Robots & unemployment. How real is infowar? Adtech vs. real advertising. Digital music. How was Comey’s “secret” Instagram account found? AI meets the doctor. Bot wars between Amazon.com sellers. NSA hubs in your backyard. Turncoat home appliances.
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Dept of the near future
👩🏾⚕️ AI meets the doctor. What will happen when diagnosis is automated? STUNNING essay by Siddhartha Mukherjee.
☣️ Bots, sockpuppets and misinformation. Linguistic & frequency analysis of bot accounts may “point to Russia’s involvement in what looks to be a highly orchestrated influence campaign, conducted by fake social media accounts across multiple platforms”. (See also: the information war is real, says Kate Starbird, a researcher. Interesting paper by her here.)
💰 Brands need to fire adtech, says EV subscriber, Doc Searls. GOOD READ. (See also Sapna Maheshwari on how JPMorganChase reduced its advertising footprint from 400k sites to just 5,000 with the same result.)
🕵️ Zeynep Tupfekci on how James Comey’s private Instagram feed was discovered. “A less understood issue with algorithms and privacy is how computation can suss out things you did not disclose. Comey’s "secret” accounts [were found] simply because..“ EXCELLENT
🚘 What are the second order consequences of autonomous, electric vehicles? Pretty wide-ranging, argues Ben Evans. MUST READ
🎸 The US music industry has seen double-digit growth thanks to streaming. Now approaching 78.2% digital, the industry is half its 1999 peak, despite 11.2% growth last year. (See lobbyist & CEO of the RIAA, Cary Sherman, on perspective on the economics of digital music landscape. )
Dept of work (robots vs humans edition)
🤖 It seems like robots are taking jobs from humans, according to most recent research from Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo.
Last year, the pair of economists were much more buoyant about the fate of human workers in the face of automation. But now they estimate that robots
are to blame for up to 670,000 lost manufacturing jobs between 1990 and 2007, it concluded, and that number will rise because industrial robots are expected to quadruple.
During that period, some estimate that US manufacturing employment declined from 17.9m to 14m. Robots are thus responsible for about one in six lost manufacturing jobs in America over this period.
Acemoglu and Restrepo reckon the increase of 1 robot per thousand workers reduces employment rates (by between 0.18 and 0.34%) and wages (by between 0.25 and 0.5%). Another way to look at this is that every additional robot reduces employment by 5.6 workers.
The International Federation of Robotics reckons that the number of industrial robots in operation in the world will increase by about 25% between 2017 and 2019. The US has the third highest number of industrial robots in the world. Between the US and Canada there are a total of 269,000 robots. The fastest growing sectors are in automotive OEMs and component supply.
Measured by intensity, that is how many robots are used per human worker, the US is far off the leaders. The most robo-intense manufacturers are in Asia. South Korea, which tops the list, has more than 500 robots per 10k manufacturing workers. In the US, that ratio is a more pedestrian 180-200. (That is still above the UK at fewer than 100 robots per 10k human employees.)
If, and it’s a big if, US factories get as automated as those in South Korea, we would see an additional 500-600k robots come on stream. And extrapolating from the NBER data, that would increase pressure on 2.5 and 3m manufacturing jobs (and the attendant wages of the remaining workers in the sector).
Time to revisit “The Humans are dead.”
- British and American governments remain oblivious to the threat says EV reader, Martin Bryant.
- Places which lost most jobs to robots were less likely to support Hillary Clinton in the recent US election
- John Mauldin: A single variable explains why male labour force participation rates have declined so significantly in the US relative to other advanced Western economies.
- Noah Smith: How to help the White [US] working class live longer
- Many storied hedge funds, including Blackrock and Tudor are replacing traders with algos.
Dept of machine intelligence
EV reader, Christopher Mims, digs into the bot wars between Amazon.com sellers. MUST READ Amazon’s retail business is similar to a slow-moving stock exchange:
The usual market dynamics are at work: Sellers entering and leaving the market, temporary scarcity when someone runs out of stock or a manufacturer falls behind, and sellers testing consumers and each other with high and low prices.
Like the real stock market, automatic algorithms of increasing sophistication abound. These range from simplistic rule-based programmes that often suffer flash-crashes to learning systems.
See also Steven Levy on Amazon’s plan for drones.
- Lovely interview between Jack Clark and Geoff Hinton on bringing neuroscience ideas into AI.
- Accessible (shallow) overview of OpenAI’s ‘evolution strategies’ research.
- Heather Roff: Understanding animals can help us make the most of artificial intelligence
- Qualcomm Glance is an energy-efficient hardware module for computer vision.
- How EyeEm uses deep learning to understand aesthetic qualities in images (via Ramzi Rizk)
Small morsels to appear smart at dinner parties
🥇 Collecting metal. STUNNING essay by Nick Szabo on our relationship with gold, silver and other precious metals. (15 min read.)
💺 🚀 Luxury follows the elites into space.
Connected dishwasher turns into a security hole. (Are consumer goods companies tooled up to respond to CERT alerts?) 🏳️
🐙 A really big brain and a really short life: extraordinary cephalopods.
Pluripotent cells could be the future of the lab-grown meat.
Inside the history’s worst plane crash. A tale of complexity.
Bill Gates and Ed Yong discuss the power of microbes. FASCINATING
👏 A patient with paralysed arm and hand enacts reaching and grasping movements via brain-computer interface.
Fasting flips a regenerative switch in our immune systems; researchers call the findings “remarkable”.
🎧 100% accurate reconstruction of the Ancient Greek music.
Offscreen Magazine is an independent magazine about fresh thinking in tech. It’s produced by Kai Brach and he’s brought an empathy and design aesthetic towards questions of our relationship with technology.
The current issue has an interview with me and, more interestingly, interviews with Julie Zhuo of Facebook, Bethany Koby of TechnologyWillSaveUs and Joel Flory of VSCO.
Offscreen is a labour-of-love from Kai. Buy a copy.
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