8 February 2018   Leave a comment

Perhaps the most serious problem humanity faces in the near future is the likely transformation of work.  Robots and developments in artificial intelligence are taking on new roles and, in that process, are displacing large numbers of workers.  That number of displaced workers will only increase,  According to Subhash Kak:

“A November 2017 report from global management consulting firm McKinsey on the effects of automation on jobs, skills and wages for the period ending in 2030 estimates that fully 50% of current work activities are automatable by technologies that have already been tested and found effective. The report predicts that in 60 percent of occupations, at least one-third of activities could be automated. The report expects 400 million to 800 million people could be displaced by automation in the next 12 years, creating a challenge potentially greater than past historic shifts, at least in the modern era.”

In previous transformations, such as the Industrial Revolution, there were many displaced workers but the new technologies also generated large numbers of jobs that ultimately brought many of those workers back into the workforce.  For example, the introduction of the internal combustion engine displaced many workers who serviced animals for transportation, but those workers were able (if they could move) to find new jobs in the automobile factories.  The current transformation will also generate many jobs, but most of those jobs will not soak up many unskilled or semi-skilled workers.  This transformation will affect both high- and low-wage countries:  no human can compete with machines that require no wages at all.  For example, self-driving cars are being developed rapidly in China where many work as truckers and haulers.

 

The US-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), comprised of anti-Assad Syrians and Kurds, attacked Syrian government forces near the Euphrates River.  The clash represents a rather serious escalation of the civil war in Syria.  Previously, the US-led coalition had tried to avoid direct conflict with Syrian government forces, as the US and Russia understood the dangers of a direct clash between their proxies.  A senior Russian lawmaker condemned the attack as an unwarranted intervention in the civil war.  The Russian News Agency, TASS, quoted the Russian Defense Ministry’s interpretation of the clash:

“The recent incident once again shows that the United States’ illegal military presence in Syria is actually aimed at taking control of the country’s economic assets and not at fighting against the ISIL international terror group.”

The US claims that the attack was in response to an earlier attack on the SDF forces in what was defined as a “de-conflict” zone.  That claim may indeed be accurate but attacking government forces in a civil war is a more problematic act than a government attacking  what it considers to be a rebel force.  We will wait to see what the Russian response to the escalation might be.

 

The Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, made the following comment in an interview:

“We know humans have most flourished during times of what, warming trends. So I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing. Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100, in the year 2018? That’s fairly arrogant for us to think that we know exactly what it should be in 2100.   There are very important questions around the climate issue that folks really don’t get to. And that’s one of the reasons why I’ve talked about having an honest, open, transparent debate about what do we know, what don’t we know, so the American people can be informed and they can make decisions on their own with respect to these issues.”

Overall, EPA enforcement actions of all kinds declined 20% from September 2016 to September 2017, a ten-year low.   Mr. Pruitt has had a dramatic effect on US actions protecting the environment.

Posted February 8, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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