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  • Writer's picturePeter Franklin

The Rise of the Robots

"The Rise of the Robots - Technology and the Threat of Mass Unemployment” was Business book of the year in 2015 in the FT and McKinsey awards. Highly deserving of its place in the competition.

The author takes us through the logical consequence of the continuing power of Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law being the empirical rule that the power of computing power doubles every 18-24 months. This has been going on since the discovery of the printed circuit back in 1958. He cleverly gets the reader to imagine a car starting off at 5 miles per hour and then doubling its speed every minute. After 28 minutes it would be travelling at 671 million miles per hour – and a minute later at over a billion miles per hour. Given we have just been through 28 Moore’s law doublings - that is the speed and acceleration we are seeing in the world of computing. If Moore’s Law continues to hold the pace of change will carry on increasing exponentially.

He then looks at many real life examples of the changes that this has brought to the capabilities of machines. Phones and computers we can talk to (Siri and Cortana), Driverless cars (Google), and even financial and sports articles being written by machines today.

We have already seen the large scale automation of blue collar work, and now with the advent of artificial intelligence and advanced data processing he envisages a world where much of white collar work will also be carried out by robots.

This in turn will necessitate a change to the capitalist system, since it is the nature of digital work that the rewards of progress will fall to a talented few – the many will be replaced by machines. However, without the many having the wherewithal to purchase goods and services markets will flounder and the system will collapse. That is notwithstanding the social and moral issues which arise in a society where wealth is highly concentrated in a few with the average wealth of the many decreasing.

The first two thirds of the book creates the compelling case that humankind can automate much of its economic activity – leading to perhaps 40% of the world’s population being unemployed. The final third looks at an alternative model for the distribution of wealth such that the system is sustainable.

An extremely well researched and thoughtful book. A compelling argument which leaves you in no doubt that this is a challenge that our children and our children’s children will need to solve.

This book will change your worldview – order it today.

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