1) Marketing/PR for autonomous vehicles needs to really drive home their safety, so when you hear “robot car,” you think “… saves lives.”
2) Is it hard to imagine the opposite fear in children born 10 years from now? Having seen mostly robotic cars in real life, and human-driven cars getting in accidents on TV and in movies, might the child of the future react with terror when the robotic chauffeur intones, “human driver detected, approaching from rear”?
Computers have eliminated a lot of jobs over the last 30 to 40 years. For example VisiCalc, did a lot of what many tax accountants charged for. It used to be that humans, mostly women, switched (or routed if you will) phone calls.
Automation certainly does eliminate many jobs. But interestingly it also seems to make previously impossible things possible. For example, if we still used humans to switch phone calls, we'd need far more humans then are available. And I don't mean looking for work, I mean everyone could be working a switch board operator and it would not be nearly enough.
On the down side, many people speculate that our tax laws have become as complicated as they have, partly because tax prep software makes it possible to still do your taxes for relatively cheap.
Driver-less trucks will certainly suck for truck drivers, I can just see that History channel show taking a sad turn as more and more of its real life stars are slowly replaced by self-driving trucks.
But what possibilities will it create? Could cars, or for that matter trucks, become like a subscription? You just subscribe and then if at any point and any where you need a ride, you just dial a number and a few minutes later a dirverless vehicle arrives to take you anywhere.
The same could work for goods. Request as much trucking capacity as you need, minutes before you need it. The trucks just show up.
How many hours total (everyone's added up) hours sitting in traffic could be eliminated if a clear majority of the cars are intelligent and networked? Thousand? Millions? All that previously unproductive time, now productive.
All the lives saved from accidents, will they create jobs?
Interestingly, farming has been moving to driverless equipment out in the fields for the last couple of decades. At first it was not well received. Who would want to give up control of their machines? But in the last couple of years, the technology has really exploded. People are starting to see the benefits to their business.
I expect driverless cars will be the same. It is going to be a long time before it is accepted by the masses, even when the long list of benefits are present. Hopefully we don't outlaw them before they really come into their own.
That's about exactly accurate: it was 2.8%, as of 1998, and is projected to dip down to 2.4% by 2018.  I happened to be looking at this just a few minutes ago, linked from http://zamfi.net/blog/one-day-we-will-all-be-programmers
John Deere's iTEC Pro, for example, is capable of controlling the tractor, but still requires an operator to be in the cab, just in case. Although here's a fun video of someone who disabled the safety sensors: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zU4liQvrcm4
I don't know of any large operator that isn't using at least autosteer, which, for things like cultivating essentially is driverless. For what it is worth, I come from an area of grain farmers.
Also, in your hypothetical, if we are all routing calls as our day job, doesn't that mean that at any one time, 1/3 of humans are asleep, 1/3 routing calls, 1/3 possibly on calls. With at least two people per call. How can that not be workable?
With at least two people per call. How can that not be workable?
I've heard of this idea before in the context of driverless cars. The thing is, this service already exists and is known as a "taxi". Since driverless taxis would likely be cheaper to operate, this means another source of job loss.
I think that in the next human generation or two we will end up seeing all menial and physical labor jobs being replaced by machines, leaving only entertainment and intellectual jobs.
I also am not sure whether "loss of jobs" really is some sort of absolute concept. Imagine that tomorrow all jobs could be done by "thinking" machines, even software development and architectural design and whatever. Suddenly everyone in the whole world lost their job; does that mean that everyone is out starving on the streets and there are just empty foreclosed on houses across the country? Obviously not; all of the same material wealth still exists to be divided across the same number of people (assuming the thinking machines don't care about material comforts).
And, to save time, here are the standard HN responses:
1. Marshall Brain commits the Lump of Labor Fallacy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lump_of_labour_fallacy): The lump of labor fallacy holds that the total amount of work is fixed. This is considered fallacious because increasing productivity also increases the size of the economy, thus creating new jobs in the process. IOW, the total amount of work is not fixed.
2. The industrial revolution destroyed all sorts of jobs (of say, craftsmen), but ended up employing as many or more as factory workers. Similarly with the information revolution. Etc... All of these out of work truck drivers will become... massage therapists.
My critique of the lump of labor fallacy argument is that it seems to hold as long as our ability to consume can keep up with productivity gains. But what if there's a natural ceiling to our ability to consume; what happens when we produce more than we can consume? Or, when luxury ephemeral goods become trivially cheap (say, watching YouTube videos).
I'm not an economist, so I strive to remain agnostic on this question, but it still seems far from settled to me. Even if you believe that things will eventually shake out and workers displaced by automation will find new jobs, we still may be in for an uncomfortable period of high unemployment and disruption as the economy adjusts. (AKA, productivity shocks.)
When that happens competition for the qualified labor goes up, and salaries rise in response. While the structurally unemployed remain so and remain poor. This leads to a building disparity between rich and poor and that the problems such a disparity creates are quite well known.
 'structurally unemployed' refers to a person who is unemployed and unqualified for all of the employment opportunities in their area. It comes from a similar concept 'structurally fired' where a company removes the positions that are held by current employees without creating other opportunities.
This is very strong evidence that the kind of disparities you mentioned are not truly structural. The "structural argument" is just a decoy used to prevent the disadvantaged from asking inconvenient political questions.
Actual numbers: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=unemployment+rate+swede...
It looks like Sweden merely caught up with the US in terms of unemployment in the last 20 years.
Look at the quite drastic ups and downs in unemployment in Sweden in the 1990s. I know that's not exactly what you wrote, but does that look like something that is driven by "structural changes"?
I'd pick health care as something that's just going to keep growing. As long as people have health problems, there will be a market for attempts at solutions. As the rest of life becomes more affordable, more money can be spent on this.
Note that nobody dies of smallpox anymore. That disease no longer exists in the population, it has been eliminated. IBM Watson will (eventually, kinda does now) automate diagnosis. Respirocytes would eliminate decompression sickness, and make it pretty hard to bleed to death, with a medic handy. A Vasculoid would eliminate bleeding entirely, as well as blocking all blood-borne diseases, by the simple expedient of replacing blood with something else.
I think the sustainable future is one where we all work significantly less than today, and where more people do things where humans are much better than machines, such as arts/music and care (for the elderly, children, sick etc.)
Automation will replace a number of things:
2) Wait staff (waiters / waitresses)
5) Reception services
6) Restocking / Inventory management
7) Fast food cooking staff
8) Hair styling / cutting
14) Security / Monitoring
These changes will be gradual, like in Machining where it used to be a machinist, his tools, and a mill. Now the mill is CNC and he's more of a programmer. The guy running the tool is more of an operator.
As automation capabilities get better we'll see robots like the DaVinci surgery robot for things like Hair Salons, where a single operator/stylist can style hair for 10 customers simultaneously. But that stylist will have more technical training than stylists of today do. So most stylists will be out of work, the smaller and smaller percentage of people who are both creative stylists and have the technical ability to run these salons will displace them.
I see the following mechansims at work in the US today which is pushing us toward that future.
1) Efficiency (or competing on cost vs quality) is 'winning' (or displacing) quality service products on the market.
2) The education and capacity of the both 25th percentile from our youth is incapable of basic problem solving.
3) The risk from employee theft (shrinkage) works against #1 making automation solutions justifiable to employers.
When possible transferring the risk/responsibility for service delivery to the consumer is more cost effective than training under-educated employees or hiring people with health benefits.
It might seem implausible but I remember when scanners were introduced into supermarkets. The canonical low margin business. They helped margins because less experienced cashiers could check out customers as quickly as more experienced cashiers did. It also resulted in fewer errors (by the cashier). I remember joking that at some point you would just walk behind the register and check yourself out.
Well once the automation around collecting cash and other payments became good enough, that is exactly what has happend. There are several stores in my area where you have the option of checking out yourself. On a recent trip there was one 'real' cashier and all the self checkout lines were open (8 stations) with one supervisor.
The technology enables the automation the economics drive the adoption. Things like pay kiosks now are quite able to take any of cash, checks, credit or debit cards. That gets hardened at ticket buying machines, then jumps to cash registers, I expect it to be in taxi cabs next.
So the 'social justice' question is what do we do with people who are structurally unemployable? Sure they have some responsibility for that (education and basic problem solving skills are lacking) but once they get past their rebellious youth and realize that nothing they will do can prevent them from growing old, and now they want to go back and 'fix' those lacks, how can we best facilitate that?
The advancment of automation and the elimination of jobs that can be done by people is neither a 'good' thing or a 'bad' thing. It just is. And I don't see us changing the economics or the technology which would inhibit it. Advances will be made, applicability to wider and wider problem sets will be possible, by and large its an economic 'win' to have a machine do something rather than a human.
You've probably seen the 'buy American, look for made in America' programs that people run. No doubt we'll see 'for made in America by People' campaigns as well.
At some point, though, once every type of work can be done by machines, wealth could probably be redistributed in such a way that noone had to work very much. That would probably require human level intelligences, though, and then cue the great robot uprising...
It would be nice, but I can't see it happening, unfortunately. Too much of our society would need restructuring, and there are those that would fight tooth and nail against that.
Given the large number of people I know who spend half or more of their time surfing the web at the office, I suspect that future is already here to some extent.
This is paradoxical, since our productivity will be at an all-time high. Eventually we'll arrive at some sort of alternative economy but at least in the US there will be some serious unpleasantness along the way.
See creative destruction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_destruction
e.g. the car being invented did mean less work for horse-carriage "drivers", but eventually everything was better than before.
When Google doesn't do this, they have to rely on marketing. See Wave or Buzz.
The Cube was a failure, although I'm not exactly positive it's exactly within 10 years.
.Mac (or MobileMe) hasn't been as successful as I think apple believed it would be.
I understand that Apple had more than enough failures in the 80s and 90s, but honestly they are basically a different company since 1998 when Steve Jobs came back and completely changed the trajectory of the company.
They have managed to have basically no significant failed products at all in the entire term that Google has existed at all as a company. Google and Microsoft have had several extremely high profile failures, and dozens of failures as minor as the most significant failed product that Apple had.
The stock price of the company went from 3.5 in 1997 to 350 in 2011. I just don't think that the Newton is at all relevant when talking about how careful the respective major companies are to avoid large public failures.
(While flying is safer in many ways like deaths per mile or per passenger, I would bet you are a lot safer in a car than a plane in the event of a crash. Car crashes are dangerous, but plane crashes are nearly guaranteed fatalities)
(I can see that you are not from California. At 60mph, you are in serious danger of being rear-ended.)
So what is it about flying? Probably the whole "trapped in a metal tube travelling at 500mph a mile above the ocean" thing.
That being said, I wonder what the driverless cars would do for the blind/visually-impaired. It could be quite liberating for them. They wouldn't have to live near public transit/take jobs with public transit access. Neat.
Or if the steering shuts down while on a long curve next to a cliff?
Steering doesn't shut down, it just goes from easy to hard. If the car is in motion it requires very little energy to turn.