Archive for October 2013

As more Robots replace Humans in the workplace, it is time for a robot tax?

robots-taking-our-jobs

How to stop robots from taking more of our jobs? how about we start taxing them?

At the rate it is going, robots can probably take more than 10% of the jobs that humans currently perform, in the not too distance future. Possibly even more. For companies, this is a great thing of course, as robots can do a very accurate and great job, without having to pay them, worry about training them, getting sick etc. You just program them and they are on their way.

For us, humans, this trend is increasingly more and more concerning, as it is costing us jobs in manufacturing, automation and various other sectors.

CBS’s ’60 Minutes’  had a recent episode dedicated to this very topic: Are robots taking our jobs?

What can be done to discourage companies from using more and more robots to replace human labour?  how about tax on companies using robots? what? yes you read that correctly, and this coming from someone who doesn’t believe in too much taxation and government intervention in the free flowing of a capitalistic enterprise system. Let me explain how I could justify something as outrageous as a ‘tax on robots’ (robot head tax)

As more and more robots automate and take our jobs, we humans lose in the long term. We lose these good paying jobs and are left with these jobs at the bottom of the barrel. Jobs that pay just slightly above the minimum wage.  The government can tax companies for the usage of robots on the basis of the income they generate for the company. Just because they are non-human doesn’t mean they should be exempt from paying taxes. Individuals and companies already pay taxes on so many things such as property, cars etc. Why not robots? And to justify such a tax, it would make a lot of sense to dedicate revenues from this to fund future labor training on new technologies.  That is to fund the transition and training to new technologies needed to be ready for the new digital age.  Remember, the government is losing a lot of tax revenues when humans are eliminated by robots. Such a tax on robots would make up some of that revenue. And for companies using robots for production, paying such a tax will still generate them more profits than if they were employing humans.

Some may argue that it doesn’t make sense and is not fair to tax something just because it is helping a company save money. True, but these savings are coming at the expense of hiring human beings to perform the job.  Where does it end? when half of our jobs have been delegated to be done by robots? and as mentioned earlier, the more jobs get eliminated by robots, the less tax revenue and income is available to society, all of which will impact the economy as a whole in the long term.

If a tax is not a fair idea, how about putting a cap by the government on how much of a company’s workforce is composed of robots? And again,  this is coming from someone who believes in free enterprise and capitalism. But I believe everything has a limit and the government can and should have a role to play in this, to ensure robots don’t automate every possible job and put humans out of work.  In other words, just because a job can be done by a robot doesn’t mean it should. Humans and robots can mix in doing certain jobs.

Where does it end? Outsourcing, cyber-sourcing, robots etc. There are more and more pressures on traditional labor, where there is less need for the latter and the pay continues to dwindle. It is understandable that it is part of the realty of the 21st century and the new digital age. But we have to be careful on how we make this transition. We have to bridge the gap and not just stomp on our most valuable resource-humans-in order to make as much profits as possible. At the end of the day, if humans don’t have good paying jobs, companies will not have enough profits, never mind money for robots and automation.

 

 Brandon Stanton (Author)  (46) Release Date: October 15, 2013   Buy new:  $29.99  $17.64  44 used & new from $17.05

Humans of New York

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Allegiant (Divergent Trilogy)

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 Veronica Roth (Author)  Release Date: October 22, 2013  Buy new:  $19.99  $11.99

Allegiant (Divergent Trilogy)

Veronica Roth Release Date: October 22, 2013 Buy new: $19.99 $11.99

Blackberry and Kobo Touch: why crappy Canadian products are not helping Canada’s technology case

This is the first time I am writing a critical review of any product. And unfortunately enough, it is a Canadian

Canadian companies are not doing enough to catch up to the competition: Blackberry, KOBO Touch E-Reader and others need to do more to enhance Canada's global reputation as a technology leader.

product. Being from Canada myself, it makes this review a little more significant.

 

Two years ago, I bought a Kobo Touch e-reader for my fiance a birthday gift. She loved it and was using it on and off. After we got married, I decided to start using it as well. Unfortunately, this has been a very frustrating experience.  The product just refuses to work, mainly when it comes to flipping pages. Mysteriously, it just freezes after flipping a maximum of 4 pages, and then I have to shut it down or reset it completely.  At this rate, I will probably never be able to finish a book, let alone a collection of books I have to read (I have since found a solution for this: you have to disable the WiFi connection for this to work properly. Still not a perfect fix but at least I can do some reading without interruptions)

When I originally bought this E-Reader, I was sincerely doing my best to help a Canadian company. I could have bought a Kindle, and for almost the same price, but I refused, thinking I was doing my national duty to help the local Canadian economy. Not just that, but I have been a regular Chapters-Indigo customer, the company that owns the Kobo ereader (it has since been sold to a Japanese company) But unfortunately this economic loyalty to Canadian products is costing me a lot of frustration, money and time wasted. Googling this issue, it looks like I am not the only one with these KOBO problems, as there are thousands of other frustrated users experiencing the same issues. I understand all products can occasionally have bugs here and there. But they usually get fixed. There is no known fix for these Kobo errors. In fact, even the latest firmware release doesn’t fix the issue.

It is no secret that one of the reasons the Blackberry brand has been suffering and struggling a lot of late is due to their sub-par products. They used to be great but have since been left in the dust. If you ask ex-Blackberry users on why they replaced their device with iPhones or other Android-enabled devices, one of the main complaints was  about the hardware itself and how poorly designed it was, with certain parts not working after just a few months or device going dead for no apparent reason. I understand these devices are not manufactured in Canada-neither are iPhones and other leading mobile phone brands-but the engineering and design is the product of Canada. The software is the other major reason to blame for Blackberry’s fall from grace. The software was so behind the competition that even those that are not tech-savvy knew they can do better than this.

Which brings us to our main question: why is Canada not doing more to fix its image in the global tech industry? it seems like we start very strong and end up crashing to the competition and our own incompetence. We all know Nortel. A company that was once worth worth billions and was the leader in the telecommunication and networking hardware industry. It is now history. Gone. Bankrupt. Liquidated. The same thing could potentially and sadly happen to Blackberry.

 

If this was an Olympic marathon, Canadians would always finish first in the first half of the race but end up losing towards the end, overtaken by new comers to the race. We can start and build a great product but can’t seem to finish strong, especially when rivals are breathing down our neck.

We need better focus, more research and just better strategy to deal with a fierce global competition. And while we should always watch what what other industry leaders are doing and not fall behind, it is also important to stayed focused on your product and what made you successful. No need to panic and end up taking steps that lead to your further demise than catching up to the competition.

Canada has got the infrastructure, brains, education and all that it takes to be a world, if not of one of the top nations when it comes to technology. Be it in service delivery, hardware, software, networking etc. There is no reason why such giant Canadian companies, ones that make us proud to be Canadian, can fall behind so bad that we end up being ashamed of them being Canadian.