Tag Archives: technology forecasting

Automation, Robotics -Trends and Impacts

Trying to figure out the employment impacts of automation, computerization, and robotics is challenging, to say the least.

There are clear facts, such as the apparent permanent loss of jobs in US manufacturing since the early 1990’s.


But it would be short-sighted to conclude these jobs have been lost to increased use of computers and robots in production.

That’s because, for one thing, you might compare a chart like the above with statistics on Chinese manufacturing.


Now you can make a case – if you focus on the urban Chinese manufacturing employment – that these two charts are more or less mirror images of one another in recent years. That is urban manufacturing employment in China, according the US BLS, increased about 4 mllion 2002-2009, while US manufacturing employment dropped by about that amount over the same period.

Of course, there are other off-shore manufacturing sites of importance, such as the maquiladoras along the US border with Mexico.

But what brings robotics into focus for me is that significant automation and robotics are being installed in factories in China.

Terry Guo, head of Foxconn – the huge Chinese contract manufacturer making the I-phone and many other leading electronics products – has called for installation of a million industrial robots in Foxconn factories over the next few years.

In fact, Foxconn apparently is quietly partnering with Google to help bring its vision of robotics to life.

Decoupling of Productivity and Employment?

Erik Brynjolfsson at MIT is an expert on the productivity implications of information technology (IT).

About a year ago, the MIT Technology Review ran an article How Technology Is Destroying Jobs featuring the perspective developed recently by Brynjolfsson that there is increasingly a disconnect between productivity growth and jobs in the US.

The article featured two infographics – one of which I reproduce here.


There have been highly focused studies of the effects of computerization on specific industries.

Research published just before the recent economic crisis did an in-depth regarding automation or computerization in a “valve industry,” arriving at three, focused findings.

First, plants that adopt new IT-enhanced equipment also shift their business strategies by producing more customized valve products. Second, new IT investments improve the efficiency of all stages of the production process by reducing setup times, run times, and inspection times. The reductions in setup times are theoretically important because they make it less costly to switch production from one product to another and support the change in business strategy to more customized production. Third, adoption of new IT-enhanced capital equipment coincides with increases in the skill requirements of machine operators, notably technical and problem-solving skills, and with the adoption of new human resource practices to support these skills

This is the positive side of the picture.

No more drudgery on assembly lines with highly repetitive tasks. Factory workers are being upgraded to computer operatives.

More to follow.

Links May 2014

If there is a theme for this current Links page, it’s that trends spotted a while ago are maturing, becoming clearer.

So with the perennial topic of Big Data and predictive analytics, there is an excellent discussion in Algorithms Beat Intuition – the Evidence is Everywhere. There is no question – the machines are going to take over; it’s only a matter of time.

And, as far as freaky, far-out science, how about Scientists Create First Living Organism With ‘Artificial’ DNA.

Then there are China trends. Workers in China are better paid, have higher skills, and they are starting to use the strike. Striking Chinese Workers Are Headache for Nike, IBM, Secret Weapon for Beijing . This is a long way from the poor peasant women from rural areas living in dormitories, doing anything for five or ten dollars a day.

The Chinese dominance in the economic sphere continues, too, as noted by the Economist. Crowning the dragon – China will become the world’s largest economy by the end of the year


But there is the issue of the Chinese property bubble. China’s Property Bubble Has Already Popped, Report Says


Then, there are issues and trends of high importance surrounding the US Federal Reserve Bank. And I can think of nothing more important and noteworthy, than Alan Blinder’s recent comments.

Former Fed Leader Alan Blinder Sees Market-rattling Infighting at Central Bank

“The Fed may get more raucous about what to do next as tapering draws to a close,” Alan Blinder, a banking industry consultant and economics professor at Princeton University said in a speech to the Investment Management Consultants Association in Boston.

The cacophony is likely to “rattle the markets” beginning in late summer as traders debate how precipitously the Fed will turn from reducing its purchases of U.S. government debt and mortgage securities to actively selling it.

The Open Market Committee will announce its strategy in October or December, he said, but traders will begin focusing earlier on what will happen with rates as some members of the rate-setting panel begin openly contradicting Fed Chair Janet Yellen, he said.

Then, there are some other assorted links with good infographics, charts, or salient discussion.

Alibaba IPO Filing Indicates Yahoo Undervalued Heck of an interesting issue.


Twitter Is Here To Stay

Three Charts on Secular Stagnation Krugman toying with secular stagnation hypothesis.

Rethinking Property in the Digital Era Personal data should be viewed as property

Larry Summers Goes to Sleep After Introducing Piketty at Harvard Great pic. But I have to have sympathy for Summers, having attended my share of sleep-inducing presentations on important economics issues.


Turkey’s Institutions Problem from the Stockholm School of Economics, nice infographics, visual aids. Should go along with your note cards on an important emerging economy.

Post-Crash economics clashes with ‘econ tribe’ – economics students in England are proposing reform of the university economics course of study, but, as this link points out, this is an uphill battle and has been suggested before.

The Life of a Bond – everybody needs to know what is in this infographic.

Very Cool Video of Ocean Currents From NASA


The Future of Digital- I

The recent Business Insider presentation on the “Digital
” is outstanding. The slides are a paean to digital media, mobile, and more specifically Android, which appears to have won the platform wars – at least for the time being.

Here are some highlights.

BI charts the global internet population at just less than three billion, a figure which includes, however, almost all the more affluent consumers.

New media – Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Yahoo – dominate the old media – 21st Century Fox, CBS, Viacom, Time Warner, Comcast, and Disney.

Multiple devices and screens are key to the new media landscape from a hardware standpoint. As “connected devices,” smartphones and tablets now dominate PC’s. Sales of smartphones are still booming, and tablets are cannibalizing PCF’s.


Demand for “phablets” is skyrocketing, especially in Asia. PC manufacturers are taking a hit.

BI estimates one fifth of internet traffic is now via mobile devices.

The Chinese smartphone users are now twice the size of US market.

But it is with respect to the “platform wars” that the BI presentation takes the strongest stand. Their estimates suggest 80 percent of smartphones run Android, and 60 percent of tables.


They say Android has caught up in the app development department. The exhibit showing the “fragmentation” of Android caught my eye.


US digital advertising is now bigger than TV, and, according to BI, shows a 20 percent CAGR 2002-2012.


Newspaper ads have plummeted, as Google takes the lion’s share of digital advertising.


Here’ the link.


You can convert the 134 slides in the BI presentation to a PDF file, if you register for a trial membership to BI services.

I’ll have more to say about these topics soon.

Links – February 14

Global Economy

Yellen Says Recovery in Labor Market Far From Complete – Highlights of Fed Chair Yellen’s recent testimony before the House Financial Services Committee. Message – continuity, steady as she goes unless a there is a major change in outlook.

OECD admits overstating growth forecasts amid eurozone crisis and global crash The Paris-based organisation said it repeatedly overestimated growth prospects for countries around the world between 2007 and 2012. The OECD revised down forecasts at the onset of the financial crisis, but by an insufficient degree, it said….

The biggest forecasting errors were made when looking at the prospects for the next year, rather than the current year.

10 Books for Understanding China’s Economy

Information Technology (IT)

Predicting Crowd Behavior with Big Public Data


Internet startups


Alternative Technology

World’s Largest Rooftop Farm Documents Incredible Growth High Above Brooklyn