Video Of The Week: My Partner Albert At DLD

My partner Albert talked about the future of work at the DLD conference last week. Here’s the video of it.

#economics#employment#machine learning

Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    Good, short and sweet interview. I watched it live, and actually tweeted this:

  2. aminTorres

    Albert is clearly brilliant but his ability to explain things in such simple ways is really something.

  3. jason wright

    i want Albert to debate this on stage with a senior nation state politician. George Osborne would run and hide.i’m wondering if Norway might be a place to start this revolution?

  4. Twain Twain

    On the Turing point and whether we can ask any question in the Universe and it can be answered with the type of computers we have…We don’t yet have General Purpose computing / universal machines. We have narrow computing. Whether we go towards General Intelligence computing where the machines can not only quantify and correlate vast volumes of data but would also be able to interpret and understand the quality and meanings of the data, language, ethics etc is one of the hot topics in AI.As a medical diagnostic tool, this is the story of IBM Watson and healthcare:*…Turing, unfortunately, asked the wrong question in his 1950 paper of “Can machines think?” by which he defines thinking as a purely rational, logical, quantifiable processes.It would have been wiser to ask, “Can machines CONSIDER?” This is thinking with care.That would have future-proofed the way we built the machines to better reflect and proxy us, to understand Natural Language and for self-driving cars to have some ethical frameworks.As it is, we’ll have to re-work pretty much all the AI that’s been built up since Turing’s time.Sorry, Turing.

    1. albert

      It is true that IBM has yet to have a lot of success in healthcare with Watson but that says a lot more about IBM and their approach than it does about what machines can and cannot do. Until quite recently a lot of people were also convinced that computers wouldn’t be able to drive a car. There is nothing magical a doctor does in inferring a diagnosis from symptoms.You raise an entirely different question though when you ask about an ethical framework. That is outside the realm of technology by itself and requires us humans to make choices (which we will then need to figure out how to teach to the machines). See my tweets from yesterday in that regard.…As for Turing, the work I am referring to is summarized here… and is the 1936 and 1937 work on computability (not the much cited 1950 paper).

      1. Twain Twain

        Technology doesn’t want anything because …

      2. Twain Twain

        Even to the 1936 and 1937 papers, when we look at logic within Hilbert spaces such as with Google Word2Vec, we discover Turing’s theory is missing something.Not everything is (yet) calculable and computational. There’s an interpretation element in a doctor inferring a diagnosis and that inference within Natural Language is unlikely to be probabilistic.We mustn’t lose sight of what probability was invented for and its limitations.In particular, wrt this part of the Turing paradox “measurements are made of that observable N times a second, then, even if the state is not a stationary one, the probability that the system will be in the same state after, say, 1 second, tends to one as N tends to infinity; i.e. that continual observation will prevent motion” it depends on how many observers there are and what Einstein-Schrödinger refer to as subject-object entanglement.

  5. Varun

    Thanks for posting. I am curious how this one plays out. The pension analogy was what made it more palatable for the host atleast (11:55).A year back, a few trader friends who absolutely disliked their jobs and I got into a similar discussion where we played around with “disrupting” work. We disagreed a bunch but we did agree that currency as we know it would need to be fully digital.We came up with a notion of behavior as currency loosely inspired by the notion of Karma (I call it karma points) i.e. individual actions translating into services such as mobility/food/housing/self-actualization ? 🙂 Example: if I contributed to society in some non-negative manner, I would get an Uber ride or an airbnb stay or some digital reputation that can be translated into services in the physical world and so I wouldnt need to “work” to “pay” for such service.In some ways we are already seeing this play out in insurance markets with Progressive / rewarding you for safer driving (by monitoring your driving) or Oscar rewarding you if you achieve your step goal.What next ? My Tripadvisor profile translating to real travel ? My yelp status translating to real food ? Volunteering skills today to preserving a future right to educating my kid ?PS: Black Mirror played with this idea albeit in a dystopic way in its 2nd episode “15 million merits” – “In a future where everyone must cycle on exercise bikes in order to power their surroundings, Bingham “Bing” Madsen (Daniel Kaluuya) uses his entire fortune to get the object of his affections, Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay), an audition on a reality talent show. However both learn the price of fame may be too high.”/ /

      1. Varun

        Thank You !

      2. @mikeriddell62

        Funnily enough i’m just reading that now!

  6. @mikeriddell62

    Believes in the markets and in basic income – how does that get squared?

    1. pointsnfigures

      I agree with the thesis of Basic Income, but would do it differently. Basic income is simply a price floor (like minimum wage)

      1. @mikeriddell62

        I don’t simply because it’s like charity that doesn’t help anyone to help themselves. People – for their own sense of worth and meaning and purpose – want a hand up not a hand out. I know because i work in community.

        1. jason wright

          Albert is suggesting that BIG is not welfare. welfare is a handout, and a poverty trap. BIG can be the hand up people on welfare need.

  7. @mikeriddell62

    The thing about a basic income is that it isn’t earned and that misses an obvious opportunity to create value for the individual concerned as well as for society. In addition, something for nothing undervalues the something.

    1. jason wright

      and yet in this world there are far too many people who have something for nothing.

      1. @mikeriddell62

        Indeed so. Hence the corrosion of standards and values.

        1. jason wright

          corrosion? it’s hypocrisy. the people i speak of are the technocratic elite classes of the world.

          1. @mikeriddell62

            Amen to that. Trouble is they don’t see it that way. What’s worse is that they see their legacy as measured in dollar terms. Not in terms that leave the world a better place than which they were born into it (as accidents).

  8. @mikeriddell62

    Sorry Albert, whilst your hearts in the right place your execution strategy is bonkers if only becuase it’s political football that will get booted into the long grass. #SticktoTech

  9. pointsnfigures

    I am not sure we have to figure out how automation is “good” for society before it’s implemented. We can’t know all the jobs that might be created because of the automation, artificial intelligence etc, Agree very much that it happens at the margin. What’s the cost/benefit of doing one more?Albert is right, markets allocate resources better than any centralized authority. He is correct that we totally need to rethink how we educate people. He is correct that to get more mathematicians you don’t require math.On basic income, I think he is right on the concept, but incorrect on the implementation.

  10. JamesHRH

    Basic income is setting a floor on the market.If you look @ South American economies, the sliver of absurdly wealthy individuals have only one real risk: Revolution.A basic income likely eliminates that risk.I think a healthier – but more opaque solution – is to have more citizens motivated to have more skin in the game. Revolution does not gain traction when lots of people have something to lose.

    1. pointsnfigures

      There is dignity in work. I don’t think people are liabilities. They are assets.

      1. JamesHRH

        They are asserts until they are liabilities. I have not watched this vid but have read Albert on the topic.I think his take is that a basic income allows people to pursue non-economic but useful work, with dignity.

        1. pointsnfigures

          I think Albert’s view on basic income is good, but a little off base. I like melding it with Arthur Brooks thoughts in The Conservative Heart. I am having a hard time finding words to express what is in my gut.

      2. @mikeriddell62


      3. Jim Peterson

        There is absolutely dignity in work.Albert is obviously a very smart and caring man (enjoyed the video), but the unintended consequences of a basic income is ASTOUNDING.Every program like this will fill up until it is choking on itself.There are now 14 m people in the US on disability and many use it as a basic income as any skills they do have erode…Government make easy to get loans for students and the price of college soars….the money is there that allows this.My school counselor wife sees SUV’s pull up and drop off their kids with Starbucks sipping parents at the wheel- kids who are on free and reduced lunch.The distortions a basic income allows are already baked into the welfare system.Final point- Albert mentions how many work in agriculture due to progress like the tractor (a figure that has plummeted over the years); well most people moved on. If the basic income had been in place, how would it have changed the behavior of at least some of the people who used to be in agriculture.

        1. albert

          The disability system makes a great example of the incentive problems built into the *existing* welfare system. Most of these programs are means tested and disability is the perfect example. You lose all of it if you go back to work.Basic income doesn’t have that effect. Anything you earn on top of it you just pay regular income taxes on but you don’t lose any of your basic income.

          1. JLM

            .The disability system is NOT means tested; it is fact based and only fact based.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. albert

            Should not have said “means” but “sickness” — same effect. Marginal gain of going back to work is massively negative for people on disability.

          3. JLM

            .Disability is not about sickness, it is about the inability to work. There is no requirement that a person actually be sick to receive disability benefits.In addition, it is either a long term or a permanent condition and it provides a “substitute” income, not treatment.In its crudest form, disability is simply tapping into SS benefits early. Crude indeed.Medicaid (Medicare) are for sick folks.M/M provide treatment with an eye toward getting better but no relevance to income.Disability is administered by the SSA while Medicaid in the world of Obamacare is, arguably, administered by its own administration and the IRS.The preceding are HUGE differences. Boats v airplanes kind of difference and commingling them is nonsensical and naive.Both maladies — sickness and disability — are insurable risks for which there are market available plans which means there is no essential service that ONLY the gov’t can administer.Quite different than, say, national defense or border security or immigration.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. SubstrateUndertow

      The history of human economics is the history of fractal variations of top down oligarchic control structures that choke point wealth, power, education, control and economic participation.The chiefs, the monarchs, the churches, the communists, the dictators, the banks and the monopolists of all flavours, they all inevitable push their advantage too far, all the while rationalizing their societally beneficial entitlement.Yes – indeed top down structures were/are unavoidable/needed social stability frameworks despite the fact that historically all have come with varying degrees or collateral damage to those at the bottom.That is what was so revolutionary about the American constitution. It was a very successful attempt to codify a system of top down governance-controls that largely limited behavioural excesses against those further down the control pyramid by democratizing/distributing the control foot print.That successful American experimental beachhead for democratizing the social-control foot-print is now slipping away because the original constitutional framework is being pushed too far into a dynamically changing economic/social environmental-reality for which it was never designed.Same-old same-old – Marx/McLuhan framework”every process contains the seeds of its own destruction/obsolescence”(not just capitalism)”push any process too far and it will flip into its opposite”(from tool to impediment via obsolescence)The US constitutional experiment in widening/distributing the social-control footprint is now failing, possibly even falling into the hands of a Trumped up strong man, not becausecitizens are not motivated to have more skin in the game but rather because more citizens cannot find a way to get their skin into the radically changing contemporary game dynamic.I’m making the case that you are reversing the cause and effect here.I think Albert is so absolutely right here !The radical implications of a network/AI/automation based economy mandates, by its sheer substrate causal necessities, a similarly radical rethink/redesign of the mechanics/values required to give renewed actionable substance to the spirit/goals embodied in the original American democratic constitutional experiment.Maybe even some kind of crazy new democratic constitutional mechanisms built atop a neural-net castellation of distributively actionable governance Apps ?If “software is eating the world” then shouldn’t we , sooner that later, start aiming it mouth at the high value nutrition target of efficiently-distributive democratic governance! Maybe a Facebook like App/subApp governance dynamic 🙂

  11. JonStidd

    Interesting points. Reminds me a bit of Bucky Fuller’s book, Operating Manual to Spaceship Earth, where he suggests embracing automation to free humans up for the more important conceptual tasks.

  12. creative group

    Why do us humans not understand that implementing innovation doesn’t need to be at the expense of elimination of people or making something easier. Train and educate before the transition to where a human is actually indispensable.Basic income is already in the United States. (SSI, disability). Go to the HHS website and see who the majority on it.

    1. Matt Kruza

      well biggest issue is much of innovation IS indeed at elemination of people. That is how we went from having 100 million on the farm, to less than 2 million in the US. We “eliminated” 98 million jobs, and 75 years later we are all way better off, but we don’t want to wait 75 years for the benefits for AI. (obviously some benefits started sooner etc.). Most human progress has certainly destroyed the wealth of many (at least temporarily), and that is what makes progress often tougher politically and socially than technologically

      1. creative group

        Matt Kruza:You didn’t understand our post. We stated the elimination of people not the replacement of people. Night and day difference in meaning.And we agree with your point of not waiting 75 years to implement technology. Some technology is more beneficial than others and who makes that decision what is for the betterment of people. The people or Libertarian venture capitalists?

        1. Matt Kruza

          What is the difference o elimination vs replacement in this context? If before we needed 100 people and now we need 5 i would say 95 were eliminated or replaced. I actually don’t get what you mean but curious!

  13. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Maybe the UBI would make even more sense if it was calculated on locality basis. So it would be more in NYC than in Cheyenne. Although, $1k wouldn’t even cut it in Cheyenne these days, I bet.How does anyone offer up with a straight face this argument that people need a job in order to feel valuable? If that were true, then no one should retire or get rich enough to live on the interest payments on their wealth.Everyone has an inner compass that points them toward what makes them feel alive, and it’s the LUCKY who get to merge that with their *job.*Does anyone actually believe that everyone working at Starbucks works there for the tremendous sense of self-worth it delivers? They work there for the health insurance. What makes a person feel worthless is not being able to pay the bills or afford to see the doctor.When I was waiting tables, it was purely to pay the bills. I didn’t go out after work and find more people to serve food and drinks. Now that I do what I love, I do it during work hours and in my ‘off’ hours because I have things I’m excited to accomplish.Personally, if I was living on a UBI right now, I would feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to do my best work at what I love doing.

    1. Matt Kruza

      You bring up some good points. First, there is a HUGE component of social respect / hierarchy tied to jobs. I think to some degree it can / could be good in terms of encouraging people to work hard, be educated etc. However, it it too strong of a judgement factor that much of society / media has. Secondly, most people that give these talks or attend a conference like this are in the top 10% (and often more top 1% or more) of wealth, intelligence, power, social standing, so they do derive a ton of self worth and dignity from their job, vs just paying their billls. I agree with your point that many just need / want to pay bills, and agree with Alberts point we shouldn’t tie money and self-worth but hope my answer may ellucidate a little how I think what he says is reflected in many ways currently.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Yep. What you say here is somewhat implied in my comment. We’re not talking about the kinds of jobs that most people here at AVC hold 🙂

      2. JLM

        .In addition, most of the people offering opinions have no understanding of what it means to work with one’s muscles or to be involved in creating those kind of jobs.This is akin to talking to a bunch of butterflies about being a caterpillar. They are somehow related but don’t remember at all what it means to actually be a caterpillar.This is second only to the lack of understanding what the military implications of foreign policy mean while never having worn the uniform of the Nation.Totally, disconnected from even a semblance of reality.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  14. Emil Sotirov

    Slowly but surely, Albert is becoming the most coherent speaker on this topic.

  15. Matt Kruza

    albert, listened to the whole speech. Good overall, and definitely refining your message. One suggestion I would have on your talking point about the cost. I would mention and focus more on how getting rid of duplication of existing programs may finance $500 billion to 1.5 trillion (estimates vary by ubi advocates) (so put in perspective net cost may “only” be 1.5 trillion). Also, I didn’t like the gross gdp example of 39 trillion. That includes massive double counting. A component of a computer may be included 3-4 times in that number as resold from intel to dell to retailer to consuemr etc. I do think overall critique of GDP is good, and saying how other “unpaid” services and personal labor make the economy even bigger, but would reference that “satelllite” GDP figure which is often quoted at 30-50% of GDP, making overall closer to $25 – 30 trillion. Not trying to be pedantic at all, but I think many in the know will be thrown off by the misuse of gross GDP (in my opinion), so just wanted to help tighten up your messaging. Curious of your thoughts!

  16. Yinka!

    Interesting discussion. A big impediment to planning and experimentation is people’s various preconceptions around things like work and societal value. E.g. in one of the questions asked – the guy stated that a universal basic income (UBI) would result in a disincentive for people to work or get educated. In a world where many work primarily to cover expenses and limit their amount of education or preferred schools to what they can afford, surely the immediate impact of a UBI would be that more people can pick jobs in industries they prefer and increase their education? E.g. They won’t have to drop out of undergrad to work because they couldn’t afford it or could finish postgraduate study in order to pursue career in fields that require it, like academia/medicine.Preconceptions is also reflected in Albert description – he seems to be suggesting that a basic income be used as a population redistribution/relocation tool, which is problematic. Also not sure where in the US or Canada will $1k cover basic cost of living.Ultimately, consequences of a UBI can’t be fully predicted until it plays out. Results will also depend on location, so, analysis from experiments in say, Sweden cannot be used when planning for the U.S.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      My instinct keeps telling me there’s no way that Albert doesn’t fully understand that $1k doesn’t cover the very costs he lists as being the criteria of a UBI. I just have this feeling that there’s a method to his ‘madness’ in using that number, somehow.Maybe he hopes to focus people on debating about how much the amount should be (instead whether there should be an amount at all) magically making the UBI itself a foregone conclusion…

      1. Yinka!

        Astute observation. That might indeed be a strategically “incendiary” tactic… Care to chime in, @albert:disqus?

  17. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I would really like to see the language change from “work” to “job.” A person’s body of work when they die may or may not have anything to do with their job 🙂

  18. JaredMermey

    Taking the argument to its furthest extreme (and being very conceptual/academic as I do so)…Technology replaces all the jobs which hurts Labor’s ability to earn part of the value. Capital begins to earn everything however the capital requirement to create things become less and less over time. “Things” are created for free and can be obtained for very little as the marginal cost to create them eventually approaches nil. Very little capital is required to start the creation of “things,” very little return can be created because Labor cannot pay for things, and very little return is needed because it didn’t cost all that much to start the process of the creation of “things”…Where does that leave us? Everyone is getting what they need. There is no reason to earn income because money is not necessary to obtain “things.” Is that utopia? Some weird form of communism? Will something beyond money become the new currency — perhaps time because of advancement in healthcare like that Justin Timberlake movie?My analysis or assumptions may be off. But if I am right it seems like the intermediary steps to this end is where our troubles lie.

  19. JLM

    .Let me start by saying that “giving” people anything is a very suspect manner in which to motivate or modify behavior. If someone fails to exhibit a demand or a want then it is suspect that you can get them to value something they either didn’t know they wanted or didn’t originate with them.This is a basic tenet of human behavior — giving people things they have not indicated they want accomplishes almost nothing.We had a related experiment with this notion many years ago called “compulsory military service” — the draft. A few facts:1. In the Viet Nam War Era (1964-75) there were about 27MM men eligible for the draft.2. There were about 8.75MM men in the armed services and about 3.4MM served in Viet Nam.3. Of the total of 8.75MM, 2.2MM were draftees who served in the Continental US, Europe, the Far East (Japan, Korea) and Viet Nam.4. Unfortunately, there are no reliable numbers of how many draftees went to Viet Nam and how many who did go served in actual combat. It is generally accepted that something less than 20% of draftees ever set foot in theater and very few actually were in combat.The vast majority of men who saw combat were volunteers contrary to the otherwise generally accepted notion that it was a war of draftees. It was not. Entire formations — e.g. Airborne units — were exclusively volunteers.Of those who did not serve or were not drafted there were some curious facts:1. Married men with children were initially exempted as were married men. A lot of men got married to avoid the draft.2. About 60% of those who did not serve were exempted by their Draft Boards because of their civilian occupation or their medical condition.The bone spurred Donald Trump was exempted because of bone spurs.3. Many were “deferred” — a different status than being exempted. Men like Dick Cheney spent years in divinity school before emerging after their period of vulnerability to take up other civilian endeavors.Up until the initiation of the Draft Lottery, a student could be deferred until they completed their degree.Bill Clinton famously promised to take ROTC while at Arkansas School of Law and then to serve as an officer. When he returned from Oxford (Rhodes Scholar), he enrolled in the Arkansas law school but conveniently forgot to enroll in ROTC famously demurring in writing as he was far too “brilliant” to serve.4. Some were disqualified because of criminal records (500,000), some were COs (conscientious objectors), and some fled to Canada (100,000) and some went to jail (10,000).5. Some of the less deadly branches of service (Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force) saw their enlistments explode and many men enlisted for either “station of choice” or “MOS” (military occupancy specialty — anything other than 11B infantry or 12B combat engineer).6. Draftees were selected on a quota system by their local Draft Boards until 1969 whereafter one’s personal liability and exposure was the product of a lottery for those born on the dame date.The second you knew your draft lottery number for your birthday, your life changed. If you got a number higher than 140-160, you were likely safe. If you got one lower then you were in the soup.It was JFK who instituted the VN Era draft and Richard Nixon who campaigned to end it.This ties into the subject thusly –When it was necessary for all to serve evenly and there was compulsory service, some served willingly and some went to great lengths not to serve. They even fled the country thereby making the likelihood of those who remained higher.Even draftees received the GI Bill upon discharge. There were a lot of bad conduct and dishonorable discharges awarded in the VN War Era. But if you got an honorable discharge, you go the GI Bill and eligibility for a VA loan for your house.When the lottery showed up, even men in college or military school changed their views as to how they felt about national service once they got #349 v #7. Cadets in military schools sometimes punted and went to civilian schools thereafter.When the All Volunteer Army showed up in the mid-1970s, it took a few years but soon the Volunteer Army was the best American Army ever and that reality continues to this day.The draftee Army was pretty good — remember contrary to what is urban legend, the Army was not very draftee heavy particularly in the actual combat units — but the All Volunteer Army is head and shoulders better. Not even close.When people are given a clear incentive, such as better pay or the GI Bill, they will respond and they will produce superior results.Giving people free shit doesn’t do that. It never has. If you want excellence, then you are going to have to incentivize and reward good behavior.We know this but not unless you were born in 1952 or earlier.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Jim Peterson

      “Giving people free shit doesn’t do that. It never has. If you want excellence, then you are going to have to incentivize and reward good behavior”.No doubt.There is a lot of talk here about this BI would free people to “unlock” their creative genius….that may be true, for about 5% of the people.The other 95%- no way.

      1. JLM

        .My creative MOJO has never been locked up.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  20. Sam

    Wonderfully creative way to look at the macroeconomy and the jobs market today and propose an alternate future. I’m not surprised this comes from a leading VC mind.VCs spread their risks across a portfolio of experiments that fit their thesis on where the world is going, and batting .200 is a wonderful outcome. But that model isn’t quite as analogous here. The timeframe is longer, the implications of failure higher.Seems like experiment design is key to iterating our way forward (or proving a different path) here.

  21. William Mougayar

    It would be good to expand on the “knowledge inheritance” item. I don’t think Albert had a chance to explain it further. What are the implications and expectations?

  22. Mike

    What is the impact of Albert’s plan on the $39 trillion he mentioned? It may be less than a tenth of national output today but that could rapidly change, for the good or bad, but I’m more inclined to believe it would destroy wealth.

  23. lostdiaspora

    Saw this a little late and frankly I’m a little disappointed. The basic Idea of a BIG is simplicity of administration and the inevitable slimming down of big government, so why are so many politicians so vehement in their condemnation, isn’t that a big aim atm? It also solves many of the failures of market economies for the least powerful segments of society. The unburdening of so many people would I think produce a wave of people motivated to do what they love and even if they didn’t they would no longer be a burden on society, not to mention unburdening already overstressed infrastructure. I believe that the wave of curiosity unleashed would eventually do our species more good than bad. On top of this opting out now becomes a real possibility for existing members of the labour force encouraging employers to provide interesting, stimulating and engaging work for those remaining in work. So rather than having an industrial workforce and an industrial education system we have empowering systems, clearly not so good for 1% of society but then maybe the pendulum has swung too far already in their favour? Essentially this is redistribute but capitalism breaks down if you don’t let people go to the wall and we are way past pretending we practise anything other than a form of elite focused social democracy.What disappoints me is how even Albert appears to stop short of imagining how such a radical shift will compound, yes I am another optimist. Lastly to put it in perspective 25 or 75 years is nothing in a transition of this sort for our species, normally they last 200-300 years and are quite violent so not so good for our kids and their kids etc etc. To hope for an instant fix is to live in the land of fairy tales. Change is slow, after all it’s taken silicon technology 50 years or so to start to deliver on it’s initial promise. For the entrepreneurs amongst us now there’s a opportunity that makes tech look small!

  24. iggyfanlo

    Extraordinary. The Prophet (and maybe Profit) of Basic Income

  25. Ben Kinnard

    thanks Fred, love hearing Albert talk about the future and basic incomes, I hadn’t seen this elsewhere