The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of Mass Unemployment

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9781780748481: The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of Mass Unemployment
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In a world of self-driving cars and big data, smart algorithms and Siri, we know that artificial intelligence is getting smarter every day. Though all these nifty devices and programs might make our lives easier, they're also well on their way to making "good" jobs obsolete. A computer winning Jeopardy might seem like a trivial, if impressive, feat, but the same technology is making paralegals redundant as it undertakes electronic discovery, and is soon to do the same for radiologists. And that, no doubt, will only be the beginning.

In Silicon Valley the phrase "disruptive technology" is tossed around on a casual basis. No one doubts that technology has the power to devastate entire industries and upend various sectors of the job market. But Rise of the Robots asks a bigger question: can accelerating technology disrupt our entire economic system to the point where a fundamental restructuring is required? Companies like Facebook and YouTube may only need a handful of employees to achieve enormous valuations, but what will be the fate of those of us not lucky or smart enough to have gotten into the great shift from human labor to computation?

The more Pollyannaish, or just simply uninformed, might imagine that this industrial revolution will unfold like the last: even as some jobs are eliminated, more will be created to deal with the new devices of a new era. In Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford argues that is absolutely not the case. Increasingly, machines will be able to take care of themselves, and fewer jobs will be necessary. The effects of this transition could be shattering. Unless we begin to radically reassess the fundamentals of how our economy works, we could have both an enormous population of the unemployed-the truck drivers, warehouse workers, cooks, lawyers, doctors, teachers, programmers, and many, many more, whose labors have been rendered superfluous by automated and intelligent machines-and a general economy that, bereft of consumers, implodes under the weight of its own contradictions. We are at an inflection point-do we continue to listen to those who argue that nothing fundamental has changed, and take a bad bet on a miserable future, or do we begin to discuss what we must do to ensure all of us, and not just the few, benefit from the awesome power of artificial intelligence? The time to choose is now.

Rise of the Robots is a both an exploration of this new technology and a call to arms to address its implications. Written by a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur, this is a book that cannot be dismissed as the ranting of a Luddite or an outsider. Ford has seen the future, and he knows that for some of us, the rise of the robots will be very frightening indeed.

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About the Author:

Martin Ford, the founder of a Silicon Valley–based software development fi rm, has over twenty-fi ve 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, and he lives in Sunnyvale, California.

Review:

A careful and courageous examination of automation and its possible impact on society.”
Kirkus Reviews

In Rise of the Robots, Ford coolly and clearly considers what work is under threat from automation.”
New Scientist

Makes clear the need to come to grips with ever more rapidly advancing technology and its effects on how people make a living and how the economy functions.”
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Of all the moderns who have written on automation and rising joblessness, Martin Ford is the original. His Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future is due out this May.... Self-recommending.”
Marginal Revolution

Robots, and their like, are on the rise. Their impact will be an important question in the next decade and beyond. Martin Ford has been thinking in this area before most others, so this book deserves very careful consideration.”
Lawrence Summers, President Emeritus and Charles W. Eliot University Professor, Harvard University

Compelling and well-written In his conception, the answer is a combination of short-term policies and longer-term initiatives, one of which is a radical idea that may gain some purchase among gloomier techno-profits: a guaranteed income for all citizens. If that stirs up controversy, that's the point. The book is both lucid and bold, and certainly a starting point for robust debate about the future of all workers in an age of advancing robotics and looming artificial intelligence systems.”
ZDNet

An alarming new book.”
Esquire

A thorough look at how far machines have come”
Washington Post, Innovations blog

Ford tells great stories, both about innovation in the last 50 years and about the potential impacts of widespread automation of work in the future Rise of the Robots is a competent, approachable, and well-written synthesis of information across many area, and provides a valuable, coherent picture of automation's socio-economic interactions.”
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine

Ford offers ideas on changes in social policies, including guaranteed income, to keep our economy humming and prepare ourselves for a more automated future.”
Booklist
Winner of the 2015 FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
A New York Times Bestseller
Top Business Book of 2015 at Forbes
One of NBCNews.com 12 Notable Science and Technology Books of 2015

For nonfiction, I tip my hat to Martin Ford's Rise of the Robots, which is vacuuming up accolades and is recommended reading for IIF staff. Ford's analysis, in a somewhat crowded field of similar books, offers a sobering assessment of how technology (robotics, machine learning, AI, etc.) is reshaping labor markets, the composition of growth, and the distribution of income and wealth, and calls for enlightened political and policy leadership to address coming, accelerating disruptions and dislocations.”
Bloomberg Business, Timothy Adams

We are in an era of technological optimism but sociological pessimism. Martin Ford's Rise of the Robots captures why these shifts are related and what challenges this might pose to our conventional economic and social infrastructures.”
Bloomberg Business, Andy Haldane

[Ford's] a careful and thoughtful writer who relies on ample evidence, clear reasoning, and lucid economic analysis. In other words, it's entirely possible that he's right.”
Daily Beast

Rise of the Robots is an excellent book. Fair-minded, balanced, well-researched, and fully thought through.”
Inside Higher Ed, Learn blog

Surveying all the fields now being affected by automation, Ford makes a compelling case that this is an historic disruption a fundamental shift from most tasks being performed by humans to one where most tasks are done by machines.”
Fast Company

Well written with interesting stories about both business and technology.”
Wired/Dot Physics

Whether you agree or not with the policy prescriptions put forward by [Martin Ford's Rise of the Robots and Anne-Marie Slaughter's Unfinished Business] these two well-written books, and quite a few will likely disagree, they are important reads for those wishing to better understand and influence the future.”
Bloomberg Business, Mohamed El-Erian

Few captured the mood as well as Martin Ford in The Rise of the Robots, the winner of the FT and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award, which painted a bleak picture of the upheavals that would come as ever-greater numbers of even highly skilled workers were displaced by machines.”
Financial Times

[A] breathtaking new book on modern economics.”
Forbes.com

Lucid, comprehensive and unafraid to grapple fairly with those who dispute Ford's basic thesis, Rise of the Robots is an indispensable contribution to a long-running argument.”
Los Angeles Times

If The Second Machine Age was last year's tech-economy title of choice, this book may be 2015's equivalent.”
Financial Times, Summer books 2015, Business, Andrew Hill

Mr. Ford lucidly sets out myriad examples of how focused applications of versatile machines (coupled with human helpers where necessary) could displace or de-skill many jobs His answer to a sharp decline in employment is a guaranteed basic income, a safety net that he suggests would both cushion the effect on the newly unemployable and encourage entrepreneurship among those creative enough to make a new way for themselves. This is a drastic prescription for the ills of modern industrialization ills whose severity and very existence are hotly contested. Rise of the Robots provides a compelling case that they are real, even if its more dire predictions are harder to accept.”
Wall Street Journal

Well-researched and disturbingly persuasive.”
Financial Times

[Rise of the Robots is]about as scary as the title suggests. It's not science fiction, but rather a vision (almost) of economic Armageddon.”
Frank Bruni, New York Times

As Martin Ford documents in Rise of the Robots, the job-eating maw of technology now threatens even the nimblest and most expensively educated...the human consequences of robotization are already upon us, and skillfully chronicled here."
New York Times Book Review
Martin Ford has thrust himself into the center of the debate over AI, big data, and the future of the economy with a shrewd look at the forces shaping our lives and work. As an entrepreneur pioneering many of the trends he uncovers, he speaks with special credibility, insight, and verve. Business people, policy makers, and professionals of all sorts should read this book right away before the 'bots steal their jobs. Ford gives us a roadmap to the future.”
Kenneth Cukier, Data Editor for the Economist and co-author of Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think

If the robots are coming for my job (too), then Martin Ford is the person I want on my side, not to fend them off but to construct a better world where we can all humans and our machines live more prosperously together. Rise of the Robots goes far beyond the usual fear-mongering punditry to suggest an action plan for a better future.”
Cathy N. Davidson, Distinguished Professor and Director, The Futures Initiative, The Graduate Center, CUNY and author of Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn

It's not easy to accept, but it's true. Education and hard work will no longer guarantee success for huge numbers of people as technology advances. The time for denial is over. Now it's time to consider solutions and there are very few proposals on the table. Rise of the Robots presents one idea, the basic income model, with clarity and force. No one who cares about the future of human dignity can afford to skip this book.”
Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget and Who Owns the Future?

Ever since the Luddites, pessimists have believed that technology would destroy jobs. So far they have been wrong. Martin Ford shows with great clarity why today's automated technology will be much more destructive of jobs than previous technological innovation. This is a book that everyone concerned with the future of work must read.”
Lord Robert Skidelsky, Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick, co-author of How Much Is Enough?: Money and the Good Life and author of the three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes

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