"A world where people are monitored and supervised by machines isn’t confined to the realms of sci-fi. It’s here now."
Back in February of 2017... in our last installment of Singularity Attacks! ...we took a look at the rise of automation in the US and the impact it is having on the traditional workplace. We looked at the increase in manufacturing in the US, with a simultaneous decrease in manufacturing jobs. Moving forward, it is clear that these jobs are never coming back, thanks in no small part to automated innovation, which will eliminate so many other kinds of jobs in the years to come, as well. From that post...
"In the US, the number of manufacturing jobs peaked in 1979 and has steadily decreased ever since. At the same time, manufacturing has steadily increased, with the US now producing more goods than any other country but China. Machines aren’t just taking the place of humans on the assembly line. They’re doing a better job. And all this before the coming wave of AI upends so many other sectors of the economy. “I am less concerned with Terminator scenarios,” MIT economist Andrew McAfee said on the first day at Asilomar. “If current trends continue, people are going to rise up well before the machines do."
As if this outlook is not concerning enough, a recent article in MIT Technology Review paints the inevitable next-step picture in things to come... from none other than the great online retail juggernaut, Amazon.
I know what you are thinking... but it is not about Amazon's invasive surveillance practices...
There have been many reports over recent years about unpleasant conditions workers face at Amazon warehouses. Employees are under pressure to pack hundreds of boxes per hour, and face being fired if they aren’t fast enough. Documents obtained by The Verge show that it’s far more common for people to be fired due to lack of productivity than outsiders realize. Roughly 300 people were fired at a single facility between August 2017 and September 2018 for that reason. And crucially, the documents show that much of the firing process is... automated.
Amazon tracks every individual worker’s productivity, and automatically generates warnings or even terminations without any input from supervisors, the company said. So if it isn't bad enough to be replaced by a machine... now we can look forward to being "let go" by a machine, as well. This puts a whole new spin on the "Terminator" connotation, doesn't it?
Hasta Lavista for now, dear intrepid readers... watch this space for more singularity updates.