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17 December 2014


Barry Pruett

Thank you George. A very thought provoking always.

Russ Steele

Some Economists See a Link Between the Scarcity of Start-Ups and the Rise in Influence-Peddling’

“The great start-up slowdown” is explored by the Washington Post:

The more pronounced of those trends is a slowing birthrate for new businesses. The slowdown has persisted over two decades and has worsened since 2000. Economists aren’t entirely sure what’s causing it.

The nation’s “start-up rate,” the number of new companies as a share of total companies, declined by 12 percent from the late 1980s to the eve of the Great Recession. That’s according to research by John Haltiwanger, a pathbreaking University of Maryland economist who studies business dynamics, and several co-authors. They found the rate dropped even further during the recession: By 2011, it was about 25 percent lower than it was in the late ’80s.

Recent research from the Brookings Institution confirms that compared to 25 years ago, a smaller share of Americans today work in start-up companies and that a smaller share of companies are start-ups. Even the tech industry — that bastion of venture capital and IPOs — has seen its start-up rate decline. In 1982, Haltiwanger and coauthors report, 3 in 5 high-tech firms were young start-ups; in 2012, that had fallen to less than 2 in 5.

This is bad for middle-class workers. Newer companies create a lot more jobs, on net, than long-established ones, according to several studies, including a recent one by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which compiles economic statistics for wealthy nations around the world. (This is true even though so many start-ups fail.) Haltiwanger’s research suggests America would have 1.1 million more jobs today if dynamism were still at even mid-1980s levels. More jobs would reduce competition among would-be workers for available slots, which would mean companies would need to pay workers more to attract or keep them.

It is cheaper to buy influence than it is to innovate. Tech companies are expanding their lobbying staff in Washington. Something they used to avoid.

Scott Obermuller

One of the big questions we face moving into the new machine age is how much autonomous authority we will give to a non human as it interacts with humans. It's one thing to obey an order coming from a robotic device that is actually coming remotely from a human. How will folks deal with day to day submission to a mechanical 'thing' knowing the object is acting on its own intelligence and decision making? What if the automaton is not an arm of law enforcement but just a delegated spokes-piece acting on behalf of a company?
It's a new world we move into.

George Rebane

ScottO 859am - Not sure about humans following a machine's "orders" yet, but the practice of having machines compute and communicate alternative solutions is already well established. There are numerous knowledge domains - e.g. medicine, finance, agriculture, logistics - in which machines discover more and better alternative solutions and make better decisions than humans. Today most of these are still presented to the human for the final decision. However, machines are also being given autonomous control over more and more functions and operations which keep our society going. In those, the machines don't order humans around, but simply complete the task 'on their own recognizance' so to speak.

Russ Steele

Some of the current research demonstrates that the best solution to many problems is a human/robot team. Each relying on the individual strengths of the other. Research is to seek cooperative solutions. In chess, the computer has proven it's ability too beat masters players, but a team of teens using a laptop working with a computer based chess program were able to beat the IBM computer and a grand master each working alone. It was a demo of how computers and humans working as a team have synergistic capabilities.

There is ongoing research for humans and robots to work side by side on package sorting lines, the effort is to insure the robot does not harm the human working at it's side, but does all the heavy lifting.

There was a summer season science fiction program on TNT that teamed a robot and human police detective, showed how in the writers mind robots and humans could work together as crime fighters is the future. Yes it was science fiction, but many of the devices we have today were once science fiction.

There are some interesting TED Talks on YouTube and Roko that outlines some of the ongoing robot/ human interaction research that I find very interesting. Recommended.

Scott Obermuller

"Not sure about humans following a machine's "orders" yet"
Yet - but how soon? If we are going to envision a world with bots and machines taking over jobs from humans, then we have to consider every endeavor and level of authority. Certainly we will see a future unfold much as it has in the past. Some new tech is quickly embraced by the public while other 'advances' are shunned purely because of their causing a too radical shift in the average person's ability to adapt.
I'm already having problems with the idea of cars driving themselves. So far, the tech has proven itself in trials and limited use with careful oversight.
Future tech always looks good when the stuff is new. What about 25 year old malfunctioning self driving cars? Current ads show how some newer cars can come safely to a halt on their own when the driver decides paying attention is too much hassle. Will folks sticking with their older cars find it hard to get insurance even though they are exemplary drivers with clean records? I have no doubt that robo-cars can drive more safely than a lot of drivers, but that's a pretty low hurdle to surmount.
Recently at a family gathering, one of my nephews arrived with his 16 year old daughter who had proudly driven much of the distance herself. His brother was holding his own 3 year old daughter, and glancing at her, mused "She might never learn to drive a vehicle".
And he's right. It's not just jobs that will vanish for humans, but skill sets and common tasks. Will we fill in the gap with new skills to learn or just become excess baggage with no clear economic purpose?

George Rebane

Any human/machine cooperation in the cognitive tasks will be temporary as machine cognition advances. Humans may be kept in the loop beyond their usefulness only for psychological or societal reasons.

If humans don't 'climb aboard' the pre-Singularity machines, then very definitely we will become "excess baggage" in the post-Singularity age, and perhaps even before (see Nick Bostrom's analysis). By climbing aboard I am talking about post-humans developing along the blue line in the figure here -

If we remain on the green line, we will definitely become kept critters on earth whose continued existence will be strictly at the pleasure of the machines or The Machine. For those of us who believe that humans are transcendent beings, this poses some interesting cosmo/theological questions. How have other civilizations of sentient and sapient beings handled such transitions in this universe?

Wayne Hullett

George has pointed out a problem that need serious attention. The replacement of American (and eventually all) labor, first by outsourcing and eventually by machine is only going to accelerate. It has started with those who have little political voice (except in their ability to riot in numbers), and will, as George has stated, continue into the higher socioeconomic realms. Man-machine partnerships may absorb some of the unemployed, but not most.

We need to address head on the prospect of rapidly approaching massive unemployment. Apparently some countries are able to continue to exist with unemployment rates around 25%, but somewhere north of that figure is a rate that is not going to be sustainable by today's economic systems. Increasing the amount of income redistribution is only going to result in the flight of capital to less confiscatory climes (although I cannot think of one off the top of my head).

The only solution that I see, if we wish to avoid roving bands of plunders (other than using the billion bullet inventory on the unemployed), is for a portion of the productivity provided by machines be devoted to providing a reasonable standard of living to those who cannot (an perhaps even do not want to) get work. This will necessitate an entirely new social and economic system. Work would become a privilege. What would large numbers of unemployed people do constructively with their leisure time? Who would do the necessary work that cannot yet be done by machine, and why would they do it?

I was pleased to see this proposed study ( ) but I expect the problem to become evident much sooner than in 100 years.

Anybody else have any thoughts on what to do with the upcoming tidal wave that is approaching?

George Rebane

WayneH 508pm - Good thoughts. As you may know, from its inception years ago RR has regularly pointed to the growing systemic unemployment problems . I have also attempted to get a discussion going through lectures, newspaper columns, and radio commentaries on an alternative approach based on what I introduced as 'Non-profit Service Corporations'. I don't claim that NPSCs are the best solutions, but the concept can serve as a starting point. More here -


At least for the near future in my line of work, a machine will still be needed to be operated by a human. An extension of one's body if you will. No computer exists to turn said machine loose on it's own to do the job.
But yes, a burger can be made exactly the same every time. When it comes to mass production
and low skilled and over paid workers, the machine will prevail.

George Rebane

Walt 555pm - Your "At least for the near future ..." saves you - otherwise, dream on. However, your last statement has already been trashed because highly skilled, nominally paid workers in non-mass production jobs have already been replaced, and the process is ongoing. There is no single job category that is indefinitely 'safe' from machines.


The heavy equipment operator will be real hard to replace Doc. Yes, farm machinery is another story. They go in straight lines, or given patterns. Those CAN be run by computer and GPS, and a "home base" where many can be overseen by one guy.
But construction of roads and the like,, not happening. At least in MY lifetime. Just way too many variables. Utility lines are not always where the map says they are. A rock that just won't budge. Even a tree root can spoil the party. It takes the human to overcome those little problems on the spot.

A hand built weapon for instance is still built better, and is more reliable than one from a computer controlled machine.

Doc. I understand you had some work done to your digs. With what the job entailed, how soon do you think it will be for someone to drop off a given piece of equipment (or two)
and have it done without human intervention? Plug in a programmed computer chip,,, and hit GO.

We now live in a disposable world.( so to speak) Things are not built to last anymore, especially with mass production.( or pure cheap crap from China) It's cheaper in the long run to toss what breaks and buy another. (and hope for the best)
I am dealing with that at work as I speak. The boss bought a water pump (on the cheap) made in China, and is called a "non supported product". No replacement parts are sold.
I was able to salvage the motor, but the pump is a lost cause. A 50 cent impeller seal is just not to be had. AS the old saying goes, ya' get what you pay for.

Russ Steele

One of the robotic automation issues is the influence of government service unions. In the 1990s, Caltrans gave UC Davis a contract to develop a machine that found soft spots in the black top and automatically bored and filled the softspot. These spots were the starting points for potholes. The idea was to prevent the pot hole form developing. This significantly reduce the Caltrans work force. The workers union screamed and the project was terminated. Caltrans was no longer interested in a automated pothole fixer.

A local company developed a systems for monitoring sewer plant pumps and mulching systems. Sensor softare could determine a pump or mulching motor was about to enter a failure mode, it could send a text message it needed to be repaired or replaced. One person could now monitor the operations of multiple sewage processing stations, significantly reducing the work force needed to maintain the government infrastructure. Cities were not interested in buying the systems as it would cause layoffs, creating problems with the public services unions.

As more robots and automated systems enter the market, they will be welcomed in the commercial sector, but will be only slowly accepting in the government sector due to the power of the government service unions. We the taxpayer will be the loser. Automate systems do not need health care for life and a pension for 30 years after retirement.

George Rebane

Walt 709pm - Yes, you are a man of many talents that includes some exquisite dirt moving. But please don't plan to abandon this earth too soon because the machines can learn to do your job. In his 827pm RussS describes the existential reasons why the advent of machines will be delayed for many jobs. You can read more about my personal experiences regarding this here -


Why thanks Doc. Yes,, the day may come, but the here and now danger to my employment
is an illegal who can work for less, but still more than a robot.

Russ Steele

Since the recession began in December 2007, 1.2 million net jobs have been created in Texas. Only 700,000 net jobs have been created in the other 49 states combined.

California, Texas’ biggest economic rival, has created 985,600 fewer net jobs during the same period. California’s 1.5 percent job growth is ten percentage points lower than Texas’ percent job growth.

More details at

George Rebane

Yes, there is little to crow about while our progressive leadership sings about the "recovery". Unfortunately, it takes a bit of numeracy to understand what a recovery is and then compare it to what has been going on since 2009. But we are an innumerate nation which makes it easy to bullshit the gruberized electorate. I last attempted an explanation here -

Russ Steele

Deap Leaning will take your job, your children's jobs and their children's jobs. We need to see the problem now and start making the social and cultural adjustments now before we are overwhelmed. Watch the video and you will get a better idea what George is writing about.

What happens when we teach a computer how to lean? We replace a lots of people's jobs. Computer can do in minutes what it would take a team of humans years. This YouTube demonstrates the current capabilities of computers to speak, write, see, and listen. It also shows how computers and humans can work together on complex problems enhancing both results. The really scary part is at the end of this 19 minute video on Deap Learning. Human productivity is declining, while computer productivity is advancing at a non linear rate. Look forward to your comments.

George Rebane

RussS 1014am - I think you should fire your proof reader or hire one ;-) It appears that in your comment "deap" = deep, and "leaning" = learning. However, the TED video is right on the mark in describing what we have been talking about the pre-Singularity years on RR. Where Jeremy Howard leaves us dangling is in his final prescription for a society that evolves into a "craft-based economy" in which we "separate labor from earnings", period. This is like flight instruction reduced to 'First you spread out your arms, and then you fly.'

Russ Steele

George at 11:40AM

Thanks for your tip. My in-house editor is too busy, and I made some last minute edits with help by the auto speller trying to guess what I was trying to write. It guessed wrong and I did not take the time to check the results. My only solution is to slow down and try harder.

Russ Steele

Is this worth some discussion? it seems quite plausible to me.

If you think the rise of robots on Earth is scary, then here's a thought for you: they might be the most prevalent lifeform in the universe.

University of Connecticut philosophy professor Susan Schneider certainly thinks so. In her new paper "Alien Minds," she proposes that by the time civilizations are able to communicate by radio, they're a few short steps away from developing artificial intelligence. One they reached that level of advancement, they may have opted to upgrade their biology to something that's a biomechanical hybrid or something entirely synthetic. There could be a whole mess of Borg out there, in other words.

She also argues that those civilizations will be older than ours. If a dominant intelligent lifeform developed even a million years before humanity, and within centuries uploaded their brains to alien computers, those computers are likely to be vastly more intelligent than we can even fathom.

Seth Shostak, head of the SETI Institute, agrees with many of Schneider's assertions, and argues that the idea opens up the possibility of a new realm of habitable worlds. A computer doesn't drink water, after all—it just needs enough resources to keep going—which means life could be anywhere. Maybe the Goldilocks Zone is bigger than we think.

George Rebane

RussS 1257pm - This view of the nature of intelligence in the universe was presented on RR years ago and did generate limited discussions. More could be said, but our readership does not support every interesting area of inquiry, and I'm afraid this has been one of them. As recently as in a post earlier earlier this year I left readers with -

[Exit problem for the informed reader – what is the likelihood that post-Singularity civilizations have already evolved on at least one of the billions of exoplanets that cohabit this galaxy with us, and that at least one such civilization has developed the ability for inter-stellar (inter-galactic?) transport? Consider the possibilities.

Indeed, it is only post-Singularity civilizations that must inhabit the universe; 'natural' civilizations cannot go to the stars without first successfully passing through their own Singularities - the science of interstellar travel is difficult and presupposes a post-Singularity intelligence. And as Arthur Clarke advised us, such civilizations can easily make themselves invisible to our meager abilities to observe and sense (I have labeled this the 'blink out' phenomenon of advanced civilizations). The interested reader is invited to peruse the posts in the Singularity Snapshots category for more. We humans are in a nascent development and test phase, no doubt under observation by a community of advanced civilizations. (I hope Susan Schneider doesn't think she is introducing such ideas for our consideration. And SETI has sadly been on the wrong end of such explorations for decades, still using radio telescopes in the attempt to discover directional EM transmissions in very narrow wave trains that are only about 200 light-years long.)


It's more than likely that we have been "visited" by "others" not of this planet.
We can't be "it" in the vast void called space. The evidence is all over the world. In the form of passed down stories and even construction we can't even duplicate with the tools of the 21ST century. The people of India have tails of air battles and crashed "aircraft".
In Peru the laser straight "H" blocks cut from the hardest stone. If you assemble them, they would remind one of a rocket sled rail of today. And all out in the middle of nowhere.

In the religious end of things, too many similarities overlap, even from different sides
of the globe, and from totally different cutlers. Even their star cluster observations
are pretty much alike.. That can't be coincidence.

Are we alone?? I don't believe so.


Doughy local man thinks your concerns are ludicrous.......

I am not surprised at the negativity of the local ‘crazy’ blogs. Their message form the beginning has been that this is “the last great century of man.”

It is a worldview that believes our best days are behind us, science is lying to us, the government is engaged in a conspiracy to enslave the people, our children are ignorant, illiterate and innumerate, ‘others’ who do not share the traditional white European Christian culture are lazy, shiftless and dangerous, all of Islam is trying to kill us, half of our population are treasonous communists, and machines are going to steal our souls.

If I believed this plethora of nonsensical bat shit crazy tripe I would be a bitter old man too!

Bitter? Who's bitter? As near as I can tell making sport over your guys terrors is the antithesis of bitter and entertaining as hell!

We should bring the economy to a halt by reducing to CO2 emission levels to that of the 5th century or we're ALL GOING TO DIE IN TEN YEARS (NO FOOLIN THIS TIME)! Some old rancher decides to put his foot down over grazing rights, a bunch of the like minded decided to join him in his protest and THEY POINTED GUNS AT GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS SO THEY ARE CRAZY OUT OF CONTROL ANTI-GOVERNMENT ANARCHISTS WHO WANT TO DEFY GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY AND PROBABLY KILL US ALL! A group of people want to carry guns in a local 4th of July parade and THIS IS NONSENSE, IN YOUR FACE, INTENTIONALLY INFLAMMATORY ACTIVISM. IT IS DESIGNED TO CREATE DISSENSION AND ALIENATION RATHER THAN CELEBRATE THE UNITY OF PURPOSE OF OUR COUNTRY IT IS ALSO A PROTEST BEGGING FOR AN UNREASONABLE REACTION…

The shit that stirs Stevie up.....well that's all completely reasonable and makes perfect sense! Anybody who wasn't concerned about those things is well....bat shit crazy or something!

Your concerns though....those are indicative of a serious and pathological mental illness and the competent authorities should be consulted immediately to respond to this imminent threat!

Jesus.....lighten up Francis!

Originally posted at Todds.

Bill Tozer

When the machines rule the planet, we won't have to ever pay them a livable wage and I bet they never call in sick cause little bot had to be taken to the doctor. Any no holiday pay either. Best thing is our current outrageous pension and health care expenses will make the whole impending doom unfounded liability scenario a thing of the past. Won't see too many articles like this one when we get down to the nuts and bolts of running the show.

Michael R. Kesti

Bill Tozer 20Dec14 09:08 PM

"When the machines rule the planet, we won't have to ever pay them a livable wage..."

I believe that nothing comes for free so I wonder if that's true. While machines may have no use for money they will require energy and maintenance. Perhaps it is those latter that will be their livable wage!

George Rebane

BillT 908pm - "When machines rule the planet", we will be kept critters and not in a position to have the wherewithal to compensate them or anyone else for anything.

MichaelK 705pm - To the extent that they will have an economy (i.e. be required to allocate limited resources to accomplish objectives) they will have need for something that provides them a store of value, a unit of account, and a medium of exchange. Perhaps an advanced form of bitcoin.

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