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Robots displace millions of Manufacturing Workers in US: Automation getting Cheaper and more Common

While some politicians blame trade for the job losses, most economists say automation is mainly to blame as robots do routine factory tasks previously done by humans

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US, April 15, 2017: The impact of automation on U.S. jobs is open to debate. Robots have displaced millions of manufacturing workers, and automation is getting cheaper and more common, raising concerns it will eventually supplant far more workers in the services sector of the economy, which includes everything from truck driving to banking.

University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor Ed Hess says we are just starting to see automation’s impact. “It is going to be broad and it is going to be deep,” he said, adding that “tens of millions” of jobs could be at risk.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs have disappeared already.

While some politicians blame trade for the job losses, most economists say automation is mainly to blame as robots do routine factory tasks previously done by humans.

Hess calls self-driving cars and trucks a threat to millions of human jobs, and says fast-food workers are also vulnerable, as companies install electronic kiosks to take restaurant orders. McDonalds says displaced workers will be reassigned to other tasks.

The professor says research shows nearly half of U.S. jobs could be automated, including retail store clerks, doctors who scan X-rays for disease, administrative workers, legal staffers, and middle managers.

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Future of jobs

Starting more than a century ago, advancing technology changed the United States from an agrarian to a manufacturing economy. Displaced farm hands eventually found factory work, but the transition took years. This new transition may also take a time because, Hess says, “We’re not going to anywhere produce the number of jobs that we automate.”

But 50 years of experience in banking shows that while automation may change the industry, it does not necessarily end jobs for humans.

The first Automatic Teller Machines, or ATMs, were installed 50 years ago, and there are now 420,000 in the United States. International Monetary Fund analysis shows the number of human tellers did not drop, but rose slightly.

“Humans were doing mostly service and routine types of tasks that could be converted into more automated tasks,” Tremont Capital Group’s Sam Ditzion said. But “the humans then became far more valuable in customer service and in sales in these branches.”

In a Skype interview, Ditzion said that while automation can be “scary,” the oversight of ATMs created new kinds of work for “tens of thousands of people.”

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Automation grows

A report by Redwood Software and the Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) says surging investment and falling prices will help robotics grow.

Redwood’s software handles business processes that are repetitive, rule-bound and tedious.

CEBR Economist David Whitaker says as growing fleets of robots take over mundane tasks, higher productivity could bring higher wages for some human workers. He says people who want to stay employed must hone skills that robots can’t handle, such as unpredictable work or the need for an emotional human connection.

One example, according to Alex Bentley of Blue Prism software, is a program that helps law firms examine visa applications. The robot enters data but gets help from a human partner with problems such as missing information. Bentley says some human jobs have been lost, but in other cases displaced workers move within the firm to new work, particularly jobs that are “customer-centric.”

U.S. Senator Chris Coons says Germany and other nations use training programs to help their citizens get and keep jobs in a changing economy. The Democrat says America’s competitors invest six times what the U.S. does in skills development and workforce training, while Washington has slashed funding for such programs. Coons and a Republican colleague, Senator Thom Tillis, are seeking more help for schools, companies, workers and government agencies operating programs to upgrade the workforce.

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New opportunities

While workers need to make some changes, philosopher and professor Ed Freeman of UVA’s Darden School of Business says companies also need to rethink their basic purpose. He says businesses must do more than just maximize value for shareholders.

“I need red blood cells to live,” he said. “It doesn’t follow that the purpose of my life is to make red blood cells. Companies need profits to live, it doesn’t follow that the purpose of a company is to make profits. We have to think through this idea about what purpose is in business.”

Freeman says he is “optimistic” because many jobs, such as creating applications for smartphones that would have been unimaginable a few years ago, are creating thousands of opportunities. He is also encouraged by his many students who, he says, bring new ideas, passion and energy to the task of starting businesses that will create new kinds of jobs.

Freeman is convinced that the problem isn’t the tsunami of lost jobs, it is the lack of “really good ideas” for creating a safety net for people who will lose jobs to automation.

Many experts worry about growing levels of automation — particularly advanced forms known as artificial intelligence — hurting employment for U.S. workers.

But U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says it will be “50 or 100 years” before artificial intelligence takes American jobs. In an interview with Mike Allen of AXIOS, Mnuchin said, “I think we are so far away from that, [it is] not even on my radar screen.”
-VOA

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Amazon Arm Can Create A New-Age Tech Workforce in India

The functionality within the AWS AI platform leverages 'Amazon Polly' -- a text-to-speech service that uses advanced deep learning technologies

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robots
Robots are revolutionary and are changing the tech world.

Realising the need to create a workforce for Next-Gen technologies, several tech companies have started accelerators and incubators in the recent past to nurture talent in disruptive technologies in India.

On the other hand, global Cloud services platform Amazon Web Services (AWS), a subsidiary of Amazon.com, started on the mission long back to prepare an industry-ready workforce and nurture start-ups in the country. According to a senior AWS executive, the company is working very closely with the entire accelerator and incubator space in India.

Amazon Arm can change the tech world. Wikimedia Commons

“AWS has various programmes that it runs in India that help all the stakeholders further drive invested or incubated companies move forward on New-Age technology. This includes giving AWS credits for free. We do mentorship, we do training. We take them through labs,” Bikram Bedi, Head (India Region) at Amazon Internet Services Pvt Ltd (AISPL), told IANS.

AISPL is an Indian subsidiary of the Amazon Group which undertakes the resale and marketing of AWS Cloud services in the country. “Next, we help them in terms of ‘connect’. One programme we run is called ‘Enterprise Connect’ where we go to a bank or a manufacturing company, for example, and ask what kind of new solutions they are looking for in the digital space.

“They tell us that they are looking at such-and-such five areas. We will then go back to our start-up space and say hey, these AWS customers want these five kinds of solutions. The next step is proof of concepts (POCs) and then adoption,” Bedi informed.

When it comes to creating the right set of skills in the market, AWS has a clear-cut strategy. “The effort is broken into a couple of things. The first is around the existing workforce — start-ups, big enterprises and the thriving small and medium businesses (SMBs), etc. We regularly run training classes. Every office that we open in this country has a training room attached to it,” Bedi told IANS. AWS has been running training prgrammes for the existing customers across segments — around system administration, solution architecture and more.

Also Read: Amazon India, HackerEarth partner for Alexa hackathon

“The second piece you need to focus on is the emerging workforce, like students. We’ve built two separate programmes for them. One is called ‘Educate’ and the other is called ‘Academy,'” the AWS executive said. With the increasing demand for Cloud employees, AWS Educate provides an academic gateway for the next generation of IT and Cloud professionals.

Educate is primarily a shorter duration programme that helps academicians build assets, study programmes and learning modules around AWS. “Academy is the full-term course. We are working with a number of educational institutes to see how we can help build the right skill-sets for the market,” Bedi added.

The third part of building skills is to go out and organise regular outreach programmes across communities. AWS recently organised a full-day programme around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) called the “AIML Conclave” in Bengaluru that was attended by business leaders, data scientists, engineers and developers.

The event helped developers learn about Amazon AI and real-world use cases developed by Amazon and AWS customers — to build smart, customer-centric, scalable solutions in the Cloud and on the edge, using Amazon AI, AWS Internet of Things (IoT) and AWS Deep Learning.

This revolutionary technology can assist in IoT and Machine Learning.

AWS AI is also helping Indian developers build chatbots. Haptik, an AI-based chatbot platform, has partnered with AWS to offer solutions to customers in the country. In cooperation with AWS, Haptik aims to rapidly expand in the Indian chatbot AI market.

The functionality within the AWS AI platform leverages ‘Amazon Polly’ — a text-to-speech service that uses advanced deep learning technologies to synthesise speech that sounds like a human voice. “We are striving hard to reach out to the wider community in India. We are trying to connect several pieces into one and create a right mix of skilled workforce for the new technologies in the market,” Bedi told IANS. IANS