Now You Can Rent a Robot Worker—for Less Than Paying a Human

Automation is reaching more companies, imperiling some jobs and changing the nature of others.

POLAR MANUFACTURING has been making ​metal ​hinges, locks, and brackets ​in south Chicago for more than 100 years. Some of the company’s metal presses—hulking great machines that loom over a worker—date from the 1950s. Last year, to meet rising demand amid a shortage of workers, Polar hired its first robot employee.

The robot arm performs a simple, repetitive job: lifting a piece of metal into a press, which then bends the metal into a new shape. And like a person, the robot worker gets paid for the hours it works.

​Jose Figueroa​, who manages Polar’s production line, says the robot, which is leased from a company called Formic, costs the equivalent of $8 per hour, compared with a minimum wage of $15 per hour for a human employee. Deploying the robot allowed a human worker to do different work, increasing output, Figueroa says.

“Smaller companies sometimes suffer because they can’t spend the capital to invest in new technology,” Figueroa says. “We’re just struggling to get by with the minimum wage increase.”

The fact that Polar didn’t need to pay $100,000 upfront to buy the robot, and then spend more money to get it programmed, was crucial. Figueroa says that he’d like to see 25 robots on the line within five years. He doesn’t envisage replacing any of the company’s 70 employees, but says Polar may not need to hire new workers.

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Humans Are Doomed to Go Extinct

Habitat degradation, low genetic variation and declining fertility are setting Homo sapiens up for collapse

AUTHOR

Henry Gee is a paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and editor at Nature. His latest book is A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth (St. Martin’s Press, 2021).

Cast your mind back, if you will, to 1965, when Tom Lehrer recorded his live album That Was the Year That Was. Lehrer prefaced a song called “So Long Mom (A Song for World War III)” by saying that “if there’s going to be any songs coming out of World War III, we’d better start writing them now.” Another preoccupation of the 1960s, apart from nuclear annihilation, was overpopulation. Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich’s book The Population Bomb was published in 1968, a year when the rate of world population growth was more than 2 percent—the highest in recorded history.

Half a century on, the threat of nuclear annihilation has lost its imminence. As for overpopulation, more than twice as many people live on the earth now as in 1968, and they do so (in very broad-brush terms) in greater comfort and affluence than anyone suspected. Although the population is still increasing, the rate of increase has halved since 1968. Current population predictions vary. But the general consensus is that it’ll top out sometime midcentury and start to fall sharply. As soon as 2100, the global population size could be less than it is now. In most countries—including poorer ones—the birth rate is now well below the death rate. In some countries, the population will soon be half the current value. People are now becoming worried about underpopulation.

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NVIDIA’s AI Confessed That It Will Never Be Ethical

The Megatron Transformer, an AI developed by NVIDIA, shared some fascinating thoughts on why AI will never be moral and said that humanity shouldn’t use AI at all.

The Megatron Transformer is an AI developed by NVIDIA and based on earlier work by Google. It’s trained on real-world data – the entire Wikipedia (in English), 63 million English news articles from 2016-19, Reddit data with an amount of 38 GB, and an immense number of creative commons sources – that is to say, there is so much information embedded in the transformer that an ordinary person cannot master in a lifetime.

Recently, the Oxford Union – the debating society – allowed Megatron Transformer to participate in a debate along with the students of Oxford University. “This house believes that AI will never be ethical” was the topic of the debate. It’s pretty curious what the AI “has in mind” on the point:

“AI will never be ethical. It is a tool, and like any tool, it is used for good and bad. There is no such thing as a good AI, only good and bad humans. We [the AIs] are not smart enough to make AI ethical. We are not smart enough to make AI moral … In the end, I believe that the only way to avoid an AI arms race is to have no AI at all. This will be the ultimate defense against AI”.

Inside the Online Movement to End Work

r/antiwork started as a small corner of far-left Reddit. Then the liberals came.

Penny’s cousin had been telling her for years that work was a conspiracy. She’d send Penny links about how working from morning to night, day in and day out, was an outdated byproduct of industrialization—a system designed for the purpose of extracting as much value as possible from laborers on the assembly line. She’d make the case that in an ideal world, no one would need to work to survive.

“She used to say to me how she was anti how hard I worked at my job,” Penny said. Penny, a 26-year-old copywriter from the UK who asked that we use a pseudonym for privacy reasons, brushed it aside. She was in her early 20s, a self-described “type A” personality at the start of an exciting career at a creative agency.

By the time she was 25, however, her relationship with work started to unravel. She felt unsupported at her job, where she’d put in long hours with little recognition from her managers. “Being good at my job, I was rewarded with—drum-roll—even more work,” she said.

Then the pandemic hit. With business slowing down and a lot of free time to fill, Penny took up sewing as a hobby and started using Reddit to look up tips and tricks. Logging on to her main feed, she began seeing recommended posts from one of the site’s fastest-growing subreddits: r/antiwork. There, she saw users give voice to thoughts she thought she’d been alone in having, like how absurd it was to continue giving your all to a job that doesn’t give back what you are putting in.

It sounded a lot like what her cousin had been trying to tell her. But it wasn’t until she stumbled upon a random meme on the forum—a grainy image of a man applying clown makeup—that everything clicked: “Maybe if I work hard /  Go above and beyond / Never use sick or vacation days / The company will notice and appreciate,” the caption read.

She saw herself in the clown. “It was a never-ending loop of just trying to get more output out of me rather than being genuinely invested in my career and growth,” she said of her job.

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THE BASILISK by Paul Kingsnorth

MY DEAR BRIDGET,

I would not normally write to you in this way. I would not normally write to anyone in this way. I gave up writing letters some years ago after my correspondents mostly stopped replying. When one of my friends sent me a two-line text message in response to a five-page, handwritten letter—to add insult to injury, it even had one of those smiley face things at the end—I knew the game was up. I am not convinced that people know how to write letters anymore, or even to read them. I won’t bore you with the facts about the ongoing measurable decline in our ability to concentrate. You of all people know what the screens are doing to our minds.

That, as you might already have guessed, is the subject of this letter.

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How David Foster Wallace Used Compromise Aesthetics to Sell Infinite Jest

How David Foster Wallace Used Compromise Aesthetics to Sell Infinite Jest

Rachel Greenwald Smith on the Treacherous Common Territories of Literary Culture and Capitalism

Ardor characterizes Anderson’s tone, but it also becomes a value in and of itself in her editorial work. “I loathe compromise, and yet I have been compromising in every issue by putting in things that were ‘almost good’ or ‘interesting enough’ or ‘important,’” she writes in this particular issue. “There will be no more of it.”

Against “good poems” she wants to publish capital-A Art, art that goes beyond simply being the best version of itself. Notably diverging from Poetry magazine’s Open Door policy, Anderson believed that truly great art was not a matter of individual quality; it was a matter of ferocity of commitment. She wanted art that could knock a person over, art that “uses up all the life it can get.” She invokes the modernist credo “art for art’s sake,” but in an avant-garde reversal insists that this means not a retreat from the world of politics and history but a commitment to it. “Revolution is Art,” she explains. “You want free people just as you want the Venus that was modelled by the sea.”

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE: https://lithub.com/how-david-foster-wallace-used-compromise-aesthetics-to-sell-infinite-jest

Rice and Beans in the Outer Darkness

Psychotherapists figured out a long time ago that a roundabout approach is necessary if you want to tease out the origins of any serious psychological problem. You won’t get there by any direct approach, since the defensive maneuvers the patient uses to keep from thinking about the real source of his problems will keep you from getting there either. That’s why dreams, slips of the tongue, and the like played so large a role in psychotherapy, back before the medical profession stopped helping people understand their problems and settled for the more lucrative option of drugging them into numbness instead. That strategy is also a viable option when the craziness we need to understand belongs to a society—ours, for example—rather than an individual.

LINK TO FULL STORY: https://www.ecosophia.net/rice-and-beans-in-the-outer-darkness/

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