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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Young male hotheads who just can’t follow orders are pretty well doomed

We hear a lot of noise about creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. These are supposedly the defining traits that will separate the winners from the losers in the new hyper-competitive meritocracy. But for most of us, the real keys to success are far more old-fashioned . They are self-regulation, conscientiousness and diligence. More than ever, perhaps, 21st-century success will require 19th- century values.

Education alone won’t do much good for people who aren’t motivated or disciplined enough to acquire it. These people are mainly men. We all know that low- skilled men will be our world’s biggest losers, but it’s often not lack of skills that holds them back. It’s lack of the aptitudes and attitudes required for success. These are the men who can’t stay in school, can’t apply themselves, can’t take direction or defer rewards, can’t be reliable and can’t function well in teams. “Young male hotheads who just can’t follow orders are pretty well doomed,” economist Tyler Cowen says in Average is Over, a sharp and sobering book on who will get ahead, and why. (more…)


Programs are going to nudge us away from being average

Having chronicled the US’s economic vulnerability in The Great Stagnation, Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University in Virginia, says we have entered the age of “hypermeritocracy,” in which the top 10 to 15 per cent of Americans are “extremely wealthy” and lead “fantastically comfortable lives” and the rest work in “stupid and frustrating” jobs for falling or stagnant wages.

These trends are clearly evident today. He writes that 60 per cent of the jobs lost during the recession were mid-wage jobs, while 73 per cent of the jobs created were for workers on $13.52 (£8.36) an hour or less. In the longer term, intelligent computers will further dampen demand for mid-wage jobs and only those with the ability to work with intelligent machines, or whose skills are irreplaceable, will benefit. (more…)

Roadmapping The Potential For Future Robots In Empowering Older People

The Future Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagship Candidate ”Robot Companions for Citizens” (RCC) proposes a transformative initiative, addressing a cross-domain grand scientific and technological challenge, to develop a new class of machines and embodied information technologies, called Robot Companions for Citizens (RCCs) that can assist European society to achieve sustainable welfare. The central premise of RCC is that to solve many important problems in the real world one has to be physically instantiated and capable of action; information alone is not sufficient. An important theme is that this new generation of safe and human-friendly robots could assist in extending the active independent lives of older citizens and help compensate for the demographic shift in the age of EU citizens. In this paper we summarise some of the main conclusions of the Flagship pilot in relation to developing robot technologies that can empower older European citizens.  Pdf here

Few areas of our lives will remain untouched by intelligent machines.

From personalised searches of Google to the seductive experience of driverless cars, from educational robots that hone your French to prosthetics that are stronger and faster than our own limbs: artificial intelligence is poised to revolutionise our lives.

At the heart of the revolution is you, the consumer. With computers getting smaller, more powerful and more energy-efficient, few areas of our lives will remain untouched by intelligent machines.

Intelligent machines could turn education, healthcare and daily life into optimised, tailored experiences. Getting society on side is big, and it’s clever.


Robotics and Autonomous Systems one of eight technologies of strategic importance to the UK

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, on robotics and automation:

In the long run it is technical change which determines our economic growth – we become more productive not by more back-breaking labour but by working with more knowledge in our heads and more equipment in our hands.

That knowledge and that equipment are achieved through scientific and technological advance.

The Chancellor identified eight areas that the government believes  “we (Britain) already have an edge, but we could be world-leading:” (more…)

Robot manufacturing will improve the environment

Robotic manufacturing will play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions — from the US Government roadmap:

Our roadmap for green manufacturing emphasizes the recycling of all the components and subsystems used throughout the manufacturing process, starting from mining and processing of raw materials through production and distribution of finished products to recycling product materials. To create a step change, new manufacturing techniques will need to be developed and products will have to be designed with this goal. For example, transitioning to additive manufacturing techniques would dramatically reduce waste for machined products/components. New logistics systems are also needed to enable widespread recycling; currently, it is often so difficult to recycle materials that companies either don’t recycle or they don’t universally recycle everything that they could. We are particularly concerned with re-use of the manufacturing infrastructure, recycling of raw materials, minimizing the energy and power requirements at each step, and repurposing subsystems for the production of new products.

  • 5 years: The manufacturing process will recycle 10% of raw materials, reuse 50% of the equipment, and use only 90% of the energy used in 2010 for the same process.
  • 10 years: The manufacturing process will recycle 25% of raw materials, reuse 75% of the equipment, and use only 50% of the energy used in 2010 for the same process.
  • 15 years: The manufacturing process will recycle 75% of raw materials, reuse 90% of the equipment, and use only 10% of the energy used in 2010 for the same process

The future is forseeable

“The future is forseeable. Unless, as Orwell cautioned, we anticipate future problems, begin the search for alternative solutions, and stake a claim on our long-term future, we may lose what it has to offer.” From 1994: The World of Tomorrow.

Couldn’t agree more…

Gartner predicts social unrest in machine economy

Gartner, the world’s largest IT market research firm whose analysts consult with the biggest global businesses, predicts social unrest as jobs become displaced by machines.

Nick Farrell writing in TechEye says:

Gartner claims that there will be some major changes in technology soon, which will reduce the need for workers. This will bring about social unrest, the analyst firm warned….
Daryl Plummer, a Gartner analyst at the research firm’s Symposium ITxpo said the digital revolution is not following the same path. It is leading to a decline in the overall number of people required to do a job…Plummer said that by 2018, 3D printing will result in the loss of at least $100 billion a year in intellectual property globally.

The reason so many organizations are seeking to introduce machines is one of lower cost and increased productivity with higher quality. It is certainly worth a close look at which jobs will not be displaced and training in one of those to enjoy success in the machine economy…

The human brain project and robotics

135 members of the Human Brain Project gathered to kick off the 10 year global project that will give us a deeper and more meaningful understanding of  how the human brain operates. This project is considered the most advanced neuroscience project in the world.

In the launch of the project,  neuroscientists, doctors, computer scientists, and roboticists will begin to refine the project across six research platforms including neuroinformatics, brain simulation, high-performance computing, medical informatics, neuromorphic computing and neurorobotics.

In terms of neurorobotics, this research platform will focus on integrating neural network simulations into robots (initially virtual ones), who will benefit from new aptitudes such as learning abilities or resiliency. Another important component will be to create neuro-inspired technologies. Microchips that can be developed to imitate how networks of neurons function and take advantage of the learning ability and resiliency of neuronal circuits in specific applications.

The project was selected by the European Union as a FET Flagship project for its complexity and then co-funded by the EU with an estimated budget of €1.2 billion.

Average is over

Thomas L. Friedman on the advances of technology and how ‘average’ will not cut it anymore:

Thanks to the merger of, and advances in, globalization and the information technology revolution, every boss now has cheaper, easier access to more above-average software, automation, robotics, cheap labor and cheap genius than ever before. So just doing a job in an average way will not return an average lifestyle any longer.