AI and new jobs

Last year when we were preparing for the AI and ML panel at the Markets Group meeting, we spent a lot of effort to prepare for questions on potential and actual adverse effects – but no-one asked. The audience were institutional investors, many of them managing pension funds for employees, so we really had expected pointed questions about the potential for removal of existing jobs and about how new occupations might arise.

Prompted by a blog post from Timothy Taylor, and quoting from a paper titled ‘The Wrong Kind of AI’ , it seems useful to think “about the future of work as a race between automation and new, labor-intensive tasks. Labor demand has not increased steadily over the last two centuries because of technologies that have made labor more productive in everything. Rather, many new technologies have sought to eliminate labor from tasks in which it previously specialized. All the same, labor has benefited from advances in technology, because other technologies have simultaneously enabled the introduction of new labor-intensive tasks. These new tasks have done more than just reinstate labor as a central input into the production process; they have also played a vital role in productivity growth.”

References

IZA DP No. 12292 Institue of Labor Economics The Wrong Kind of AI?
Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Labor Demand APRIL 2019
Daron Acemoglu MIT and IZA
Pascual Restrepo Boston University

Consolidation in high capacity interface business

First Nividia announced it was to acquire Mellanox. Now Xilinx announces the acquisition of Solarflare. These are the two big sources of expertise in the high capability, high throughput Network Interface Card market.

When this sort of consolidation happens, it’s a signal to watch for one or more smaller players to emerge, potentially with expertise and money coming from the acquired companies, to develop the next state change in one of the often overlooked but critical enablers of the very large scale datacenters enabling cloud operational scale.

The competition is AWS, who have built their own ASIC, used in the NICs in the Nitro System. James Hamilton describes the system, used for I/O acceleration, security, and to implement a hypervisor.

February 2019 https://perspectives.mvdirona.com/2019/02/aws-nitro-system/
March 2019 https://nvidianews.nvidia.com/news/nvidia-to-acquire-mellanox-for-6-9-billion
April 2019 https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/xilinx-to-acquire-solarflare-300837025.html

More machine learning – ScaledML

27 – 28 March 2019

The ScaledML conference is growing up; from a Saturday at Stanford to a two day event at the Computer History Museum with sponsors. http://scaledml.org/2019/

Two big new themes emerged

  • Concern for power efficiency (Simon Knowles, Graphcore, talked about Megawatts; Pete Warden, Tensorflow talked about milliwatts and energy harvesting
  • Development platforms – Adam D’Angelo, Quora, was particularly clear on how Quora operate development to efficiently support a small number of good developers

David Paterson gave the first talk on Domain Specific architectures for Neural Networks – an updated version of this talk https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2018/9/230571-a-domain-specific-architecture-for-deep-neural-networks/fulltext

The roofline performance model is a useful way to visualize comparative performance. For future performance improvements functionally specific architectures are the way forward; this requires both hardware updates (what Google is doing with the TPUs) and improved compiler front and back ends.

Fig 3 from the Domain Specific Architectures paper linked above.

Intel recognizes this trend – Wei Li described the work his team is doing to incorporate domain specific support into Xeon processors. This blog post has the gist of what he presented.

Most of the talks are here on YouTube

More on Micromobility

GoBike
requires rescue

Recently in Los Altos. Reminder that rental bikes require service and support – this one has a flat front tyre, damaged front handlebars, and a pair of spectacles poked into the cracked plastic. Emailing Ford GoBike to suggest they picked it up resulted in rather stilted customer service responses.

There’s lots of work still to do to get to the micromobility transformation in transport for suburbs. That transformation is a reasonable reaction to a poor infrastructure overburdened with vehicles much larger than they need to be for the movement of people and things they perform.

Reference – Horace Dediu https://micromobility.io/blog/2019/2/23/the-micromobility-definition

Mobility’s second great inflection point

Headline on a McKinsey article https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/our-insights/mobilitys-second-great-inflection-point

However, it entirely misses cycling, ebikes, and scooters. Perhaps the authors all live in snowy cold cities.

” .. the will to fix our cities is getting stronger. Urban populations, historically at the vanguard for change, are already more receptive to solutions such as ridesharing and carsharing, as well as EVs. ”

When the majority of trips are short, and as delivery robots gain adoption, the number of people willing and able to use a bicycle with electric power assist increases substantially. This has significant implications for the transportation business, and especially for automotive manufacturers.

Delivery of things

Another delivery robot company – this one operating at scale in Europe and making campus deliveries in the Valley. Starship raised $25m in June 2018. Runs on paths and sidewalks. No hints in the demo videos about how interacts with opposing direction bicycles and scooters.  Ideally something like this would be able to enter buildings and control lifts for campus deliveries. 

Commercial package delivery launch announcement (Oct 31 18) – in Milton Keynes now, and the SF Bay area before the end of the year. https://www.starship.xyz/press_releases/worlds-first-robot-package-delivery-launched-publicly-today/

Venturebeat review 

https://venturebeat.com/2018/10/31/starship-technologies-launches-commercial-package-delivery-service-using-autonomous-robots/