robots replace humans

Robots Replace Workers, II



role thin out automation
eerie sober (2) significant
peril prognosis correspondent
caddy ominous hard to beat
puppy symbolic acceleration
follow eliminate appropriate
acquire harmless pedestrian
serial anticipate shape of things to come
starve displace irrevocable
dispute schlepper humanitarian
grim inequality promise (2)
clunky keep pace put to his pace
chance dolorous joint-venture
fluent chain (2) recognition
retail poverty laser-sensor
beam startup jackrabbit
staff multiple stand around
lettuce obvious workforce
invent defensive stockroom clerk
porter bell hop admit (2)
teller instantly swamp (2)
slam venture confident
replace scale (2) entrepreneur
disrupt converge sing a different tune
debate poverty who’s who
hell despair implication
reliable dystopia out of luck
elite distribute concentrate (2)





Studio Presenter: “We’ve shown you before the rising role that automation and robots play in some parts of the workforce.

Tonight we have a more sobering and perhaps somewhat eerier picture of how those trends are gathering force more quickly than anticipated.

Economics correspondent Paul Solman looks at the promise and perils of the rise of the robot.”

The eleventh hole at Stanford University.

Chad Grey is an okay golfer — but his caddy is really hard to beat.

Chad Grey, Caddytrek: “It’s going to go wherever you want to go . . . follows you like a puppy dog.”

Meet the robot Caddytrek.

Chad Grey, Caddytrek: “It’s an incredibly simple piece of technology.”

But the implications for the nation’s caddies — and millions of other workers — are ominous, says computer scientist and serial entrepreneur Jerry Kaplan.

Kaplan has his own labor-saving schlepper, and R2D2 designed to make local deliveries.

Jerry Kaplan: “This is a Stanford Jack-Rabot.
Paul Solman: “Jack Rabot?”
Jerry Kaplan: “Yes.”
Paul Solman: “As in robot?”
Jerry Kaplan: “That’s right. It’s like a jackrabbit. But it’s a robot. It’s designed to operate in socially appropriate ways, in pedestrian spaces.”

Jack looks harmless enough. But he, like Caddytrek, is the shape of things to come.

Jerry Kaplan, Author, Humans Need Not Apply: “We’re about to see a significant increase, an acceleration in the rate of automation.”

And the age-old fear of displaced workers, says Kaplan, is finally, irrevocably upon us.

Jerry Kaplan: “What happens to people who simply can’t acquire or don’t have the skills that are going to be needed in the new economy?”

Journalist: “Well what is going to happen to them?”
Jerry Kaplan: “We are going to see much worse income inequality, and unless we take humanitarian actions, the truth is that they are going to starve and live in poverty and then die.”

Kaplan offers that grim prognosis in a new book, Humans Need Not Apply.

He knows of course that automation has been replacing labor for 200 years or more, for decades eliminating relatively high-paying factory jobs in America. And that new jobs have more than kept pace.

But not anymore, he says.

Now by pure chance, a case in point happened to notice Jack Rabot being put through his paces.

We had met Mike Cannon a few months earlier, when shooting him delivering packages for Google Express.

At a hardware store in Silicon Valley, Ashbot. A joint-venture between the Lothes chain of stores and a startup called Fellow Robots.

Without ever needing a coffee or bathroom break, its voice-recognition software, fluent in multiple languages, and laser-sensor safety technology, can do a job better than many of America’s five million or so retail workers.

Jerry Kaplan, Author, Humans Need Not Apply: “Maybe fifty percent of the retail clerks could be replaced by this kind of technology. And of course, this is just the beginning.”

Ashbot’s inventor, Marco Mescoro, disputes that his baby would put anyone out of work.

Journalist: “So you don’t see Ashbot replacing people?”
Marco Mescoro, Inventor: “No I don’t think so. This is a real tool that helps people find things in stores with very specific information.”

And if you think, “Well Ashbot still seems a bit clunky as a replacement for humans . . .”

In downtown Palo Alto, Suitable Technology’s beam tele-presence robot sells itself with no humans on sight at all.

Kima Johnson, salesperson: “Beams is a smart present system, so it allows us to be in anywhere in the world with a wifi connection and with this device on our keyboards here.”

Taylor Suet: “The problem with retail is staffing. You have people standing around in stores, often just waiting for people to come in. And then you’ve got customers at other times that are waiting but can’t get help.”

And already says Taylor Suet, beaming in from Upstate New York: “If suddenly a secondary location gets swamped, you could have a couple tellers from the first location actually beam into that second location and instantly doubled the staff — without actually doubling the staff and hiring twice as many people.

Kima Johnson was in Utah.

Kima Johnson: “I sit here in the desert where I want to live. But I can still work in California.”

Journalist: “Is there any sensitivity on your part about replacing people?”

Taylor Suet: “I don’t think it’s as much replacing people. We want to definitely stay away from automation because somebody needs to stay at a beam at all times.”

Journalist: “What do you mean ‘it’s not automation’? You’re the personification of automation!”

Taylor Suet: “Ultimately for us, we’d like to give more jobs to people that normally wouldn’t be able to have, like myself and Kima.”

Journalist: “But if you’re in Utah, and you are servicing lots of customers, in maybe multiple stores, right? You are replacing the jobs of people who would be in the stores themselves.

Isn’t that just obvious?”

Kima Johnson: “Well a person still needs to operate that device. We’re not robotic so to speak.”

Journalist: “Are they being defensive about not replacing jobs?”

Now you’re talking to two people who have jobs. The one who you’re not interviewing is the one who didn’t get the job, working in this store here locally.”

I was also not interviewing the heads of companies that provides robots for local hotels, robots that can thin out lettuce crops.”

Jerry Kaplan, Author, Humans Need Not Apply: “The reaction people have here is similar to if you called up a tobacco company and say, ‘I’d like do a story on smoking and health’.”

Journalist: “So when you called up companies, for this shoot, to be on PBS Newshour, they say, ‘not if it’s about displacing labor’?”

Jerry Kaplan: “I found that the doors would immediately slam shut. ‘Oh no. We make people more productive’.

Well making people more productive, puts other people out of work.”

Now in fairness, not everyone in the Valley was afraid to admit that robots are labor-saving devices.

Journalist: “Are you okay with the fact that this is going to replace thousands, maybe tens of thousands of caddies.”

Chad Grey, Caddytrek: “Absolutely. And this technology can be applied to other types of jobs as well: porters, bell hops, stockroom clerks; anywhere where heavy lifting is involved.”

Of course, new job are being created in Silicon Valley. That’s what entrepreneur, Vivek Wadhwa, confidently told us this in 2012.

Vivek Wadhwa, “The converging of technologies will create jobs in areas we cannot even think of.”

But these days, Wadhwa is singing a different, dolorous, tune.

Vivek Wadhwa, “Technology is moving faster than anyone believes. And it’s going to disrupt industries — and create unemployment on a scale we haven’t imagined before.

Journalist: “Why did you used to think it wasn’t going to be a problem?”

Vivek Wadhwa, “Because I believed what people in Silicon Valley do: that technology will make everything alright. I’ve had debates with the who’s who in Silicon Valley.

And I’ve sat back and I can think, ‘these people live in their own world, that they don’t know poverty. They don’t know despair. They don’t know what the effect of unemployment is.”

Jerry Kaplan: “People in the Silicon Valley believe that what we’re doing is God’s work: we are making the world a better place.”

Around the corner from Stanford’s Robotics Lab, the university’s world-class art museum provided a last, symbolic stop.

Jerry Kaplan: “Here we are in paradise, but we’re standing in front of Rodin’s Gates of Hell.”

Journalist: “So in your dystopia, there are millions of Americans who literally are out of luck and facing a grim future because they simply don’t have the skills to sell in the New Economy.”

Jerry Kaplan: “I think that’s true.

But here’s the good news: the US economy has doubled, reliably, about every forty years, for several hundred years now.

So when you look out forty years from now, we’re going to have twice as much wealthy as we are going to have today.

The question is, ‘who’s going to get that wealth?’ Is it going to concentrate in the hands of an elite, or is it going to be distributed more widely?”

Good question.


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1. The golfer has a normal caddy. True or false? What is a caddy?

2. What is the trend in terms of work?

3. What will happen to workers? Will they find other forms of employment?

4. The hardware store is employing distant workers using tele-robots. How does this function? Why are they doing this?

5. Robotics engineers and business people say that their robots will eliminate jobs for people. Yes, no, neither, both, maybe?

6. Has Vivek Wadhwa always had the same attitude, or has he changed in views regarding automation and society?

7. Jerry Kaplan, author of Humans Need Not Apply see a ray of hope for the future. Is this right or wrong?

8. Was the journalist optimistic or pessimistic about the future? Did he have a positive or negative outlook for the future? Was he cynical?


A. I have seen stores or companies where robots have replaced people. Is this correct or incorrect?

B. Are there tasks in your company that can be automated, computerized or robotized?

C. How do your friends, colleagues and classmates feel about automation?

D. What might happen in the future?

E. What will happen to workers who have been made redundant? What should they do? What should happen to them?

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