Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Lawyers, doctors and public servants in firing line from rise of the machines

I have been hearing this scare for at least 60 years and it never eventuates.  It is true that some jobs become non-existent through automation but, as long as governments don't meddle, new jobs always open up to use the newly-freed labour.  Human services are where the replacement jobs often are -- from computer programming at the high end to waitresses at the low end.  Sadly, many of the new jobs are in government bureaucracies,  with minimal useful productivity

Machines will end about 40 per cent of today's Australian jobs within two decades and they're coming for middle class occupations, one of the nation's automation experts has warned.

University of Sydney professor of data science and machine learning Hugh Durrant-Whyte said Canberra's public servants would be among those in the firing line.

"All jobs that are primarily analysis are capable of automation," he said.  "Those middle jobs will go, the question is whether these people move up to better policy making, or simply out."

Australia was one of the world's largest users of robotics in the mining, transport and agriculture sectors, but the "hollowing out" of middle-tier white collar roles was just beginning, he said.

"The curious thing about automatisation and particularly computerisation is that the jobs that are going are not the ones at the low end of the market, it's the people in the middle like journalists, doctors, lawyers, assistants, bank tellers," he said.

Professor Durrant-Whyte, who will speak in Canberra next month, said machine learning meant computers could now do everything from write reports, sell insurance and constantly monitor and advise on an individual's health.

The professor, 54, was a co-author of the Australia's Future Workforce? report, published by think tank CEDA last year, which said almost 5 million jobs – 40 per cent of the workforce – faced a high probability of being replaced by technology within 20 years, and another 18 per cent had a medium probability of their roles being eliminated.

The challenge was how to prepare people for the top-tier jobs that would remain and be created, not those at the bottom.

A former chief executive of NICTA, the nation's peak information and communications technology research body, Professor Durrant-Whyte backed the federal government's pushing of coding in Australian schools, and said Canberra was as well-placed as any city to adapt to the coming workforce revolution.

"The most important thing you've got is the ANU, you have the capacity not just to think through but act through these sorts of things through the enormous human capacity [there]," he said.

But the Brit, who spent a decade at Oxford before his move to Sydney, said signing up for science, technology, engineering or mathematics degrees was not an answer in itself, with many of those graduates finding it hard to land a related job.

"I think it's more the issue that we need to ensure those people have the transferable skills to apply that STEM knowledge in other wealth creation activities," he said.



Changes to Victoria's bush will have to be accepted under global warming: scientists

This is on the whole broadly sensible but it will be used to justify bans on almost all logging. So timber and paper will have to be almost wholly imported and local livelihoods will be affected in many areas

There will be no choice but to accept permanent changes to Victoria's beloved bushland as climate change worsens, some of the state's leading environmental scientists say.

Accepting those changes could force a rethink of how some areas are protected and restored in order to give Victoria's threatened wildlife species the best chances of survival in warmer conditions.

The need to accept change is one of the main findings of a landmark symposium that drew together research on the pressures global warming is placing on Victoria's unique plants and animals, and what might be done to protect them.

The results of the symposium, held last year, have been turned into a series of 10 measures that scientists say should be taken to lessen the climate blow on nature, which will be released online on Monday under the title VicNature 2050.

They include ramping up many traditional conservation efforts, such as eradicating pest threats, stopping habitat clearing, and the protecting of reserves. But there are limits, and another recommendation says, "we will have no choice but to accept more changes in natural areas than we are accustomed to".

"There is no simple answer. But accepting that some things are going to change is something that has not quite got across to a lot of people yet," Professor Ary Hoffmann, from the Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne, told Fairfax Media,.

"There is a mindset that has to shift, that all of a sudden we're not trying to revert things back to a pristine position."

One example raised was whether alpine ash trees should be continued to be reseeded in the Alpine National Park after bushfires, which become more frequent and intense in Victoria under many future climate change scenarios.

To replace dead trees after recent fires, authorities sowed 1800 hectares of alpine ash seeds. But needing 20 years to be fully established, questions were raised at the symposium about whether the same species should be reseeded again if another bushfire wiped the seedlings out.

Professor Hoffmann said that in areas where the alpine ash could still survive it should be protected and restored. But in some places, more fire-resilient tree species might need to be considered in the face of a more frequent fire threat, to ensure continued species habitat.

"We may have to accept the fact there is not much point trying to recreate that environment, and have a debate about what this area should look like so you are still preserving the ecosystem function of those areas," he said.

Evidence presented to the the symposium last year found climate change would by 2050 increase the average temperature of Victoria by 1.5 to 2.5 degrees. This would create similar climate conditions to Wagga Wagga.

Professor Andrew Bennett, an ecologist from La Trobe University and the Arthur Rylah​ Institute, said it was still important to ensure existing natural systems were as robust as possible, such as protection of vegetation and eradicating feral pests, to give threatened species the best chance under climate change.

For instance, he said his group's research had shown Victorian bird species had recovered better from the record-breaking millenium drought in areas with well vegetated streams and riversides as opposed to those which were cleared.

Professor Bennett said he took a cautious approach to adopting new wildlife species to prepare for future climates, and the first step should be trials in already cleared areas.

The "managing Victoria's biodiversity under climate change" symposium was organised by the Victorian National Parks Association, the Royal Society of Victoria and the University of Melbourne.


Blackface Aboriginal costume dress up criticized

I can't see who is hurt by this. Are Japanese women who blond their hair offensive?  Are black women who straighten their hair offensive?  There's an old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so this could be seen as a tribute to blacks

TWO partygoers have been labelled "redneck scumbags" after a controversial photo shared on social media showed them dressed as Aborigines with painted black faces.

Victorian woman and indigenous education worker Sis Austin shared images taken from a party at the weekend after confronting the person who uploaded them to social media.

In one picture two men are dressed as Aborigines with their faces painted black.

Another picture taken from the same party shows a woman with a painted black face, dressed like 2000 Olympic gold medallist Cathy Freeman.

But Daylesford woman Ms Austin ended up on the receiving end and was called a bully and horrible person who should be ashamed of herself for sharing the images.

The two as yet unidentified men had attended an Aussie icon party near Learmonth Football Club in Victoria on Saturday.

The photos were taken by what she calls "people who were her high school friends" and "a few close ones at that".

That changed once she raised the point it was disrespectful to indigenous Australians.

Ms Austin’s post soon went viral and was picked up by high-profile indigenous rapper and Yorta Yorta man Adam Briggs who went on to share the post, and said anyone defending the men can go and "**** themselves".

Briggs described the pair as "redneck scumbags" on Facebook.

But while the hip hop artist ended up getting a lot of support, many jumped to the defence of the men and Briggs ended up on the receiving end himself before shutting them down.

Others also came to Briggs’ defence including hip hop chart toppers The Hilltop Hoods, and indigenous Australian singer/songwriter Thelma Plum who shared the controversial black face image on her social media feeds.

Plum, who called the partygoers "disgusting little boys" also shared their image on her Twitter and Instagram feed, encouraging people to name and shame them.

In an interview with Sky News, the host of the party said the backlash was "political correctness gone wrong" and the men in the photos were his best mates who are "decent Australian blokes".

"People wear Oktoberfest costumes to parties and no one cracks it that they are not German? So what I am saying is I do understand the people who have painted themselves have offended people, although none of them intended that"


How Australia has come out on top in this currency war

'The fall in the Australian dollar has helped support the recovery and restructure the economy, so it is a good example of how a floating exchange rate should act,' says Amplifying Global FX Capital director Greg Gibbs.

'The fall in the Australian dollar has helped support the recovery and restructure the economy, so it is a good example of how a floating exchange rate should act,' says Amplifying Global FX Capital director Greg Gibbs.

The Australian dollar's plunge to a seven-year low is turning out to be a blessing as China steers its slowing economy away from the heavy industries that helped fuel the country's mining boom.

It's more than four years since a record-high Aussie threatened to destroy manufacturing and hamstring the economy. Instead, the currency's steepest three-year slide since it was floated in 1983 is working its magic -- a weaker local dollar has spurred record tourist arrivals and education income. And it's tempered the drag from iron ore's plunge to unprecedented lows while making the nation home to the world's lowest-cost miners.

Australia stands out in getting the currency boost it needs at a time when economies the world over are grappling with exchange rates considered undesirable. The Aussie is in line with economic fundamentals, after being 25 per cent or more overvalued in 2013. China is struggling to curb yuan declines and Saudi Arabia is burning through reserves to maintain its peg to a strengthening greenback. Policymakers in Europe and Japan have pushed interest rates below zero, risking accusations of competitive devaluations.

"The fall in the Australian dollar has helped support the recovery and restructure the economy, so it is a good example of how a floating exchange rate should act," said Greg Gibbs, director of Amplifying Global FX Capital in Colorado, who has spent over two decades in the currency markets including stints at the Reserve Bank of Australia and with lenders in Sydney, New York, London and Singapore.

RBA governor Glenn Stevens stopped calling for a weaker currency in August and subsequent declines drove the Aussie closer to fair value than at any time since the global financial crisis, according to a measure of purchasing power parity based on producer prices.

Stevens pointed in December to new opportunities for growth as Asia's middle class demands more services, energy and food, filling the economic vacuum left by a contraction in mining investment.

The impact of the Aussie's decline has been particularly apparent in the "sizeable contribution" of services exports to growth, the RBA said in November, acknowledging the labor- intensive sector's role in helping to push unemployment to a two-year low.

The currency has also absorbed much of the impact of a more than 60 per cent slide in prices for iron ore and coal from their 2011 highs. Earnings from goods shipments fell just 14 per cent till November from a peak two years earlier, also aided by rising volumes of Australia's main resources as the mining boom's bounty comes on line.

"In many ways Australia has proven to be unbelievably lucky once again," said Klaus Baader, chief Asia-Pacific economist at Societe Generale SA in Hong Kong. The Aussie was high when the country needed to import capital goods to build new mines and now it's fallen "very significantly, which helps to contain production costs and it's contributed to making Australia very competitive even at lower prices."

At 9:00am, the Aussie traded at US70.84¢ having fallen 36 per cent from a post-float record of $US1.1081 reached in July 2011 at the height of the mining bonanza. It averaged more than $US1 for three years to the middle of 2013, spurring Stevens to signal the need for currency depreciation -- and to cut interest rates -- to wean the economy off a dependence on resource-sector spending. Forecasters see it at US69¢ cents by year-end.

The Aussie is 1.2 per cent overvalued according to the purchase price parity (PPP) measure. It reached about fair value at the end of September from being about 30 per cent overvalued as recently as three years ago.

While the RBA's battle with foreign-exchange traders appears to have ended, China's has just begun.

China has run down reserves, squeezed traders in Hong Kong with 67 per cent overnight borrowing costs and used state media to warn speculators, including billionaire investor George Soros, to deter bets on rapid yuan depreciation. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, used 16 per cent of its currency stockpile last year to defend the riyal while Mexico's shrank to a two-year low in November amid intervention to bolster the peso.

Australia's transition toward non-mining activity is synchronised with China's move toward consumer-driven growth, opening up opportunities for the nation's most populous states New South Wales and Victoria, which had been at the periphery of the mining boom, Treasurer Scott Morrison said in last month.

The Aussie's drop "makes us far more competitive," he said. "Our economy is broadening, it's diversifying and this is very important. Our economy in the future, and even now, will be less dependent on one market, one commodity, one part of what we do."


No comments: