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  • Rise of the Robots

  • Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future
  • By: Martin Ford
  • Narrated by: Jeff Cummings
  • Length: 10 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,677
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,465
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,470

In a world of self-driving cars and big data, smart algorithms and Siri, we know that artificial intelligence is getting smarter every day. Though all these nifty devices and programs might make our lives easier, they're also well on their way to making "good" jobs obsolete. A computer winning Jeopardy might seem like a trivial, if impressive, feat, but the same technology is making paralegals redundant as it undertakes electronic discovery, and is soon to do the same for radiologists.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great content and this mechanization IS coming!

  • By Mike on 06-30-15

Robots yes, economics no

3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-25-15

What disappointed you about Rise of the Robots?

I naively thought this book would be more about the details of new technology and what jobs will be replaced but at least 50% is about the economics of robotics and frankly, the author gets this wrong. I think most readers will not find this economics part much of a problem but as someone who studied economics for many years and worked in the financial industry and technology sector, there is deeply wrong conclusion the author makes:

The industries that introduce the most automation and replace the most jobs are the same industries that improve productively the most (since labor is almost invariably the most expensive part of any process). This is also the area of our lives which improve the most (except for the immediate quality of life decrease for the people who work in that industry when it becomes automated). For example, since the mechanization of textiles, the cost of clothes as a percentage of poor people's incomes has dropped ENORMOUSLY in the past 300 years. Even people living at subsistence levels in parts of Africa and Asia have more clothes at higher quality, with greater variety then anyone could have ever dreamed of in 1700. As productivity rises, the purchasing power of people's incomes must rise at a greater rate (since it cost less to produce a given good or service with the new process). Even if incomes fall, quality of life can still go up if purchasing power of the falling incomes is more than compensating. The greater the output of mankind, the more wealth overall. If technology causes the incomes of the very skilled to rise disproportionately, you can just raise taxes a bit on them and reduce taxes or even create a negative tax rate for the poor (so you report your income and instead of paying the government say 15%, the government sends you a check for 15%). There will always be jobs at some low wage because although robots might be highly efficient, they are still not free. Electricity, maintenance, materials costs, R&D costs, construction costs, sales taxes, etc. In a world where robots can make almost anything very cheaply, people just do the things they are comparatively good at (and unless robots become people, these areas will always exist). By definition, if robots and people are different, they will have different capacities and different comparative strengths. People will just move to "design" and other creative jobs. The world does quite well without people operating our telephone switchboards (now done by software) and it will get along even better when no one has to make hamburgers or sew t-shirts. Hamburgers will be much cheaper and so will t-shirts. People will design new, even tastier hamburgers and new, even cooler t-shirts but robots will be making them.

The guaranteed income can be recipe for disaster and there are many people in this world who would just stay home to have sex, do drugs, and make babies. Over time this group would increase as the genes for laziness and baby making become more prevalent in society and other people realize they can do this a well (and don't like the idea of free-loaders having all the fun). I think its better if you make some kind of productive work a requirement via a negative tax rate if necessary. This way everyone contributes unless they are truly unable (disabled) or in school (which should be very cheap).

Ultimately, this is a complicated topic so I don't fault the author too much but I think there is clearly a flaw in the economic logic. I agree information technology is a general purpose technology as is narrow artificial intelligence. There have been other general purpose technologies however, and the main difference is that they affect many more areas of our lives and improve the world to much greater degree. These include the wheel, writing, electricity, democracy, the corporation, property rights, mathematics, etc. All these things have made our lives better on average while changing the returns to different types of labor and capital intensity of different industries. Robotics is just another (but potentially more profound and effective) way of creating what everyone wants. Efficiency has been the name of the game since the first technologies perhaps more than 1 million years ago in the form of fire and sharp stones. Only increasing efficiently will make tomorrow better than today. Just maximize on efficiently and then tax appropriately to spread out the returns in a reasonable way.

General AI is whole other ball game. This is the equivalent of an alien coming to earth. You might not even have to worry about he economy or jobs at that point. Presumably, this AI could become very powerful and it will decide the fate of humanity, not humanity. Our very existence will depended upon what this AI decides to do with us.

What could Martin Ford have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Please address the flaw in economic thinking.

Which scene was your favorite?

When he talks about all the new robots that will do people's jobs. This was quite interesting.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Rise of the Robots?

Cut down the economics sections and focus on the robotic technologies.

80 of 114 people found this review helpful

  • Venture Deals

  • Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist
  • By: Jason Mendelson, Brad Feld
  • Narrated by: Sean Pratt
  • Length: 7 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 947
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 785
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 779

As each new generation of entrepreneurs emerges, there is a renewed interest in how venture capital deals come together. Yet there really is no definitive guide to venture capital deals. Nobody understands this better than authors Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson. For more than seventeen years, they've been involved in hundreds of venture capital financings, and now, with Venture Deals, they share their experiences in this field with you.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Knowledge is Power..!

  • By Joy Casey on 12-30-12

Very Nice Introduction to Venture Capital

5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-20-14

What made the experience of listening to Venture Deals the most enjoyable?

Laid out the venture capital industry quite well and the book was organized in a logical fashion to give sufficient detail for anyone to gain a basic understanding of the common terminology, industry dynamics, and details of how venture capital works. Most of all, I felt like I was getting relatively honest information from the authors. As would expect, the authors did pitch their VC firm periodically throughout the book as they are active venture capitalists, but this was done on a very limited basis and I kind of liked to hear how a venture capital firm marketed themselves and what they thought they specifically brought to the table.

After reading this book I would definitely consider Foundry Group for raising VC capital. Nice Job guys!

Who was your favorite character and why?


Which character – as performed by Sean Pratt – was your favorite?


Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?


Any additional comments?

The previous questions appear more for a novel, this was not an emotionally engaging book (nor was I expecting it be, nor did I want it to be). Overall quite happy with this audiobook.