Author Archives: antonnulens

The science of destroying jobs.

I’ve been reading “The second machine age” written by Andrew McAffee and Erik Brynjolfsson. Due to time limitations I couldn’t finish the book to make this article but let’s get to the jest of it. I’ll put a link to an excerpt (the first chapter of the book) so you can see if it’ll intrest you.

The book describes the new age that we’re quickly heading into and shows why we should be optimistic about it, yet also discusses the challenges it will bring.

Enter Creative Destruction:

The Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter described capitalism as constantly evolving as innovation and progress disrupt older technology. He used this term to describe the way in which technological progress improves the lives of many, but only at the expense of a smaller few.

Creative destruction first became an issue of debate during the industrial revolution, when machinery began to improve the manufacturing process, and inventions like the assembly line came to dominate craft and artisan production. While the economy as a whole benefited from such improvements, those craftsman who were displaced saw their jobs destroyed, never to return again. Economic theory predicts that the negative effects will be relatively short-lived; that those displaced workers will have job opportunities created by new fields and industries. For example, one hundred years ago, no one thought about becoming an airline pilot or a software engineer.

Enter the Optimistic View:

The authors discus three aspects of the immense innovation. Firstly that most of the things needed to head forward are already here (or in the next 15 years), the building blocks are ready to be used. Secondly, they state that automation is great, more efficient, cleaner, better living for all with less strain on the earth. and lastly they talk about the difficulties of innovation, the creative destruction that is in it’s own a good thing with for the older technology (or the servants of the older technology) the end. So new tech makes people working with or for the old tech obsolete. Yet I must say they see things on the bright side of life. The beneficiaries of the technological advancements will conclude on the midlong term all parties who lost with the destruction of the old technology.

What I would like to take away from this as a question for you readers:

Should we stop hanging on to older technology to make the shift more disruptive but also less painful in the mid-long term for everyone? (like removing a band-aid in one go). For example: supporting outdated hardware with operating systems, Support for old data technologies, …

Excerpt of the book:


something to confess

Okay so I have something to confess, my last article wasn’t actually me. it was an automated message. A cheap (free) one.

There is a more advanced version of this, obviously not free to test out.

Aside from the fact that it isn’t in my particular writing style, I don’t see many holes in the article. This then proves I am rapidly becoming obsolete on this blog page.

With this comforting thought I leave you to comment on your opinion on the automated article. Did you like it? Do you find it reads almost easier than student written articles?

Is Automation Destroying Intellectual Jobs?

A common theme surrounding the state of the labor market following the Great Recession of 2008 is whether or not technological progress has effectively taken away employment opportunities. While the unemployment rate has fallen steadily to just about 5%, many of the jobs lost prior to the financial crisis have not returned. Rather, many of the working- and middle-class individuals being hired now find themselves earning a lower real wage.

Creative Destruction

The Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter described capitalism as constantly evolving as innovation and progress disrupt older technology through a process of creative destruction. He used this term to describe the way in which technological progress improves the lives of many, but only at the expense of a smaller few.

Creative destruction first became an issue of debate during the industrial revolution, when machinery began to improve the manufacturing process, and inventions like the assembly line came to dominate craft and artisan production. While the economy as a whole benefited from such improvements, those craftsman who were displaced saw their jobs destroyed, never to return again. Economic theory predicts that the negative effects will be relatively short-lived; that those displaced workers will have job opportunities created by new fields and industries. For example, one hundred years ago, no one thought about becoming an airline pilot or a software engineer.

Fast forward to today’s information age: The internet and increasing computing power has certainly caused creative disruption in a wide range of industries. As information technology continues to progress, the question becomes, will intellectual jobs – those that require a human mind – also become obsolete with artificial intelligence? (For more, see: How Technology Is Replacing Workers.)

Technology Has Already Made Some Jobs Obsolete

While the industrial revolution saw technology displace human workers in manufacturing and production work, the computer age has seen a displacement of service jobs better mediated by a website or mobile app. The internet automated many jobs involving a broker or middle-man matching the seller of a good or service to a willing buyer, and at a great reduction in cost.

Travel agents, stock brokers, bank tellers, tax accountants, language translators, toll booth attendants, phone operators, postal workers, and job recruiters are just a small sample of the kinds of work that have become automated. While this trend has made these services less expensive and more accessible to a wide range of consumers, those previously employed in these fields have had a difficult time finding new work. (See also: 20 Industries Threatened by Tech Disruption.)

The types of jobs that have not been automated thus far have been those that require the intellect, creativity, and the flexibility of the human brain. Some of the most highly paying jobs today are for managers, lawyers, doctors, and financial professionals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that in the next five years, these kinds of jobs will be in particularly high demand.

The BLS predicts that jobs for market research analysts will grow by over 40% through 2020. Financial advisors are expected to grow by 32% and software developers by 30%. Architects, biomedical engineers, and medical scientists are also expected to see job growth at above average rates.

These lines of work all share the fact that they rely on human intelligence and, so far, have not been automated. The march of progress, however, continues unabated and even these jobs may be at risk in the future. (See also: 2015 Tech Trends.)

AI and the Future of Creative Disruption

MIT economist Erik Brynjolfsson is co-author of The Second Machine Age, a book that tries to anticipate which jobs will remain once computers, software, and artificial intelligence (AI) take over the jobs now reserved for human beings. He considers what will happen when the art of writing an article, driving a car, translating speech in real time, or diagnosing a medical condition will no longer need a human brain. The pace of technological progress in the digital age is accelerating such that new industries may not be able to soak up displaced workers quickly enough.

Moore’s Law states that computational power will double and become cheaper every 18 months. Moore’s Law has held up surprisingly well since it was suggested in 1965, and it appears likely to continue to hold up in the future. Unlike the advent of the steam engine or automobile, which took place over many years and created many more new jobs than they took away, developing software to replace intellectual pursuits can happen very quickly and the effects may be permanent. (See also: 5 Top Jobs of the Future.)

Computers and automation now have greater ability to replace human activity than ever before. Computers can be programmed to win at chess against the world’s greatest master player, to win at Jeopardy! by processing and quickly analyzing language and nuance, and can predict stock market outcomes by crunching an enormous amount of data in a very short amount of time. While the automation of the past made labor more productive by engaging in repetitive and tedious tasks, the automation of the future will be fluid, adaptable, and intelligent. The rate of societal change to made adjustments to employment trends is no match for Moore’s Law, which would predict an increase in computing power of 10 times in just five years.

Those workers with high tech skills, such as advanced computer programming and electrical engineering, will be at a great advantage when this comes to pass. Computers will begin to master intellectual property, organizational capital, and originally generated content and adapt to changes as they occur.

The first human jobs to go in this scenario are middle-skilled, white collar jobs involved in routine data processing tasks such as accountants, legal services, and nursing. Lawyers and doctors will last, but legal aides whose duties include research and data analysis will be quickly overpowered by the search and data crunching ability of software. Automated nursing stations, which dispense the correct dosage of the proper medicine, will not make harmful mistakes such as administering the wrong drug. Furthermore, software will be able to identify and adjust medications based on allergies, potential drug interactions, or brand new results from clinical trials. Sympathetic or emotional simulations run with artificial intelligence and natural language processing may have a better bedside manner than some human doctors. Such systems could be used in place of a psychologist or as aides for the elderly.

Driverless cars that combine GPS technology with that of mapping, real-time sensors, distributed networking, and a voice-activated interface may come to dominate the roads, eliminating all sorts of jobs that rely on a skilled human driver. Driverless trucks and heavy machinery may also become ubiquitous as means of transporting goods and repairing roads. Not only that, but advanced software may begin undertaking the more intellectual work of designing and engineering new automobiles, optimizing them for performance and efficiency. (See also: Self-Driving Cars Could Change The Auto Industry.)

The Bottom Line

As technology becomes smarter with the advent of AI, networking, and software development, many jobs that have remained human-only may begin to disappear. Because of the rapid pace of progress, this time might be different in the sense that those displaced workers may not have the opportunity to find employment in the new industries created by such change. Manual labor and many service jobs have already been dominated by automation. In the future, jobs requiring intelligence and adaptation may also go the way of computers. Perhaps the only jobs that will ultimately remain are those requiring pure human creativity. That, for the moment, remains out of the realm of automation.

When governments envy technology. Or fear it.

So this article isn’t directly linked to automation. But it does show the drive of competition in the technological race to superiority. The article states that a Chinese government hackers-group (?!) infiltrated ASML.
Most likely for the designs of the extreme ultra-violet light which ASML uses (or will use) for its newest generation of transistors.

George Orwell – 1984

I wanted to do an article on ASML’s newest eUV machines. A company like ASML keeps Moore’s law a reality. As it works with 13,5nm lightwaves (thusly way in the UV spectrum). This technology is one of the new leaps in direction of automation for the masses. as transistors keep getting smaller, more efficient and cheaper technology becomes available to everyone. The vast amount of transistors that can be packed into chips on this scale would mean large information density. Which in turn can be used to perform automated tasks at higher speeds. More intelligence for robots, smarter appliances, bugs carrying miniature computers around to show migrations in nature, nanotech operations inside the human body, … I’m just ball parking this, but you get the point, technology on a small scale has immense possibilities, even for large scale technology.



So, reading the article stated below (sorry for the native English speakers, I couldn’t find an adequate version in English) gave me goosebumps. We’ve all heard about the NSA spying on everyone, Russian intelligence services doing the same and well in China, the government has tight grips on what goes on in China. It was to be expected malpractices like these to occur. But why do they feel the need to steal for instance eUV tech? They can’t actually reproduce it, there are international courts for those kinds of things. Preparing for when the patent expires maybe? I don’t know. Looking a bit further i’ve found countless companies claiming to be hacked by theirs or other governments. Let us step away a bit from accusations, I would like to be still allowed into China for vacations. Let us once again move to a more philosophical point.

Why do we fear technology -and implicitly automation? Why do we envy it? I think the envy is simply not wanting to be left behind on the technological shore of poverty. Everyone wants to be at the top. For countries it often implies survival or prosperity. For people it means living better lives or maybe feeling better than others.

So what makes us fear technology? Since, seeing the comments on this wordpress, most of us don’t expect the world to turn automated tomorrow and all of us out of a job yesterday. why do we then fear technology? Fear of the unknown is in my mind not the same as fear of technology. Science is knowing, technology is applied science. It basically translates what we have learned into something we use. Automation is taking what we use and doing it more efficiently and independent of other systems (or people). I find that what we don’t know (yet) is what makes us wonder. It drives for us to learn more. Searching for answers is in a very taoistic way the answer to THE question. (see what I did there? taoism, something really nice, came from China 😉 )


IBM’s Watson has got most doctors beat!

I’ve read this article about Watson, a computer that analyses medical data and can make diagnoses for real life patients. It turns out that Watson is getting smarter than regular doctors! Not all that surprising. Computers don’t rest, don’t need sleep and can “remember” all (and lets face it, we mean all) scientific research papers, patient data, operation data, side effects of medicine and has a battery of statistics backing up his own diagnose to form his own second opinion.

Well, that apparently tends to make Watson better in his diagnoses of cancer. Let me give you this extract of the article giving us some figures and allowing you to wrap your head around his technology:

For the last year, IBM, Sloan-Kettering and Wellpoint have been working to teach Watson how to understand and accumulate complicated peer-reviewed medical knowledge relating to oncology. That’s just lung, prostate and breast cancers to begin with, but with others to come in the next few years). Watson’s ingestion of more than 600,000 pieces of medical evidence, more than two million pages from medical journals and the further ability to search through up to 1.5 million patient records for further information gives it a breadth of knowledge no human doctor can match.

This, in my opinion, doesn’t mean doctors will become obsolete just yet. But it may reduce the need of GP’s (general practitioners or ‘family doctors’). Well maybe not in treatment of wound and such but in prescribing medecine and giving correct information on treating your illness.

I think some of you might say  “but computers make mistakes, not to mention how (far to) often software crashes”, Well yes. That is very much a thing, but i’ve found some figures here on how many misdiagnoses GP’s make (these are mostly percentages but i’ve found a”  failure to rescue” of 155 in 1000 due to misdiagnosis. These figures vary of course from a hospital to GP’s and so on) But the point is, doctor’s make mistakes too! Watson doesn’t have to be perfect, just better that us…

Right, let’s get commenting! would you like a doctor you can visit at the pharmacy? just a computer screen maybe some measuring systems (heart rate, blood pressure, maybe even blood/urine sampler)?

I would like the idea for more common things like influenza and infections and to ease your mind when you’re feeling hypochondriac!

What about you? A computer doctor or just your good old GP?

Link to the article:
Link to IBM Watson’s page for a very wide scan of his capabilities:
link to misdiagnosis page:

The technological revolution reaches Belgium

I’ve found this article from ING bank. They did a study determining how many jobs in Belgium are susceptible to be automated in the near future.

For the purpose of discussing this study I’ll give you their conclusions:

In accordance with the current technological level, 49% of Belgian jobs can be automated on long term basis.

35% of Belgian jobs has a larger chance to be automated(<70%).

Administrative clerks, salespeople and domestic help will have the highest losses of jobs.

Technological advancement will aid in freeing workers to perform other/new(!) tasks.

Automation provides an answer to increasing ageing problem, by compensating the lack of workforce.

The risk is that continuous change will be badly managed. Not accepting new technology has  always slowed technological advancement

Let me start at the end. It does feel kind of obvious that the lack of acceptance and/or the greed of people slows technology. But also advances it. Bear with me, I’ll try to clarify this, using wild allegations, speculation and a good bit of criticism!

The electric car VS The fossil fuel car.

The giant car manufacturing companies and oil industry have in the past (very successfully) slowed the development of the electric car (Remember “who killed the electric car?” -consumer uncertainty or conspiracy?) Of course this wild allegation isn’t founded on proof. But you do kind of tend to feel this way don’t you? Why haven’t we seen more of electric motors in cars? Now brands like Porche en Mclaren sell their hybrids as powerhouses thanks to the incredible torque of the electric motor. Well this isn’t exactly news is it? We have been using electric motors extensively in torque-demanding scenario’s. it’s only after the popularity of the Prius and the batteries of the Tesla that we saw changes in the car industry. Although hybrids still tend to have little range on batteries alone (wouldn’t want to stop using petrol do we?).

On the other hand the ways we now are able to get giant platforms floating on the seas extracting oil, the extreme stability and performance of cars are examples of indeed technological advances. Some of them quite extreme and really innovative.

So are we slowing technologies we (or some corporations) don’t like? Most likely. Is this the way of the future? Most likely. Is that a good thing? I guess not.

But this does reflect the un-eagerness regarding technology. I think we can say the most resistance is with Elderly people, the minimum-wage-poor people and the extremely rich. All have their reasons, all equally good. Preserve our heritage and ways, fear of the unknown, fear of losing their wealth respectively. (again just guessing here of course.)

Does this mean we should slow the pace of the “slowest mover”? We do this in our laws, for example driving restrictions prevent less experienced drivers to enter in dangerous situations. Making drugs illegal tends to the safety of malleable young minds. I’m afraid this tactic is the most likely to be adopted but also the one that may prevent us from reaching a sustainable world before we damage it beyond repair.

I’ll end at the start. 49% of all Belgian jobs are going to be replaced according to the ING study. Does this seem realistic?

See you in the comments!

The race against the machine

This post builds on the above article and my last post (jobs of the future?)

Andrew McAfee is the Co-Director of the Initiative on the Digital Economy at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a Member of the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Jobs.

The article is a good read, however a thad lengthy. But don’t worry, I’ll give you the cliff-notes!

In his article he presses that we need not fear losing all our jobs:
“We will soon be able to eliminate those dull and repetitive tasks we don’t like doing, and achieve the goal of more wealth and abundance with less work.”
And that we should stop slowing innovation to keep people working:
“We definitely need to rethink the social contract that our societies’ offer to workers, but trying to protect existing jobs at this pace of innovation is a deeply flawed idea.”

I’d like to give you his conclusion:

“While it’s true that the consequences for labor seem – and are – pretty serious at the moment, it is vital that we don’t attempt to put the brakes on technological progress. We are standing on the edge of a singular point in human history, and we should be profoundly heartened and optimistic about that. Technological progress has always generated new, exciting opportunities for humanity. There isn’t any reason for us to expect otherwise for the future.”

“Are we holding back advancements in technology?” you might say. I could only say, ask the electric car wether it’s a yes or no. How long have we been holding onto our polluting cars? We all know they pollute but risking not having your oh so useful car is unimaginable. Maybe if we all said no to our cars and kept our minds open for a better solution it might happen faster than we might think. But then again, what if it doesn’t?
That, I think is a bit our conservative safe self. I find we have the same vision on technology in regards to our jobs. Innovation is all wel and good as long as we get better stuff that’s cheaper and more useful.

Smartphone, welcomed with open arms. HDTV, couldn’t live without it. The new slicer dicer that cuts onions so easily and without you crying, can replace the knife, for all some people care. But what about our jobs? Many people will fight as hard as they can to resist letting the “slicer dicer” of workers, robots, take over. The resent strikes in Belgium are all about our jobs, we don’t want to lose them or gain less money than we did before. Ironically we don’t want to work longer either. But that’s a discussion we best not go into here.

What would it take for us to be able te lot go of our jobs? It would seem magical, not having to work day in day out. So why can’t we risk it? I feel it’s because we can’t put our finger on how we will be when we no longer have jobs. Will we still have enough money? Will we all be rich? Will we all be poor?

I like to think we will all be better off if we all find something useful to do. hmm ALL…I do wonder what will happen to our population rate, births tend to be related to welfare (1). But do we feel rich when everyone has the same and yet still all they need?

Feel free to post your opinion on the matter. give your philosophical self free reigns!