Published on Mar 16, 2018
Published on Mar 16, 2018
The idea that robots will replace entry-level workers in places likes supermarkets has been around for quite some time now. As a matter of fact, an online retail giant has already gone ahead and implemented the idea in its own experimental stores called Amazon Go, where customers can walk in, take whatever items they want, and walk out without needing to talk with anyone or hand over any money or credit information to anything, as the payment for whatever products they buy will be charged directly to their Amazon account.
It’s a simple idea, but the Chinese want to take it even further. Chinese search engine Baidu has started conducting its own experiments related to the subject of using Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and robotics in retail stores. But instead of just displacing low-level workers like cashiers and stockmen, they want to implement new technology that could take away the jobs of supermarket managers as well.
According to a report from the South China Morning Post, Baidu’s plan revolves around the use of A.I. to tell, with great accuracy, the exact quantity of food products that are needed in order to meet customer demands without creating any excess waste that needs to be disposed by the end of the day. It does this by using historical data from a total of 70 different metrics, which include store food purchases, sales, festivals, and even the weather. The Beijing-based company is currently testing an algorithm that takes all of this and comes up with actionable data that could somehow make store managers entirely obsolete.
Of course, the intention of Baidu is not to cause supermarket managers grief. Rather, the idea is to cut back on expenses even further, not just by removing the managers but also by reducing the amount of wasted products that need to be thrown out because they weren’t purchased by customers by their proverbial data of expiry. This is especially true of fresh food products, which need to be cleared out quickly. Otherwise, they will just end up in the garbage disposal.
According to Liu Yongfeng, the senior project manager of Baidu’s deep learning platform and the person in charge of this whole project, they are already looking forward to deploying the technology based on their current model some time later this year. “We expect to bring the technology to about 200 stores in central China’s Wuhan city in 2018 through our partnership with convenience store chain Today,” she explained. “The more data we can gather, the higher the accuracy we can achieve.”
With the current rise of A.I. applications in the retail industry, this move by Baidu should be of no surprise to anyone. And when even China, where the costs of labor are known to be the lowest in the entire world, wants to save money even further by eliminating more jobs held by human workers, you know that’s something worth paying attention to.
According to Wen Ying, the branding director of Today Convenience, the move is necessary to solve other problems in the industry. Instead of focusing on customer experience, retailers can turn to this new technology to try and solve an industry-wide challenge. “Time is money in the fresh food business. We have to throw away all food not sold within 24 hours,” said Wen. “For now, the demand prediction is all based on human experience.”
However, Wen also notes that the employee turnover rate, especially for supermarket managers, is rather high in the business. “More often than now, an experienced store managers leaves without passing on his or her knowledge to their successor,” Wen explained. “With the technology offered by Baidu, we can make sure our store managers order the right quantity of rice boxes even when they don’t have enough experience.”
That it will help save supermarkets money is a certainty. But whether or not that’s good for humanity in the long run remains a mystery.
Find out more about tomorrow’s robotic solutions for today’s problems in Robotics.news.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US economy added 313,000 jobs in the 28 days of February, causing a big jump in the Dow Jones average. Where does BLS find these jobs?
The BLS finds 61,000 in construction, which, if correct, suggests in view of falling new and existing home sales, that those building at this stage are going to experience financial difficulties.
Manufacturing conjured up 31,000, but in high tech areas such as computer and electronic products only 1,100 jobs were created. Communications equipment actually lost 100 jobs and electronic instruments lost 800 jobs.
50,300 jobs were created in retail trade, allegedly. This is inconsistent with store closings and what seem to be round-the-clock sales at online retailers. Is February the month people purchase cars, garden supplies, and clothing? The BLS seems to think so.
According to the BLS, 50,000 jobs were created in professional and business services, of which about three-fifths were in administrative and waste services, almost all of which were in temporary help services. In other words, we are not talking about employment for architects and engineers.
Waitresses and bartenders did not supply the usual out-sized number of new jobs, adding only 11,500 new jobs.
Local government added 31,000 jobs, almost all of which were in education.
As my long-term readers know, my analyses of the monthly payroll jobs reports are a tradition on this site. I am doing less of them, as I am sure it bores you to hear again the same conclusion that we are being lied to about job creation. The jobs, of course, are not the higher paid jobs we were promised by globalists in exchange for moving offshore American industrial and manufacturing jobs. That promise was never anything more than a lie, even though it was the repeated assurance from Ivy League economists and Washington policymakers. The lie protected itself by wrapping itself in the holy grail of “free trade.” Any economist or financial media presstitute who dared to point out that jobs offshoring is the antithesis of free trade was kaput. The economists were well paid for serving the jobs offshoring corporations.
As I explained yesterday, the economic information we are fed is false. It is intended to give us a non-existent, fake reality picture of the economy. https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/03/08/make-believe-america/
For almost a decade the economic policy of the US, Europe, UK, Canada, Japan has been directed to the support of the financial speculation that caused the 2008 worldwide economic crisis. Nothing has been done for the populations of the countries who experienced the crisis. Indeed, many of these populations, such as the Greeks, have had their living standards forced down in order to protect the big banks. This proves beyond all doubt that in the “Great Western Democracies,” economic policy only serves the hyper-rich and the hyper-powerful. Citizens simply do not count. They are as nothing.
To give you a break from my analysis, I offer you below the analysis of my sometime coauthor Dave Kranzler, an experienced Wall Street participant who went good:
313k Jobs Added? Nice Try But It’s Fake News
by Dave Kranzler
March 9, 2018: The census bureau does the data-gathering and the Bureau of Labor Statistics feeds the questionable data sample through its statistical sausage grinder and spits out some type of grotesque scatological substance. You know an economic report is pure absurdity when the report exceeds Wall Street’s rose-colored estimate by 53%. That has to be, by far, an all-time record-high “beat.”
If you sift through some of the foul-smelling data, it turns out 365k of the alleged jobs were part-time, which means the labor market lost 52k full-time jobs. But alas, I loathe paying any credence to complete fiction by dissecting the “let’s pretend” report.
The numbers make no sense. Why? Because the alleged data does not fit the reality of the real economy. Retail sales, auto sales, home sales and restaurant sales have been declining for the past couple of months. So who would be doing the hiring? Someone pointed out that Coinbase has hired 500 people. But the retail industry has been laying off thousands this year. Given the latest industrial production and auto sales numbers, I highly doubt factories are doing anything with their workforce except reducing it.
And if the job market is “so strong,” how comes wages are flat? In fact, adjusted for real inflation, real wages are declining. If the job market was robust, wages would be soaring. Speaking of which, IF the labor market was what the Government wants us to believe it is, the FOMC would tripping all over itself to hike the Fed Funds rate. And the rate-hikes would be in chunks of 50-75 basis points – not the occasional 0.25% rise.
The Housing Market Is Starting To Fall Apart
Last week I summarized January existing home sales, which were released on Wednesday, Feb 21st. Existing home sales dropped 3.2% from December and nearly 5% from January 2017. Those statistics are based on the SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate) calculus. Larry Yun, the National Association of Realtors chief salesman, continues to propagate the “low inventory” propaganda.
But in truth, the economics of buying a home has changed dramatically for the first-time and move-up buyer demographic plus flipper/investors. As I detailed a couple of issues back, based on the fact that most first-time buyers “buy” into the highest possible monthly payment for which they can qualify, the price that a first-time, or even a move-up buyer, can afford to pay has dropped roughly 10% with the rise in mortgage rates that has occurred since September 2017. The game has changed. That 10% decline results from a less than 1% rise in mortgage rates.
That same calculus applies to flipper/investors. Investors looking to buy a rental home pay a higher rate of interest than owner-occupied buyers. Most investors would need the amount of rent they can charge to increase by the amount their mortgage payment increases from higher rates. Or they need to use a much higher down payment to make the investment purchase. The new math thereby removes a significant amount of “demand” from investors.
It also occurred to me that flippers still holding homes purchased just 3-4 months ago are likely underwater on their “largesse.” Most flippers look for homes in the price-range that caters to first-timers (under $500k). This is the most “liquid” segment of the housing market in terms of the supply of buyers. Any flipper that closed on a home purchase in the late summer or early fall that needed to be “spruced up” is likely still holding that home. In addition to the purchase cost, the flipper has also incurred renovation and financing costs. Perhaps in a few markets prices have held up. But in most markets, the price first-time buyers can pay without significantly increasing the amount of the down payment has dropped roughly 10%. Using this math, any flipper holding a home closed prior to October is likely sitting on a losing trade.
Similar to 2007/2008, many of these homes will be sold at a loss or the flipper will “jingle mail” the keys to the bank, in which case the bank will likely dump the home. I know in some areas of metro-Denver, pre-foreclosure listings are rising. Some flippers might turn into rental landlords. This will increase the supply of rental homes which, in turn, will put pressure on rental rates.
New home sales – The plunge in January new home sales was worse than existing homes. New home sales dropped 7.8% from December. This follows December’s 9.3% plunge from November. The December/January sequence was the biggest two-month drop in new home sales since August 2013. Back then, mortgage rates had spiked up from 3.35% in June to 4.5% by the end of August. The Fed at that time was still buying $40 billion worth of mortgages every month. With QE over and an alleged balance sheet reduction program in place, plus the Fed posturing as if it will continue nudging the Fed Funds rate higher, it’s likely that new home sales will not rebound like they did after August 2013, when mortgage rates headed back down starting in early September 2013.
Contrary to the Larry Yun false narrative, the supply of new homes jumped to 6.1 months from 5.5 months in December. How does this fit the Yun propaganda that falling sales is a function of low inventory? The average price of a new home is $382k (the median is $323k). New home prices will have to fall significantly in order for sales to stop trending lower. What happens if the Fed really does continue hiking rates and mortgage rates hit 5%?
January “Pending” Home Sales – The NAR’s “pending home sales index,” which is based on contract signings, was released this past Wednesday. It plunged to its lowest level since October 2014. The index dropped 4.7% vs. an expected 0.5% rise from the optimist zombies on Wall St. It’s the biggest 1-month percentage decline in the index since May 2010. On a year-over-year comparison basis, the index is down 1.7%. December’s pending home sales index was revised down from the original headline report.
Years ago when the US still had an honest, or semi-honest, financial press, you could have read this story in the Wall Street Journal. But not today. You have to read it here on my site or on Kranzler’s site: http://investmentresearchdynamics.com/313k-jobs-added-nice-try-but-its-fake-news/
If you want to continue to have honest information, donate: https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/pages/donate/
Paul Craig Roberts
Americans live a never-never-land existence. The politicians and presstitutes make sure of that.
Consider something as simple as the unemployment rate. The US is said to have full employment with a January 2018 unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, down from 9.8 percent in January 2010. https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000
However, the low rate of unemployment is contradicted by the long-term decline in the labor force participation rate. After a long rise during the Reagan 1980s, the labor force participation rate peaked in January 1990 at 66.8 percent, more or less holding to that rate for another decade until 2001 when decline set in accelerating in September 2008. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CIVPART/
Today the labor force participation rate is the lowest since February 1978, reversing all of the gains of the Reagan years.
Allegedly, the current unemployment rate of 4.1 percent is the result of the long recovery that allegedly began in June 2009. However, normally, employment opportunities created by economic recovery cause an increase in the labor force participation rate as people join the work force to take advantage of employment opportunities. A fall in the participation rate is associated with recession or stagnation, not with economic recovery.
How can this contradiction be reconciled? The answer lies in the measurement of unemployment. If you have not looked for a job in the last four weeks, you are not counted as being unemployed, because you are not counted as being part of the work force. When there are no jobs to be found, job seekers become discouraged and cease looking for jobs. In other words, the 4.1 percent unemployment rate does not count discouraged workers who cannot find jobs.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has a second measure of unemployment that includes workers who have been discouraged and out of the labor force for less than one year. This rate of unemployment is 8.2 percent, double the 4.1 percent reported rate. https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS13327709
The US government no longer tracks unemployment among discouraged workers who have been out of the work force for more than one year. However, John Williams of shadowstats.com continues to estimate this rate and places it at 22 or 23 percent, a far cry from 4.1 percent.
In other words, the 4.1 percent unemployment rate does not count the unemployed who do show up in the declining labor force participation rate.
If the US had a print and TV media instead of the propaganda ministry that it has, the financial press would not tolerate the deception of the public about employment in America.
Junk economists, of which the US has an over-supply, claim that the decline in the labor force participation rate merely reflects people who prefer to live on welfare than to work for a living and the current generation of young people who prefer life at home with parents paying the bills. This explanation from junk economists does not explain why suddenly Americans discovered welfare and became lazy in 2001 and turned their back on job opportunities. The junk economists also do not explain why, if the economy is at full employment, competition for workers is not driving up wages.
The reason Americans cannot find jobs and have left the labor force is that US corporations have offshored millions of American jobs in order to raise profits, share prices, and executive bonuses by lowering labor costs. Many American industrial and manufacturing cities have been devastated by the relocation abroad of production for the American consumer market, by the movement abroad of IT and software engineering jobs, and by importing lower paid foreign workers on H1-B and other work visas to take the jobs of Americans. In my book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism, I give examples and document the devastating impact jobs offshoring has had on communities, cities, pension funds, and consumer purchasing power. http://www.claritypress.com/RobertsCapitalism.html and
John Williams of shadowstats.com questions whether there has been any real growth in the US economy since the 2008 crisis that resulted from the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. Williams believes that the GDP growth rate is an illusion resulting from the understatement of inflation. Just as unemployment is under-counted, so is inflation.
Two “reforms” were introduced that result in the under-measurement of inflation. One is the substitution principle. When the price of an item in the basket of goods used to measure inflation goes up, that item is thrown out and a cheaper substitute is put in its place. The “reformers” argue that consumers themselves behave in this way. Thus, they claim this practice is reasonable. However, the old way of measuring inflation measured the cost of a constant standard of living. The new way measures the cost of a falling standard of living.
The other reform is to classify some price rises as quality improvements rather than as inflation. The consumer has to pay the higher price, but he is said to be getting a better product, and so it is not inflation. There is some truth to this, but it appears it is over-used in order to report low inflation rates. Both of these reforms are suspected of being motivated by holding down Social Security costs by denying cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments to Social Security recipients
If inflation is under-measured, the use of the measure to deflate nominal GDP in order to arrive at real GDP leaves some price rises in the GDP measure. Therefore, price rises or inflation are counted as increases in real goods and services. John Williams suspects that most of the GDP growth reported since the alleged recovery is simply price rises, not increases in real goods and services.
The historically high stock averages are another feature of make-believe America. The high price/earnings ratios do not reflect strong fundamentals, such as high rates of business investment, strong growth in real retail sales fueled by strong growth in consumer incomes. The Federal Reserve has used an increase in consumer debt to fill in for the missing growth in consumer income for so long that consumers have no more room to take on more debt. Without growth in wages and salaries or in consumer debt, consumer demand cannot drive the economy and business profits.
What explains the high stock prices? The answer is the trillions of dollars the Federal Reserve has created in order to stabilize the large “banks too big to fail” and bail out their extremely poor investment decisions. All of this liquidity found its way into the financial sector where it drove up the prices of stocks and bonds, enriching equity owners and denying retirees any interest income on their savings. The values of financial instruments are supported by money creation, not by underlying fundamentals. Yet, the stock averages are treated as proof of economic recovery and America’s first place in the world.
As I said, it is never-never-land in which we live.
My website is committed to giving you the counter-narrative to the official BS you get from the presstitutes and the junk economists. Truth is hard to come by and is getting harder. If you support my website, I will continue to give you my best effort. donate: https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/pages/donate/
Tony Robinson presents a series examining some of history’s least pleasant employment opportunities. He begins in the first millennium, trying his hand at everyday tasks including back-breaking mining by ancient Roman methods, and Saxon ploughing using wooden implements and oxen. He also enters the world of the Viking egg collector, which involved scaling cliff faces in search of guillemot eggs.
Miso Robotics, a Pasadena developer and manufacture of artificial intelligence-driven robots that assist chefs in making food at restaurants, has secured a $10 million Series-B from Acacia Research and Levy Restaurants in its latest round of VC funding according to Tech Crunch.
In total, Acacia Research has plowed about $14 million into the deal. The company, which has developed artificial intelligence-driven hamburger-cooking robots will begin flipping burgers at CaliBurger in Pasadena, California in the second-half of 2018 and expand to over fifty locations by the end of 2019.
“We’re super stoked to use this funding to develop and scale our capabilities of our kitchen assistants and AI platform,” CEO/co-founder Dave Zito said on a call with TechCrunch ahead of the announcement.
“Our current investors saw an early look at our progress, and they were so blown away that they doubled-down.”
Flippy, an industrial robotic arm mounted to the ground and modified for use in a commercial kitchen, is really nothing more than a knock-off of Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci Surgical System, but instead of the EndoWrist performing complex surgeries, there is a metal spatula flipping burgers. The core of the robotic arm is manufactured by Fanuc America and incorporates “Miso Robotics’ cloud AI platform to operate the robot using a combination of cameras, thermal scanners, and lasers,” said Venture Beat.
Miso cofounder David Zito told VentureBeat in a phone interview:
“Flippy can detect cheeseburgers and remove cheeseburgers. After they’re flipped, it can change spatulas while it’s working so that we’re actually adhering to food safety guidelines, and will switch to a grill scraper and be able to clean off portions of the grill after it’s done cooking burgers,” he said.
“The proceeds for this will allow us to build a robotic kitchen assistant,” Zito said. “You’re not going to see BB-8 coming out of our shop; you’ll likely see us continue to refine this — the general hardware platform that we have, but then we will see it beginning to get more collaborative and adaptable.”
In October, we reported on Zumba Pizza, a Silicon Valley-based storeless food delivery startup that uses robots to bake pies.
The company, which first began delivering pizzas last year, was founded on two core concepts: robotic automation and on-route cooking. Robotic automation is easy enough to understand. Zume, which sources machines from industrial robot maker ABB, employs these devices for tasks like dispensing the perfect amount of sauce, spreading that sauce, removing pizzas from ovens, and, now, spreading the dough with just the right thinness and crust-to-pie ratio. The various robots work in unison with humans in an assembly line-style work space attached to the company’s Mountain View facility.
Of course, if Flippy is successful, it will unleash the first wave of layoffs that could amount to hundreds of low-wage millennial burger flippers at CaliBurger’s California locations from the second half of 2018 through 2019. Then after that, a much larger second wave of layoffs could amount to hundreds of thousands if not millions of layoffs as major food and dining corporations will be forced to automate their kitchen lines.
But don’t tell Trump that a majority of the jobs added over the past 12 months have been employment in food services and drinking places, he’ll just call that fake news, as his administration is about to feel the wrath of a tech-induced surge of unemployment leading into the next elections in 2020.
Internet retail behemoth Amazon has been granted two patents for employee-tracking wristband system. Originally filed back in 2016, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published the patents on January 30 of this year.The proposed system would be composed of three elements: a management module to oversee warehouse operations, ultrasonic devices planted around the vicinity, and the wristbands, which have been outfitted with ultrasonic units.
According to TheVerge.com, these ultrasonic units would be used to monitor the hand movements of warehouse workers handling inventory bins, with data on their hand positions being transmitted to Amazon in real time. Vibrations coming from the wristbands will guide workers’ hands to the right direction. If they move to the wrong item, then the wristbands will buzz.
If proven to work as intended, Amazon may implement this system into other aspects of their enterprise, such as in shipping.
Ever since the patents were revealed, Amazon has been on the receiving end of criticisms and cries about dehumanizing their employees. And rightfully so. As per the DailyMail.co.uk, this isn’t the first time that Amazon has come under fire for allegedly subjecting workers to inhuman conditions and impossible requirements. (Related: When Amazon warehouse workers complained of sore feet from walking too much, the company simply replaced them with 30,000 robots (and counting).)
Just last year, an undercover reporter spent five weeks in Amazon’s Tilbury warehouse in Essex, England. His time at the massive European packing plant allowed him to bear witness to employees suffering physical and emotional torment to meet the company’s demands. Some of these workers were so exhausted by the 55-hour work week that they’d resorted to sleeping while standing just to recover, even just a little.
“Those who could not keep up with the punishing targets faced the sack — and some who buckled under the strain had to be attended by ambulance crews,” he claimed.
Is Amazon attempting to take things further with these employee-monitoring wristbands? That could be the case, as the company has insisted that these devices are nothing more than labor-saving procedures to streamline logistics. Through these, Amazon hopes to avoid resorting to “computationally intensive and expensive” methods of overseeing their inventory. Although there’s no indication that employees will soon be sporting these wristbands, you just never know with this company.
And of course, Amazon has been quick to respond to these accusations. A spokesperson issued this statement to the DailyMail.co.uk and TheVerge.com: “The speculation about this patent is misguided. Every day at companies around the world, employees use handheld scanners to check inventory and fulfill orders. This idea, if implemented in the future, would improve the process for our fulfillment associates. By moving equipment to associates’ wrists, we could free up their hands from scanners and their eyes from computer screens.
“Like most companies, we have performance expectations for every Amazon employee and we measure actual performance against those expectations, and they are not designed to track employees or limit their abilities to take breaks.”
Even then, is it really necessary to mull over taking a page from Orwell to boost productivity? Whole Foods has taken to using score cards to help employees know where they stand and how they can do their jobs better. Despite the stress this particular system has placed upon the shoulders of more sensitive employees, it’s still leagues better than tracking and controlling their hand movements. The former is sensible, the latter is just unnerving.
Stay up to date on the activities of Amazon and its subsidiaries by going to JeffBezosWatch.com.