Inventing a better future of work: the Working Futures science fiction anthology of better futures for workers and jobs

[Worried about automation and high-tech unemployment, or gig economy labor apocalypses? Techdirt's Mike Masnick and the Copia Institute have pulled together an outstanding anthology of speculative fiction about better futures for work and workers, called Working Futures, which is just out. This kind of speculation-for-good is such a cool idea, and I'm delighted to give Mike a little space to discuss it. -Cory]

Over the past decade -- as technology has advanced in two specific areas: the gig economy and artificial intelligence -- there’s been a lot of discussion about the nature of work and the future of work. I’ve been somewhat frustrated by many of these discussions, as they always tend to fall broadly into two competing camps: people insisting that all the jobs will go away and we’re all doomed, or those who insist that “everything will work itself out, it always does.” Read the rest

Vast majority of truck-driving jobs are not under threat from automation

The looming threat of mass-unemployment driven by automation has been grossly overstated: while it's true that "truck driver" is one of the most common jobs in America, the vast majority of truck drivers are not long-haul drivers, which are the drivers at risk of having their jobs automated out of existence. Read the rest

Stop saying "robots are coming for your job"; start saying "Your boss wants to replace you with a robot"

Tech reporter and sf writer Brian Merchant (previously) calls our attention to the peculiar construction of the problem statement in articles about automation and obsolescence, in which "robots are coming to steal your job." Read the rest

Science fiction writers on the future of work: Laurie Penny, Ken Liu, Charlie Jane Anders, Nisi Shawl, Martha Wells and others

Wired Magazine has just published a package of eight sf writers visions of "The Future of Work," including some of our favorite authors like Laurie Penny (previously), Charlie Jane Anders (previously), Nisi Shawl (previously), Ken Liu (previously) and others -- eight in all. Read the rest

Competitive book-sorting event pits New York library workers against Washington State's

Big library systems struggling with the task of sorting interbranch requests for distribution on the library's delivery vehicles can buy a $2 million Lyngsoe Systems Compact Cross Belt Sorter, whose conveyor takes precisely hand-placed materials down a line of bins, scanning each item and tipping it into a bin destined for the right branch. Read the rest

How trade unions are addressing automation

The first wave of computerized automation caught trade unions flat-footed; already reeling from the Reagan-era attacks on labor, union leadership failed completely to come up with a coherent response to the automation of manufacturing industries (a notable exception was the longshoremans' union, which ensured that containerization led to massive pay raises and generous retirements for the workers whose work was largely eliminated by better shipping techniques). Read the rest

Papers sought for We Robot: Miami's eighth annual conference on robots and the law

Michael Froomkin writes, "We Robot, now heading into its 8th year, is lots of fun -- and it's also the leading North American conference on robotics law and policy. The 2019 edition will be held at the University of Miami on April 12-13, 2019, preceded by a day of special workshops on April 11. We just today opened the submissions portal for paper and demo proposals. Full details are in the Call for Papers. Read the rest

Chinese law professor: AI will end capitalism

Feng Xiang is a prominent Chinese legal scholar with an appointment at Tsinghua University; in a new Washington Post editorial adapted from his recent speech at the Berggruen Institute’s China Center workshop on artificial intelligence in Beijing, he argues that capitalism is incompatible with AI. Read the rest

Stephen Hawking's final words to the internet: robots aren't the problem, capitalism is

The last message Stephen Hawking posted to a public internet forum was an answer to a question in a Reddit AMA, querying how humanity will weather an age of technological unemployment. Read the rest

Kimberly Clark says the Trump tax-cuts let it fire 5,500 US workers and pay out dividends to its shareholders

Kimberly Clark, makers of Kleenex and Huggies, says it will lay off 10-12% of its US workforce and divert the savings to shareholder dividends and capital investment (presumably robots to replace the workers, or infrastructure to import finished goods from lower-cost offshore labor markets), and it says that action was triggered by Trump's tax-cuts, which freed up the cash needed to effect the changes. Read the rest

San Francisco SPCA uses a robot to chase away homeless people, because cruelty to humans is just fine

The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals bought a "security robot" to harass homeless people at its Mission District offices, a move that the city has banned and threatened $1,000/day fines for. Read the rest