Trucks will someday drive themselves out of warehouses and cruise down freeways without the aid of humans or even a driver's cab -- about that there seems little disagreement. The question is how soon that day gets here. And while the answers vary -- technologists, not surprisingly, are more bullish than truckers -- billions of dollars and a growing parade of companies, from tiny start-ups to the country's biggest trucking operations, are betting it will be here sooner than most people think. This year, companies and investors are on pace to put just over $1 billion into self-driving and other trucking technologies, 10 times the level of three years ago, according to CB Insights, which tracks the venture capital industry. Tesla is widely expected this week to showcase an electric truck that will have some self-driving capabilities.
Preparing for the unknown is not as hard as it may seem, though it implies fundamental shifts in our policies on education, employment and social insurance. Were we to plan for specific changes, we would start revamping curriculums to include skills we thought would be rewarded in the future. For example, computer programming might become even more of a staple in high schools than it already is. Maybe that will prove to be wise and we will have a more productive work force. But perhaps technology evolves quickly enough that in a few decades we talk to, rather than program, computers.
In the back, robots retrieve your items from a warehouse and deliver them to your home via driverless car or drone. Amazon has already made shopping for almost everything involve spending less time waiting, doing work or interacting with people, and now it could do the same for groceries. Our mental image of job-killing automation is robots in factories or warehouses. For a long time, economists argued that routine jobs like factory and clerical work were vulnerable to automation but that jobs in both the service and knowledge sectors were safer.
Uber said it planned to share some data collected by its autonomous vehicles with the city this year, though Pittsburgh officials say the data Uber shares with other cities is insufficient. "Uber is proud to have put Pittsburgh on the self-driving map, an effort that included creating hundreds of tech jobs and investing hundreds of millions of dollars," the company said in a statement. Pittsburgh's frustrations with Uber are encapsulated in the Hazelwood neighborhood along the Monongahela River, where the company opened a driverless vehicle testing track last year. He said he was now talking to Ford, which is investing $1 billion in a Pittsburgh-based driverless technology company, Argo AI, about signing commitments on data sharing and work force development.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional Budget Office director who advised Senator John McCain's Republican presidential campaign in 2008, noted, "The April jobs report showed a labor market in the homestretch of recovery from the Great Recession," adding, "This sets the Fed up for another rate hike in June." But he said that since the official jobless rate sank in March to its then-lowest point in 10 years, "headline job growth appears less and less important" compared with other factors like wage growth and the labor-force participation rate. "It's not an employer's market," said Patrick Bass, chief executive of Thyssenkrupp North America, which makes elevators, steel and other industrial products. The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute in Washington issued a report this week that had a complementary message.
Roughly 163,000 oil jobs were lost nationally from the 2014 peak, or about 30 percent of the total, while oil prices plummeted, at one point by as much as 70 percent. The job losses just in Texas, the most productive oil-producing state, totaled 98,000. Several thousand workers have come back to work in recent months as the price of oil has begun to rise again, but energy experts say that between a third and a half of the workers who lost their jobs are not returning. Many have migrated to construction or even jobs in renewable energy, like wind power. "People have left the industry, and they are not coming back," said Michael Dynan, vice president for portfolio and strategic development at Schramm, a Pennsylvania manufacturer of drilling rigs.
The backdrop for Professor Arrow's influential early work was the centuries-long recognition that majority voting can produce arbitrary outcomes. Consider a legislature choosing its leader from among three candidates: Alice, Betty and Harry. If the legislature were to vote first on Alice versus Betty, with the winner running against Harry, it could come to a different decision than had it first started by voting on Alice versus Harry. Because the order with which the legislature takes votes is arbitrary, the ultimate winner of this system of majority voting becomes arbitrary. That puts politics in an awkward corner.
When Nathan Kecy graduated from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire a decade ago with a bachelor's degree in communications, he found himself with about $10,000 in debt and few clear career options. He first found work as a door-to-door salesman ("a pyramid scheme," he recalls) and then in telemarketing. Finally he landed a job as an infrastructure specialist for Datamatic, a Texas-based water-meter-technology company. He was traveling across the country installing meters, making a decent salary. But he lost his job after the company restructured in 2012, he said, and soon he found that his skills weren't easily transferable to a new field; Datamatic's technology was proprietary, and his expertise in the company's installation program wasn't appealing to employers outside that particular industry.
The village is poor, even by the standards of rural Kenya. To get there, you follow a power line along a series of unmarked roads. Eventually, that power line connects to the school at the center of town, the sole building with electricity. Homesteads fan out into the hilly bramble, connected by rugged paths. There is just one working water tap, requiring many local women to gather water from a pit in jerrycans.
Forget the images of men in hard hats standing before factory gates, of men with coal-blackened faces, of men perched high above New York City on steel beams. The emerging face of the American working class is a Hispanic woman who has never set foot on a factory floor. That's not the kind of work much of the working class does anymore. Instead of making things, they are more often paid to serve people: to care for someone else's children or someone else's parents; to clean another family's home. The decline of the old working class has meant both an economic triumph for the nation and a personal tribulation for many of the workers.