Camera Of Life

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So this open-door market has no workers there.

Someone comes in to stock the shelves periodically, and that’s it!

It’s completely automated of workers, and only has this automated kiosk for check-out. 

As you shop, there are cameras watching you, so you don’t steal anything. 

Then you go to the checkout and like in other stores, you scan you items and pay with your credit card, but the difference is that it’s without anyone else around at all.

Can you imagine someone would leave there business and there is no one watching you, except the cameras.

You’re on your honor system. 

Just think how much money the owner saves by not having to stand there or hire someone to stand there all day. 

He can have 10 or 100 or 1,000 of these stores and no daily labor to pay for. 

Talk about people losing their jobs to automation and robotics!

So even if someone does steal 1 or 2 things, it’s a minor loss to the owner compared to paying someone to stand there and check people out all day (salary, benefits, payroll taxes, workers comp insurance, and more). 

What if the camera isn’t even real and it’s just a dark cone, so you are just left to think that you’re being surveilled…another savings for the owner. 

Now imagine if we all internalized this thought in life that we were under the watchful eye of our Maker, and everyone would do the right thing even when no one else was there watching. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Hold On To Your Jobs

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These statistics are dismal for manufacturing in the U.S. 


Today, public sector (government) employment is 22.2 million vs. just 12.2 million manufacturing jobs. 


In other words, there are 10 million or 80% more people employed by the government than making things in this country. 


This is the complete opposite from 1979 when government employed 16 million people and manufacturing had 19.6 million workers.


So just 37 years ago, manufacturing employment was 22% more than our public sector employment.


Manufacturing lost 37% of it jobs, while government grew 39%.


It hasn’t been since 1989 that there was parity at 18 million between the two sectors. 


Lest you think that the loss in manufacturing jobs is due to automation and technology, the Economic Policy Institute states unequivocally:


“Trade, not productivity, is the culprit.”


In the U.S. the annual trade deficit is over half a trillion dollars–we are hemorrhaging and no one has been even trying to stop the bleeding.  


If we send all our manufacturing prowess and capacity abroad eventually we are not only going to lose our capability to make things, our ingenuity to invent things, but our finances to pay for anything. 


Trade is a great thing when it is mutual and equal, not when it is one-sided and damaging to our economy and jobs. 


Bad political decisions mean a poorer future for our economy and our nation. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Requirements Management 101

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This was a funny Dilbert on Requirements Management. 


In IT, we all know that getting requirements can be like pulling teeth. 


No one either has time or desire to provide them or perhaps they simply don’t know what they’re really after.


Knowing what you want is a lot harder than just telling someone to automate what I got because it isn’t working for me anymore!


In the comic, Dilbert shows the frustration and tension between technology providers and customers in trying to figure out what the new software should do. 


Technology Person: “Tell me what you want to accomplish.”


Business Customer: “Tell me what the software can do.”


In the end, the customer in exasperation just asks the IT person “Can you design [the software] to tell you my requirements?”


And hence, the age old dilemma of the chicken and egg–which came first with technology, the requirements or the capability–and can’t you just provide it!


(Source Comic: Dilbert By Scott Adams)

Robots, They Are Coming

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I was so excited by this photo in the Wall Street Journal today.


YuMi, an industrial robot by ABB, is adroitly writing Chinese calligraphy. 


If you look at the photo and think for a moment, the notion of the robot doing and the person watching is truly prophetic of how we are evolving technologically and as a species. 


Yumi is made by ABB, a leading robotics company headquartered in Switzerland, that on one hand has over 300,000 robots installed worldwide, but on the other hand needs only 4,600 employees in 53 countries to produce all these fantastic and productive droids.  

This robot is a work of not just incredible science and engineering, but of art and beauty. 


It’s sleek black and white build with two incredibly agile arms and hands plus a viewing camera, enables it to do small parts assembly or even fine calligraphic work. 


YuMi stands for “You and Me” working together, collaboratively. 


While we surely will work together, the flip side is that with robotics, some people (who don’t make the transition to STEM) may not be working much at all. 


But of course, the positive side is that we are looking at an incredible capacity to do more and better with less! 


Leaving the innovation to humans, and the assembly and service to the bots, the bar will be raised on everything–both good and bad.


We will build greater things, travel and explore further, and discover ever new depths of understanding and opportunities to exploit.


But we will also edge people out of work and comfort zones, and be able to engage in new forms of conflict and war that only the power and skill of (semi-) autonomous machines could inflict. 


The robots are here, however, they are coming in much greater numbers, capabilities, and impact then we can currently fully comprehend. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via WSJ)

All American Chair

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Got to love this all American chair. 

Red, white, and blue. 

And stars and stripes everywhere. 

The only thing that I seriously wonder about is whether this chair was manufactured in the U.S. 

With the U.S. losing 35% of it’s manufacturing employment between 1998 and 2010 (from 17.6M to 11.5M), due in large part to outsourcing, there is a good chance this chair was made overseas. 

Now manufacturing makes up less than 9% of total U.S. employment

Also noteworthy is the loss of 51,000 manufacturing plants or 12.5% between 1998-2008.  

Together, agriculture and industry make up only approximately 20% of the entire U.S. economy

Manufacturing are agriculture are strategic capabilities for this country and any country. 

It’s not just what you know, but what you make!

Sure we can make things faster and easier with automation, but at this point there is a serious skills shortage (with millions of jobs going unfilled), and we need to safeguard the strategic knowledge, skills, capability, and capacity to make things vital to our thriving existence.

We need to be a more self-sufficient nation again and not a one-trick service pony. 

We need to use information to be better innovators, creators, developers, and builders. 

Information is great, but you can’t live by information alone. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

You’re Getting Milked

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If you have a pulse and have been to the stores or even shopping online lately (hey, it’s the holidays so of course you have), you know that prices are on the rise.


And this is amazing, because–


Major factors point to pricing that should be driven down:


Commodities–which are the basic raw materials from agriculture to oil and gas and metals and mining–are at a more than 16-year low!


Manufacturing has moved to low cost sourcing countries (China, India, Vietnam, Africa, etc.)


Technology continues to benefit us in terms of cost-efficiencies from the transformation to robotics and automation.


Yet, we keep on seeing prices move ever higher:


Just a few examples…


– “Housing market is on fire” with existing home prices exceeding the pre-recession peak!


– “Car prices at records highs – and rising


– “Food prices are sky high“–it’s not your imagination.


Fashion “prices rising so fast


Health care spending is “again accelerating”


– “College costs are so high and rising.


Forget the B.S. of the basket of inflation stats your being feed…you know that your bills are going up, while your income is stagnant.


The real question is why is the middle class always getting milked–whose interest does it serve? 😉

The Robotization Of Society

Robotization

First, it’s people–just us, living and loving. 
 
Then, we welcome robots into our society for automation, industrialization, and services–they are here to help us.
 
Finally, it’s just the robots–we, the people, are obsolete, replaced, maybe even completely gone!

Think about it. 😉
 
(Source Comic: Andy Blumenthal)

Robots, Who’s Telling Whom What To Do

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There was an interesting quote about jobs of the future by Tom Preston-Werner in Bloomberg Businessweek:



“In the future, there’s potentially two types of jobs: where you tell a machine what to do, programming a computer, or a machine is going to tell you what to do. You’re either the one that creates the automation or you’re going to get automated.”



Already, we’ve seen manufacturing get outsourced by the millions of job to cheaper labor oversees or automated in factories by machines and robotics.



Similarly, agriculture has seen a large decrease in small family-owned farms, in lieu of mega farms run by multinationals and run by automated farm equipment with GPS and drones. 



The military is moving quickly to warfare by drones, robotics, and people geared-up in high-tech exoskeletons. 



Now in the sacrosanct service sector, where it has been said that it could never be done by anyone by local people in the communities, services are moving in the direction of robotics.

 

Perhaps even in government we can ask, can there be a future where robots can govern better than we can–and get things done speedily and efficiently!



In one Sci fi hit after another, from Star Trek to Battlestar Galactica to Terminator, a future of humanity embattled by cyborgs predominates. 



Like in the show, Lost in Space, where the robot in wont to say, “Crush, Kill, Destroy,” perhaps we can understand this as not jsut a physical threat as people’s lives, but also to their ability to earn a living in a world where automation challenges us with the children reframe:



“Everything you can do, I can do better. I can do everything better than you. Yes you can, no you can’t…”



At this point, I am not sure it is really a debate anymore, and that Preston-Werner is predominantly right…technology is the future–whether we are end up being eaten alive by it or are its earthly masters. 😉

What If They Can Read Our Redactions?

What If They Can Read Our Redactions?

The New Yorker has a fascinating article about technology advances being made to un-redact classified text from government documents.

Typically, classified material is redacted from disclosed documents with black bars that are technologically “burnt” into the document.

With the black bars, you are not supposed to be able to see/read what is behind it because of the sensitivity of it.

But what if our adversaries have the technology to un-redact or un-burn and autocomplete the words behind those black lines and see what it actually says underneath?

Our secrets would be exposed! Our sensitive assets put at jeopardy!

Already a Columbia University professor is working on a Declassification Engine that uses machine learning and natural language processing to determine semantic patterns that could give the ability “to predict content of redacted text” based on the words and context around them.

In the case, declassified information in the document is used in aggregate to “piece together” or uncover the material that is blacked out.

In another case prior, a doctoral candidate at Dublin City University in 2004, used “document-analysis technologies” to decrypt critical information related to 9/11.

This was done by also using syntax or structure and estimating the size of the word blacked out and then using automation to run through dictionary words to see if it would fit along with another “dictionary-reading program” to filter the result set to the likely missing word(s).

The point here is that with the right technology redacted text can be un-redacted.

Will our adversaries (or even allies) soon be able to do this, or perhaps, someone out there has already cracked this nut and our secrets are revealed?

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Newspaper Club)