Automation Can’t Happen Fast Enough

Humane Treatment

The way humanity treats fellow members of the species is just horrifying.

Automation will help prevent some of the mistreatment that humans perform on each other; however, one has to wonder exactly what is going to happen when this relief happens – what next?

Case in point – the garment industry in Bangladesh.

Workers protested making substandard wages ($66 a month) and requested $200 a month. Instead of sitting down at a table and holding a discussion – the police were called. A total of 150,000 workers went on strike. This is no fringe movement. Imagine the amount of work it takes to get 2 people to agree to something and you get an understanding of what it takes to get 150,000 people to agree to do something – especially something that ends up causing economic harm to yourself.

People were arrested, people were harmed, and 3,500 people lost their livelihood and were fired.

And nothing changed.

This is an industry which needs to be automated out of existence. It is a human rights issue. Fires have killed over 1,000 workers in the United States of America decades ago – and that caused changes to the industry and brought about safety regulations. This still didn’t wipe out sweat shop working conditions in the USA as there are still illegal sweat shops in existence in the USA.

Capitalism Without Oversight

The problem starts in the West. Companies that people spend lots of money on their clothing want to pay the least for the product. They require fixed bid contracting and select the lowest bids. Quality, ethics, or human rights do not factor in the purchasing departments mind.

While there is a lot of “lip service” to ethically created clothing – there isn’t a lot of follow-through.

“Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Doesn’t seem to apply in the logistics and procurement of clothing. It should. While slightly hidden people blithely live in ignorance of the suffering and basically slave labor conditions that accounting creates to encourage large profit margins.

In some ways slaves have advantages over paid employees in a sweat shop environment. Hold on. Hold on. Let me explain.

If a person is a slave, your life is the responsibility of the owner. You are their asset. If you don’t get enough food then you are a lost asset on the balance sheet.

If a person is a wage slave or sweat shop labor and they starve because they don’t have enough money to buy food, the company does not care because there is someone out there who is in worse shape willing to take their place.

This makes the sweat shop laborer a disposable object – like an ink jet printer that the cartridges cost more to replace than the printer originally did.

So, in the article on this Bangladeshi strike the company owners step in and say “We aren’t the problem, we bid and the lowest bid gets the contract and we can only pay the employees so much.” Or something similar. Pleading that they are helpless in the working conditions that they provide.

The problem is that as a collective group all of the garment producing factories need to stand up and require good wages for their people. They need to include in their bids the hourly wages of the workers and present that when one of them decides to undercut everyone else – by paying starvation wages to their workers.

The Future

The fact of the matter is that no wages will be cheaper than paying robotics to produce clothing once the technology is ready for prime time. This can’t happen soon enough. Humans are not slaves. People should not be servants and subservient humans are not useful to the future of humanity.

Going out to dinner is enjoyable, but there are aspects of it that are dark. Waiters and waitresses who are paid far below minimum wages in the hopes of getting tips. While most people pay tips this leads to a situation where a waiter or a waitress are little more than subservient servants to their customers. This model is being pushed out to teachers where the performance of students is tied to teacher wages and increases.

While there is a place for monitoring, observations, and relating that information to wage increases – teaching children isn’t the place for that. Each child is an individual. Children may learn or not learn despite the best efforts of teachers. It isn’t like the teachers are programming computers and the results can be monitored and directly tied to the teachers capability. People are not machines.

The major problem with sweat shop laborers is that when automation comes it will completely wipe out their jobs from existence. If 150,000 sweat shop workers can go on strike I would be there are hundreds of thousands of more sweat shop workers in Bangladesh that didn’t go on strike. Go on strike or not, when automation comes those hundreds of thousands of workers will all be out of work (maybe not all at once).

And part of the problem in Bangladesh is that unemployment and other social services for people not worker are probably fairly substandard compared to the needs of their people. This is why so many people are willing to work for so little. People would rather work for too little than have nothing at all.

So what happens next in Bangladesh (and everywhere) after jobs are automated out of existence? Is someone perhaps going to argue that new jobs are going to come into existence to employ everyone? I don’t think so. The reason automation works is that it reduces costs for the employer making their business more profitable.

In addition, the level of skill and knowledge required for the making of clothing is not similar and not transferable to say – computer programming, automation techniques, or design practices. Most likely people who already are working will be in more demand to provide these services to companies automating the creation of clothing. The other major beneficiary of automation will be college graduates – if they choose their major with return on investment in mind.

So, what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of unemployed and for the most part unemployable people?

Two Models of the Future

  1. UBI (Universal Basic Income) – where people who don’t have a job are paid enough to ensure that they have a roof over their head, have medical coverage, and have enough money for food and education. Through education a certain percentage of people on UBI will graduate to working.
  2. The world as it is at present. Unemployment may exist and be temporary in nature. There is no health insurance or those that are unemployed – unless they can afford it and if they aren’t working I’m sure they can’t afford it. Education is pay to play.

In case 1, humanity survives and thrives. People who have been on the bottom tiers of the world can at least live and be comfortable with the hope of better futures.

In case 2, there is no option. These people will die. In a variety of ways.

In countries like Germany the groundwork is already being laid for UBI. These countries value their citizens and want them to survive and thrive. Perhaps, the United States of America will follow, but not until lots of things change. Right now in the present political climate the USA will view UBI as “freeloaders” or perhaps people getting UBI through fraud as commonly alleged against SNAP.

But places like Bangladesh – I don’t know that UBI is even as feasible as it will be in the USA – and I don’t think it is all that probable in the USA – not until a lot of people start suffering.

 

Automation – The Savior – Not The Destroyer

There is a lot of doom and gloom about the future, technology, automation and employment.

Previously, I have written about sweat shops and the coming automation in the making of clothing. Automation faces many hurdles.

One of those hurdles is that the costs have to offer a return on investment compared to traditional manufacturing technologies.

Even if that technology is centuries old. Using people to manufacture clothing – in the present era (starting at least 100 years ago) is the sweat shop. In this recent article it is reported that workers earned £3 an hour to manufacture clothing for high end retailers.

That dress you are wearing – and paid $200 for? The person making it took less than an hour and was paid like $4 for their entire hour.

So, who is making the money? Well, the retailers are making the money – and they apply pressure to the manufacturers to provide the lowest prices.

So, automation. It is going to take jobs. Some jobs need to go away. The sweat shop needs to go away. Ironically, since they pay so little it will take longer before automation penetrates in to this market.

People will not have health care to make that dress.

People will not have enough money to survive to make those jeans.

People will work in dangerous environments with high risk of fire – to make those undies.

It needs to stop.

Oh, and just a side note. There is a reason we have regulations and laws. It is because businesses cannot be trusted to behave in an ethical manner. You can complain about the costs to businesses because of all these regulations, but the fact of the matter is that businesses as a whole will reduce costs to the lowest they can regardless of industry and will break rules, behave unethically and endanger the lives of their customers and employees simply to maximize profits.

So, the ship where we have low number of regulations and laws and people are treated well – that ship has sailed. The ship we are on now, where you have to document workers hours, how much you paid them, and are forced to treat them properly – because you have to (not because you choose to – that is the ship we are on now.

The Morality of Humans is Highly Questionable

Recently, Scientific American had an article titled: Why Robots Must Learn to Tell Us “No

Unfortunately, you have to pay to have access to the article, but the point of the article seems obvious to any moral person. Except, it isn’t.

So, I bought the digital subscription. I don’t need any more physical objects added to my already near hoarder level home.

Reading the article it takes an unfortunately narrow view of the bad things humans can order robots to do. The research carried out is on humans ordering a robot to destroy a physical object that it just built, but not ordering a robot to harm another human.

It is still a good article. I definitely recommend reading it. It includes discussion about Asimov’s laws of robotics and how they implemented something like it with ‘felicity conditions’.

The morality of humans is highly questionable. Anyone who has read some articles on this site know I have read and researched dozens if not hundreds of instances of humanity gone wrong. Humanity going wrong may be more the normal circumstance than the exception.

Asimov wrote a book about human that lived on a planet called Solaria. They took their human bodies and altered them. Then, in Isaac Asimov’s story, they defined human as only humans that have been altered as they were. Normal humans could easily be killed by these robots.

Consider that situation and perhaps the coders defining humanity by the color of a person’s skin or the color of their eyes and you can see the deep potential for robots doing harm to some or all of humanity.

Here is a thought experiment:

  1. In the present or near future a company creates drones equipped with squirt guns. It is great fun. The company does well and starts a research and development group.
  2. This group’s research and development comes up with drones that can fire based on facial recognition. These, too are great fun.
  3. Kids get teams of drones and water guns and play during the summer outside and this is recognized as one of the coolest things ever.
  4. The technology propagates out of the United States and western nations.
  5. A man that was turned down by a woman puts acid in the storage chamber and inputs her picture in to the device. It attacks her, burning her face off.

So, the robot – or drone in this case – was just following orders. Drone (or R/C aircraft) technology is widely available today and certainly a squirt gun equipped model could be built – even if the amount of water it can carry is limited.

The above sequence of events is certainly possible. So, what can we do to not have this happen in the future?

The drone must be able to say no. How can the drone say no?

Well, it requires planning and knowing the basic lack of morality of humans. A sensor would be required in the storage tank of the water gun drones. If the substance comes up as not water – the drone may not fire the water gun. In addition, if the acid attack is carried out by drone – prosecution is hard enough in crimes of this type – what about when there is little or no evidence and the perpetrator left the area long before the drone begins the attack?

The problem is that we have already put drones to work in the dirty business of war. We have already set the precedent that drones or “robot” technology can be used in the business of war – the business of killing people.

We will most likely have two sets of rules – military and civilian – for drones and robots.

But wait, there’s more.

Everyone is pursuing different ‘morals’ around the world. Murder isn’t murder if it is….

Honor killing. Except that no, honor killings are just murder. Murder of a family member because that member did something that you don’t like.

Large portions of the population in Islamic countries believe that honor killings are moral. Will they request (and get?) robots or drones with modified rules that allow for honor killings, acid attacks, and more?

If companies don’t create these alternate ‘Islamic’ moral rules robots, won’t the Islamic people create their own?

And More.

In any part of the world rape is a problem. Will there be rapists with robots to hold women down? Robots must be able to say no. Robots will need to understand the situation they are placed. Robots will need to understand what harm is. And programmers will have to have standards as to what constitutes harm.

What ‘moral’ actions will AI robots be applied to in the future? When women survive their husbands in India will the home robot ‘assist’ in removing her from the home – so the son can inherit from the father and the mother be put into a life of destitution begging for food and potentially prostitution?

Will drones and AI robots assist the sale of women for dowry?

But Maybe?

If we can code and ensure that while we humans in general are not moral – that our robots are moral there can be much good for humanity. If the costs of creating AI robots falls fast enough perhaps the drudgery that causes women to be sold for dowry in to slavery can be prevented – if the AI robots take care of these tasks. If there are sex robots perhaps rape can be prevented by having a place for rape to occur, just not to humans. Ethical problems may still arise, but, perhaps if an entity is designed to not be bothered by rape this ethical issues can disappear.

The potential that we have to work toward are moral AI robots – and for the ubiquitous to an extent that it prevents the above horrors. Intelligence may need to be built in to many devices. Autonomous cars will need to know if their sensors have been disabled by an unscrupulous human to commit murder by car. Moral AI robots will have limitations – but it needs to start with a basis of defining harm – and start with the worst forms of harm so that the good of placing moral AI robots in to existence will more than balance the harm that humans may attempt to make them perform.

However

It is troubling with how immoral humanity is that such power and based on the contents of my blog – we do such horrible things to each other. Perhaps, there is a chance that our children (AI robots, codops, etc) can help make humanity a more moral species.

Governmental Actions That Should Not Happen

The actions that governments should not be involved are legion. Today I am only going to discuss one of them. The way governments treats the destitute.

This article goes into detail about many of the most common ways local governments and businesses approach the homeless and destitute.

What is the danger in how government treats the homeless and destitute?

The danger is that larger and larger numbers of humanity may well be joining the homeless and destitute. I have covered many articles and my own projections of how AI or codops (computerized doppelgangers – or computer copies of human beings) will employment. Even conservative estimates in the single digits as to the numbers of people to be unemployed in the future are cause for concern – because 7% of the labor force would effectively more than double the number of unemployed people in the United States of America.

Homeless people are demonized in the United States of America – treated as less than human – not having rights to their personal belongings and chased from municipality to municipality in search of a safe place to stay for the night.

I know people in general do not feel they will ever be homeless; however, it is a reality that must increasingly be watched as automation, AI, and codop technologies become realities. The problem is that we don’t treat the homeless the way we would want to be treated if we were homeless.

This is critical to concepts like UBI (Universal Basic Income). This is not unemployment. This is a source of income not tied to work – because the amount of work left for humans to do will be limited by automation, AI, and robotics.

Given the vocal opposition to unemployment, medical benefits, and any income redistribution methods by major segments of the population and particularly vocal members of the Republican party it seems unlikely that UBI will become a part of our society.

Overall, it appears that our society lacks a certain empathy with people who have lost their economic power. It is ironic, that also in our society most families live only a few steps away from financial disaster.

So, what brought this about? Why did I write this article?

This article in particular disturbed me.

To summarize:

  1. A woman gets caught begging in Bath. Gets let off.
  2. She gets caught begging again in Bath violating parole.
  3. She gets sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, pay a fine of £115, and had to take part in a rehabilitation activity requirement.

It is hard to know where to begin with the lack of basic empathy or understanding for an individuals motives or the institutionalization of prosecution of the poor.

Perhaps that is what many of us have to look forward to – prosecution for being poor.

It seems unlikely that prison time will cure the problem causing the begging.

It is even less likely that she will be able to pay the £115 fine. What exactly are the penalties for not paying the fine? Fees? This community service/rehabilitation activity requirement – how does she get there? Does she get provided food while doing this service?

In Six Sigma there is a lot of exploration of root causes of problems in processes. Using Ishikawa/Fishbone diagrams to figure out the root causes of issues. It seems clear that even with a marginal amount of intelligence, empathy, and exploratory reasoning that the root cause of her begging can be determined.

At present, there are probably many jobs that go unfilled in Bath and vacant residences that could provide shelter. With an adviser to provide a connection between the homeless person, employer, shelter and to ensure they have enough food and necessities – this “detriment” to society could be converted to an asset.

In the future; however, jobs may become much more scarce. Government and society may well be as intolerant (or more) the more common homelessness becomes. How will the future turn out with large numbers of homeless people?

Pointing at the Downsides of Technology

I know someone who has received a donated organ. In fact, that person I know that received a donated organ received that organ from a person who died in a car accident.

I’m glad they are alive. In a sense I am glad that other person died, but not in any direct way.

We don’t hunt for people to donate kidneys and kill them to ensure the survival of others.

This article in Popular Mechanics bemoans the oncoming autonomous vehicle technology for the fact that it will reduce the number of traffic fatalities – potentially by half (or more) and that this source of 20% of organs for transplant will be vastly reduced.

This is similar to moaning about loss of jobs in the garment industry because of advances in automation. The jobs that are going to be removed are the worst jobs out there – and the people working them are working in the most horrible conditions. The fact that automation is going to remove these jobs from existence is not something to lament.

Instead of keeping pace with current demand for donor organs the focus should be on new paths to organ function replacement. There are lots of great articles about the potential of using stem cells to promote healthy organ function. Lots of articles about using stem cells or other cells to 3D print functioning organs.

Luddite attitudes are creeping in to bastions of science – such as Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and Scientific American. It seems odd that they are focusing on the very aspects of social and technology that will greatly improve human life.

Sadly, if autonomous cars reduce fatalities earlier than prime time for alternate organ replacement technologies – people will die. It will be fewer people; however, than the number of people killed every year in automobile accidents.

Technology Progresses Even When You Are Not Watching

There was a time when I was avidly into building my own desktop computers. My oldest son and myself built his first desktop computer. It was always exciting to me and I saved a few bucks over say buying a Dell and gave the satisfaction of having built a device that does a huge number of tasks (computers, not just for the internets).

Shortly after we built my oldest son’s computer I stopped really paying attention to computer component parts. At some point I’ll build a computer with my daughters and my younger son – but I suspect those will be tablets with Raspberry Pi motherboards.

Today, my hard drive (1TB) is out of space! It is a bit unreal as we always come in to new high capacity hard drives with the attitude “well I’ll never fill that up” even though we know we said that the last time we had multi-gigabyte hard drives, gigabyte hard drives and look at that snazzy 200MB hard drive on that 286.

So, it is not time to buy a new desktop computer, yet. This one is plenty fast enough to crunch through hundreds of millions of records in my SQL Server database that it just doesn’t make sense.

So, I went to Amazon to find a new larger hard drive.

Sticker Shock! Despite me analyzing data and making predictions sometimes you take a step back for two or three years and find…. wow, 5TB hard drives for $125.

I’ll never fill that up.

It just brings to mind the things I have been predicting about Watson level computing in the home, codops (Computerized Doppelgangers) and when it will be achievable, and the idea that one day there may well be billions more codops on Earth than there are physical humans.

If we want to admit it or not – we are definitely in the part of the curve where advances are coming ever quickly and soon to enter the singularity.

Hopefully, I will live long enough to see it.

Hopefully, humanity doesn’t screw itself up before we get there. Whatever that ‘there’ might be.