My 2009 book The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future is now available in Japanese. You can order from Amazon.co.jp here.
The book was translated by the Japanese Publisher, Asahi Shimbun Publications. According to Google Translate, the cover text says something like “Technology will steal 75% of employment” … which sounds pretty alarming.
That 75% figure actually comes from chapter 4 of the book, where I say this:
In this chapter, we are going to fast forward far into the future; we will imagine a time when at least three quarters of the jobs which exist in our current economy have been permanently automated away. In other words, the unemployment rate will be at least 75 percent—an almost unimaginably high level—and there will be no realistic hope that more jobs will be created in the future. Is it possible to have a prosperous economy and a civil society in such a scenario?
If we can devise a system that would work in such an admittedly extreme situation, then we should also be able to figure out a way to gradually transition into that new system, so that we can maintain economic stability as automation advances in the coming years and decades.
Now, I thought it was pretty clear that I was constructing a thought experiment there. In other words, imagine a really extreme, far future, situation and then lets talk about what we might do in terms of policies to adapt the economy. I wasn’t actually predicting 75% unemployment. However, a number of people seem to have taken it that way. There were also a few articles in the press citing the 75% figure. And, now, there it is on the cover of the Japanese edition. My guess is that a lot of very bad things would happen socially and politically before we would ever see 75% unemployment in the real world. But if it helps sell books…
When I wrote The Lights in the Tunnel, I thought the title — which refers to a thought experiment I utilize in the book — would be catchy and memorable. In retrospect, however, it doesn’t do such a great job of conveying what the book is really about, and, especially, doesn’t translate well into other languages. I have learned from this, and my new book (releasing May 5) is titled Rise of the Robots.
Until March 1, 2015, my 2009 book about the impact on robotics and AI on the job market and economy, The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future, is a completely free download in PDF format.
If you prefer to read the book on Kindle, you can find it for less than $4 on Amazon.
The Lights in the Tunnel now has over 180 reviews on Amazon.
I also have a new book Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future coming out in May 2015 from Basic Books (Hardcover, eBook and Audio Book).
It has been about five years since the publication of my 2009 book The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future, which argued that we are on the brink of a revolution in robotics and artificial intelligence that would put millions of jobs at risk—and quite possibly threaten our overall economic prosperity. Over the next few years, I followed up with a series of posts both here and at Huffington Post, warning of a future unemployment crisis, the potential automation of low-wage fast food jobs as well as the higher-skill white collar jobs sought by college graduates, and the negative economic consequences of widespread automation.
For most of the five years that I have been writing on this subject, I’ve been a relatively lonely voice; the attention of both the public and economists has been focused elsewhere. Over the the past year or so, however, things have changed quite dramatically: deep concern about the robot revolution—and its impact on jobs—is going mainstream.
In September 2013, researchers at Oxford University conducted a study of over 700 occupations and found that jobs representing about 47 percent of total U.S. employment (or over 60 million jobs) are likely to be susceptible to automation within the next decade or two. A separate study by a think tank in Brussels found that between 50 and 60 percent of jobs in most European nations could eventually be taken over by robots or algorithms. More recently, a survey of experts by Pew Research found that the vast majority expect that “robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025,” and about half of those surveyed expected a significantly negative impact on jobs.
Many of these concerns are captured in the extremely well-produced video, “Humans Need Not Apply,” just released by C.G.P. Grey. Grey has become well-known for short, high quality videos that clarify a variety of complicated topics, but this is his first full-fledged documentary and offers one of the best explanations I’ve seen as to why we should worry about the coming robot invasion. I’d strongly recommend taking 15 minutes to watch this great video.
Update: I’ve added a second good video called “Transitions for Society.” The first the video does a great job of explaining technological unemployment, but doesn’t focus on solutions. The second video offers some possible policy prescriptions.
Humans Need Not Apply
Transitions for Society
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Larry Page and Sergey Brin on Technological Unemployment – InformationWeek
— also more at Forbes
— and Millennials vs. Robots—Who will win the jobs? – CNBC
Daimler Demonstrates a Self-Driving Truck – NY Times
Wall Street on the Leading Edge of AI – The Mitrailleuse
Robot Accidents in the Workplace – NY Times
Deep Learning at Facebook – Technology Review
Robots vs. the Middle Class – Motherboard
Rethinking a Basic Income – NY Times
Stephen Hawking on the dangers of advanced AI – The Independent
Interview of me on Quoracast – Quora.com
A Russian translation of my book The Lights in the Tunnel is now available.
The book can also be purchased online in Ukraine.
Designing the Next Wave of Computer Chips – NY Times
IBM Invests $1 Billion in Watson Technology – Singularity Hub
The Future of Jobs – The Economist
Income Inequality and Automation – Huffington Post
Robots will Stay in the Back Seat (really?) – Financial Times
How robots impact millions of American jobs – Bloomberg (video)
New Book: “The Second Machine Age” – Brynjolfsson and McAfee