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Bots + Beer

Chatbots, machine learning, artificial intelligence... and beer.

Automation

Fear of automation is nothing new, and it's something that has plagued the consciousness of the modern working person since the dawn of the industrial revolution. As technological development has continued its exponential pace, it has made more and more manual--yet labor intensive--jobs obsolete. When we look at the modern age, this fear has been centered on two things: robotics and artificial intelligence. There is a belief that robotics will rob us of all blue collar jobs, while artificial intelligence is being used to stoke the fears of white collar workers... including programmers.

The Atlantic posted an article recently talking about the programmers who are coding themselves out of jobs. Long before this idea that artificial intelligence will take some of these jobs, programmers have been apparently doing it themselves through automation. The article details several anecdotal incidents where programmers have been fired or reprimanded for automating their job tasks. In some instances, the person automated their job and did nothing afterwards--essentially stealing time. But in other situations, automating inefficient processes has resulted in anxiety among programmers, worried about how management would react. It brings up an interesting moral dilemma--in the face of being able to automate processes, who should reap the benefits?

Phil Haack once tweeted: "We're not here to write software, we're here to ship products and deliver value. Writing code is just a fulfilling means to that end."

Automation helps optimize workflow so that workers can apply their skills where they're needed. The key here is value; if a developer automates a task and then does nothing with the rest of his or her time, that's not adding value. As mentioned above, that's stealing time... and it's unethical. It also ends up being a missed opportunity to document the process used to automate the work he or she was doing, and provide some knowledge transfer.

Unfortunately, many companies determine "work" to be equated with hours spent in a cube typing at a keyboard, but that doesn't produce true value. This mismatch in value and the metric to measure value is why programmers capable of automating tasks, sometimes fear that they are automating themselves out of a job if they reveal some of these accomplishments. --Michael Szul & Bill Ahern

Fear of an Artificial Intelligence Workforce?

As mentioned above, as AI continues to make inroads, unwarranted fears continue to mount about the potential for job loss in an age of automation and thinking machines. Recent research has suggested that AI adoption could add about 1.2 percent to the GDP over the next two years, accounting for roughly $10-13 trillion dollars. Although there will be obstacles, the general consensus is that AI adoption will augment the already creative and empathic aspects of many jobs--aspects that AI isn't capable of. In fact, the wealth of data and training sets needed to be cleaned and tested for AI to be effective is monumental. In many ways, there will be overwhelming IT needs in the data space before any worries of AI automation vs. jobs needs to be addressed. --MS

AI's Effects on the Poor

"The future is already here--it's just not very evenly distributed." --William Gibson

Unfortunately, adoption of AI could likely lead to problems in countries where repetitive tasks are the primary means of employment for those with limited digital skills. The key here for the poor is for nations to provide education that allows access to gaining those digital skills--the upside of which isn't just gainful employment for those whose jobs would be displaced by automation, but a benefit to the country, as slow adoption of AI may, according to research, hurt the overall economy of that nation. --BA

From Codepunk...

Android: Netrunner, Jinteki, and Clojure

Back at the microphones... on the latest Codepunk podcast episode, we talk about Android: Netrunner, the online game Jinteki, and Clojure as a descendent of the original AI language. --MS

It's the season for pumpkin beers...

...so I’ll do a quick run-down of three I recently had.

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale: The sweetest of the three and most pumpkin flavor. I’d drink it again.

Southern Tier Cold Press Coffee Pumpking: This is the best of the three. The pumpkin flavor wasn’t as strong as Weyerbacher, but the mildly sweet flavor with the rich coffee was a great combo. Highly recommended.

Roadsmary’s Baby Scary-Good Pumpkin Ale: Not much flavor and certainly not much pumpkin taste to it. I’d pass on this one. --BA

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