53 Mind-Blowing Martin Ford Quotes

Martin Ford is an author, entrepreneur, and speaker on the Robot Revolution. Touching on such topics as smart machines, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology, Ford believe our current economic system is not supported by a growing development of artificial intelligence. Here is a look at some of the best Martin Ford quotes to ponder.

“A great many college-educated, white-collar workers are going to discover that their jobs, too, are squarely in the sights as software automation and predictive algorithms advance rapidly in capability.”

“About 1.2 million jobs—more than three-quarters of domestic employment in the textile sector—vanished between 1990 and 2012.”

“Acquiring more education and skills will not necessarily offer effective protection against job automation”

“Advances in AI are poised to drive dramatic productivity increases and perhaps eventually full automation. Radiologists, for example, are trained to interpret the images that result from various medical scans. Image processing and recognition technology is advancing rapidly and may soon be able to usurp the radiologist’s traditional role. Software can already recognize people in photos posted on Facebook and even help identify potential terrorists in airports.”

“As of 2013, a typical production or nonsupervisory worker earned about 13 percent less than in 1973 (after adjusting for inflation), even as productivity rose by 107 percent and the costs of big-ticket items like housing, education, and health care have soared.”

“Automation technology so efficient that it is competitive with even the lowest-wage offshore workers.”


“Between 2009 and 2012, US textile and apparel exports rose by 37 percent to a total of nearly $23 billion.”

“Chickens are grown to standardized sizes so as to make them compatible with automated slaughtering and processing.”

“Colossal, billion-dollar data center built by Apple, Inc., in the town of Maiden, North Carolina, had created only fifty full-time positions.”

“For example, the lithographic process used to lay out integrated circuits was initially based on optical imaging techniques. When the size of individual device elements shrank to the point where the wavelength of visible light was too long to allow for further progress, the semiconductor industry moved on to X-ray lithography.”

“Future shoppers will rely more and more on their phones as a way to shop, pay, and get help and information about products while in traditional retail settings.”

“Genetic programming essentially allows computer algorithms to design themselves through a process of Darwinian natural selection. Computer code is initially generated randomly and then repeatedly shuffled using techniques that emulate sexual reproduction. Every so often, a random mutation is thrown in to help drive the process in entirely new directions.”

“Growth in median incomes during this period tracked nearly perfectly with per capita GDP. Three decades later, median household income had increased to about $61,000, an increase of just 22 percent. That growth, however, was driven largely by the entry of women into the workforce. If incomes had moved in lockstep with economic growth—as was the case prior to 1973—the median household would today be earning well in excess of $90,000, over 50 percent more than the $61,000 they do earn.”

“I find it somewhat ironic that many conservatives in the United States are adamant about securing the border against immigrants who will likely take jobs that few Americans want, while at the same time expressing little concern that the virtual border is left completely open to higher-skill workers who take jobs that Americans definitely do want.”

“Imagine that you get in your car and begin driving at 5 miles per hour. You drive for a minute, accelerate to double your speed to 10 mph, drive for another minute, double your speed again, and so on. The really remarkable thing is not simply the fact of the doubling but the amount of ground you cover after the process has gone on for a while. In the first minute, you would travel about 440 feet. In the third minute at 20 mph, you’d cover 1,760 feet. In the fifth minute, speeding along at 80 mph, you would go well over a mile. To complete the sixth minute, you’d need a faster car—as well as a racetrack. Now think about how fast you would be traveling—and how much progress you would make in that final minute—if you doubled your speed twenty-seven times. That’s roughly the number of times computing power has doubled since the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958. The revolution now under way is happening not just because of the acceleration itself but because that acceleration has been going on for so long that the amount of progress we can now expect in any given year is potentially mind-boggling. The answer to the question about your speed in the car, by the way, is 671 million miles per hour. In that final, twenty-eighth minute, you would travel more than 11 million miles. Five minutes or so at that speed would get you to Mars. That, in a nutshell, is where information technology stands today, relative to when the first primitive integrated circuits started plodding along in the late 1950s.”

“Imagine the uproar when Uber’s cars start arriving without drivers.”

“Impact of technology on these kinds of jobs, you are very likely to encounter the phrase “freed up”—as in, workers who lose their low-skill jobs will be freed up to pursue more training and better opportunities. The fundamental assumption, of course, is that a dynamic economy like the United States will always be capable of generating sufficient higher-wage, higher-skill jobs to absorb all those newly freed up workers—given that they succeed in acquiring the necessary training.”

“In 2011, big companies generated an average of $420,000 in revenue for each employee, an increase of more than 11 percent over the 2007 figure of $378,000.”

“In 2012, Google, for example, generated a profit of nearly $14 billion while employing fewer than 38,000 people.9 Contrast that with the automotive industry. At peak employment in 1979, General Motors alone had nearly 840,000 workers but earned only about $11 billion—20 percent less than what Google raked in. And, yes, that’s after adjusting for inflation.”

“In a recent analysis, Martin Grötschel of the Zuse Institute in Berlin found that, using the computers and software that existed in 1982, it would have taken a full eighty-two years to solve a particularly complex production planning problem. As of 2003, the same problem could be solved in about a minute—an improvement by a factor of around 43 million. Computer hardware became about 1,000 times faster over the same period, which means that improvements in the algorithms used accounted for approximately a 43,000-fold increase in performance.”

“In fact, advancing technology has already had a dramatic impact on Chinese factory jobs; between 1995 and 2002 China lost about 15 percent of its manufacturing workforce, or about 16 million jobs.”

“In Japan, a new machine is able to select ripe strawberries based on subtle color variations and then pick a strawberry every eight seconds—working continuously and doing most of the work at night.”

“In other words, one of the most fundamental ideas woven into the American ethos—the belief that anyone can get ahead through hard work and perseverance—really has little basis in statistical reality.”

“In particular, the rise of companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon has propelled a great deal of progress. Never before have such deep-pocketed corporations viewed artificial intelligence as absolutely central to their business models—and never before has AI research been positioned so close to the nexus of competition between such powerful entities. A similar competitive dynamic is unfolding among nations. AI is becoming indispensable to militaries, intelligence agencies, and the surveillance apparatus in authoritarian states.* Indeed, an all-out AI arms race might well be looming in the near future.”

“In the late nineteenth century, nearly half of all US workers were employed on farms; by 2000 that fraction had fallen below 2 percent.”

“In this, there is a strong cautionary note as we look to the future: as IT continues its relentless progress, we can be certain that financial innovators, in the absence of regulations that constrain them, will find ways to leverage all those new capabilities—and, if history is any guide, it won’t necessarily be in ways that benefit society as a whole.”

“Indeed, a 2013 study by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne at the University of Oxford concluded that occupations amounting to nearly half of US total employment may be vulnerable to automation within roughly the next two decades.”

“Knowing the ideological predisposition of a particular economist is often a better predictor of what that individual is likely to say than anything contained in the data under examination.”

“Loans are often rolled over continuously, so that the principal is never repaid. This makes capital investment extremely attractive even when labor costs are low and has been one of the primary reasons that investment now accounts for nearly half of China’s GDP.”

“Machines themselves are turning into workers, and the line between the capability of labor and capital is blurring as never before.”

“Manufacturing jobs in the United States currently account for well under 10 percent of total employment.”

“Many California farmers have transitioned from delicate crops like tomatoes to more robust nuts because they can be harvested mechanically. Overall agricultural employment in California fell by about 11 percent in the first decade of the twenty-first century, even as the total production of crops like almonds, which are compatible with automated farming techniques, has exploded.”

“Nearly 90 percent of fast food workers are twenty or older, and the average age is thirty-five.17 Many of these older workers have to support families—a nearly impossible task at a median wage of just $8.69 per hour.”

“One of the obvious implications of a potential intelligence explosion is that there would be an overwhelming first-mover advantage. In other words, whoever gets there first will be effectively uncatchable.”

“Perhaps the most remarkable elder-care innovation developed in Japan so far is the Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL)—a powered exoskeleton suit straight out of science fiction. Developed by Professor Yoshiyuki Sankai of the University of Tsukuba, the HAL suit is the result of twenty years of research and development. Sensors in the suit are able to detect and interpret signals from the brain. When the person wearing the battery-powered suit thinks about standing up or walking, powerful motors instantly spring into action, providing mechanical assistance. A version is also available for the upper body and could assist caretakers in lifting the elderly. Wheelchair-bound seniors have been able to stand up and walk with the help of HAL. Sankai’s company, Cyberdyne, has also designed a more robust version of the exoskeleton for use by workers cleaning up the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in the wake of the 2011 disaster. The company says the suit will almost completely offset the burden of over 130 pounds of tungsten radiation shielding worn by workers.* HAL is the first elder-care robotic device to be certified by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. The suits lease for just under $2,000 per year and are already in use at over three hundred Japanese hospitals and nursing homes.”

“Potentially unlimited output can be achieved by systems of machines which will require little cooperation from human beings.” The result would be massive unemployment, soaring inequality, and, ultimately, falling demand for goods and services as consumers increasingly lacked the purchasing power necessary to continue driving economic growth.”

“Profit of nearly $14 billion while employing fewer than 38,000 people.9 Contrast that with the automotive industry. At peak employment in 1979, General Motors alone had nearly 840,000 workers but earned only about $11 billion—20 percent less than what Google raked in. And, yes, that’s after adjusting.”

“The American workforce—earned about $767 per week in 1973. The following year, real average wages began a precipitous decline from which they would never fully recover. A full four decades later, a similar worker earns just $664, a decline of about 13 percent.”

“The company warned that cuts to the US food stamp program (officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) as well as increases in payroll taxes were poised to hit hard at low-income shoppers. About one in five Walmart customers rely on food stamps, and evidence suggests that many of these people are stretched to the point where they have virtually no discretionary income.”

“The conservative argument for a basic income centers on the fact that it provides a safety net coupled with individual freedom of choice. Rather than having government intrude into personal economic decisions, or get into the business of directly providing products and services, the idea is to give everyone the means to go out and participate in the market. It is fundamentally a market-oriented approach to providing a minimal safety net, and its implementation would make other less efficient mechanisms—the minimum wage, food stamps, welfare, and housing assistance—unnecessary.”

“The essential point is that a worker is also a consumer (and may support other consumers). These people drive final demand. When a worker is replaced by a machine, that machine does not go out and consume. The machine may use energy and spare parts and require maintenance, but again, those are business inputs, not final demand. If there is no one to buy what the machine is producing, it will ultimately be shut down. An industrial robot in an auto manufacturing plant will not continue running if no one is buying the cars it is assembling.”

“The evaporation of thousands of skilled information technology jobs is likely a precursor for a much more wide-ranging impact on knowledge-based employment.”

“The nearly perfect historical correlation between increasing productivity and rising incomes broke down: wages for most Americans stagnated and, for many workers, even declined; income inequality soared to levels not seen since the eve of the 1929 stock market crash; and a new phrase—“jobless recovery”—found a prominent place in our vocabulary.”

“The real question, I think, is not whether the field as a whole is in any real danger of another AI winter but, rather, whether progress remains limited to narrow AI or ultimately expands to Artificial General Intelligence as well.”

“The relentless acceleration of computer hardware over decades suggests that we’ve somehow managed to remain on the steep part of the S-curve for far longer than has been possible in other spheres of technology. The reality, however, is that Moore’s Law has involved successfully climbing a staircase of cascading S-curves, each representing a specific semiconductor fabrication technology.”

“The revolution now under way is happening not just because of the acceleration itself but because that acceleration has been going on for so long that the amount of progress we can now expect in any given year is potentially mind-boggling.”

“These “Singularians” have gone so far as to establish their own educational institution. Singularity University, located in Silicon Valley, offers unaccredited graduate-level programs focused on the study of exponential technology and counts Google, Genentech, Cisco, and Autodesk among its corporate sponsors.”

“This S-shaped path in which accelerating—or exponential—advance ultimately matures into a plateau effectively illustrates the life story of virtually all specific technologies.”

“Today’s computer technology exists in some measure because millions of middle-class taxpayers supported federal funding for basic research in the decades following World War II. We can be reasonably certain that those taxpayers offered their support in the expectation that the fruits of that research would create a more prosperous future for their children and grandchildren. Yet, the trends we looked at in the last chapter suggest we are headed toward a very different outcome. BEYOND THE BASIC MORAL QUESTION of whether a tiny elite should be able to, in effect, capture ownership of society’s accumulated technological capital, there are also practical issues regarding the overall health of an economy in which income inequality becomes too extreme. Continued progress depends on a vibrant market for future innovations—and that, in turn, requires a reasonable distribution of purchasing power.”

“Vision Robotics, a company based in San Diego, California, is developing an octopus-like orange harvesting machine. The robot will use three-dimensional machine vision to make a computer model of an entire orange tree and then store the location of each fruit. That information will then be passed on to the machine’s eight robotic arms, which will rapidly harvest the oranges.”

“We eventually will have to move away from the idea that workers support retirees and pay for social programs, and instead adopt the premise that our overall economy supports these things. Economic growth, after all, has significantly outpaced the rate at which new jobs have been created and wages have been rising.”

“Why aren’t average Americans more upset about the fact that they are paying the pharmaceutical freight for the rest of the world—including a number of countries that have significantly higher per capita incomes than the United States?”

“Within weeks of the product’s introduction, both university-based engineering teams and do-it-yourself innovators had hacked into the Kinect and posted YouTube videos of robots that were now able to see in three dimensions.”

Martin Ford provides this interesting talk regarding the future and technology. As the author of ‘Rise of the Robots,’ Ford touches on the changing job industry as technology goes on to threaten more human performing jobs.

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