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The Robots Are Coming, And They Are Replacing Warehouse Workers And Fast Food Employees

Robot 2014There are already more than 101 million working age Americans that are not employed and 20 percent of the families in the entire country do not have a single member that has a job.  So what in the world are we going to do when robots start taking millions upon millions more of our jobs? Thanks to technology, the balance of power between employers and workers in this country is shifting dramatically in favor of the employers.  These days, many employers are wondering why they are dealing with so many human worker “headaches” when they can just use technology to get the same tasks done instead.  When you replace a human worker with a robot, you solve a whole bunch of problems.  Robots never take a day off, they never get tired, they never get sick, they never complain, they never show up late, they never waste time on the Internet and they always do what you tell them to do.  In addition, robotic technology has advanced to the point where it is actually cheaper to buy robots than it is to hire humans for a vast variety of different tasks.  From the standpoint of societal efficiency, this is a good thing.  But what happens when robots are able to do just about everything less expensively and more efficiently than humans can?  Where will our jobs come from?

And this is not something that is coming at some point in “the future”.

This is already happening.

According to CNN, there will be 10,000 robots working to fulfill customer orders in Amazon.com warehouses by the end of 2014…

Amazon will be using 10,000 robots in its warehouses by the end of the year.

CEO Jeff Bezos told investors at a shareholder meeting Wednesday that he expects to significantly increase the number of robots used to fulfill customer orders.

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love Amazon.  And if robots can get me my stuff faster and less expensively that sounds great.

But what if everyone starts using these kinds of robots?

What will that do to warehouse jobs?

PC World has just done a report on a new warehouse robot known as “UBR-1″.  This robot is intended to perform tasks “normally done by human workers”…

The UBR-1 is a 4-foot tall, one-armed robot that could make warehouses and factories more efficient by performing tasks normally done by human workers.

Unlike the industrial robots widely used in manufacturing today—usually large machines isolated from people for safety reasons—this robot can work alongside humans or autonomously in a workspace filled with people.

This little robot costs $50,000, and it can work all day and all night.  It just needs a battery change every once in a while.  The creators of this robot envision it performing a vast array of different tasks…

“We see the robot as doing tasks, they could be dull, they could be dirty, they could be dangerous and doing them repetitively all day in a light manufacturing environment,” said Melonee Wise, Unbounded Robotics CEO and co-founder. Those tasks include stocking shelves, picking up objects and assembling parts.

The UBR-1 isn’t designed for small component assembly, but it can manipulate objects as small as dice or a Lego piece, Wise said. Unbounded Robotics is targeting companies that want some automation to speed up their manufacturing process, but can’t afford to fully automate their businesses.

To many people this may sound very exciting.

But what if a robot like that took your job?

Would it be exciting then?

Of course you can’t outlaw robots.  And you can’t force companies to hire human workers.

But we could potentially have major problems in our society as jobs at the low end of the wage scale quickly disappear.

According to CNN, restaurants all over the nation are going to automated service, and a recent University of Oxford study concluded that there is a 92 percent chance that most fast food jobs will be automated in the coming years…

Panera Bread is the latest chain to introduce automated service, announcing last month that it plans to bring self-service ordering kiosks as well as a mobile ordering option to all its locations within the next three years. The news follows moves from Chili’s and Applebee’s to place tablets on their tables, allowing diners to order and pay without interacting with human wait staff at all.

Panera, which spent $42 million developing its new system, claims it isn’t planning any job cuts as a result of the technology, but some analysts see this kind of shift as unavoidable for the industry.

In a widely cited paper released last year, University of Oxford researchers estimated that there is a 92% chance that fast-food preparation and serving will be automated in the coming decades.

It is being projected that other types of jobs will soon be automated as well

Delivery drivers could be replaced en masse by self-driving cars, which are likely to hit the market within a decade or two, or even drones. In food preparation, there are start-ups offering robots for bartending and gourmet hamburger preparation. A food processing company in Spain now uses robots to inspect heads of lettuce on a conveyor belt, throwing out those that don’t meet company standards, the Oxford researchers report.

Could you imagine such a world?

When self-driving vehicles take over, what will happen to the 3.1 million Americans that drive trucks for a living?

Our planet is changing at a pace that is almost inconceivable.

Over the past decade, the big threat to our jobs has been workers on the other side of the globe that live in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.

But now even those workers are having their jobs taken away by robots.  For example, just check out what is happening in China

Foxconn has been planning to buy 1 million robots to replace human workers and it looks like that change, albeit gradual, is about to start.

The company is allegedly paying $25,000 per robot – about three times a worker’s average salary – and they will replace humans in assembly tasks. The plans have been in place for a while – I spoke to Foxconn reps about this a year ago – and it makes perfect sense. Humans are messy, they want more money, and having a half-a-million of them in one factory is a recipe for unrest. But what happens after the halls are clear of careful young men and women and instead full of whirring robots?

Perhaps you think that your job could never be affected because you do something that requires a “human touch” like caring for the elderly.

Well, according to Reuters, robots are moving into that arena as well…

Imagine you’re 85, and living alone. Your children are halfway across the country, and you’re widowed. You have a live-in aide – but it’s not human. Your personal robot reminds you to take your medicine, monitors your diet and exercise, plays games with you, and even helps you connect with family members on the Internet.

And robots are even threatening extremely skilled professions such as doctors.  For instance, just check out this excerpt from a Bloomberg article entitled “Doctor Robot Will See You Shortly“…

Johnson & Johnson proposes to replace anesthesiologists during simple procedures such as colonoscopies — not with nurse practitioners, but with machines. Sedasys, which dispenses propofol and monitors a patient automatically, was recently approved for use in healthy adult patients who have no particular risk of complications. Johnson & Johnson will lease the machines to doctor’s offices for $150 per procedure — cleverly set well below the $600 to $2,000 that anesthesiologists usually charge.

And this is just the beginning.  In a previous article, I discussed the groundbreaking study by Dr. Carl Frey and Dr. Michael Osborne of Oxford University which came to the conclusion that 47 percent of all U.S. jobs could be automated within the next 20 years.

47 percent?

That is crazy.

What will the middle class do as their jobs are taken away?

The world that we live in is becoming a radically different place than the one that we grew up in.

The robots are coming, and they are going to take millions of our jobs.

So what do you think of this robot invasion?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

This Is What Employment In America Really Looks Like…

Warren Buffett - Photo by Mark HirscheyThe level of employment in the United States has been declining since the year 2000.  There have been moments when things have appeared to have been getting better for a short period of time, and then the decline has resumed.  Thanks to the offshoring of millions of jobs, the replacement of millions of workers with technology and the overall weakness of the U.S. economy, the percentage of Americans that are actually working is significantly lower than it was when this century began.  And even though things have stabilized at a reduced level over the past few years, it is only a matter of time until the next major wave of the economic collapse strikes and the employment level goes even lower.  And the truth is that more good jobs are being lost every single day in America.  For example, as you will read about below, Warren Buffett is shutting down a Fruit of the Loom factory in Kentucky and moving it to Honduras just so that he can make a little bit more money.  We see this kind of betrayal over and over again, and it is absolutely ripping the middle class of America to shreds.

Below I have posted a chart that you never hear any of our politicians talk about.  It is a chart that shows how the percentage of working age Americans with a job has steadily declined since the turn of the century.  Just before the last recession, we were sitting at about 63 percent, but now we have been below 59 percent since the end of 2009…

Employment Population Ratio 2014

We should be thankful that things have stabilized at this lower level for the past few years.

At least things have not been getting worse.

But anyone that believes that “things have returned to normal” is just being delusional.

And nothing is being done about the long-term trends that are absolutely crippling our economy.  One of those trends is the offshoring of middle class jobs.  As I mentioned above, Fruit of the Loom (which is essentially owned by Warren Buffett) has made the decision to close their factory in Jamestown, Kentucky and lay off all the workers at that factory by the end of 2014

Clothing company Fruit of the Loom announced Thursday that it will permanently close its plant in Jamestown and lay off all 600 employees by the end of the year.

The Jamestown plant is the last Fruit of the Loom plant in a state where the company had once been a manufacturing titan second only to General Electric.

This isn’t being done because Fruit of the Loom is going out of business.  They are still going to be making t-shirts and underwear.  They are just going to be making them in Honduras from now on…

The company, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway but headquartered in Bowling Green, said the move is “part of the company’s ongoing efforts to align its global supply chain” and will allow the company to better use its existing investments to provide products cheaper and faster.

The company said it is moving the plant’s textile operations to Honduras to save money.

So what are those workers supposed to do?

Go on welfare?

The number of Americans that are dependent on the government is already at an all-time record high.

And doesn’t Warren Buffett already have enough money?

In business school, they teach you that the sole responsibility of a corporation is to maximize wealth for the shareholders.

And so when business students get out into “the real world”, that is how they behave.

But the truth is that corporations have a responsibility to treat their workers, their customers and the communities in which they operate well.  This responsibility exists whether corporate executives want to admit it or not.

And we all have a responsibility to our fellow citizens.  When we stand aside and do nothing as millions of good paying American jobs are shipped overseas so that the “one world economic agenda” can be advanced and so that men like Warren Buffett can stuff their pockets just a little bit more, we are failing our fellow countrymen.

Because so many of us have fallen for the lie that “globalism is good”, we have allowed our once great manufacturing cities to crumble and die.  Just consider what is happening to Detroit.  It was once the greatest manufacturing city in the history of the planet, but now foreign newspapers publish stories about what a horror show that it has become…

Khalil Ligon couldn’t tell if the robbers were in her house. She had just returned home to find her front window smashed and a brick lying among shattered glass on the floor. Ligon, an urban planner who lives alone on Detroit’s east side, stepped out and called the police.

It wasn’t the first time Ligon’s home had been broken into, she told me. And when Detroit police officers finally arrived the next day, surveying an area marred by abandoned structures and overgrown vegetation, they asked Ligon a question she often ponders herself: why is she still in Detroit?

Of course this kind of thing is not just happening to Detroit.  The truth is that it is happening all over the nation.  For example, this article contains an incredible graphic which shows how the middle class of Chicago has steadily disappeared over the past several decades.

Once again, even though we have never had a “recovery”, it is a good thing that things have at least stabilized at a lower level for the past few years.

But now there are all sorts of indications that we are rapidly heading toward yet another economic downturn.  The tsunami of retail store closings that is now upon us is just one sign of this.  The following is a partial list of retail store closings from a recent article by Daniel Jennings

  • Quiznos has filed for bankruptcy, USA Today reported, and could close many of its 2,100 stores.
  • Sbarro which operates pizza and Italian restaurants in malls, is planning to close 155 locations in the United States and Canada. That means nearly 20 percent of Sbarro’s will close. The chain operates around 800 outlets.
  • Ruby Tuesday announced plans to close 30 restaurants in January after its sales fell by 7.8 percent. The chain currently operates around 775 steakhouses across the US.
  • An unknown number of Red Lobster stores will be sold. The chain is in such bad shape that the parent company, Darden Restaurants Inc., had to issue a press release stating that the chain would not close. Instead Darden is planning to spin Red Lobster off into another company and sell some of its stores.
  • Ralph’s, a subsidiary of Kroger, has announced plans to close 15 supermarkets in Southern California within 60 days.
  • Safeway closed 72 Dominick’s grocery stores in the Chicago area last year.

And the following are some more signs of trouble for the retail industry from one of my recent articles entitled “20 Facts About The Great U.S. Retail Apocalypse That Will Blow Your Mind“…

#1 As you read this article, approximately a billion square feet of retail space is sitting vacant in the United States.

#2 Last week, Radio Shack announced that it was going to close more than a thousand stores.

#3 Last week, Staples announced that it was going to close 225 stores.

#4 Same-store sales at Office Depot have declined for 13 quarters in a row.

#5 J.C. Penney has been dying for years, and it recently announced plans to close 33 more stores.

#6 J.C. Penney lost 586 million dollars during the second quarter of 2013 alone.

#7 Sears has closed about 300 stores since 2010, and CNN is reporting that Sears is “expected to shutter another 500 Sears and Kmart locations soon”.

#8 Overall, sales numbers have declined at Sears for 27 quarters in a row.

#9 Target has announced that it is going to eliminate 475 jobs and not fill 700 positions that are currently empty.

#10 It is being projected that Aéropostale will close about 175 stores over the next couple of years.

#11 Macy’s has announced that it is going to be closing five stores and eliminating 2,500 jobs.

#12 The Children’s Place has announced that it will be closing down 125 of its “weakest” stores by 2016.

But it isn’t just the retail industry that is deeply troubled.

All over America we are seeing economic weakness.

In this economic environment, it doesn’t matter how smart, how educated or how experienced you are.  If you are out of work, it can be extremely difficult to find a new job.  Just consider the case of Abe Gorelick

Abe Gorelick has decades of marketing experience, an extensive contact list, an Ivy League undergraduate degree, a master’s in business from the University of Chicago, ideas about how to reach consumers young and old, experience working with businesses from start-ups to huge financial firms and an upbeat, effervescent way about him. What he does not have — and has not had for the last year — is a full-time job.

Five years since the recession ended, it is a story still shared by millions. Mr. Gorelick, 57, lost his position at a large marketing firm last March. As he searched, taking on freelance and consulting work, his family’s finances slowly frayed. He is now working three jobs, driving a cab and picking up shifts at Lord & Taylor and Whole Foods.

So what does Abe need in order to find a decent job?

More education?

More experience?

No, what he needs is an economy that produces good jobs.

Sadly, the cold, hard reality of the matter is that the U.S. economy will never produce enough jobs for everyone ever again.

The way that America used to work is long gone, and it has been replaced by a cold, heartless environment where the company that you work for could rip your job away from you at a moment’s notice if they decide that it will put a few extra pennies into the pockets of the shareholders.

You may have worked incredibly hard for 30 years and been super loyal to your company.

It doesn’t matter anymore.

All that matters is the bottom line, and in the process the middle class is being destroyed.  But by destroying the middle class, those corporations are destroying the consumer base that their corporate empires were built upon in the first place.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/04/03/3177378/fruit-of-the-loom-to-close-jamestown.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/04/03/3177378/fruit-of-the-loom-to-close-jamestown.html#storylink=cpy

Oxford Professors: Robots And Computers Could Take Half Our Jobs Within The Next 20 Years

Robot 2013What are human workers going to do when super-intelligent robots and computers are better than us at doing everything?  That is one of the questions that a new study by Dr. Carl Frey and Dr. Michael Osborne of Oxford University sought to address, and what they concluded was that 47 percent of all U.S. jobs could be automated within the next 20 years.  Considering the fact that the percentage of the U.S. population that is employed is already far lower than it was a decade ago, it is frightening to think that tens of millions more jobs could disappear due to technological advances over the next couple of decades.  I have written extensively about how we are already losing millions of jobs to super cheap labor on the other side of the globe.  What are middle class families going to do as technology also takes away huge numbers of our jobs at an ever increasing pace?  We live during a period of history when knowledge is increasing an an exponential rate.  In the past, when human workers were displaced by technology it also created new kinds of jobs that the world had never seen before.  But what happens when the day arrives when computers and robots can do almost everything more cheaply and more efficiently than humans can?

For employers, there are a whole host of advantages that come with replacing human workers with technology.  Robots and computers never complain, they never get tired, they never need vacation, they never show up late, they never waste time on Facebook, they don’t need any health benefits and there are a vast array of rules, regulations and taxes that you must deal with when you hire a human worker.

If you could get a task done more cheaply and more efficiently by replacing a human worker with technology, why wouldn’t you want to do it?

We are already starting to see this happen on a mass scale, and according to Dr. Frey and Dr. Osborne, close to half of all of our jobs could be automated within the next 20 years.  A recent article posted on smartplanet.com described how this process might play out…

The automation of half the nation’s jobs will occur in two phases, the study says: The first wave will affect (and is affecting) jobs in transportation/logistics, production labor, administrative support, services, sales, and construction. The second wave — propelled by artificial intelligence — will affect jobs in management, science, engineering, and the arts.

Just as interesting as the study is the response provided by Gary Reber, founder and executive director of For Economic Justice, who argues that owners of the means of production will actually thrive as such a shift takes place. Those who rely on 9-to-5 standard employment arrangements for subsistence are likely to  suffer the most in the automation wave. As Reber put it: ‘Full employment is not an objective of businesses. Companies strive to keep labor input and other costs at a minimum.”

This is one of the reasons why the U.S. economy will never produce enough jobs for everyone ever again.

If technology can outperform humans, it is only rational for companies to replace humans with technology.

And this is even starting to happen in fields that require very high levels of education.

Just look at what is happening in the medical field.  Today, millions of people turn to websites such as WebMD for their medical needs, but this is only just the beginning.  Check out this excerpt from a recent Bloomberg article entitled “Doctor Robot Will See You Shortly“…

Johnson & Johnson proposes to replace anesthesiologists during simple procedures such as colonoscopies — not with nurse practitioners, but with machines. Sedasys, which dispenses propofol and monitors a patient automatically, was recently approved for use in healthy adult patients who have no particular risk of complications. Johnson & Johnson will lease the machines to doctor’s offices for $150 per procedure — cleverly set well below the $600 to $2,000 that anesthesiologists usually charge.

Certainly we will always need doctors.

But many of the tasks that doctors once performed will now be performed by technology.

For example, have you heard about “OnStar for the Body” yet?  Some of these new “wearable technologies” are more than a little bit creepy…

Smart, cheaper and point-of-care sensors, such as those being developed for the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE, will further enable the ‘Digital Checkup’ from anywhere. The world of ‘Quantified Self’ and ‘Quantified Health’ will lead to a new generation of wearable technologies partnered with Artificial Intelligence that will help decipher and make this information actionable.

And this ‘actionability’ is key. We hear the term Big Data used in various contexts; when applied to health information it will likely be the smart integration of massive data sets from the ‘Internet of things’ with the small data about your activity, mood, and other information. When properly filtered, this data set can give insights on a macro level – population health – and micro – ‘OnStar for the Body‘ with a personalized ‘check engine light’ to help identify individual problems before they further develop into expensive, difficult-to-treat or fatal conditions.

We are also seeing humans being replaced in other fields as well.  For instance, DARPA has developed a robot named “Atlas” that it hopes will be used in “disaster-response scenarios”…

DARPA’s Virtual Robotics Challenge entered a new phase in July, when Atlas — a 6-foot-2-inch, 330-pound robot developed by Boston Dynamics — was introduced to seven teams tasked with training it for disaster-response scenarios. The end goal? “Supervised autonomy” so that Atlas and its successors can step into situations too dangerous for humans.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want “Terminator” to show up when my family is in the middle of a disaster, but this is where things are headed.

And as technology increases, a lot of good paying middle class jobs are going to be vulnerable.  In fact, one study of employment data that examined statistics from 20 countries found that “almost all the jobs disappearing are in industries that pay middle-class wages, ranging from $38,000 to $68,000.”

Those are exactly the sort of “breadwinner jobs” that middle class families rely upon.

And of course working class jobs are being replaced by technology as well.  According to MIT Technology Review, a $22,000 humanoid robot named Baxter has been developed that can easily be programmed to do jobs that have never been automated before…

Brooks’s company, Rethink Robotics, says the robot will spark a “renaissance” in American manufacturing by helping small companies compete against low-wage offshore labor. Baxter will do that by accelerating a trend of factory efficiency that’s eliminated more jobs in the U.S. than overseas competition has. Of the approximately 5.8 million manufacturing jobs the U.S. lost between 2000 and 2010, according to McKinsey Global Institute, two-thirds were lost because of higher productivity and only 20 percent moved to places like China, Mexico, or Thailand.

The ultimate goal is for robots like Baxter to take over more complex tasks, such as fitting together parts on an electronics assembly line. “A couple more ticks of Moore’s Law and you’ve got automation that works more cheaply than Chinese labor does,” Andrew McAfee, an MIT researcher, predicted last year at a conference in Tucson, Arizona, where Baxter was discussed.

So what are human workers going to do when robots are making all of our products?

That is a very good question.

Incredibly, robots are now even replacing human factory workers in China.  The following comes from a recent TechCrunch article

Foxconn has been planning to buy 1 million robots to replace human workers and it looks like that change, albeit gradual, is about to start.

The company is allegedly paying $25,000 per robot – about three times a worker’s average salary – and they will replace humans in assembly tasks. The plans have been in place for a while – I spoke to Foxconn reps about this a year ago – and it makes perfect sense. Humans are messy, they want more money, and having a half-a-million of them in one factory is a recipe for unrest. But what happens after the halls are clear of careful young men and women and instead full of whirring robots?

So who benefits from all of this?

Those that own the big corporations that dominate our economy certainly benefit.  They aren’t going to need to hire as many of us to work for them, and they are going to make even bigger profits than before.

Meanwhile, the gap between the wealthy and the poor will grow even larger.  The only thing that most people have to offer in the economic marketplace is their labor, and the demand for that labor is decreasing with each passing day.

What do you think will happen to society when most of us are no longer “needed”?

Could we be headed for big trouble as a society?

And if you think that your job could “never be automated”, you might want to think again.

We are rapidly getting to the point where even driving will be automated

Brace yourself. In a few years, your car will be able to drop you off at the door of a shopping center or airport terminal, go park itself and return when summoned with a smartphone app. Audi demonstrated such a system at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

At your next dinner party, ask for a show of hands of the people who’d want that.

Everybody?

Anybody want a car that doesn’t crash? At this month’s Frankfurt auto show, mega-auto supplier Continental announced a partnership with IBM to help bring autonomous vehicles to market, with “zero accidents” as a possible result. Volvo has promised to injury-proof its cars by 2020. GM and Carnegie Mellon aim to develop autonomous technology to eliminate car accidents.

So what will happen to the 3.1 million Americans that drive trucks for a living once all driving is automated?

What will happen to the millions of other Americans that drive buses, taxis and limos once all driving is automated?

That is something to think about.

And researchers are even trying to create computers that “seem human” when you have a conversation with them…

On 14 September, researchers will gathered in Derry, Northern Ireland, to demonstrate their latest efforts. If any of them has created a machine that successfully mimics a human, they will leave $100,000 richer.

The money is being put up by Hugh Loebner, a New York based philanthropist. His goal, he says, is total unemployment for all human beings throughout the world. He wants robots to do all the work. And the first step towards that is apparently to develop computers that seem human when you chat to them.

So if your job involves a telephone, you are in danger of being phased out.  In fact, this transition is already starting to happen

IPsoft is a young company started by Chetan Dube, a former mathematics professor at New York University. He reckons that artificial intelligence can take over most of the routine information-technology and business-process tasks currently performed by workers in offshore locations. “The last decade was about replacing labour with cheaper labour,” says Mr Dube. “The coming decade will be about replacing cheaper labour with autonomics.”

IPsoft’s Eliza, a “virtual service-desk employee” that learns on the job and can reply to e-mail, answer phone calls and hold conversations, is being tested by several multinationals. At one American media giant she is answering 62,000 calls a month from the firm’s information-technology staff. She is able to solve two out of three of the problems without human help. At IPsoft’s media-industry customer Eliza has replaced India’s Tata Consulting Services.

We truly are entering an unprecedented time in human history.

Instead of robots violently taking over society like so many movies have portrayed, they are slowly starting to “replace” us instead.  A recent Wired article described what this transition might look like as it picks up steam…

First, machines will consolidate their gains in already-automated industries. After robots finish replacing assembly line workers, they will replace the workers in warehouses. Speedy bots able to lift 150 pounds all day long will retrieve boxes, sort them, and load them onto trucks. Fruit and vegetable picking will continue to be robotized until no humans pick outside of specialty farms. Pharmacies will feature a single pill-dispensing robot in the back while the pharmacists focus on patient consulting. Next, the more dexterous chores of cleaning in offices and schools will be taken over by late-night robots, starting with easy-to-do floors and windows and eventually getting to toilets. The highway legs of long-haul trucking routes will be driven by robots embedded in truck cabs.

All the while, robots will continue their migration into white-collar work. We already have artificial intelligence in many of our machines; we just don’t call it that. Witness one piece of software by Narrative Science (profiled in issue 20.05) that can write newspaper stories about sports games directly from the games’ stats or generate a synopsis of a company’s stock performance each day from bits of text around the web. Any job dealing with reams of paperwork will be taken over by bots, including much of medicine. Even those areas of medicine not defined by paperwork, such as surgery, are becoming increasingly robotic. The rote tasks of any information-intensive job can be automated. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, lawyer, architect, reporter, or even programmer: The robot takeover will be epic.

Are you ready for the “robot takeover”?

The world of employment is never going to be the same again.  Technology has already surpassed human workers in a whole host of arenas, and this transition is only going to become more rapid in the years ahead.

So what does this mean for the rest of us?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

10 Amazing Charts That Demonstrate The Slow, Agonizing Death Of The American Worker

10 Amazing Charts That Demonstrate The Slow, Agonizing Death Of The American WorkerThe middle class American worker is in danger of becoming an endangered species.  The politicians are not telling you the truth, and the mainstream media is certainly not telling you the truth, but the reality is that there is nothing but bad news on the horizon for workers in the United States.  In the old days, when the big corporations that dominate our society did well, that also meant good things for American workers since those corporations would need more of us to work for them.  But in the emerging one world economic system that our economy is being merged into, those corporations have other choices now.  For instance, the big corporations can now choose to limit the number of “expensive” American workers that they employ by shipping millions of jobs to the other side of the world.  And from their perspective, it makes perfect sense.  They can make much bigger profits by hiring people on the other side of the planet to work for them for less than a dollar an hour.  If they can get good production out of those people, then why should they hire Americans for ten to twenty times as much, plus have to give those Americans health insurance and other benefits?  Another major factor in the slow, agonizing death of the American worker is technology.  We live during a period when technology is advancing at a pace that is almost unimaginable at the same time that it is steadily becoming cheaper and cheaper.  That means that it is going to become easier and easier for companies to replace workers with robots and computers.  As I have written about previously, it is being projected that our economy will lose millions of jobs to technology in the coming years.  Yes, some of us will still be needed to help build the robots and the computers, but not all of us will.  And of course the overall general weakness of the economy is not helping matters either.  The American people inherited the greatest economic machine in the history of the world, and we have wrecked it.  Decades of very foolish decisions have resulted in the period of steady economic decline that we are experiencing now.

America is simply not the economic powerhouse that it once was.  Back in 2001, the U.S. economy accounted for 31.8 percent of global GDP.  By 2011, the U.S. economy only accounted for 21.6 percent of global GDP.  That is a collapse any way that you want to look at it.

Today, American workers are living in an economy that is rapidly declining, and their jobs are steadily being stolen by robots, computers and foreign workers that live in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.  Politicians from both political parties refuse to do anything to stop the bleeding because they think that the status quo is working just great.

So don’t expect things to get better any time soon.

The following are 10 amazing charts that demonstrate the slow, agonizing death of the American worker…

#1 Wages And Salaries As A Percentage Of GDP

Wages And Salaries As A Percentage Of GDP

As you can see, wages as a percentage of GDP are hovering near an all-time record low.  That means that American workers are bringing home a smaller share of the economic pie than ever before.

#2 Average Annual Hours Worked Per Employed Person In The United States

Average Annual Hours Worked per Employed Person in the United States

We are an economy that is rapidly trading good paying full-time jobs for low paying part-time jobs.  The decline in average annual hours worked that we have witnessed represents the equivalent of losing millions of jobs.  There has been an explosion of “the working poor” in the United States, and this trend is probably only going to accelerate in the years to come.

#3 Manufacturing Employment

Manufacturing Employment

As you can see, there are less Americans working in manufacturing today than there was in 1950 even though the population of the country has more than doubled since then.  The United States has lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001, and yet our politicians stand around and do nothing about it.

#4 Employment-Population Ratio

Employment-Population Ratio 2013

This is one of my favorite charts.  It shows that there has been absolutely no employment recovery at all since the end of the last recession.  The percentage of working age Americans that have a job has stayed under 59 percent for 44 months in a row.  How much worse will things get when the next major economic downturn strikes?

#5 Labor Force Participation Rate

Labor Force Participation Rate

This is how the Obama administration is getting the “unemployment rate” to magically go down.  They are pretending that millions upon millions of Americans simply do not want to work anymore.  As you will notice, the decline of the labor force participation rate has accelerated greatly since Barack Obama entered the White House.

#6 Duration Of Unemployment

Duration Of Unemployment

The average amount of time that it takes an unemployed worker to find a new job has declined slightly, but it is still far above normal historical levels.  It is a crying shame that it takes the average unemployed worker two-thirds of a year to find a new job, but this is the new economic reality that we are all living in.

#7 Delinquency Rate On Residential Mortgages

Delinquency Rate On Residential Mortgages

Since there are not enough jobs for all of us, and since our wages are not rising as rapidly as the cost of living is, a whole bunch of us are falling behind on our mortgages.  As you can see, the mortgage delinquency rate has only dropped slightly and is still way, way above typical levels.

#8 New Homes Sold

New Homes Sold

American workers also don’t have enough money to go out and buy new homes either.  Yes, new home sales have rebounded slightly this year, but we are nowhere near where we used to be.

#9 Consumer Credit

Consumer Credit

Millions of American families continue to resort to going into debt in a desperate attempt to make ends meet.  After a slight interruption during the last recession, consumer credit once again is growing at a frightening pace.

#10 Self-Employment At A Record Low

Self-Employed As A Share Of Non-Farm Employment

Since there aren’t enough jobs for everyone, why aren’t more Americans trying to start their own businesses?  Well, the reality of the matter is that the government has made it exceedingly difficult to start your own business today.  Taxes, rules, regulations and red tape are choking the life out of millions of small businesses in the United States.  As a result, the percentage of self-employed Americans is at a record low.

As all of these long-term trends continue, the middle class will continue to shrink, poverty in America will continue to explode and government dependence will continue to rise.

The numbers don’t lie.  Today, the number of Americans on Social Security Disability now exceeds the entire population of Greece, and the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the entire population of Spain.

We are in the midst of a horrifying economic collapse, and the next major wave of that collapse is rapidly approaching.

Are you ready?

Is It Fair For People On Food Stamps To Buy Prime Rib And Lobster While Working Families Barely Survive?

Is It Fair For People On Food Stamps To Buy Prime Rib And Lobster While Working Families Barely Survive?Should we all quit working and jump on board the Obama gravy train?  Of course I am being facetious, but when you are barely surviving does there come a point when it just becomes easier to give up and totally rely on the government?  Today, the federal government runs nearly 80 different means-tested welfare programs, and many state and local governments have their own welfare programs on top of that.  If you become an expert on those programs and you learn how to game the system, can you live more comfortably than someone that lives honestly and works as hard as they can and yet still makes less than 10 dollars an hour?  Now, right from the outset of this article, let me make it abundantly clear that I do not believe that most people are abusing the system.  As I have written about over and over, the number of Americans living in poverty is rapidly increasing because there are not enough jobs.  There are not enough jobs because we are shipping millions of them out of the country to the other side of the globe, and we are also losing millions of jobs to technology.  There have always been those that need our help, and because of the foolish decisions that we have made as a nation, the ranks of the poor will continue to expand.  But it is also true that there are some people out there that are very brazenly abusing the system.  For example, is it really fair for people on food stamps to buy prime rib and lobster while many working families barely survive?  People like that are taking advantage of their fellow Americans, and they are making it harder for the people that really need the help to be able to get it.

Unfortunately, we are rapidly becoming an “entitlement society”.  Close to half the country lives in a home that receives some sort of monetary benefits from the federal government each month at this point.

In particular, the food stamp program has experienced explosive growth in recent years.  Since Obama has been president, the number of Americans on food stamps has grown by more than 49 percent, and more than 11,000 people a day have enrolled in the food stamp program since Obama entered the White House.

And if you can believe it, the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the entire population of Spain.

Will we all eventually be on food stamps?

Actually, the truth is that there are millions upon millions of hard working American families that are desperately trying to make it on their own and that don’t want to become financial dependents of the federal government.  Unfortunately, it can be a little disheartening when you are barely making it from month to month and yet you see others using government benefit cards to buy luxury items.

The other day my wife came across a discussion on Facebook that really caught her attention.  I thought that I would share with you all the post that got that discussion going.  As far as I can determine, this woman shared what she believed she actually saw at her local grocery store, but I have no way of determining if this story is true or not.  But I have seen quite a few similar stories of food stamp abuse in the past.  Either way, I think the following story will be good to help spark a conversation about whether our current system is broken or not.  All of the names have been removed so as to protect the identity of the woman that originally posted this on Facebook…

Okay…so, I’m going to go on a rant for a minute…just to get it off my chest…

**** & I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things because we were getting low…sooo, we pick up our 40% off chicken and buy one get two free items and proceed to checkout.

There is a woman ahead of us with a child about 4 years old. The woman, I couldn’t help but notice….had beautiful fingernails, clearly professionally done…and I also noticed her brand new IPHONE…which she was talking on, and I think that is rude while you are being checked out. Her little girl was commenting on the TWO live lobsters in a bag on the checkout, asked if it was going to hurt when they get cooked, her mom brushed her off…at that time I took a look at what else she had on the counter…A HUGE roast, sirloin tips, shrimp, beef ribs and pork ribs…only the prime cuts… I thought to myself….mmmmmm someone is having a yummy dinner and must have a great job as I could not afford these things (not that I’d get my nails done anyway)….

So…the cashier gives her a total and what does she pull out of her wallet but a BENEFIT card!!!!!!! I had all I could do to contain myself…

Sometimes people need help, and I’m okay with that, and those who need it should get it….BUT…if you can afford the latest IPHONE and fancy nails then why in the world are the taxpayers paying for your LOBSTER?!!!! If she really needed help and food, she should have been buying the “sale” items…40% off chicken, buy one get one free cheese ravioli…you know, like the rest of us working class have to buy!

It especially makes me mad because there ARE PEOPLE WHO NEED HELP and can’t get it…My son and his girlfriend and brand new baby aren’t eligible for an ounce of help…they tried, she works days and he works nights so that they don’t have to pay for day-care, they use inexpensive diapers and try to save money anyway they can, they struggle to make ends meet and to pay for their straight talk phones and to boot are paying off college loans…but they supposedly make too much…c’mon, really, he works at McDonalds and she works in a nursing home…lets be real here…those are the type that SHOULD get help…UGHHHH Our system is broken and something needs to be done about it!!!

There, that’s my rant…kudo’s to you if you managed to read the whole thing as I know it was an awful long rant….Gotta go work now, ;) Thanks for listening.

In response to her story, dozens of people posted comments.  Quite a few people said that they had seen similar things where they lived.

And the truth is that food stamps are accepted just about wherever you look these days.  Just check out this shocking article: “Obama’s food-stamp nation: ‘We accept EBT’ signs are everywhere“.

So is this kind of thing fair?

If not, what can be done about it?

What everybody can agree upon is that the number of food stamp recipients is absolutely exploding.  The following is from a recent CNS news article

When Obama entered office in January 2009 there were 31,939,110 Americans receiving food stamps.  As of November 2012—the most recent data available—there were 47,692,896 Americans enrolled, an increase of 49.3 percent.

But this didn’t just start under Obama.  Back in the year 2000, there were just 17 million Americans on food stamps.

30 million more have been added to the program since then.

And of course food stamps is not the only federal welfare program that is being abused.

According to the Wall Street Journal, there has been a tremendous amount of abuse in the free cell phone program as well.

The U.S. government spent about $2.2 billion last year to provide phones to low-income Americans, but a Wall Street Journal review of the program shows that a large number of those who received the phones haven’t proved they are eligible to receive them.

The Lifeline program—begun in 1984 to ensure that poor people aren’t cut off from jobs, families and emergency services—is funded by charges that appear on the monthly bills of every landline and wireless-phone customer. Payouts under the program have shot up from $819 million in 2008, as more wireless carriers have persuaded regulators to let them offer the service.

A lot of people refer to those free cell phones as “Obamaphones”, but the truth is that the program has been going on for a long time.  It just has accelerated greatly under Obama.

So what is the solution to all of this?

Well, what we really need are a lot more jobs, but in the State of the Union address last night Obama simply rehashed a lot of the same tired proposals that he and our former presidents have been promoting for years.

If we continue to do the same things that we have been doing, we are going to continue to get the same results.

There is a reason why the percentage of the civilian labor force in the United States that is employed has been steadily declining every single year since 2006.  We keep pursuing foolish policies, and those policies are steadily destroying our economy.

Sadly, many of our politicians appear to be engaged in some form of “doublethink”.  The things that they tell us will solve our problems are actually the things that are making our problems even worse.

For example, Barack Obama says that we need even more “free trade agreements” and that we need to integrate our economy into the emerging one world economic system even more deeply.

But as I have shown in article after article, the “free trade” agenda of the global elite has resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of U.S. businesses and millions of good paying U.S. jobs.

For much more on this, please see the following article: “55 Reasons Why You Should Buy Products That Are Made In America“.

And of course Obama once promised that he would never “rest” until he had fixed our employment problems, but that hasn’t exactly been the truth either.  The following is from a recent article by Dan Gainor

Back in 2009, the president promised never to “rest” until the job situation was fixed. Nearly four years later, he’s done a lot of resting.

According to The Weekly Standard, Pres. Obama has had 83 vacation days overall and Factcheck.org says he took 26 of those in 2009. That means the president has taken at least 57 vacation days since his vow not to “rest.”

But hey, he needs his rest.  Life is rough.  U.S. taxpayers only spend about a billion dollars a year on the Obamas.  How is he supposed to scrape by on such limited resources?

Meanwhile, Americans are still incredibly pessimistic about the economy.  The following is what one recent survey found…

  • Eight in 10 Americans are skeptical that career and employment opportunities will be better for the next generation.
  • More than half of Americans say the economy will not fully recover from the 2007-2009 recession for another six years; 29% believe the economy will never fully recover.
  • 73% of Americans were directly impacted by the recession: individuals surveyed had either lost a job themselves or a family member/close relative had been out work because of the economic downturn.
  • The majority of survey participants said college would become unaffordable for most young Americans.
  • 56% reported having fewer savings than before the recession.
  • More than half of those who were laid off or lost a job said they cut back on medical treatment or doctor visits.
  • 40% of Americans have borrowed money from family or friends.
  • Nearly 25% of participants said they have sought professional help for stress or depression.

And as you can see from the charts in this article, U.S. businesses remain very pessimistic about the future of the economy as well.

Unfortunately, those that are pessimistic about the economy have very good reasons to be so.

And as bad as things are right now, they are going to be getting much, much worse.

That means that millions more Americans are going to be wanting to sign up for food stamps and other welfare programs.

But what will happen someday when the safety net breaks and all of those welfare programs start getting cut back dramatically?

What kind of riots will we see in major U.S. cities when the international community insists that the U.S. implement its own version of “austerity” in response to a massive debt crisis?

Will we eventually end up just like Greece and Spain or even worse?

Please share this article with as many people as you can, and please feel free to leave your thoughts on this article above by posting a comment below…

Did Your Tax Dollars Buy This Lobster?

Rise Of The Droids: Will Robots Eventually Steal All Of Our Jobs?

Rise Of The Droids: Will Robots Eventually Steal All Of Our Jobs? - Photo by stephen bowlerWill a robot take your job?  We have entered a period in human history when technology is advancing at an exponential rate.  In some ways, this has been a great blessing for humanity.  For example, I am absolutely blown away by all of the things that my little iPod can do.  But on the other hand, all of this technology is eliminating millions upon millions of high paying jobs.  In the past, I have written extensively about how millions of American jobs have been sent to the other side of the world, but now we may be moving into a time when workers all over the planet will be steadily losing jobs to super-efficient robots.  For employers, robots provide a lot of advantages to human workers.  Robots never complain, they never get tired, they never need vacation, they never show up late, they never waste time of Facebook, they don’t need any health benefits and there are a whole lot of rules, regulations and taxes that you must deal with when you hire a human worker.  In the past, robots were exceedingly expensive, and that limited their usefulness in the workplace, but as you will see later in this article that is rapidly changing.  As robots continue to become even more advanced and even less expensive, will there eventually come a point where the “human worker” is virtually obsolete?

Of course I can hear the objections already.  Many of you will insist that even though automation has always eliminated jobs in the past, it has also always created new jobs that were even better.  For instance, once upon a time most of the U.S. population worked on farms, but thanks to automation now hardly any of us do.

But what happens when we get to the point where super-intelligent robots are more efficient at everything?

What will be left for “human workers” to do?

And if human workers are no longer needed for most tasks, what will their role in society be?

Personally, I still complain about self-service check-in kiosks at airports and self-checkout lanes at supermarkets, but most people seem to have accepted them.  There are even many bank branches now that don’t have any humans in them at all.  The number of jobs where a human worker is absolutely “required” is dwindling all the time.

And a lot of the jobs that are disappearing thanks to advances in technology are fairly high paying jobs.  In fact, one recent study of employment data from 20 countries discovered that “almost all the jobs disappearing are in industries that pay middle-class wages, ranging from $38,000 to $68,000.”

As I mentioned earlier, in the past robots were simply far too expensive to perform most tasks.  So human workers had an advantage.

But that advantage is disappearing right in front of our eyes.  For example, one company has produced a new robot called “Baxter” that only costs $22,000.  The following is from an article about Baxter in the MIT Technology Review

Baxter was conceived by Rodney Brooks, the Australian roboticist and artificial-intelligence expert who left MIT to build a $22,000 humanoid robot that can easily be programmed to do simple jobs that have never been automated before.

Eventually, the goal is to produce versions of Baxter that will perform tasks even more cheaply than Chinese workers do…

Brooks’s company, Rethink Robotics, says the robot will spark a “renaissance” in American manufacturing by helping small companies compete against low-wage offshore labor. Baxter will do that by accelerating a trend of factory efficiency that’s eliminated more jobs in the U.S. than overseas competition has. Of the approximately 5.8 million manufacturing jobs the U.S. lost between 2000 and 2010, according to McKinsey Global Institute, two-thirds were lost because of higher productivity and only 20 percent moved to places like China, Mexico, or Thailand.

The ultimate goal is for robots like Baxter to take over more complex tasks, such as fitting together parts on an electronics assembly line. “A couple more ticks of Moore’s Law and you’ve got automation that works more cheaply than Chinese labor does,” Andrew McAfee, an MIT researcher, predicted last year at a conference in Tucson, Arizona, where Baxter was discussed.

So it won’t just be American workers that will be displaced by robots – it will literally be workers all over the planet.

In the future, when you call someone for customer service you probably won’t be talking to someone in India.  Instead, you will probably be talking to a robot.  In fact, this transition is already starting to happen…

IPsoft is a young company started by Chetan Dube, a former mathematics professor at New York University. He reckons that artificial intelligence can take over most of the routine information-technology and business-process tasks currently performed by workers in offshore locations. “The last decade was about replacing labour with cheaper labour,” says Mr Dube. “The coming decade will be about replacing cheaper labour with autonomics.”

IPsoft’s Eliza, a “virtual service-desk employee” that learns on the job and can reply to e-mail, answer phone calls and hold conversations, is being tested by several multinationals. At one American media giant she is answering 62,000 calls a month from the firm’s information-technology staff. She is able to solve two out of three of the problems without human help. At IPsoft’s media-industry customer Eliza has replaced India’s Tata Consulting Services.

Even some of the largest companies in China are starting to make the transition from human workers to robots.  The following is from a recent TechCrunch article

Foxconn has been planning to buy 1 million robots to replace human workers and it looks like that change, albeit gradual, is about to start.

The company is allegedly paying $25,000 per robot – about three times a worker’s average salary – and they will replace humans in assembly tasks. The plans have been in place for a while – I spoke to Foxconn reps about this a year ago – and it makes perfect sense. Humans are messy, they want more money, and having a half-a-million of them in one factory is a recipe for unrest. But what happens after the halls are clear of careful young men and women and instead full of whirring robots?

So what will the world look like as robots begin to replace humans in just about every industry that you can imagine?

A recent Wired article described what this transition might look like…

First, machines will consolidate their gains in already-automated industries. After robots finish replacing assembly line workers, they will replace the workers in warehouses. Speedy bots able to lift 150 pounds all day long will retrieve boxes, sort them, and load them onto trucks. Fruit and vegetable picking will continue to be robotized until no humans pick outside of specialty farms. Pharmacies will feature a single pill-dispensing robot in the back while the pharmacists focus on patient consulting. Next, the more dexterous chores of cleaning in offices and schools will be taken over by late-night robots, starting with easy-to-do floors and windows and eventually getting to toilets. The highway legs of long-haul trucking routes will be driven by robots embedded in truck cabs.

All the while, robots will continue their migration into white-collar work. We already have artificial intelligence in many of our machines; we just don’t call it that. Witness one piece of software by Narrative Science (profiled in issue 20.05) that can write newspaper stories about sports games directly from the games’ stats or generate a synopsis of a company’s stock performance each day from bits of text around the web. Any job dealing with reams of paperwork will be taken over by bots, including much of medicine. Even those areas of medicine not defined by paperwork, such as surgery, are becoming increasingly robotic. The rote tasks of any information-intensive job can be automated. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, lawyer, architect, reporter, or even programmer: The robot takeover will be epic.

I don’t know about you, but the phrase “robot takeover” is not exactly comforting.

Perhaps I just watch too many movies.

In any event, as technology advances there will eventually be very few jobs that robots cannot perform.  In fact, you might be surprised to learn some of the things that robots are already doing.  The following is from a recent Yahoo News article

Google and Toyota are rolling out cars that can drive themselves. The Pentagon deploys robots to find roadside explosives in Afghanistan and wages war from the air with drone aircraft. North Carolina State University this month introduced a high-tech library where robots — “bookBots” — retrieve books when students request them, instead of humans. The library’s 1.5 million books are no longer displayed on shelves; they’re kept in 18,000 metal bins that require one-ninth the space.

So what will the 3.1 million Americans that drive trucks do for a living once robots are driving all of our trucks?

What will the 573,000 Americans that drive buses do for a living once robots are driving all of our buses?

And eventually even our skies may be filled with robotic drones that are busy performing one task or another.  Just check out what a recent Time Magazine article had to say about the emerging drone industry…

But the drone industry is ramping up for a big landgrab the moment the regulatory environment starts to relax. At last year’s Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) trade show in Las Vegas, more than 500 companies pitched drones for filming crowds and tornados and surveying agricultural fields, power lines, coalfields, construction sites, gas spills and archaeological digs. A Palo Alto, Calif., start-up called Matternet wants to establish a network of drones that will transport small, urgent packages, like those for medicine.

In other countries civilian drone populations are already booming. Aerial video is a major application. A U.K. company called Skypower makes the eight-rotored Cinipro drone, which can carry a cinema-quality movie camera. In Costa Rica they’re used to study volcanoes. In Japan drones dust crops and track schools of tuna; emergency workers used one to survey the damage at Fukushima. A nature preserve in Kenya ran a crowdsourced fundraising drive to buy drones to watch over the last few northern white rhinos. Ironically, while the U.S. has been the leader in sending drones overseas, it’s lagging behind when it comes to deploying them on its own turf.

Unfortunately, many people will not understand what I am really trying to get at in this article.

They will just say something like this: “Well, they are going to need someone to build all of those robots.”

Even if that is true, they won’t need hundreds of millions of us to build them.

No, the truth is that when human workers become “obsolete”, those that dominate society with technology will look at the rest of us as “useless eaters” that are not contributing anything to society at all.

Already, there are many economists that are warning that advancements in technology are steadily reducing “the natural employment rate”.

And we are already seeing this happen in the United States.  As I wrote about the other day, the percentage of the labor force that is employed has declined every single year since 2006…

2006: 63.1

2007: 63.0

2008: 62.2

2009: 59.3

2010: 58.5

2011: 58.4

In January, only 57.9 percent of the civilian labor force was employed.

Of course there are certainly a lot of factors involved in why those numbers are declining, but without a doubt technology is playing a role.

So what do we do with all of the workers that are being displaced?

Are we just going to put everybody on food stamps?

Will the gap between the rich and the poor grow even larger than it is today?

Will most people eventually become dependent on the government in order to survive?

We are moving into uncharted territory, and nobody is quite sure what comes next.

As time goes by, robots will even start to look more like us.  In fact, this is already starting to happen.  Just check out the following description of a “bionic man” that has been created from a recent article in the Guardian

He cuts a dashing figure, this gentleman: nearly seven feet tall, and possessed of a pair of striking brown eyes. With a fondness for Ralph Lauren, middle-class rap and sharing a drink with friends, Rex is, in many ways, an unexceptional chap.

Except that he is, in fact, a real-world bionic man. Housed within a frame of state-of-the-art prosthetic limbs is a functional heart-lung system, complete with artificial blood pumping through a network of pulsating modified-polymer arteries. He has a bionic spleen to clean the blood, and an artificial pancreas to keep his blood sugar on the level. Behind the deep brown irises are a pair of retinal implants, giving him a vista of the crowds of curious humans who meet his gaze.

He even has a degree of artificial intelligence: talk to him, and he’ll listen (through his cochlear implants), before using a speech generator to respond.

As robots become more like us, will we eventually become more like them?

Will we be told that we must “merge with the machines” in order to keep up and be useful in society?

As we rapidly approach the “technological singularity” that futurist Ray Kurzweil and others have talked about, will humans increasingly seek to “enhance” themselves with technology in an attempt to “get an edge”?

What will happen to those of us that refuse to “merge with the machines” and that refuse to “enhance ourselves” with technology?

Will we be outcasts?

Those are some important questions.  Feel free to share your thoughts on those questions by posting a comment below…

Terminator - Photo by tenaciousme

Nothing Is Stable Anymore

The world is becoming a very unstable place, and the pace at which things are changing all around us has become absolutely mind-numbing.  In fact, change has become one of the only constants in today’s world.  Once upon a time, people in the United States could actually make 20 or 30 year plans and feel confident about achieving them.  But now, nothing is stable anymore.  The financial crisis showed us that some of the biggest corporations on the globe can collapse in a single day.  The events of the past few weeks have shown us that entire governments can be brought down in a single week.  We live in a world where there are now very few “guarantees” that you can count on.  One of the only things that is guaranteed is that technology and information will continue to grow at exponential speeds.  This year, the total amount of information produced on electronic devices around the globe is projected to be more than a zettabyte.  A zettabyte is equivalent to one sextillion bytes.  In other words, imagine a one with more than 21 zeroes following it.

Many of the things that we take for granted today didn’t even exist a few short years ago.  Facebook has only been with us since 2004.  YouTube has only been with us since 2005.  Can you imagine a world where those two websites did not exist?

We live in a world of information overload.  Once upon a time it would have been possible to go to sleep for a decade and wake up and everything would still be pretty much the same.  But today if you were to do that you would be in for a case of severe culture shock.

Do you remember when you could buy a set of encyclopedias and the information in them would still be good a decade or two later?

Well, things do not work that way anymore.

In fact, most of the articles on this website will be obsolete a month from now.

In today’s world, you really have to think twice before you say that something is “not possible”.

A few months ago, it was absolutely inconceivable that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would declare to the world that he has “spent enough time serving Egypt“.

Yet here we are.

One week the government of Tunisia seemed perfectly stable and the next week it was toppled.

Do any of you out there still think that you can make realistic “plans for the future” in today’s world?

Once upon a time in America, many of us were taught that if we worked really hard in school we could get a great job with a great company.  We were promised that if we were faithful to that company for 30 or 40 years that we would be treated fairly and given a good pension.

Well, in today’s world you might as well crumple up that plan and throw it into the wastebasket.

There is no such thing as a stable job anymore.  Businesses are coming into existence and going out of existence faster than ever before.  Today, one out of every four Americans workers has been with their empl0yer for less than a year.

Most Americans still don’t really understand that they are now part of a global economy.  They keep thinking that things were the way they used to be.  They keep thinking that the U.S. economy is invincible.

Well, those days are long gone.  The United States is being deindustrialized at lightning speed.  Tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities and millions of jobs have been sent overseas.  China, once a complete economic backwater, is now kicking the crap out of us on the global economic stage.

Our financial system is certainly on incredibly shaky ground.  Will any of us ever forget what happened in 2008?

Do any of us actually believe that it can’t happen again?

Our health care system is also incredibly unstable.  Today, 46 million Americans have absolutely no health insurance.  That means that 46 million Americans are just one major injury or illness away from financial ruin with no protection whatsoever.

Not that those that actually have health insurance are protected.  According to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States.  Of those bankruptcies that were caused by medical bills, approximately 75 percent of them involved individuals that did have health insurance.

So just because you have health insurance does not mean anything.  One bad accident or one really bad disease and you could be totally wiped out.

Isn’t that comforting?

But the truth is that our entire economy is on the verge of total collapse.

World famous investor Harry Schultz recently published the last issue of his legendary financial newsletter.  After 45 years, the following is how Schultz summed up the economic collapse that we are now facing….

“Roughly speaking, the mess we are in is the worst since 17th century financial collapse. Comparisons with the 1930’s are ludicrous. We’ve gone far beyond that. And, alas, the courage & political will to recognize the mess & act wisely to reverse gears, is absent in U.S. leadership, where the problems were hatched & where the rot is by far the deepest.”

David Stockman, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget under Ronald Reagan was quoted by Schultz as saying the following about how desperate things are about to become….

“Get some gold, beans, water, anything that Bernanke can’t destroy. Ron Paul is right. We’re entering a global monetary conflagration. If a sell-off of U.S. bonds starts, it will be an Armageddon.”

Millions of Americans have become “preppers” in recent years as they have come to realize that our economy is headed down a very dark road.

But sadly, the reality is that the vast majority of Americans are not prepared for any kind of economic or natural disaster.  As this week has shown us, just the threat of a major snow storm can wipe out store shelves in a single day.

So what would this country look like if a major disaster fundamentally changed life in America and suddenly people were desperate for food and supplies?

It is a frightening thing to think about.

As the pace of change has accelerated dramatically, the U.S. government and other governments around the world have responded by trying to get a tighter grip on everyone and everything.

To get on an airplane in the United States today, you either have to allow a security goon to use a scanner to look over your completely exposed body, or you have to allow a security goon to feel up all of your private areas with the fronts of his or her hands.

Not only that, but the U.S. government has now deployed VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) teams to set up security checkpoints at bus terminals, subway stations and on major highways.

The America that so many of us once loved is rapidly disappearing.

But it is not just our man-made systems that are rapidly changing.  Something seems to be happening to the entire planet.  Flooding of biblical proportions has hit Australia, Brazil, China and Pakistan over the past 12 months.  Scorching heat caused massive crop failures all over Russia last summer.  Record-setting cold temperatures and snowfalls all over the northern hemisphere have scientists scratching their heads.  On top of everything else, mass deaths of birds and fish are suddenly being reported all over the globe.

Even the crust of the earth is becoming increasingly unstable.  Did you see that volcano go off in Japan the other day?  Over the past two years it seems like volcanoes have been suddenly erupting all over the world.

Not only that, but sinkholes have become an absolute epidemic all over the planet.  Some of these sinkholes have been so large that they have swallowed entire apartment buildings.

In addition, it seems like there is a magnitude 6 or magnitude 7 earthquake somewhere in the world almost every day now.  They have become so common that the mainstream media barely even takes notice of them anymore unless one happens near a very populated area.

None of us really knows what the world is going to look like ten years from now.  What will the “new” Facebooks and YouTubes be?  Will Ben Bernanke’s reckless money printing destroy our economy by then?  Will our U.S. dollars still be of any value ten years from now?  Will there even still be a U.S. dollar?

Will we still be able to feed most of the people in the world by 2011?  Will shortages of food, water and oil start driving people crazy?  Could some amazing energy discovery completely transform society?

Who will be the president of the United States?  Will there even be a president of the United States?  Will war have erupted in the Middle East by that point?  Will the United States be in another war by then?

The truth is that things are changing so fast that it is hard to even come up with the right questions to ask.  The world is going to change faster this year than it did last year.  In 2012 the pace of change will be even faster.

So buckle up and hold on tight because this is going to be one wild ride.

For much more on how incredibly fast the pace of change is in our modern society, check out the video posted below.  It is entitled “Did You Know?” and it has been viewed more than 12 million times on YouTube….

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