Is Mom the only one thinking about robots?

Northampton Street Scene 1507

The Boston Globe featured an article entitled “Robots Will Take Your Job” (the link is below).  This is what I know: per Jerry Parnell, science fiction writer, such authors have known for years that eventually computers and robots will run everything.  The Globe article estimates that by 2030, half of jobs will be replaced.   According to the Harvard Business Review, everyone is concerned about  how one can stay ahead of the curve and not be replaced by robots.

So here’s my big question, the one not being answered: What’s to be done about this?

Per my respected friend, Doctor Lincoln Rathnam, eventually the government will pay you to perform a social function, such as run a chess club (I like chess) or plant a small community garden (I’ll stick with the chess).  But  are we and the government ready for this?  I hear daily about advances in computers and robots but nary a word about government progress to handle the migration of workers from something… to nothing.

I do know, per an article I read in the Wall Street Journal ages ago that there is an international forum that was put together to talk about this issue and possible limits being put on artificial intelligence.

So, Mom handed me the article, and said “Am I the only one thinking about robots?”  Is she?  What are your thoughts?


Written by Michael Emerald, CFA

Categories: Current Issues

What did you conclude from Microsoft’s Tay AI robot?

Michael Emerald 1506

Meet Microsoft’s Twitter Robot, Tay

Briefly, Microsoft put a robot on Twitter, impersonating an 18-24 year old girl, and users began putting her to her limits, resulting in everything from profanity, to drunk innuendos, to sex innuendos (funny how that works) to antisemitism.  For a full story Google Microsoft Tay and you’ll find something.

My Thoughts: Shows Me that AI Isn’t As Far Along as we are Led to Believe

As a securities analyst I can tell you that every company with a product in development is ready to tell you that their product is “almost” ready to roll.  But it’s not.  CAVEAT: I’m generalizing.  We’ve been told that AI personas are around the corner to be able to talk and act like humans, almost passing the Turing Test (a test where a robot is indistinguishable from humans) with ease.

This told us that these things are a ways away from production-ready, regardless of what a company like Microsoft may believe.

My Thoughts: One BIG Problem With AI is Where It’s Learning From

On the surface, a computer that learns on its own is a wonderful thing.  But, like we humans, socialization comes into play, apparently.  The users who conversed with Tay intentionally enticed her to say things like this.  Microsoft blamed the users (more on this below) but more generally, how do we prevent a computer from learning the wrong things from the wrong people.  Do you have an answer?  I don’t.

My Thoughts: Excuse me?  It’s the Users Who Were at Fault?

The facts: Microsoft puts a robot on line, users conversed with her, and she said she believes in Genocide, against specific ethnic groups, no less.

The Verdict: Well, if I’m the judge I’d say that Tay did a VERY bad thing. Who’s to blame?  The programmers and the ones who decided to put her into production.  But wait…

But Microsoft blames the users!  Were it me, I’d be THANKING them, for testing her right out-of-the gate.

This has broader, more serious, implications.  It’s one thing for a drunk robot to tell you they want to commit suicide and we get blamed by the company for taunting her… but what if it’s a self-driving car and we ask it to drive to a non-existent convenience store?  Or ask it to drive us into a lake? Or ask it to drive full speed on the autobahn and it goes IT”S full speed of 160 miles an hour?  Who’s to blame?  Well obviously the manufacturers of the car.  But if Microsoft can blame us here, I sense the auto makers might try to use the same precedent to tell the courts that a car that drives itself into the lake is OUR – repeat OUR – fault.

So What do we do About It?

The baby boomer in me comes out when I suggest we return to basic product development and first design it well, then build it well, then test it well, then beta test it well, and once this is all done, release it to the public in limited production, distributing it more widely as wrinkles are ironed out.  You know, I’m sure, that products are rushed nowadays.  But with products as serious as AI or robots I feel the downside to rushing production is worse than the upside benefits.

Michael Emerald, CFA

Performance Business Design

Owner, Business Strategy Consultant


Categories: Current Issues

So what would you do about job replacement were you President?

Sharon at Newport Polo 1507-3


Recently I shed some fears about the loss of jobs by computers and robots, a fear that is shared by many.

So what would I do about it if I were the President?

The quick answer is “Darned if I know!”.  But as a securities analyst and consultant I’m paid to offer intelligent ideas, so here goes:

1.  I sure would set up a large experienced  Forum or Organization to discuss what to do about the problem of what to do with jobs as they become replaced by automation.

2. While I’m at it, I’d also set up an experienced Forum for discussing the limits of artificial intelligence.  Every tech show, namely This Week in Tech (on the TWIT network) talks about the big question: “Once computers have a lot of power, will they want to get rid of humans”?   While they don’t have power I sure as heck would like to debate the issue at a high level, setting limits if needed.

3. Since I’m President, I only have to worry about 4 or 8 years, thankfully, and not the year 3000 when we are commuting to Mars and living to be 200.  I just have to worry about the loss of jobs from robots like Atlas who can stack factory cartons faster than I can and never get a sore back.   With that, I’d  propose something like “For every 1 automated thing you have to hire 9 workers”.  This would include the automated telephone receptionist, robots, and even automated tele-marketing systems “This is Steve from custom solar panels.  Have we got a deal for you.  Just call this number and we will make your house better than it’s ever been.  <click>”.

That’s a start right?  What are your thoughts?

Michael Emerald, CFA

Categories: Current Issues