The coming productivity boom


We’re near the stage where the robots can be designed and built & maintained by robots.

Humans are not needed at all.


At this point, Terminator is looking less like a sci-fi movie and more like a documentary.


A small number of people will design and build the robots that make the other robots.
Sadly, we aren’t yet at the point where the robots can dispense with people altogether :wink: , but we certainly don’t need that many manual workers. Just look at the motor industry. The UK now makes just about as many cars as it did at its peak in the mid 1970s, with a small fraction of the workforce. Now, if you don’t need an army of workers to make cars by robot, why would you need an army of workers to make robots by robot?

The tale of apparent deindustrialisation in rich countries is a bit inaccurate. There’s still plenty of manufacturing going on and by value, its just as high as it used to be. It simply needs far fewer people. The smaller proportion of manufacturing in the economy has come not so much because it has declined, as because services have grown rapidly. Those people who forty years ago worked in factories aren’t simply sitting around unemployed, but now work in service businesses.

As an aside, despite all the back slapping about the developed world being a service led economy, these businesses aren’t always very productive, in terms of output per worker. Much put down as it is in the popular mind, agriculture is well ahead of the game in this respect. It was always one of the first sectors to undergo mass automation and high productivity gains, from replacing hand digging with animal drawn ploughs five thousand years ago, through the first automatic reaping and threshing machines in the early 19th century, to near-autonomous remote controlled harvesters today. Across the water, agriculture provides about 3% of the economy with1% of the workforce.

Those people displaced by the robots probably won’t end up sitting in the dole, but they will probably end up joining the future equivalent of call centres, nail bars and coffee shops, doing jobs of ever decreasing marginal utility. After all, how many of these much vaunted services would you actually miss if they weren’t there? To me, it seems that it doesn’t matter much if these jobs are done by humans, robots or not at all. They’re basically make-work to keep people occupied. (On this last point, I concede that I am perhaps unusual in how little of anything I buy, material or intangible. :wink: )


The British are bringing in laws to aid the introduction of driverless cars.


Because it’s the job of the MoF to decide what’s safe on the roads? This is part of the malaise in the UK. There are a few ministries that perform adequately, the rest? They’ve been gutted by ‘reforms’.


Maybe this is as far as automation goes. If future automation is dependent on significant increases in computing speed like we’ve seen for the last 40 years. This article postulates that we’re in the soft landing phase of computing speed increases.


Well, there are practical limits to the growth in technology, especially when you consider that an on-line fridge has more processing power than the whole of NASA had when they achieved getting a man to the moon, landing and getting home. The challenges now are more to do with making better use of the hardware available by developing smarter and leaner software (bloatware is the biggest performance killer at the moment).


Definitely worth a read … d23d1f338d


+1 - I can see a lot of that coming true - I’m not sure about the timescale but my feeling is that once the first few things happen the rest will follow rapidly.


Amazing and downright startling when you start seeing transhumanist stories popping up and becoming very mainstream lately:

Maybe Owen Keegan will volunteer to be hooked up in the first wave.


Badly needed an editor to cut the 75 points down to 6.


I’m reminded of Dilbert yesterday… (the teen millionaire with the 70 successful habits, and 30 top priorities). Most of them are wishful thinking (that people won’t want to own stuff), some of them are nonsense (that suddenly insurance won’t be required), and mostly it’s unaware of the rest of the world apart from the idea that it’s polluted shitholes.

It’s not as ridiculous as the smart AI thing. Knowing the answer from impossibly large datasets isn’t smart if you can’t understand the question. Type any question, any one at all into google, and see what rubbish it comes up with. I typed “who is the smartest Ai” and it gave me back a list of articles on A.I., starting with one from November 2016 (so unlikely to be current). That’s not what I asked, though, I asked WHO the smartest Ai is, Ai Weiwei is my guess. I gave plenty of clues to the meaning of my question.

Until someone invents Marain, there’s no way to distinguish a smart AI from a really dumb one.

And all these things, the smart AI thing included all suffer from “people talking their book”.


I think this is a better view of the trucking market: … of-trucks/



Good read.


I have to agree, I really struggled and gave up at about 50.
There are some interesting points in there but he doesn’t seem to have taken into account more rural areas that would never be able to justify the infrastructure required. Also I think there will always be an element of the population who want to own a vehicle for either prestige, privacy or even pure joy.
It does make you realise how many innovations could develop from autonomous vehicles though, never say never.


the point a lot of people make is that its likely to be illegal to drive your own vehicle once automation takes over, so you may own your own, but it will be self driving like all the rest.


Agreed, once it is statistically safer then insurance premiums to self drive will rise substantially, so there won’t be a big bad government outlawing it, it will just cost more and more over time.


Frank McDonald on the wireless pissing and moaning about people living in rural areas.

“How will they get around when they get old?”

By pony and trap, Frank, same as they always have.


By hiring former town planners as cheap carers?