Skip to comments.Violence Against Tech Firms May Only Be Beginning
Posted on 01/24/2014 8:15:29 AM PST by Second Amendment First
For the past few weeks, protests have been building against a private bus system used by Google and others in Silicon Valley. The action took a menacing turn yesterday when one Google worker was followed home.
Google and other Silicon Valley tech companies have attracted the protesters' ire because sky-high tech salaries have led to sky-high real estate prices in San Francisco, pricing out poorer residents. They're also in the cross-hairs for their role in assisting NSA surveillance. The private bus system (which used public bus stops) was seen as another kick in teeth by, in the words of Kevin Roose, "coddled 22-year-olds with Stanford BAs."
But recent protests against tech firms aren't confined to Silicon Valley. In France, for instance, striking taxi workers attacked and vandalized cars booked through Uber.
Taken together these protests are small, uncoordinated and may ultimately fizzle out. Or, like the early tremors from a massive earthquake, they may be a significant harbinger of things to come. In fact, we may be nearing not one but two waves of violence directed at technology companies in the United States and abroad.
The first wave may prove to be nothing more than an unfortunate product of social resentment. The second wave could be catastrophic.
The First Wave
Many technological revolutions inspire fear and often violence when they displace workers -- the Luddite riots in Britain in the 1800s being the most famous example.
We are living through one such revolution today.
A recent, widely-cited study by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne of Oxford's Program on the Impacts of Future Technology, put the matter starkly. In their analysis of over 700 different jobs, almost half could be done by a computer in the future. This wave of computerization will destroy not simply low-wage, low-skill jobs (though those are in acute danger) but some white collar and service-sector jobs previously thought to be immune as well.
If the researchers are correct, there are, broadly speaking, two possible outcomes. The first is that society, as it historically has, finds a new equilibrium that manages to satisfy (almost) everyone. Low skilled workers and those with a mismatch in skills eventually train themselves into fields with better employment prospects. Some people, industries, and towns are displaced, but the macro economy and the social and political structures that rest on it, carries on. Meanwhile, new technologies continue to enrich our lives, enhance our productivity and produce a safer, cleaner world.
Alternatively, the jobs lost to computerization and robots are never replaced and workers caught in the transition never find a way back to the work force (some fear we could be seeing signs of this today). As the pace and scope of automation and roboticization accelerates, millions more find themselves unemployed, under-employed and increasingly desperate while those who own the robots, create the algorithms or otherwise work in technology reap immense benefits. Technology firms may ceased to be viewed as beneficial innovators and instead be viewed suspiciously as architects of greater inequality.
In this second, darker scenario, it's quite easy to see individuals or potentially even organized movements venting their frustration and desperation against technology firms (and their sometimes ostentatiously wealthy owners) using violence. The Occupy Wall Street protests sparked by the financial collapse and the accumulation of huge piles of wealth by a tiny fraction of humanity has primed the pump for such unrest. Discussing the Google protests in Salon, Natasha Lennard wrote approvingly that while such intimidation could be seen as terrorism, "it works" and should therefore continue.
But as challenging and uncertain as this scenario is, it's still comprehendible. Human society has dealt successfully with technological job displacement before. If it does come to pass, it could be met with more aggressive wealth distribution, repression or some clever policy of mass education (or make-work).
It's the second wave that could be far more troubling.
The Second Wave
One of the crucial dynamics driving the computerization of human jobs is the evolution of machines intelligent enough to do work formerly consigned to humans. Beyond the rote, mechanical and dangerous work that robots are already beginning to do today (on factory floors, in war zones, etc.) lies the next wave of more sophisticated human skills, a wave that requires artificial intelligence to master.
Yet the development of ever-more intelligent machines carries with it immense danger beyond simply the loss of human jobs. These dangers have been spelled out most recently by documentarian James Barrat in his book Our Final Invention (which we reviewed here) and more recently by MIT physicist Max Tegmark. Put simply, the rise of machines as intelligent (and eventually more intelligent) than humans could potentially put human life and civilization at risk of extinction.
The creations of super-intelligent machines has been dubbed the Singularity by computer scientist Vernor Vinge, so named because, like the edge of a Black Hole, it is the point at which it is impossible to predict the course of human events because humans will no longer be masters of their destiny. Machines will.
Exactly when (or even if) the Singularity will occur is a matter of debate. Our efforts to build intelligent machines may hit a brick wall. But if progress towards intelligent machines continues unabated, you can be sure the debate regarding a "post-human" future that is currently a peripheral concern (at best) will take on increasing urgency. In such an environment, how will society react? Will people accept the fact that their destiny -- the destiny of their species -- may cease to be in their hands? Will they wish to pursue research that could destroy human life as we know it?
Some futurists think we'll happily welcome the prospect. Ray Kurzweil -- a popular proponent of the Singularity's benefits who is currently directing Google's artificial intelligence efforts -- has argued that since progress toward the Singularity will be incremental, people will be gradually socialized to the idea that the human race as we have known it for centuries will eventually be replaced by human-machine hybrids or simply conscious machines. The Singularity will come bearing gifts. First Google Glass, then Google Eyeballs, then Google Brain, then the uploading of "you" into the cloud for a life immortal, with nary a complaint along the way.
The less optimistic take sees at least some segment of humanity reacting negatively, and violently, against the coming Singularity. This scenario has been anticipated by computer scientists working in artificial intelligence. AI researcher Hugo de Garis for instance, wrote a book of speculative fiction positing a war between "Cosmists" and "Terrans" -- the former devoted to advancing the Singularity and the latter dedicated to stopping it at all costs.
Could such a war happen in the future? It's impossible to predict. But violent acts of sabotage and assassination directed at those working in companies and institutions deemed instrumental to creating a "post-human" future seem highly plausible -- even inevitable -- if progress continues. If Kurzweil is wrong and the rise of super-intelligent machines is viewed as more alien than benign, it won't be hard to convince people that their lives and the future of human civilization rest on stopping this work. People have killed over much less.
States, too, would take a keen interest in the progress of AI (indeed, they already have). In the scramble for geopolitical power and position, powerful states may view the race for AI as a new arms race, and take measures, such as preemptive war, to disadvantage their rivals.
So keep an eye on the Google bus fracas. It may symbolize a tragic irony: the "disruption" that so many tech firms pride themselves on may be coming. And it might not be pretty.
Of course they will. The elites despise the rest of us. They’re not funding and developing this technology to make life easier for US, it’s to allow them to exist WITHOUT us.
The proclamations of sustainable life on the planet being fewer than 100m humans takes into account that most of the work won’t be done by humans. And once the elites decide they no longer need us...the fun begins.
The writer assumes it's about technological displacement, when it IMO is really about envy. "I can't have what you have, so I want to burn yours to the ground."
And that will end when the machines decide they no longer need the elites.
Hmmmmmmm... the long-time financial supporters and outright enablers of these dangerously psychotic libtard fascists have now become the targets. Looks like a reap-sow situation. Just FYI... whining about it won’t help.
I’m reminded of the opening chapters of the Dune series that discusses such a possibility, the ensuing hostilities and the end result being the elimination of ALL digital technology.
Nut-job Conspiracy Theory Ping!
To get onto The Nut-job Conspiracy Theory Ping List you must threaten to report me to the Mods if I don't add you to the list...
Well it is Berkeley.
First they came for Frankenstein’s experiment ...
It’s only a matter of time before EVERY job is mechanized. Even ‘untouchable’ white collar jobs will be outsourced to automation with advances in AI.
How will you feed your family then?
There won’t be anywhere to run. No skills that can be developed that won’t ultimately be done more cheaply and efficiently by machine.
Maybe; however it could be about something else entirely — the second sentence of the second paragraph says:
They're also in the cross-hairs for their role in assisting NSA surveillance.So it could be that they're taking a stand against tyranny and the media-spin is to make them the bad-guys by painting them as envious or "backwards and afraid of technology."
...and I said nothing for I have all my original parts...
Sounds hopeless. What do you propose?
Better learn how to build and control the machines then!! Adapt or die has been true for centuries.
Although I fear the Cosmists are going to win when the military replaces soldiers with robots.
Stick close to John Connor.
The foundation may be envy and “can’t have what you have”, but the real catalyst will be people driven by hopelessness/desperation and “no path to have what you have.”
It’s like that old Ferengi comment about Humans becoming more violent and bloodthirsty than Klingons when deprived of not only their creature comforts but also exposed to real adversity on a personal level.
Maybe the hostilities aren’t about envy, but simply survival.
Most of the FSA in this country was either put out of a ‘family supporting’ job by free trade or automation beginning ~40-45 years ago. Their numbers will only grow. The welfare state was the narcotic that allowed us to overlook the fact that we were being ‘outsourced’ and ‘replaced’ en masse. Think it’s a coincidence that the welfare state became a fait accompli around the same time we began sending our industries overseas? The welfare state was put in place to keep us from noticing. It’s H1B visa holders now. Within 20 years it will be most white collar jobs replaced with AI.
How many of these can you support, realistically, with your taxes? What kind of social chaos are you willing to tolerate in the name of progress. Their children have run feral for 2 and 3 generations. How long before it’s your children running feral? With all the progress in automation on just car assembly lines, I haven’t seen cars become more affordable to the average family in the US.
The welfare state is unsustainable in the long term. When it crashes, do you think it will be possible for all the participants to get jobs? What sort of jobs will they get? The elites will still have the tech and the money and the resources.
Given their stance on overpopulation, what do you think the over/under is that they’ll just let us starve in the streets?
Why do you think they’re implementing a rabid surveillance system right now? How likely do you think rebellion will succeed under that sort of scenario? ‘0’? Less? Do you really think it’s all about keeping US safe?
This isn’t about weaving looms. That was simply a process. And new skills were out there to be learned. This is about the replacement of nearly the entire human species.
The same elites that are pushing all this tech are also the same ones rabidly preaching population control.
Specifically YOUR population control.
I don’t know, the people near Connor tend to get killed in droves.
If John Connor isn’t nearby, Commander Adama or Neo will work just as well ...
AI will eliminate even those jobs.
How many people do you think can earn a living just fixing machines, until AI replaces them anyways?
What do you propose doing with the rest of humanity? The ones with IQ’s less than 100. Kill them? Starve them? Sterilize them? Inquiring minds would like to know...
Why do you think the elites are obsessed with population control. Specifically YOUR population control. Most of the rabid population control preachers have MORE than the 2 replacement kids. Ever wonder why? Ever wonder who they want to ‘save the planet’ for?
So was the same thing said during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800’s?
Everyone talks about AI as if it will be neutral. It won’t be. It is being created by the liberal-left and will have a liberal-left worldview. That means the first on the list to extermination will be conservatives. They will threaten the AI world-view.
I’ve occasionally wondered what would happen if the machines became sufficiently-advanced to do “everything”.
Not just building new machines and repairing existing machines, but producing food, energy, building/fixing shelter, etc.
A society in which every need was met, with zero need for any human effort.
Sounds idyllic, but somehow I suspect it wouldn’t work out as well as it might sound.
The technology to replace the entire human species wasn’t on the cusp of reality in the 1800’s. Displaced jacquard weavers could find employment in any number of new industrial technologies.
The 19th century elites, by and large, really didn’t care if the peasants lived or died. Our elites would prefer we all died. And they’re developing the technology that will allow them to continue to live comfortably when we eventually do just that.
I ask again. Most of the rabid population control wackjobs have more than 2 kids. Clearly they’re not really concerned about overpopulation. Just OUR overpopulation. Who do you think we’re saving the planet for?
What will you feed your family when your job is replaced by AI and the welfare state collapses?
The elites aren’t developing this technology to make money, unlike the jacquard automation guys. They’re developing it to eliminate their need for US. ALL of US.
The push to raised the minimum wage will result in more automation at the lowest levels, displacing fast food workers with high-tech vending machines.
So those with the most class envy are working hard to displace themselves.
The current wave of software inside business is "work flow" related. Specialized rule/inferencing engines doing expert work, then passing the product to the next node in the workflow. Twenty years ago I radically updated a computer system to perform a task in 3 days that took 6 months in a prior generation. Faster computers have shaved that to one day.
We adapt to a changing world.
IF the elites pushing this tech weren’t also pushing draconian population control I might agree it would be a good thing. It’s not their speech I’m paying attention to, it’s their actions. And despite their supposed ‘horror’ at the overpopulation problem they nearly all have MORE than the 2 ‘replacement’ kids. Because they’re special and their kids somehow won’t destroy the planet. But yours, wow, yours will just rape Gaia like nobody’s business. So you’d better think hard about having any. Maybe just try that homosex they’re pushing on the preteens in school now. Or the free abortions and birth control. Maybe just get a puppy instead.
I suspect it’s because they want to get rid of US to save the planet for THEM.
AI will replace that too eventually.
How many humans can support a family doing the machine building/support job until even those are mostly replace by AI? How many men could support a wife and 2 or 3 kids with those type of jobs? What do you do with the rest of humanity given that there probably isn’t the need for 6B of those jobs?
What about humans with IQ’s less than say, 120? Let them starve in the streets? Pay astronomical income taxes to let the state support them?
It’s not necessarily the tech I don’t trust. It’s the elites control of that. And their motives.
I worked at PacBell from 1980 to 1991. During the 1989 CWA strike, we made some monumental improvements. The 16 people hanging 9 track tapes in the IBM/Amdahl shops were replaced with two large tape robots. My own shop replaced 9 track tapes with 8mm Exabyte units. That allowed one manager to replace all the tapes in the room in 15 minutes each morning. The non-management tape/printer handlers were eliminated. I replace the error prone data extracts to tape with a unified extract via TCP/IP to a file server. No more system crashes from humans unmounting the audit tape instead of the data output volume. The switching offices eliminated multiple old SXS switches and crossbar in favor of digital remotes. A bunch of mechanical switch craftsmen were retired.
One of my automation projects focused on 3-way calling, call forwarding, speed call 8 and conference calling. Those were the 4 services with the highest utilization of service rep time. I was able to automate it with an interactive voice/response system in English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. The automated system took the human out of the loop and allowed add/remove of those services and a quote of the changed billing. System performance over the first six months showed activation of the new features in the CO switch within 29 minutes of dropping the customer switch hook...no service rep involvement. That was 1986. Imagine what could be done with the better computing resources available today.
Don’t forget the origins of the word “sabotage”.
Several of us around here have been making the point for years that “they” want most of “us” dead, the rest in chains.
One of my ongoing concerns is what happens when my generation of innovators retires. The kids coming behind us don't understand the fundamentals that allowed building the current technocracy. When things break, they expect to toss an item in the trash and buy a replacement. They are appliance operators without the slight clue about how to recover the technology in the face of an event like EMP that destroys existing technology.
There is one small comfort...the "elites" are button pushing appliance operators with big bank accounts. Not everything is for sale. When the fancy toys break, they are helpless children.
This time it’s not quite like the jacquard making industry. Prior to mechanization, jacquard loomers were fairly intelligent. They had to be to memorize and execute the complicated patterns. Their IQ’s were likely higher than 100.
Mechanization eliminated the need for that knowledge set. And replaced them with employees whose IQ’s were less than 100 and simply changed the threads on the new looms. The hand weavers were smart enough to adapt. Many did. In Victorian England the rest just starved. The industrialization opened up opportunities for those with IQ less than 100 to earn a ‘decent’ and ‘stable’ living. Many of them had been stoop labor workers on the vast estates doing farming and other simple tasks.
Same with Henry Ford. Prior to the assembly line, cars were built, by hand, by experienced mechanics (IQ greater than 100) one at a time. The assembly line replaced them with a worker who only had to be smart enough to do one or a few simple repetitive tasks. The explosion in the numbers of ‘middle class’ in this country were people who had been small farmers or simply stoop laborers who found employment in the factories making middle class wages.
The industrial revolution created jobs for people who formerly had been unable to achieve the middle class. The tech revolution is doing just the opposite.
Uber-intelligent liberals find their intelligence is not appreciated by the ignorant masses.
Baloney. Small manufacturing shops are outlawed in sparsely populated rural areas all over America by zoning laws and many other regulations. Relegating small operations to insanely expensive flooring in some lifeless industrial park in the middle of nowhere is corruptionm, thievery, and it’s not happening. There are also planning and building regulations in the middle of nowhere to keep technically inclined owner-builders from getting established. It’s illegal for new, small competition to rise or to so much as pull itself out of rental slavery.
A good custom machinist who doesn’t have to make payments on abominable loans for overly expensive equipment can do small production runs on manually controlled machines faster than CNC operators—especially on older equipment. Small operations can indeed be cabable of making profits and sooner than expensive operations. There are also many other kinds of production operations besides machining.
The political/regulator class has outlawed work for others by using fake property values, environmentalist and animal worship front hags in local-yocal commissioners’ meetings all over the country. There have also been wrongful family-busting efforts going on for decades with the help of so many feminist laws passed.
Now we have a general dump-on-your-neighbor regime (neighborhood coveting) with illegal taxes disguised as fees going up and up. It’s strangling the last of the real, sustainable revenues that could come from real production from many small shops. That’s the problem.
Combine that whole situation with the increasing lack of desire on everyone’s part to spend frivolously, compete for the shrinking numbers of positions in slavery and be good little consumers, and you’ll see what is ahead.
It is a consolidation of fears. Technological elites who:
1. Are often fabulously wealthy, doing things that don’t seem worth the money they receive, versus the person who got rich building stores or drilling for oil. You made a search engine - so what?
2. In collusion with government, such as Google and Microsoft giving email and Skype data to the feds. Big Data morphs into Big Brother. And they profit from it.
3. Open advocating of oppression and suppression by big tech. The Gates Foundation open to forced sterilization. Google’s involvement in censorship, despite a motto of “Do no evil”, from participating in Chinese censorship to deliberately down-ranking conservative websites. And Facebook taking down conservative sites on one single report while letting liberal sites use far worse language, advocate violence and even death to the infidels.
I’ll take it as a positive sign when agents of the police state are similarly targeted. A yard sign with the text “This guy reads your email” would be a good start.
Not all jobs can be automated, especially “blue collar” / skilled trades.
The Great Shift Toward Automation and the Future of Employment
While I hear what your saying, the elites won’t be spared. At all.
Someone lower than them on the societal foodchain will quickly figure out how to interdict the food supply chain. NYC is what? Perpetually three days away from the food running out? Look at how easily de Blasio just sent a message to the upper east side by refusing to plow their streets. Then look at what Chris Christie did to Ft. Lee by shutting down a couple lanes on a bridge access ramp.
The truth is that well motivated and loosely organized (Internet) groups with access to heavy earthmoving equipment and semis could blockade and shut off the food to just about every major US city pretty quickly. Then the urban ferals would take over and the elites wouldn’t have a lot of good options for getting out. Local state and federal law enforcement would be quickly overwhelmed (local and state, even Fed, could also just walk away like the NOLA PD largely did following Katrina) and the Military couldn’t come close to plugging all the gaps ...
The true elites will be long gone in their helicopters to their island retreats.
do you really think Bill Gates would stick around Seattle if TSHTF?
I’m not talking about ‘the rich’, I’m talking about the people who run things. If most of the rest of us starved or got killed during unrest they’d probably throw a party. ‘Gaia Saved From Overpopulation!’
In the Year 2525..... bk bump
Fend off the AIs and Robots and go back to family farming?
Will the AIs and Robots let us do that?
How’re you gonna pay the taxes on Tara without ‘ready money’?
You think that's bad? Wait until Google starts paying their employees in Google Scrip, and they start shopping in Google Stores that only accept Google Scrip. Then see what the local merchants say!
What goes around, comes around...
*snicker* to a good reference. You may not be off the mark, T_Slim!
P.S. I really like the look of the house in post #1. I'm a fiend at looking at houses and throwing my opinion out there - I don't have any architectural training "but I know what I like when I see it"!
Mr. h and I live in a one story with a slant on one side of the house. I have no idea what it is called but we like it.
Maybe there is an AI who/which can give me the answer./s