Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The “iEverything” and the Redistributional Imperative


 
It’s now possible to sell a new product to hundreds of millions of people without needing many, if any, workers to produce or distribute it.

At its prime in 1988, Kodak, the iconic American photography company, had 145,000 employees. In 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.

The same year Kodak went under, Instagram, the world’s newest photo company, had 13 employees serving 30 million customers. 

The ratio of producers to customers continues to plummet. When Facebook purchased “WhatsApp” (the messaging app) for $19 billion last year, WhatsApp had 55 employees serving 450 million customers.

A friend, operating from his home in Tucson, recently invented a machine that can find particles of certain elements in the air. 

He’s already sold hundreds of these machines over the Internet to customers all over the world. He’s manufacturing them in his garage with a 3D printer.

So far, his entire business depends on just one person — himself.

New technologies aren’t just labor-replacing. They’re also knowledge-replacing.

The combination of advanced sensors, voice recognition, artificial intelligence, big data, text-mining, and pattern-recognition algorithms, is generating smart robots capable of quickly learning human actions, and even learning from one another.

If you think being a “professional” makes your job safe, think again.

The two sectors of the economy harboring the most professionals — health care and education – are under increasing pressure to cut costs. And expert machines are poised to take over.

We’re on the verge of a wave of mobile health apps for measuring everything from your cholesterol to your blood pressure, along with diagnostic software that tells you what it means and what to do about it.

In coming years, software apps will be doing many of the things physicians, nurses, and technicians now do (think ultrasound, CT scans, and electrocardiograms).

Meanwhile, the jobs of many teachers and university professors will disappear, replaced by online courses and interactive online textbooks. 

Where will this end?

Imagine a small box – let’s call it an “iEverything” – capable of producing everything you could possibly desire, a modern day Aladdin’s lamp.

You simply tell it what you want, and – presto – the object of your desire arrives at your feet. 
The iEverything also does whatever you want. It gives you a massage, fetches you your slippers, does your laundry and folds and irons it.

The iEverything will be the best machine ever invented. 

The only problem is no one will be able to buy it. That’s because no one will have any means of earning money, since the iEverything will do it all.

This is obviously fanciful, but when more and more can be done by fewer and fewer people, the profits go to an ever-smaller circle of executives and owner-investors.

One of the young founders of WhatsApp, CEO Jan Koum, had a 45 percent equity stake in the company when Facebook purchased it, which yielded him $6.8 billion.

Cofounder Brian Acton got $3 billion for his 20 percent stake. 

Each of the early employees reportedly had a 1 percent stake, which presumably netted them $160 million each.

Meanwhile, the rest of us will be left providing the only things technology can’t provide – person-to-person attention, human touch, and care. But these sorts of person-to-person jobs pay very little
That means most of us will have less and less money to buy the dazzling array of products and services spawned by blockbuster technologies – because those same technologies will be supplanting our jobs and driving down our pay.

We need a new economic model. 

The economic model that dominated most of the twentieth century was mass production by the many, for mass consumption by the many.

Workers were consumers; consumers were workers. As paychecks rose, people had more money to buy all the things they and others produced — like Kodak cameras. That resulted in more jobs and even higher pay.

That virtuous cycle is now falling apart. A future of almost unlimited production by a handful, for consumption by whoever can afford it, is a recipe for economic and social collapse. 

Our underlying problem won’t be the number of jobs. It will be – it already is — the allocation of income and wealth.

What to do? 

“Redistribution” has become a bad word.

But the economy toward which we’re hurtling — in which more and more is generated by fewer and fewer people who reap almost all the rewards, leaving the rest of us without enough purchasing power – can’t function. 

It may be that a redistribution of income and wealth from the rich owners of breakthrough technologies to the rest of us becomes the only means of making the future economy work.



Originally Published on RobertReich.org and republished here under the CC Share Alike license 

Friday, March 13, 2015

NASA’s Hubble Observations Suggest Underground Ocean on Jupiter's Largest Moon

In this artist’s concept, the moon Ganymede orbits the giant planet Jupiter. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope observed aurorae on the moon generated by Ganymede’s magnetic fields. A saline ocean under the moon’s icy crust best explains shifting in the auroral belts measured by Hubble.
Image Credit: 
NASA/ESA

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has the best evidence yet for an underground saltwater ocean on Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon. The subterranean ocean is thought to have more water than all the water on Earth's surface.

Identifying liquid water is crucial in the search for habitable worlds beyond Earth and for the search of life as we know it.

“This discovery marks a significant milestone, highlighting what only Hubble can accomplish,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington. “In its 25 years in orbit, Hubble has made many scientific discoveries in our own solar system. A deep ocean under the icy crust of Ganymede opens up further exciting possibilities for life beyond Earth.”

Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system and the only moon with its own magnetic field. The magnetic field causes aurorae, which are ribbons of glowing, hot electrified gas, in regions circling the north and south poles of the moon. Because Ganymede is close to Jupiter, it is also embedded in Jupiter’s magnetic field. When Jupiter’s magnetic field changes, the aurorae on Ganymede also change, “rocking” back and forth.

By watching the rocking motion of the two aurorae, scientists were able to determine that a large amount of saltwater exists beneath Ganymede’s crust affecting its magnetic field.

Hubble telescope image of Ganymede auroral belts
        NASA Hubble Space Telescope images of 
        Ganymede's auroral belts (colored blue in
        this llustration) are overlaid on a Galileo
        orbiter image of the moon. The amount of
        rocking of the moon's magnetic field suggests
        that the moon has a subsurface saltwater ocean.
        Image Credit:  NASA/ESA
A team of scientists led by Joachim Saur of the University of Cologne in Germany came up with the idea of using Hubble to learn more about the inside of the moon.

"I was always brainstorming how we could use a telescope in other ways," said Saur. "Is there a way you could use a telescope to look inside a planetary body? Then I thought, the aurorae! Because aurorae are controlled by the magnetic field, if you observe the aurorae in an appropriate way, you learn something about the magnetic field. If you know the magnetic field, then you know something about the moon’s interior."

If a saltwater ocean were present, Jupiter’s magnetic field would create a secondary magnetic field in the ocean that would counter Jupiter’s field. This “magnetic friction” would suppress the rocking of the aurorae. This ocean fights Jupiter's magnetic field so strongly that it reduces the rocking of the aurorae to 2 degrees, instead of the 6 degrees, if the ocean was not present.

Scientists estimate the ocean is 60 miles (100 kilometers) thick – 10 times deeper than Earth's oceans – and is buried under a 95-mile (150-kilometer) crust of mostly ice.

Scientists first suspected an ocean in Ganymede in the 1970s, based on models of the large moon. NASA's Galileo mission measured Ganymede's magnetic field in 2002, providing the first evidence supporting those suspicions. The Galileo spacecraft took brief "snapshot" measurements of the magnetic field in 20-minute intervals, but its observations were too brief to distinctly catch the cyclical rocking of the ocean’s secondary magnetic field.

The new observations were done in ultraviolet light and could only be accomplished with a space telescope high above the Earth's atmosphere, which blocks most ultraviolet light.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating 25 years of groundbreaking science on April 24. It has transformed our understanding of our solar system and beyond, and helped us find our place among the stars. To join the conversation about 25 years of Hubble discoveries, use the hashtag #Hubble25.

Hubble is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.

Monday, March 2, 2015

NASA Spacecraft "Dawn" Nears Historic Dwarf Planet Arrival



Ceres Awaits Dawn



Ceres rotates in this sped-up movie comprised of images taken by NASA's Dawn mission during its approach to the dwarf planet. The images were taken on Feb. 19, 2015, from a distance of nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers). Dawn observed Ceres for a full rotation of the dwarf planet, which lasts about nine hours. The images have a resolution of 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) per pixel.

Dawn's mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The University of California, Los Angeles, is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. For a complete list of acknowledgments, visit http://www.nasa.gov/dawn and http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/.     


NASA's Dawn spacecraft took these images of dwarf planet Ceres from about 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) away on Feb. 25, 2015. Ceres appears half in shadow because of the current position of the spacecraft relative to the dwarf planet and the sun. The resolution is about 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) per pixel.


Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA