our device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient. It’s meant to completely obviate them.”
Ford offers little hope that emerging technologies will eventually generate new forms of employment, in the way that blacksmiths yielded to autoworkers in the early 20th century. He predicts that new industries will “rarely, if ever, be highly labor-intensive,” pointing to companies like YouTube and Instagram, which are characterized by “tiny workforces and huge valuations and revenues.” On another front, 3-D printing is poised to make a mockery of manufacturing as we knew it. Truck driving may survive for a while — at least until self-driving vehicles start rolling out of Detroit or, perhaps, San Jose.
The disappearance of jobs has not ushered in a new age of leisure, as social theorists predicted uneasily in the 1950s. Would the masses utilize their freedom from labor in productive ways, such as civic participation and the arts, or would they die of boredom in their ranch houses? Somehow, it was usually assumed, they would still manage to eat.
Come to find out, there’s still plenty of work to do, even if no one is willing to pay for it. This is the “shadow work” that Craig Lambert appealingly brings to light in his new book on “the unpaid, unseen jobs that fill your day.” We take it for granted that we’ll have to pump our own gas and bus our own dishes at Panera Bread. Booking travel reservations is now a D.I.Y. task; the travel agents have disappeared. As corporations cut their workforces, managers have to take on the work of support staff (remember secretaries?), and customers can expect to spend many hours of their lives working their way through menus and recorded advertisements in search of “customer service.” At the same time, our underfunded and understaffed schools seem to demand ever more parental participation. Ambitious parents are often expected not only to drive their children to and from school, but to spend hours carrying out science projects and poring over fifth-grade math — although, as Lambert points out, parental involvement in homework has not been shown to improve children’s grades or test scores.
“Shadow Work” is generally a smooth ride, but there are bumps along the way. The definition of the subject sometimes seems to embrace every kind of unpaid work — from the exploitative, as in the use of unpaid interns, to the kind that is freely undertaken, like caring for one’s own family. At times the book gets weighed down by an unwarranted nostalgia for the old days, when most transactions involved human interactions. For example, Lambert grants that home pregnancy tests offer women “more privacy and more control,” while also lamenting — as no woman ever has — that they cut out the doctor and thus transform “what can be a memorable shared event into a solitary encounter with a plastic stick.”
Lambert, formerly an editor at Harvard Magazine, is on firmer ground when he explores all the ways corporations and new technologies fiendishly generate new tasks for us — each of them seemingly insignificant but amounting to many hours of annoyance. Examples include deleting spam from our inboxes, installing software upgrades, creating passwords for every website we seek to enter, and periodically updating those passwords. If nothing else, he gives new meaning to the word “distraction” as an explanation for civic inaction. As the seas rise and the air condenses into toxic smog, many of us will be bent over our laptops, filling out forms and attempting to wade through the “terms and conditions.”
Lambert falls short of calling for the shadow workers of the world to go out on strike. But that’s what it might take to give us the time and the mental bandwidth to confront the dystopian possibilities being unleashed by technology. If middle-class jobs keep disappearing as wealth piles up at the top, Martin Ford predicts, economic mobility will “become nonexistent”: “The plutocracy would shut itself away in gated communities or in elite cities, perhaps guarded by autonomous military robots and drones.” We have seen this movie; in fact, in one form or another — from “Elysium” to “The Hunger Games” — we’ve been seeing it again and again.
In “Rise of the Robots,” Ford argues that a society based on luxury consumption by a tiny elite is not economically viable. More to the point, it is not biologically viable. Humans, unlike robots, need food, health care and the sense of usefulness often supplied by jobs or other forms of work. His solution is blindingly obvious: As both conservatives and liberals have proposed over the years, we need to institute a guaranteed annual minimum income, which he suggests should be set at $10,000 a year. This is probably not enough, and of course no amount of money can compensate for the loss of meaningful engagement. But as a first step toward a solution, Ford’s may be the best that the feeble human mind can come up with at the moment.

RISE OF THE ROBOTS
Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future
By Martin Ford
334 pp. Basic Books. $28.99.
SHADOW WORK
The Unpaid, Unseen Jobs That Fill Your Day
By Craig Lambert
277 pp. Counterpoint. $26.
Correction: May 12, 2015
An earlier version of the biographical note with this review omitted part of the name of the journalistic initiative of which the reviewer is the founding editor. It is the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, not the Economic Hardship Project.
Barbara Ehrenreich, the founding editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, is the author of “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.

 

The Atlantic Magazine
May 12th, 2015

The Store Where Robots Sell Robots

A place where the employees and the merchandise are machines

Arika Bunfill has heard it all.

“Are you real?”

“Will you clean my house too?”

“Will you go out with me?”

It’s hard out there for a robot.

Bunfill works at the Beam store in downtown Palo Alto, California. Scratch that. Bunfill works from her comfortable home in Vacaville, about 90 miles away. But her presence, via Beam, a teleconference robot that looks like the offspring of a computer and a Segway, roams the floor at what Beam reps say is the world’s first and only unmanned store. That’s right, no human beings work at the store—it’s operated 100-percent remotely by folks like Bunfill.

“Hello ladies,” Bunfill says cheerfully to two women walking by the brightly lit shop. They are momentarily stunned by her greeting from a flat panel face, but then walk away, glancing back once. Bunfill is undeterred. She maintains herbonhomie, swivels her wheeled robotic base, and begins to chat up Vish Sastry and Kaval Ali, a young couple on their first date. Ali, a trademark paralegal, is unfazed that she’s carrying on a conversation with a machine. “This is so Silicon Valley,” she said with a dismissive wave.

Tom Wyatt is the store manager but he only stops by about once a week—mostly because he’s a big fan of Cream, the trendy ice-cream shop across the street. Wyatt and a robot, controlled remotely by Michelle Posey, will head over there together. The sight of a man and robot getting banana walnut fudge together is a stunt that draws lots of attention—exactly what Wyatt wants. “Once you see the Beam in real time, it’s easy to understand the value,” Wyatt said.
Inline image 2
“The live environment is really effective,” said Erin Rapacki, Beam’s director of marketing. Effective means sales. The robots, after all, are trying to sell themselves. Posey, 29, joined the 30-person team in December and works four-hour shifts, five or six days a week. At the start of her shift, she simply logs into the system from her home in Monterey. From there, Posey can open and close the front doors of the retail space, adjust lighting and temperature, pilot the Beam around the store, answer questions about the product, and wow curious kids by dispensing brightly colored skittles from a tricked-out candy canister. With a few exceptions, adjusting to an unmanned space was seamless. Wyatt clumsily strapped a leaf blower on a Beam’s base, and when trash clutters up the polka-dotted carpet entrance, one of the pilots will assume cleanup duty and whirl the Beam around the store.

For Posey, pivoting from her job as a blow-dry bar manager was a welcome change. “I used to spend four hours a day commuting in my car to my job,” said Posey. “This allows me to have a life because I work from home and it’s really interesting.”

Standing at five feet two inches, the screen is set on two long legs that jut out of a wheeled base. The Beam slides around as if it were on ice skates. There’s nifty parking assist function that guides the Beam into its charging dock, speed control, and a “party mode” setting that silences the back-facing microphones and reduces the ambient noise—perfect, said Rapacki, for networking receptions and factory visits where loud machinery might interfere with a one-on-one conversation. Shoppers can visit the store to take one of two versions, the Pro or the Plus, for a spin. The Plus is a smaller and less expensive version designed for personal use—just two hours of battery life—while the Pro has eight hours of battery life and is designed for conversations up to 20 feet away. Managers at companies like Power Bright have Beam robots stationed at plants in China.Beam says it has one customer, a graduate student at the University of Maryland who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, who is able to attend classes remotely and even walk the halls with classmates using Beam.

The robot moves at about two miles per hour, which matches the walking pace of an average human. “The interactive piece is what separates us from traditional video tele-conferencing,” said Posey. “Non-verbal cues, like where we stand for instance, are easy to pick up.”

Meanwhile, back at the Beam store, Ben Day, a pilot who works from his home in Danville, California, is educating a couple and hoping to close a deal. Since the store opened, there have been quite a few sales of the smaller Beam Plus version—Wyatt wouldn’t say how many—but it’s enough to warrant a second store in San Francisco. Bunfill, Posey, Day, and the others bounce between locations when backup is needed but mostly work one shift at one location. Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest.

“We get a lively crowd,” said Day, 26. Day sits in front of a backdrop that looks a bit like grammar school picture-day. He’s friendly and laughs a lot when interacting with customers, particularly when he parks the Beam outside on University Avenue, an artery where Stanford University students mix with families and hipsters.“The Beam frees people up to say things they might not say in person,” said Day who, like Bunfill, fields inane questions and requests for dates adding, “it’s changed the way I talk to people too … I’m more outgoing and courageous.”

And there are other perks. Posey beamed into a party at a New York museum and even twirled around the dance floor. “I’ve never been to New York but I feel like I have,” she said.

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: Know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” —- Neil De Grasse Tyson

Time to Go Beyond Petitioning Pharaoh

[My good friend and comrade, Adam Gottlieb, asked me to be part of a unique celebration at the end of Passover this year. He called it, in a scriptural reference, “Love the Stranger.” The celebration, on April 13, 2015, was an artistic performance that reflected on slavery and its modern consequences, and he asked me to reflect on capitalism and slavery. I began by asking people to help me sing the lyrics of “Let My People Go,” a song that I identify with the rich bass voice of Paul Robeson. This was more or less what I said.]

When Israel was in Egypt’s land: Let my people go,
Oppress’d so hard they could not stand, Let my People go.
Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt’s land,
Tell old Pharaoh,
Let my people go.

In 1861, three slaves escaped from a work detail building defense batteries for the confederate army, and presented themselves at Fort Monroe in Virginia. When Confederate Major John Cary demanded their return, General Ben Butler refused, on the basis that since Virginia, after secession, was now a foreign territory, the Fugitive Slave Law no longer applied. The U.S. Secretary of the Navy, in September of 1861, referred to the slaves as “persons of color, commonly known as contrabands,” and directed that they be paid for their work for the Navy; three weeks later the Army followed suit. In August of 1861, the U.S. government passed the confiscation act, which forbade returning all contraband, including slaves, to the Confederacy. The numbers of escaped slaves increased as this policy became known, and the earliest recorded use of the song was as a rallying cry among the contrabands somewhere before July 1862. It appears to have been sung by Virginia slaves as early as 1853.
I want to take you back to a period a couple of thousand years before 1853, though, to the area from what became fort Monroe to the area that became St. Louis and Chicago and ask you to consider what that area looked like, what was the dominant form

The wall around the Great Circle at Newark, Ohio, was built by digging a trench on both sides of the wall and massing the dirt thus excavated.

The wall around the Great Circle at Newark, Ohio, was built by digging a trench on both sides of the wall and massing the dirt thus excavated.

of getting your means of survival? What were means of production and survival in those days? I want to challenge you to think of a time before private property, when for the most part people lived in small groups, relied little on cultivation, and “owned” everything in common. When survival was at the mercy of the seasons and nature, where cooperation was essential for survival, where in good years/seasons the means of survival was abundant, where in times of scarcity, survival hung on a slender thread. This is the vast majority of human “prehistory,” in the sense that we have no written records of this, what we commonly call history.
Fast forward to about 500 in what we call the “Common Era.” The largest group of people living together in North America (that we know about) lived in Southern Illinois, in a center we call Cahokia; about 20,000 to 30,000 people we think lived there. And in another 1,000 years, by the time the first European settlers came along the Mississippi in that area, no people lived there. What happened to them? There is no evidence of plague or disease wiping them out. There is no evidence of them having been conquered. What happened?
There are many forms of private property in history. Still, we’ve lived most of our history, tens of thousands of years, in a cooperative or communist form of social organization. Because in North America early communist society persisted so long, some of what happened in Europe, for example, never happened here. Private property began in North America somewhere between 2,000 and 1,000 years ago. Private property begins with the accumulation of means of survival and means of production in some form of agriculture (including the domestication of animals). Slavery is a system of the ownership of private property. It becomes the dominant form of the ownership of private property as agriculture is able to produce enough to (barely) feed the slaves and a surplus product for (the lavish benefit of) the slave owner and his family and household. If you have a choice between being a member of a society that gives you what you need without being owned by someone, under what circumstances would you become a slave? Coercion? What would make such a society attractive?

Map of Fort Ancient

Map of Fort Ancient

I like to think (or fantasize) that in Cahokia, as the town grew larger and possibilities for accumulation grew, the people of Cahokia rejected the direction toward private property and dispersed. Probably they still had oral traditions of their past, even in some cases actual memories. We know that when Europeans did arrive in the Ohio and Illinois River valleys, they found evidence of the past in large effigy and burial mounds throughout the area we now call the Midwest and Southeast. As settling agriculturalists from Europe took and plowed the land, they probably destroyed most of the evidence of the existence of a diverse people we call “Mound Builders” now. However there are still extensive formations, such as the ones at Newark, at Fort Ancient, and at the Great Snake Mound, all in Ohio. And alongside these areas cultures developed that knew warfare, cultivated maize, and were in some transitional phase perhaps toward what we are describing as slavery.
But the Europeans, and particularly the English, brought to these areas a new form of private property, one that was just emerging. The development of trade was fundamental to this new form. Certainly some form of exchange has existed ever since private property existed. But trading societies were rare in antiquity. They were also subject to the dominance of slavery (e.g. Rome and Greece as prime examples) where warfare reduced conquered peoples to the status of slaves on agricultural plantations; or colonies required to purchase the goods produced in the trading society. In Europe that changed as first the dominant form of property ownership changed from people to land, that demanded that the person who worked the land have some stake in producing the product. And then, as the land produced increasing wealth, beyond what would be consumed in Europe; and as means for calculating the wealth changed; and as the means for exchanging the wealth improved with the extraction of precious metals from, and genocide of the peoples of, the Americas; so capitalism began to emerge.
Sometimes we tend to look around us and dismiss capitalism as super-consumption; empire; selling a product for more than you pay for it. Some of all of that is true, of course. But fundamentally, what capitalism does is it reduces everything to the level of a commodity, something made for sale, made for exchange rather than for the use of the maker.
In the case of slavery, where control of the human being is the form of private property that dominates, there is no exchange. The slave owner dispenses the product that the owner owns as he sees fit. There is no exchange between members of the slave owners’ family or between master and slave. Capitalism, however, grafted something new on the body of classical slavery. The French with sugar (Haiti for example) and the British with cotton (in the South of the U.S.) used the old form of slavery to build a world economic system of commodity production. This was capitalist slavery.
In the case of commodity production, the producer is ostensibly free to sell the only commodity he or she owns: the ability to work. Yes it is true that there are other commodities out in the world that the worker purchases. But once that commodity is purchased, it suffices as a substance of use for the buyer. It’s easiest to see this in terms of food, clothing, shelter for example. Capitalism is an economic system in which the worker is personally free; without work, he or she is also free to starve. Capitalists have no obligation to an unemployed worker as the Lord might have had toward the peasant on his land, or for that matter the classical slave owner. It is in this sense that we call capitalism, for the working class, wage-slavery. The worker has no place to turn except to the capitalist for obtaining the means of subsistence which the working class has produced. The capitalist then purchases the commodity that worker has to offer, but finds in that worker’s commodity something that no other commodity has: the ability to produce more means of subsistence than he or she needs to survive.
Slavery is a contract that says: you are mine, you owe me everything you produce. In return for producing for me, I the owner will keep you alive. I own whatever surplus product you make. Only force could compel this kind of contract.
Feudalism is a contract that says: the land is mine. I will let you have a parcel of land to work for yourself on a given number of days during the year. I will protect you from marauders. The rest of the time you must work for me on a different plot of land. I own everything you produce on that plot. Clearly the peasant has more incentive here: it is a system where it is clear what is mine and what is yours, without artifice. But as the peasant plots were reduced in size, the time allotted to cultivating them was decreased, and the forced servitude in the Lord’s armies increased, even this incentive vanished and force became primary.
In capitalism the contract says: I buy your commodity and set it to work in my means of production (factory, school, office, etc). Because I now own your commodity, I can work it as long as the contract says I can (to the limit of 24 hours per day – and that has been the case). Whatever you produce in that time is mine. With the wage that I pay you, you get to buy back from me and my class what you need to survive (food, clothing, shelter). But I get to accumulate the surplus product as mine, and to transform it into money. Not only that; I get to improve your productivity – that is your ability to produce more in the same amount of time for less cost. Thereby I get to make even more money.
A new quality has entered the realm of capitalism. Up until the last 30 years or so, the inevitable demise of capitalism, predicted 150 years ago because of increases of productivity, has been delayed. The main reason for this has been as the intensity of production (and productivity) exceeded the boundaries of each national market, capitalism had somewhere else to expand (meaning make war on, conquer, make part of an empire and export capital to in order to exploit). The intensity of exploitation was matched by extensivity. As capitalism has exported its commodity production from Boston to Bangladesh, from Iowa to India, from California to Chile, it has also streamlined production to eliminate or reduce its purchase of the commodity of the

Getting Back on Track: Service Robots 2010

Transforming what we know as productivity: Service Robots 2010

ability to work. Automation, in the era of electronics, has fundamentally transformed what we know as productivity. So the workers of India are competing against fully automated factories elsewhere (and the workers in the U.S. cannot find jobs at all).
What do we call it then, when workers are totally ejected from the relationship between employer and employed, when wage-slavery is not even an option? What do we call it when a totally surplus population is no longer needed by the owning class? When public housing is torn down, schools are closed, mental health facilities destroyed, water is privatized, school districts get military grade weapons to patrol the corridors, and police departments are equipped with military armored vehicles?
We are faced with a situation similar to many other transformations in society – yet totally new. It is a transformation in which the old form of ownership is attempting to protect its control of private property. But the impulse to transform society is not to another form of private property but to abolish private property entirely, to return it to common ownership. And the impulse is two fold. First and foremost, the impulse is the survival of the species. Secondly, within that, the survival of those cast out by capitalism can only be reached by the transformation to a society that provides for all.
Capitalism globally is moving to find ways to protect private property, which lead to increased use of force and violence. More and more the state merges with corporations and nationalization takes place in the interest of the corporations. We’re talking about fascism.
The people are increasingly and globally finding it necessary to challenge a system which can only destroy them. And that is the challenge of our time, the meaning of “Go Down Moses” today.
We are living in a time of abundance AND slavery, when the choices open to us are narrowing by the minute. Here is the bleak landscape capitalism offers us .Either we exist in a vortex of ever more impoverishing wage-slavery, or we are reduced to actual chattel-slavery or death. .
BUT we have an opening we have NEVER had before. We can choose abundance for all. We really have no option but to develop the revolutionary networks that go beyond petitioning pharaoh to “let our people go.” That is the task that the League of Revolutionaries for a New America has set itself. Please talk to me if you want to know more about the LRNA.

Eduardo Galeano: Because of You, We Will Remember

galeanodouble-webEduardo Galeano sat at my dining room table in my Chicago apartment on Lill Street one block away from Guild Books, pen poised and a stack of books to be signed at his side. Breakfast consumed, he had reluctantly agreed to sign some books in advance of his appearance at the bookstore later that Saturday, 1988.   He was anxious, it seemed, and we had been warned that his health was mending after some heart issues. We didn’t press him to sign books, but were delighted when he agreed with our suggestion that some folks might just want to purchase a signed copy without talking with him. After a walk in the neighborhood he arrived at the bookstore. He began to read.

The crowd hung on his words, as he read in English but also in Spanish, and then answered questions, altogether about an hour and a half, and then began signing books, as the line snaked throughout the store. He talked with each person as much as the person wanted; he took pictures with the customers and their children. I stood at his side doing the task that all booksellers do in this situation: open the books to the pages preferred for the signature. And about 45 minutes into the signing ritual Eduardo turned to me with a broad but incredulous smile: “They like me. They really like me!”

Before he left, Eduardo toured the 3,000 square feet of the book store and spent some time looking at the political and labor posters we had for sale, on display in a rack. He fingered the display, took some notes, and left. The next morning friends of ours recorded an interview with him on video and took him in search of Haymarket Square, a search that proved unsuccessful.

Some years later he returned for a reading of the Book of Embraces. In a section entitled “Forgetting,” about Haymarket and about Guild, he wrote:

Bk of EmbracesAfter my fruitless exploration of the Haymarket, my friends take me to the largest bookstore in the city. And there, poking around, just by accident, I discover an old poster that seems to be waiting for me, stuck among many movie and rock posters. The poster displays an African proverb: Until lions have their own historians, histories of the hunt will glorify the hunter.

 

In 1995 Guild Books had been closed for two years, but the Guild Complex hosted Eduardo for his newest book, Walking Words. Diana and I drove him to the reading location, a settlement house in the Wicker Park area, and on the way crossed the Chicago River. Walking Words is a book of myths, some modern, some older, many of water spirits and animals, in a collaborative with Jose Francisco Borges, whose woodcuts illustrate the stories. Diana told Eduardo stories about the Chicago River, whose history included years of being set on fire from the materials polluting the waters, years of being unsafe to drink for the animals that populated the river, years of being attacked by the manufacturers who degraded the water supply and the people who lived on its banks. Eduardo listened, intent, with evident pain in his face. “But wait,” Diana said, “the river had its revenge. Last year the river refused to be contained by the man made barricades, burst through into the tunnel through which the subways run and up into the streets of the city, causing millions and millions of dollars of damage.”

“The earth has memory,” Eduardo said. “That is important. Memory is important. I want to know more about memory.”

A decade had passed between the time I first tried to get Eduardo Galeano to come to my bookstore and the publication party for Walking Words. By the time Book of Embraces was published, Susan Bergholz (Eduardo’s agent) had negotiated a contract with a different publisher, W.W. Norton, whose list more adequately represented the independent ideas expressed by Galeano. How could Eduardo possibly remain with Random House, the publisher who had fired Pantheon’s manager, Andres Schiffrin? Which had been taken over by European conglomerate Bertelsmann? Whose corporate leadership reveled in the literary (meaning sales) qualities of Danielle Steele?

Not knowing at all. Forgetting. And recovering memory.

We know now where the Haymarket was, where the rally was for which the Haymarket martyrs were arrested and imprisoned and executed. In 2006 Henry Holt published Eduardo’s Voices of Time, continuing the epigrammatic form he has worked with, this time “stories that I lived or heard.”   At the Guild Complex we convinced Susan Bergholz to take Eduardo’s strenuous tour through Chicago once more. He read for us at the Museum of Contemporary Art to a packed audience. For many, this was the culmination of what Guild Books had been about. For us, it was an opportunity of bringing memory, forgetting, and not knowing at all together, these themes that strike at the heart of Galeano’s work and of the revolutionary process.

May Day, 2006, just weeks earlier, I walked among almost a million Chicagoans along a route from Union Park to Randolph into the Loop and Grant Park. The steel, concrete and glass canyons resounded with the chants of marchers, many of them recent immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. “El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido” reverberated from the walls of those buildings, the marchers swelling into the streets in a mass farther than anyone could see.

But before coming to the loop, just a few blocks out of Union Park, we came to Randolph and Des Plaines. I stepped to the sidewalk, stood in the shadow of the corner building and looked north as the throng walked by me. The contingent from one union, also looking north, paused briefly and saluted the sculpture across the way – a recreation of the platform from which the speakers addressed their audience that May, 1886.

To bring this reality of American consciousness to the reading that Eduardo was going to do, we made sure that some of those union leaders representing the marchers introduce Eduardo. And so they did, and we had the chance to talk about the sculpture, the march, and that although many marchers did not know where Haymarket square was, and we noted the fact that their march reclaimed not only the memory of the martyrs but the reality of the struggle which continues.

My life after Guild Books led me to become an assistant manager in Barnes & Noble. This essay closes with a morning meeting, the kind of meeting that corporations think is necessary to get everyone on board for the day’s sales. This day was May Day. So I took the opportunity to dig out The Book Of Embraces to read to the opening staff the words about this historic day. Most listened in respectful silence, Open Veinsone or two said they knew about this, I noticed a sneer and some uncomfortable whispering. But when the meeting was over, one of the receivers (the department responsible for unpacking books and getting them ready for shelving) came over to me. He was a Scottish immigrant going to school while working. His expression was intent, excited. “You mean the workers holiday,” he said, “international workers day started here, in Chicago? I did na’ know that. That’s amazing!”

I want to be clear about this: while this piece is about Eduardo Galeano; and while it is about what kind of bookstore Guild Books was; and of course about my relationship to both; fundamentally it is about literature and revolution. It is about history and lions and how, by recovering memory, of making known what is unknown, the lions begin to write their own history.

On this day, April 13, 2015 we learned that Don Eduardo Galeano has died. Eduardo, we will remember. Because of you, we will remember.

 

 

Automation and Robotics News – April-Sept. 2014 published by Tony Zaragoza

Automation and Robotics News – April-Sept. 2014
Check the website http://blogs.evergreen.edu/arnews/ for the archive of ARNEWS
June 1, 2014

China becomes largest buyer of industrial robots

…Fanuc and Germany’s Kuka, have been pouring resources into the Chinese market to capitalise on the country’s rapid

Farm labor still being done by workers . . .

Farm labor still being done by workers . . .

automation. In 2011, Foxconn, the Shenzhen-based assembler for Apple, vowed to build a “million robot army” over three years…By Tanya Powley in London

June 1, 2014

South Korean robots lead the world

How many will be replaced by the Deere driverless tractor?

How many will be replaced by the Deere driverless tractor?

…says Hur Yeon-ho, head of factory automation for LG Display. “There’s no way that…and 273 respectively. The increasing automation of South Korean factories – as well…strong labour unions, the level of automation in the South Korean plants appears much…By Simon Mundy in Paju, South Kor

Robotics Company Prepares to Take Responsibility For Displaced Workers

Momentum Machines aims to eliminate the burger boy—and retrain him to be an engineer

Five Myths and Facts About Robotics Technology Today

An investor discusses five pressing issues about the future of robots
08/21/14 — You’re probably getting tired of hearing that robots will take your jobs (and, ugh, ours) in the future over and over again. But, here’s the deal: perhaps it’s necessary keep repeating it so it sinks in, because there’s a huge chance that it’ll actually happen. The video below explains how…
POSTED: 07/28/2014
Fueled by strong demand from manufacturing companies in all sectors, the North American robotics industry is off to its fastest
04/10/14 — The Boeing Co. plans to deploy robotic assembly technology on the 777X that will dramatically change the way the plane’s metal hull is built, documents submitted to the city of Everett indicate. The automation technology, replacing a crane and a giant cylindrical fixture now used to turn the half-built fuselage…
08/28/14 — Robots will soon be teaching basic math and other subjects at a private school in Abu Dhabi. Merryland International School in Mussafah has launched what it claims is the first robotic lab in a UAE school, with more than 30 cutting edge robots including humanoids with built-in intelligence. Humanoid AISOY…
08/06/14 — The robots are coming, even for the boss’s job. Up until now, robots and other smart machines have been used to replace blue-collar workers. But a new study by The Pew Research Center and Elon University, released Wednesday, says that while artificial intelligence will continue to replace jobs in factories…

WeChat dives into wearables to start ‘connecting everything’

 By Francis BeaJuly 18, 2014
Several health-and-fitness trackers have gone on sale in China, revealing that messaging-app maker’s efforts to become a software platform for wearables and eventually “everything.”
09/25/14 — Cutting Dynamics, one of the leading manufacturers of sub-assemblies and components for the aerospace industry, has installed Rethink Robotics’ Baxter robot as a critical part of its thermal deburring line in its Avon, Ohio plant.The company, widely recognized for its innovation in laser-cutting hydro-forming and thermoplastics fabrication has now joined…
09/04/14 — Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics mean that machines will soon be able to do many of the tasks of today’s workers. And not just blue collar jobs in areas such as manufacturing, but even in such white collar occupations as lawyers, doctors and – gulp – journalists.A new viral…
09/11/14 — America’s top business leaders admit that they would rather hire robots then employ humans.A recent survey of Harvard Business School alumni found that 46 percent would rather have robots perform their company’s labor then hire people to do the same work. Another 49 percent said their business would rather outsource…

Robohub Digest September 2014: Robo-vacuums, regulation, IROS and more

 

Robohub Digest August 2014: Drone deliveries, record robot sales, job fears, butlers and more

 

Robohub Digest July 2014: Social robots, autonomous cars, STEM education and more

 

Robohub Digest June 2014: Robots at the World Cup, machine ethics and more

 

Robohub Digest May 2014

 

Robohub Digest April 2014

 
 

TERROR, MILITARY, POLICING, SURVEILLANCE

America’s dominance in military robotics is starting to crumble

Posted on 05/17/14 by Frank Tobe
Foreign Policy Magazine’s recent examination of “The Looming Robotics Gap” by University of Pennsylvania International Relations Associate Professor Michael C Horowitz, and recent Pentagon insider on national security issues, is an up-to-date review of the world-wide state of military robotics.

Underwater robot for port security

MIT News-Sep 25, 2014
Last week, at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, MIT researchers unveiled an oval-shaped submersible robot, a little smaller than a …

A Military-Grade Drone That Can Be Printed Anywhere

By Jordan Golson Tuesday, September 16
We have 3-D printed keys, guns and shoes—now a research team at the University of Virginia has created a 3D printed UAV drone for the Department of Defense. In the works for three years, the aircraft, no bigger than a remote-controlled plane, can carry a 1.5-pound payload. If it crashes or needs a design tweak […]
09/11/14 — The latest in robotic design is leading to ‘new creatures’ that can move without constraint, withstand harsh temperature changes, ambulate over a variety of surfaces and even ‘limbo’. The newest model has recently been let off the leash.The latest ‘soft’ robot from Professor George M. Whitesides Research Group at Harvard…
04/03/14 — The ability to link human brains to machines, create new life forms and build Star Trek-style disease detectors will be the focus of a new Defense Department office soon. The new office, named the Biological Technology Office, or BTO, will serve as a clearinghouse for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or…
04/04/14 — A military unmanned aerial vehicle crashed outside a Lebanon County school and a hotel this afternoon. Fort Indiantown Gap spokesman Maj. Ed Shank said the UAV was involved in training operations when it experienced an uncontrolled hard landing on Fischer Avenue in Union Township. The drone came down between Lickdale…
06/05/14 — Bloomberg BusinesWeek is reporting that a robot inside Unit 1 of the Fukushima nuclear power plant has discovered the source of water leaks delaying decommissioning work. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) says a robot designed by Hitachi-GE Nuclear energy “for the first time took clear pictures showing water drips from…
06/25/14 — Israel-based Duke Airborne Systems’ Robotic Weapon Station (RWS) – billed as the “first-of-its-kind” concealed weapon system for helicopters – See more at: http://www.popularmechanics.co.za/blogs/hidden-firepower-helicopters/#sthash.aVBB1byF.dpuf Israel-based Duke Airborne Systems has developed a concealed Robotic Weapon System (RWS) for helicopters that allows utility helicopters to fly into hostile territory without an armed escort.…
07/03/14 — G4S, the world’s largest provider of security officers, has a new autonomous robot called Bob that is now patrolling its offices in England. Bob is there to monitor the environment, make suren doors are properly closed and gather other information. Bob is completely autonomous, stands 5 feet 10 inches tall…
07/31/14 — The Israeli Defense Forces have introduced new robot technology to help aid in excavating Hamas’ vast tunnel network and a mobile radar system designed to warn against short-range mortar shelling. Defense News featured the Micro Tactical Ground Robot, developed by Roboteam, a Tel Aviv-based start-up that beat more established U.S.…
08/14/14 — Waterloo-based robotic vehicle manufacturer Clearpath Robotics is the first robotics company to sign on with the Campaign To Stop Killer Robots, “an international coalition of non-governmental organisations working to ban fully autonomous weapons.”The aptly-named Campaign To Stop Killer Robots seeks legislation and regulation that would block people from having access…
08/28/14 — Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), which came up under the public private partner model, has ushered in a new initiative for maintaining airport safety by employing robotics technology.   CIAL is all set to implement a high-end robotic security system with Canadian-built robotic equipment at an estimated Rs 12 crore.…
09/11/14 — Finding and neutralizing landmines is a tedious but very dangerous job, so the Army is planning to turn it over to robots. The service’s Contracting Command at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., has awarded a nearly $23 million contract to Carnegie Robotics for an Autonomous Mine Detection System (AMDS) being developed to…
09/18/14 — Soldiers are used to being weighed down by what they wear, especially when it can add up to 100 pounds or so. But researchers are working on wearable gear that could actually do the opposite, reducing fatigue and the risk of injury when carrying heavy loads. The Defense Advanced Research…
 
 

INDUSTRY AND MANUFACTURING

07/14/14 — Folks eagerly awaiting the availability of the iPhone 6 in Sept. 2014 might not spend much time thinking about who made it and how. But for those of us interested in more than snapping selfies, robots will be making the iPhone 6 a reality. The Fiscal Times reports that “Foxconn parent…

Video: Foxconn, Pegatron Install More Robotic Arms in China Factories

Apple’s suppliers are depending more on robots to assemble gadgets. The Wall Street Journal’s Eva Dou tours a factory and tells Yun-Hee Kim why this is happening.
 
06/12/14 — Researchers at University West in Trollhättan have developed a new robotic welding technique that can reduce the weight of cars, reports Phys.org. And it has to do with incorporating the battery into the vehicle chassis. Here’s how it works, writes Phys.org: Researchers at University West in Trollhättan have now invented…
POSTED: 09/03/2014
KUKA Aerospace is locating its first US facility outside of Michigan in Everett, WA.
POSTED: 09/09/2014
Innovative human-friendly dual arm robot with breakthrough functionality unlocks vast global additional automation potential in industry.

Robots Work Their Way Into Small Factories

New, relatively inexpensive collaborative robots—designed to work alongside people in close settings—are changing how some smaller U.S. manufacturers do their jobs.

French group Renault to increase automation of its Romanian Dacia

Romania-Insider.com-Sep 28, 2014
“If we will continue to increase salaries every year like we have done so far then we will also increase the automation of the plant, which is currently at 10% and …

U.S. Manufacturing: Will It See a Revival?

The Experts weigh in on how new energy realities and technological developments seem to be reshaping this sector.

U.S. Manufacturing Is Rolling on Aged Wheels

Even as economic indicators rise, domestic capital spending has remained anemic by historical standards and the nation’s capital equipment base is getting long in the tooth.
05/01/14 — Most industrial robots are far less friendly than the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, which is safe enough to be a surprisingly popular means of feline transportation. Industrial robots often sit behind metal fences, their mechanical arms a blur of terrific speed and precision; to prevent serious injury to humans (or…

India’s Drug Makers Move Toward Automation

India’s drug makers have blossomed into multibillion-dollar companies and have come under increased scrutiny in the U.S. for manufacturing and testing. As a result, some companies are spending millions to automate.
 
 
AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODOUCTION
 
04/23/14 — Lenders are expecting a rise in demand for robotic milking systems, but urge farmers to look on them as part of a long-term business plan and future herd expansion rather than just replacing a parlour. Dawn Ferris, senior agricultural manager with financiers Lombard, said the company was looking “very positively”…
 
08/14/14 — FANUC Robotics has assisted a snacks manufacturer in increasing its output of packed crisp boxes with the installation of six M-410 robotic palletising systems. Palletising over 5,000 boxes of crisps per hour the robots have been integrated into all of the six packing lines within the company’s factory enabling them…
 

Automation Of Global Agriculture Will Yield Significant Growth

Seeking Alpha (registration)-Sep 26, 2014
Technology and automation have powered efficiencies in the agricultural … in the agricultural sector is enormous with increased automation, and not just in …
 

What you need to know about the robots that feed humanity

Engadget-Sep 22, 2014
But more and more farmers in the country are also turning to agricultural robots, as laborers start dwindling in number and demands for crops and produce …
 

Will agricultural robots arrive in time to keep fruit and vegetable costs down?

77% of all agricultural workers in the U.S. are foreign born and about half of those are undocumented (1). These low-wage workers have helped keep American food prices reasonable – especially for growing, harvesting and processing fruits and vegetables.
 

Data-Driven Food Processing Extends to the Farm

Automation World-Sep 19, 2014
But I bet you didn’t know that automation also is infiltrating food growing counterparts around the world—commercial farms, orchards, hatcheries, and the like.
 
 

SERVICE SECTOR

Coming Soon to the Library: Humanoid Robots

They can recognize faces, speak in 19 languages, even do tai chi. One Connecticut library will be using these toddler-sized robots to teach patrons coding and programming skills.
08/14/14 — I saw the future of work in a San Francisco garage two years ago. Or rather, I was in proximity to the future of work, but happened to be looking the other direction. At the time, I was visiting a space startup building satellites behind a carport. But just behind…
08/21/14 — It’s more teatime than Terminator — a restaurant in China is electrifying customers by using more than a dozen robots to cook and deliver food. Mechanical staff greet customers, deliver dishes to tables and even stir-fry meat and vegetables at the eatery in Kunshan, which opened last week. “My daughter…

Nao Humanoid Robot Learns to Drive Mini BMW Z4

09/11/14 — Aldebaran Robotics’ RobotsLAB, maker and seller of the small humanoid robot, Nao, has built a miniature version of the BMW Z4 for the Nao robot to drive around – and it’s for sale to consumers already.The Nao robot has made a splash in the educational community – it comes with…

Panasonic Robot Bed/Wheelchair Earns Global Safety Certification

04/16/14 — There’s a lot of talk about Japan’s rapidly aging society, and how it is expected to literally place a heavy burden on the island nation’s caregivers. Among the many projected problems is a smaller pool of health care workers amidst a growing tide of elderly who require around-the-clock care. With…

Startup Avidbots Targets Robotic Cleaning of Commercial Areas

05/01/14 — Vacuuming is one of the few markets where robots have proven that they can be consistently commercially successful. There’s a good reason for this: vacuuming is a repetitive, time-intensive task that has to be performed over and over again in environments that are relatively constrained. Despite the success of several…

Robot Valet Parking Cars at German Airport

06/24/14 — Running late for a flight and don’t have time to park your car? If you’re flying out of Dusseldorf airport in Germany, you’re in luck. A robot valet named Ray has started parking cars at the airport and can be booked with a smartphone. The best part? Ray doesn’t even…

Musk Promises 90% Autopilot for Teslas in 2015, Doesn’t Say How

A Tesla may be technically capable of autonomous driving by 2015, but will it be ready for consumers?

New UK Hospital Enlists AGVs to Deliver Meals to Patients

09/04/14 — Southmead Hospital, a new £430million hospital in England, has deployed a fleet of 12 automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) to deliver meals to its 950 patients. The droids, which start work at 10.15 every morning, are capable of opening doors, operating lifts and picking up food without any human assistance. They…

08/14/14 — When Sunnyvale, Calif.-based robotics startup Savioke announced a $2 million seed round of funding in April 2014, the company said it would use the money to develop and build its first autonomous robot for the services industry. However, no further details about the robot were shared. Until now, as The…
09/11/14 — There’s a new bartender set to sail on Royal Caribbean’s next-generation cruise ship – a robotic bartender, to be precise. The Makr Shakr, created by designers at MIT Senseable City Lab, may not indulge stories of your latest break-up or offer philosophical advice as it slides your Moscow Mule across…
10/09/14 — Like a real life “Dalek,” Dr. Who’s robotic nemesis in the British science fiction show, a Texas company’s robot is ready to “exterminate.” Only this robot, “Little Moe,” is trying to exterminate viruses, including perhaps the Ebola virus. “Little Moe” is manufactured by a Texas company called Xenex. The company told CBS News that its disinfection robots are in use in 250 American hospitals, including Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan is being treated and is in critical condition. The company would not confirm whether their robot was being used in that part of the hospital.…
06/26/14 — Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro has been creating humanoid robots for years, and his latest creations might be the most humanlike. The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Japan has added humanoid robots to its staff to show visitors around the science museum in Tokyo. Otonaroid is working…

VertiKUL UAV Explores Practicalities of Delivery Drones

Autonomous landings, cargo management, and range: this drone is trying to do it all

SaviOne: Savioke Unveils Its Delivery Robot

This robot will deliver whatever you need to your hotel room while emitting adorable R2-D2 beeps

“Service Robots – Flexible Helpers in Professional Use”, A Film by EUnited Robotics, June 2014
“Service Robots – Flexible Helpers in Professional Use” is an exhilarating film by EUnited Robotics, that is technologically inspired and a must…

Secret Service urgently seeks sarcasm-detecting software

 By Chris MatyszczykJune 3, 2014
In a work order posted online, the service is looking for software that synthesizes social-media data and weeds out false positives and sarcasm. Oh, and it has to be IE8 compatible.

  City eyes robot mower for dangerous work

Mansfield News Journal-Sep 19, 2014
Theaker and several city employees took turns operating a robot lawnmower that city officials are considering for purchase from Century Equipment, a company …

Google+ Stories thinks it can top your vacation slideshow

 By Seth RosenblattMay 20, 2014
Google+ expands automation with the new Stories and Movies features, which create digital travelogues of your vacation.

Google’s Nest Thermostat talks to your car, washing machine

 By Bridget CareyJune 24, 2014
Nest Labs opens its platform so the smart thermostat and smoke detector can communicate with other appliances and apps. And Intel shows off a walking, talking 3D-printed robot anyone can build and program.

Sense’s Mother hub wants to control your day-to-day

 By Megan WollertonSeptember 29, 2014
Creepy marketing aside, the $299 Mother home automation kit by Sense is a really solid smart home option.

In 2025, our lovers will be robots

Chris MatyszczykAugust 15, 2014
A new Pew Report examines the world in the near future. It’ll be one in which robots aren’t confined to machine-like tasks.

Japanese comedian robot is the other kind of funny

 By Michelle Starr June 16, 2014
Can humour be broken down into a series of programmable commands? The Kobian robot helps researchers find out.
05/01/14 — Robots can capture a child’s imagination like no other tool by creating a fun, physical learning process. With robots, kids learn programming via interactive play by moving a robot in various sequences and using intuitive, visual programming on a computer screen. The children also learn STEM (science, technology, engineering and…

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

09/25/14 — Eugene Izhikevich thinks you shouldn’t have to write code in order to teach robots new tricks. “It should be more like training a dog,” he says.  “Instead of programming, you show it consistent examples of desired behavior.”Izhikevich’s startup, Brain Corporation, based in San Diego, has developed an operating system for…
POSTED: 09/17/2014
Technology is the result of a collaborative effort by the airplane maker and the KUKA Systems Aerospace Group.
 

PACKING, SHIPPING AND TRANSPORTATION

Global Supply Chain News: Automation Emerging as Key Issue in

Supply Chain Digest-Sep 25, 2014
With the International Longshore and Warehouse Union now is working without a contract at West Coast ports for coming up on three months, new insight into …

  Port labor talks turn on effects of automation

The Columbian-Sep 20, 2014
The two sides are discussing how to retrain and preserve jobs for dockworkers as automation reduces the number of positions at one Los Angeles terminal by …
August 6, 2014

Rail industry reviews prospects for automated trains

…It would be the first time that such automation was used on the railways, where trains…the London Underground, where partial automation is in use on the Central, Jubilee and Victoria…Thameslink franchise next month as Govia. Automation would allow more trains to run, and…By Jane Wild

DHL UAS Parcel Delivery Gets First Test

DHL launches first authorized autonomous delivery flights by “parcelcopter” to and from the North Sea island of Juist, 7.5 miles off the coast of Northern Germany.

Self-Driving Cars Face Serious Roadblocks, Experts Say

The technical and safety challenges are tremendous, says panel of researchers

Smart Cars Would Save 420 Million Barrels of Oil Over 10 Years

Giving vehicles in the United States the ability to communicate would save more than lives

Google Wants Option to Test Autonomous Motorcycles and Trucks in California

Google isn’t testing self-driving motorcycles, but is there a reason that it shouldn’t be able to?

Mercedes Shows Off Self-Driving “Future Truck 2025”

Even 11 years from now, though, the company expects human drivers to still be “in the loop”
 
07/24/14 — The use of material-handling robots has increasingly become a solution to raise productivity and manufacturing versatility, while enhancing worker safety as they historically have. Material handling is a natural extension of robotics and an area where the technology has already been predominant for many years, but robots are finding new…
 

A Radical But Possible Plan to Connect African Nations With Cargo Drones

By J.M. Ledgard | Monday September 22, 2014
Let me detail here what I mean by cargo drones and why I think hoisting time-dependent goods into the sky and moving them about with a flying robot is, like the mobile phone before it, a good idea in Africa—and beyond.
 

Military Grade Drone That Can Be Printed Anywhere

By Jordan Golson | Tuesday September 16, 2014
We have 3-D printed keys, guns and shoes—now a research team at the University of Virginia has created a 3D printed UAV drone for the Department of Defense. In the works for three years, the aircraft, no bigger than a remote-controlled plane, can carry a 1.5-pound payload. If it crashes or needs a design tweak […]
 
 

JOB DISPLACEMENT DEBATE

7/03/14 — If you’re worried robots are going to steal your job in the near future and take over the world, you’re not going to like what a few professors recently said at the Financial Times Camp Alphaville event. Professors from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Oxford University and Sussex University agree…
 
08/28/14 — In a recent study from MIT labor economist David Autor, he pointed out that most of us are safe from having our jobs stolen away by robots, due to the fundamental way humans are ‘creative’ and have ‘common sense’. With a job that depends heavily on computer models already, it might…

Finally somebody debunks the Pew Research Center’s “AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs” report

Kudos to Erik Sofge, Boston-based reporter for Popular Science Magazine. His recent story, “Sex Bots, Robo-Maids, and other Sci-Fi Myths of the Coming Robot Economy,” cleverly pokes holes where they’re most needed.
  June 3, 2014

Robot makers warned over fears that automation will ‘steal jobs’

…vice-president of the European Commission, that they must do more to reassure the public over concerns that a new wave of automation could take away their jobs. Launching a €700m round of EU funding for robotics research, which will be supplemented by…By Chris Bryant in Frankfurt
Aug 16, 2014 Engineer no.1 Aug 18th 2014 4:50 GMT. How can you not include automation as one of the primary causes of structural unemployment?
Mar 8th 2011, 5:46 from Democracy in America
Union power will not suffice to maintain broadly shared prosperity in the face of increasing automation

The rise of the robots

AzerNews-Sep 30, 2014
For decades, people have been predicting how the rise of advanced computing and robotic technologies will affect our lives. On one side, there are warnings …
September 25, 2014

Robots are our saviours, not the enemy

…though most PayPal customers would never even hear about it, thinking of us simply as a software company. Fas cinated by automation, most people still overlook the role that humans play in running software that would be worthless on its own. Spiralling…By Peter Thiel

Automation has made certain professions an endangered species

Financial Director-Sep 24, 2014
The list of skilled jobs and professions that have been automated, drastically reduced, or redistributed out of existence is endless and appears to be growing fast.

Automation likely to impact jobs in future’

The Hindu-Sep 15, 2014
In the coming years, there would be a lot of automation in the industry worldwide and this could cast an impact on the jobs. India is not immune to this situation …
 
  June 23, 2014

Robots will not eat the jobs but will unleash our creativity

…increase in living standards. One consequence of a growing robot workforce is that products become less expensive. Indeed…intelligence can replace What is often forgotten in all this robot fear-mongering is that the technology revolution has put the…By Marc Andreessen
 
 

GOVERNMENT, POLITICS, POLICY AND LAW

04/16/14 — Mention Daleks and a ruthless race of extraterrestrial robots intent on universal domination spring to mind.But ‘The Dalek’ is also the nickname of a £200,000 machine that is exterminating potholes 30 times as fast as the conventional method of repair.The machine is capable of filling in the craters in just…

Governmental Funding of Strategic Robotic Projects

Many governments have determined that robotics will play a significant role in contributing to their economy and have set up projects to fund bottlenecks to speed up the process.

BUSINESS OF AUTOMATION AND ROBOTICS

4 reports predict steady growth for robotics

Four recent research reports covering service robots, vision guided robotics, material handling robots, and robot component speed reducers, all predict steady growth, particularly in China.

Robot Wars: Why China Is Outmanned in Electronics Automation

Chinese electronics makers face pressure to automate as labor costs rise but are challenged by the low margins, precise work and short product life of the phones and other gadgets that the country produces.

  Robots Cannot Solve Japan’s Big Problem

Forbes-Sep 21, 2014
Robots like SoftBank’s latest humanoid Pepper, showcased over the weekend in Tokyo, can perform many tasks. They can dance, sketch portraits, and control …

Japan holds first “robotics revolution” council meeting

Colin Lewis  –   October 16, 2014
This fall the Japanese government held its first meeting of a new panel focused on its goal of a “robotics revolution,” a key item in the government’s economic growth strategy adopted in June. The panel is tasked with promoting measures to increase the use of robots and related technologies in various fields, extending out of the manufacturing sector and into hotel, distribution, medical and elderly nursing-care services. According to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who instigated the robot panel, determining the appropriate use of robots will be a key to solving these problems.
  June 15, 2014

Japan’s robot makers under threat

…national robotics industry. But Japan’s robot makers are facing new and difficult challenges…countries catch up and hardware – the robot “bodies” that Japanese groups have proven…group, Aldebaran, to supply a humanoid robot that is designed to recognise and respond…By Jonathan Soble in Tokyo

Microsoft gets into the home automation game with Insteon partnership

 By Ry CristMay 15, 2014
With exclusive features coming to Windows devices this June, the tech giant is officially getting into the home automation game.
 

CES 2014: Wearables, connected appliances, automated cars, and curved TVs

 By CNET staffJanuary 10, 2014
This year’s International CES in Las Vegas once again showcased the latest and greatest in tech. Here’s what it all means.
 
 

RESEARCH AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS

08/06/14 — Sleek yellow gliders will soon cruise the waters off Nova Scotia in a high-tech bid to track down one of the world’s most endangered marine mammals and possibly provide clues to an ecological mystery. Canadian and American scientists are getting ready to deploy autonomous underwater vehicles around the Scotian shelf…
09/18/14 — Researchers at MIT have built a robotic “cheetah” which may not be quite as fast as its feline counterpart but does have the ability to run and jump across a grass field without a tether. The four-legged robot, which can sprint at speeds of up to 10 miles per hour…

Robots: How Will They Be Employed in the Future?

Automation and digitization are transforming the workplace. The Experts predict future avenues for the employment of machines with artificial intelligence.
September 29, 2014

The future of the City of London

…European and Asian markets.” This will play into the development and further automation of processes, says Rolet: “The next 30 years will be about the automation of financial information disclosure as well as the primary capital-raising process…By Harriet Agnew
  June 5, 2014

Dawn of a robot revolution as army of machines escape the factory

…coming to your workplace soon. At the Automatica robot and automation fair in Munich this week the organisers devoted a whole section…the Fraunhofer Institute for manufacturing, engineering and automation demonstrated a Care-O-Bot that sweeps office floors and…By Chris Bryant in Frankfurt
  June 29, 2014

US economy: The productivity puzzle

…days, and think, is that person going to be replaced by a robot in the next 20 years? Prof Gordon is also dismissive of the…days, and think, is that person going to be replaced by a robot in the next 20 years?” One curious aspect of both professors…By Robin Harding