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Comment: "Nobel Prize" in economics (Score 1) 229

by johnbr (#36352588) Attached to: Why There's No Nobel Prize In Computing
While the economics prize is _technically_ not a Nobel Prize, everyone calls Paul Krugman the 'Nobel Prize Winner' (Google Nobel Paul Krugman) - including, I might add, the New York Times.

If someone were to endow the money to define a Computer Science prize, and the Nobel Committee were the ones to award it, I would wager $1000 that it would fairly quickly ( 10 years) be attributed just like the others.

Comment: My predictions (Score 1) 622

by johnbr (#35405208) Attached to: Is Software Driving a Falling Demand For Brains?
IT continues to optimize mid-tier jobs, allowing one good worker to do the work of several poor ones. This trend will continue, as computers get more powerful, and software gets more sophisticated.

AI research continues, and makes small, incremental improvements in language processing, comprehension, etc. Fairly soon, Watson-style computers will do a bad job of service desk support for products, services, etc. Eventually, they will do a pretty good job.

Robotics research continues to make robots more adaptable, more sophisticated and more aware of their environment. We are already in the process of automating jobs that would otherwise go to China and Mexico. Over time, more of those factories will come back to the US, and be staffed with robots. This will have incredibly dire consequences for China. Eventually, there will be no humans on assembly lines.

As others in these comments have said, the last human job on earth will be programming the robots and computers that are automating all the other jobs. Because it takes a certain type of mind to understand the ramifications of decisions in software, a mind that very few people possess. These people won't be called programmers anymore, they'll be called CEOs of companies with no human workers, and lots of robots and computers.

In a world where we are steadily eroding away the need for no-skill labor and minimal-skill middle management, what happens? Several predictions:

1) Things made by software and robots (hereafter referred to simply as 'robots') will get cheaper. This is a long-term historical trend. It may not sit well with your ideology, but it's a fact.
2) The cost of starting a new business will drop (unless we have politically-motivated additional structural costs) - people will come up with exotic and bewildering ways to create things to make money. And they will depend on robots and software to help them scale.
3) People with little ambition, little creativity and little brainpower are well and truly fucked. I'm sorry, it's just a fact. The set of people included in this category will increase over time. These people will be the unfortunate equivalent of the deeply mentally challenged - unable to find meaningful work. They will be obliged to live off of the welfare of others. Luckily food is cheap, internet is cheap, computers are cheap - they will have lots of amusements.
4) Software and engineering jobs will rise in status over time - because thats where the money is. Alas, people who are not good programmers will flock to the discipline, but they will not succeed at it. It will be very messy.
5) Art will proliferate, because it's one area where people can beat robots for a long time. But, of course, there's only so much demand for art, so each artist will earn a pittance. Luckily, said pittance will be enough to live modestly
6) There will still be jobs in mining and other forms of resource extraction (including farming, mining resources from landfills, etc). This will be an interesting growth area for a while.
7) People at the top will get taxed more. There's simply no way around it. It will not be pretty, but it will happen.
8) You'll see some point of semi-equilibrium, where the companies that extract resources will sell things to companies that create robots to do things, which sell those robots to other companies that extract resources. One of those resources, BTW, is 'sunlight'. These companies will be heavily taxed, and that money will be given to the people who fit into item 3 above. The B2C economy will have two parts - the people who still work, and the people who don't. The people who work will get lots of custom service, lots of human service, while the people who don't work will get lots of generic, automated service.
9) As AI slowly but inexorably improves, it will be pushed higher and higher in the management and political decision-making process. Over time, politically, we'll have a human leader who is advised by a bunch of humans who are themselves advised by a bunch of robots. If you have political pull with those few people, you will do very well. The robots will be quite rational, even brutally so, but they will make better (for the nation) decisions. Eventually, I suspect we'll have a human figurehead who works with a lot of robots, and gets rid of that middle layer. We'll have a similar situation take place in organizations.
10) The people with the best mix of software and human skills will thrive and prosper. There will be some fantastic innovations.
11) The classic sciences - physics, chemistry, biology, etc, will do well, because of the innate creativity of the medium. They will have jobs for a very long time. So if you're a die-hard scientist, you're in good shape. Especially if you're doing work that aligns with the arc of history I've laid out here.
12) Entertainers will do reasonably well, but that's technically just a subset of art.
13) Government jobs will do reasonably well, but I suspect this area will have to shrink over time, again, automation. Military jobs are probably the safest because we will be reluctant to fully automate that arena for a very long time.

The best thing to do right now if you're not a high-end software creator, scientist or entertainer, is to buy stock in companies that you think are likely to ride the crest of this wave of automation. They will grow, and pay dividends, and you will benefit from that.

I'm sure people are scoffing 'hey look, the software guy says that software guys are going to win'. And that's fair. But how else will this happen? Do you really think that we're going to outlaw software automation? We'll be crushed by nations that don't. That moron-CEOs will rule over lots of programmers with an iron fist? Programmers are smart, they will see that there are alternatives, and many will take those opportunities, and take the best of their co-workers with them.

Also, many of you are probably scoffing at the idea of high taxes on the rich - but as the 'welfare' class grows and grows and grows, they'll gain a lot of political muscle. It won't be pretty (I repeat), but it will eventually happen that the lobbying wealth of the rich will be eclipsed by the anger and frustration of the poor.

It is possible that the government will seize control of these automation companies, but I suspect that this will have the same effect as outlawing automation - i.e. we'll fail to compete globally.

Many of the high-end programmers will be Russian and Chinese and Japanese and German and Indian. This will not be an "America-only" scenario, and I can see lots of sub-scenarios where America (as a nation) fares badly in this evolution. I may not like that, but I don't see a more compelling alternative.

If you've gotten this far, thanks for taking the time to read this

Comment: Re:The Beginning of a Larger Future Change (Score 4, Insightful) 622

by johnbr (#35404674) Attached to: Is Software Driving a Falling Demand For Brains?
it is quite possible that the singularity will arrive in your lifetime, but it is also possible that it won't. You should save for retirement as the contingency case. Also, there's a strong argument that in a rapidly advancing future, people with any capital at all will be in a much better position than people with no capital.

Comment: A feature, not a bug (Score 2) 622

by johnbr (#35404650) Attached to: Is Software Driving a Falling Demand For Brains?
There are a lot of jobs (and I mean a _lot_) that do not require lots of brainpower, but, because of guilds/cartels/monopolies/licensing/etc, are priced as if they did. For example, researching a patent for novelty is a much more brain-intensive task than reading documents, looking for keywords. But lawyers gamed the system, and made it appear that both activities were equally time-consuming and difficult. (patent research must be difficult, because they get it so horribly wrong) Do not weep for the destruction of false barriers to entry.

Comment: Re:Last-ditch effort (Score 1) 178

by johnbr (#28283113) Attached to: <em>Dungeons &amp; Dragons Online</em> Goes Free-To-Play
Normal people don't reject MMOs because of stuttering and warping (neither of which happens in DDO, btw).
Normal people reject MMOs because they aren't fun. DDO has had problems getting content out the door on a timely basis, and in some of the bells-and-whistles of housing and customization. That is where it has struggled.

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.

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