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02 Sep 14:20

Former Countrywide CEO Still Says He Did No Wrong, Still Refers To Self In Third-Person

by Chris Morran

mozilolovemoziloIt’s been a while since we’ve heard from Angelo Mozilo, the curiously orange-tinted former CEO of Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender during the housing boom; a mansion built on a swampland of toxic loans given out to just about anyone who applied. And even though Countrywide, a Worst Company In America winner, had to be bailed out by Bank of America — a deal that has since cost BofA at least $40 billion in settlements, penalties, write-downs, and legal fees — and even though Mozilo’s sunny mug will forever be seen as the face of the mortgage meltdown, he still doesn’t really see the problem. He also continues to refer to himself in the third person.

“No, no, no, we didn’t do anything wrong,” he tells Bloomberg about claims that Countrywide precipitated the housing market crisis by issuing loans for houses that were grotesquely overpriced to borrowers that could not possibly have paid the money back. “Countrywide or Mozilo didn’t cause any of that.”

Mozilo settled with the SEC back in 2010 for around $67 million but, like all other top financial execs responsible for the mortgage crisis, has escaped any criminal prosecution from a Justice Dept. that was too terrified of wreaking further havoc in the banking world.

With regard to reports that the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles is now planning to sue him for his misdeeds in the lead-up to the spectacular failure of Countrywide and its loan servicing portfolio that was once worth around $1.5 trillion, Mozilo tells Bloomberg, “You’ll have to ask those people, ‘What do you have against Mozilo, what did he do?’… Countrywide didn’t change. I didn’t change. The world changed.”

He says he’s being punished for running a successful company.

“Should Amazon be condemned for being the biggest in their space?” asks Mozilo, glossing over the fact that Amazon is selling books, DVDs, clothes, lamps, and mini-tanks. If Amazon suddenly got into the business of writing billions of dollars in worthless subprime mortgages which are then sold off to investors who aren’t told that they are buying bundles of crap, then yes… condemnation would be in order.

Mozilo can’t legally be the CEO of a corporation, but like the rest of the folks that should be in jail right now, he is doing just fine, living in a house that is probably much bigger than yours and occasionally teaching finance to college student in Italy.

“I taught them the basics of finance based on my own experiences,” he explains in a rare instance of using a first-person pronoun.

Here’s another famous crook who loved the sound of his own name (possibly NSFW).

26 Aug 08:27

zacharys-pain: the-misadventures-of-lele: flaming-ducks: th...







woop, there it is.

wake up

29 Aug 19:00

If Christopher Nolan Directed Pixar's The Incredibles

by Chris Person

If Christopher Nolan Directed Pixar's The Incredibles

The Incredibles is already a dark movie at points — It deals with ideas of individuality and conformity, even if it is in a wacky cartoon shell. I'm just glad The Dark Knight director Chris Nolan didn't get his hands on it.

In the video above, Youtuber Bobby Burns uses the deranged rantings of villain Syndrome to transform The Incredibles from a fun family romp into the bleak existential action flick it always wanted to be. All that is missing is Christian Bale's hoarse, grizzled voice as Mr. Incredible.

To be fair, at least it's not as bad as Michael Bay directing Up.

Bobby Burns via Devour

To contact the author of this post, write to or find him on Twitter at @papapishu.

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29 Aug 02:53


28 Aug 17:20

The Pentagon's "Everything Must Go" Sale

by Brad

With the media attention now shifting towards the U.S. government’s 1033 program in the wake of a heavily militarized response against the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, Reason.TV has “unearthed” the Pentagon’s never-seen-before advertisement showcasing a wide selection of military-grade arms and weaponry at crazy bargain prices)!

27 Aug 20:00

How To Walk Around Walls Using The Fourth Dimension

by Stephen Totilo

The above video will not help you in real, three-dimensional life. But it should help you understand how you'd be able to move if you could sidestep your way into a fourth spatial dimension—sort of like what might happen if a character in a 2D cartoon leapt into our 3D world.

This fourth-dimension stuff will be possible in the video game Miegakure, a long-in-the-making indie for PC, Mac and Linux that I've been writing about since it first started bending my brain in 2010.

What you're seeing above is a trailer for it. The game's title is Japanese for "hidden from sight," a fitting name, since, technically, it is displayed on a 2D screen and is showing 3D "slices" of a 4D world that is physically impossible for us to see or for a computer screen to display all at once.

You can read more about the trailer from the game's creator over at the official Miegakure blog. There is no release date yet, but Ten Bosch is showing the game in the big indie booth at this weekend's PAX convention in Seattle.

To contact the author of this post, write to or find him on Twitter @stephentotilo.

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27 Aug 23:00

Peeling A Pineapple

by (Joanne Casey)
19 Aug 18:59

Former Comcast Employee Makes Best Argument Yet For Blocking Time Warner Cable Merger

by Chris Morran

Since Comcast announced it would be buying Time Warner Cable, we’ve brought you story after story highlighting the various reasons that the merger should be stopped. But for all the thousands of words, charts, graphs and maps we’ve used, none has summed up the reason for blocking the merger than a recent quote from a former Kabletown staffer.

The Verge’s Adrianne Jeffries has written a compelling and thoughtfully researched piece that anyone even vaguely interested in this topic should read.

But it’s a closing comment from a former Comcast billing systems manager who left the company in 2013 that puts the cherry on top:

“This is not getting bigger to provide cheaper service, or economies of scale, or to provide better service,” the onetime Comcast staffer explains. “This is getting bigger for the sake of bigness. This is really like, ‘I own 10 Subway stores and now I want an 11th one.’… Well, if your 10 Subway stores have Cs from the health department, I don’t know if you should get an 11th one. Maybe you should work on getting them cleaned out.”

That’s a message that every FCC commissioner and every antitrust investigator at the Justice Dept. should have pinned to their cubicle wall.

25 Aug 20:00

Super Smash Bros. Match Reaches Dragon Ball Z-Level Insanity

by Yannick LeJacq

Super Smash Bros. Match Reaches Dragon Ball Z-Level Insanity

Sudden death is always tense in Super Smash Bros. Everybody starts out with 300% damage. Anything can happen. The slightest touch can send someone spinning into outer space. Or, a battle can drag on against the most insane odds to become a nail-biter to end all nail-biters.

YouTuber KeiTakumi just uploaded a video showing Fox and Falco locked in the most insane sudden death match from Super Smash Bros. Brawl that I've ever seen. Like, Dragon Ball Z-levels of insanity—hence the video's "DBZ Type Shit" title. The footage is actually pulled from a tool-assisted video first uploaded way back in 2013, which I've put above for reference.

The two characters just keep pounding each other, snaking their way across every corner of the map and somehow managing to stay afloat thanks to the endless pummeling. The video is tool-assisted, unfortunately, so these two fighters didn't pull off the superhuman levitation-type combat on their own. But still, it's a real treat to watch this sort of frenetic energy unload for almost a minute straight.

The new Super Smash Bros. games really can't come soon enough, can they?

UPDATE (4:50 pm): A very helpful reader pointed me to the original video, and I've now replaced that in favor of the audio-less version I discovered today. This video is still one of the most insane Super Smash Bros. matches I've ever seen. Apologies for misleading any readers with the more recent video I originally posted.

To contact the author of this post, write to or find him on Twitter at @YannickLeJacq.

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26 Aug 00:15

The World's Most Expensive Comic Sold For Over $3 Million

by Luke Plunkett

The World's Most Expensive Comic Sold For Over $3 Million

A copy of the first issue of Action Comics, released in June 1938, sold this week at auction for $3,207,852.00. Not bad considering it sold for $0.10 when first released. If you've never seen or heard of this comic before, and are wondering what the fuss would be, it's the one where Superman makes his debut.

The comic is valuable not just for its rarity - there aren't many original, unrestored copies of #1 left in the world - but also its condition. Despite never having been sealed in glass or plastic, the issue in question was in remarkable shape (it's pages weren't even yellow), thanks to the fact it was kept in a cedar box in the mountains, co-incidentally achieving the optimal conditions for the preservation of paper.

In all, 48 bids were made on the comic. The leap from $0.99 to $1 million sure is something.

A Record-Setting Superman Comic Leapt Over $3 Million in a Single Bound [Fast Co.]

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22 Aug 17:17

scotchjazzdusk: "How can you go arrest someone if they haven’t...


"How can you go arrest someone if they haven’t violated the law?"

20 Aug 23:23

Florida anti-pot leader: weed is a date rape drug and will make you gay and vulnerable to AIDS

by Mark Frauenfelder

A vast majority of Floridians, including Republicans, are in favor of medical marijuana. That means Florida's Amendment 2 ballot initiative, which legalizes medical marijuana, is likely to pass in November.

This is alarming to the neo-Anslinger crowd, which has formed an anti-marijuana group called Drug Free Florida, with the single goal of defeating the amendment. It's headed up by 73-year-old Carlton E Turner, who served as Ronald Reagan's drug czar and coined the slogan "Just Say No." Turner was an instrumental figure in the escalation of the War on Drugs, which sent millions of non-violent people to prison around the world, provided funding for terrorist groups, created widespread government corruption, incubated ruthless drug cartels, and led to the establishment of violent militarized police.

In 1986, when Turner was a big swinging dick in Washington, he stated in a Newsweek magazine article that he had visited drug treatment centers and learned that 40% of the patients had engaged in homosexual activity, concluding that their homosexuality “seems to be something that follows along from their marijuana use ... my concern is, how is the biological system affected by heavy marijuana use? The public needs to be thinking about how drugs alter people’s lifestyles.”

Drug Free Florida is Turner's last chance to inflict large-scale massive pain and suffering.

Aiding Turner is gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson who, thanks to the millions of people who've blown their paychecks at his casinos, is one of the richest men in the world. Adelson contributed $2.5 million to the organization.

With that much ill-gotten gain in its coffers, Drug Free Florida has apparently decided to drop the anti-drug crusading mission and become a comedy website instead. Take a look at their latest parody ad: pot cookies are a date rape drug.

If Adelson kicks in a few more million, Drug Free Florida could give Funny or Die some real competition!

This May Be The Worst Anti-Marijuana Ad of All Time

Security researchers buy pornoscanner, demonstrate how to sneak in guns & bombs

Researchers from UCSD, the U Michigan, and Johns Hopkins will present their work on the Rapiscan Secure 1000 at Usenix Security tomorrow; the Secure 1000 isn't used in airports anymore, but it's still in courts, jails, and government security checkpoints (researchers can't yet get their hands on the millimeter machines used at airports).

Officer Go Fuck Yourself says: "I will fucking kill you!"

According to the ACLU, Officer Go Fuck Yourself has just been removed from duty in Ferguson. (footage via @RebelutionaryZ)

A video about cybersecurity that you should really watch

Dan Geer's Black Hat 2014 talk Cybersecurity as Realpolitik (also available as text) is thoughtful, smart, vital, and cuts through -- then ties together -- strands of security, liability, governance, privacy, and fairness, and is a veritable manifesto for a better world.

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21 Aug 02:49

Child arrested after writing story about shooting a dinosaur

by Rob Beschizza

dinosafari"Investigators say the teacher contacted school officials after seeing the message containing the words "gun" and "take care of business," and police were then notified on Tuesday."

Hit-and-run suspect to victim: "Look what you did to my car"

Ryan Hamilton might not have seen the Nissan Altima coming outside of his home in New Jersey. After all, it was 2:30 a.m.

On writing fantasy: it's Narnia business

Lev Grossman, author of The Magician's Land, recalls the journey that took him from a Harvard and Yale-proscribed life of reading classics to writing fantasy novels, and how much it liberated him.

Florida anti-pot leader: weed is a date rape drug and will make you gay and vulnerable to AIDS

A vast majority of Floridians, including Republicans, are in favor of medical marijuana. That means Florida's Amendment 2 ballot initiative, which legalizes medical marijuana, is likely to pass in November.

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16 Aug 04:18

chescaleigh: First You See What The Town Looks Like. Then, See...

16 Aug 04:12

jackviolet: The cop who shot a dog in front of its 6 year old owner was fired after outrage from...


The cop who shot a dog in front of its 6 year old owner was fired after outrage from the community and a “Justice for Apollo” campaign.

The cop who shot an unarmed black teen is on paid leave and remains protected by his department. So far, days of outrage and protest have still not brought any justice to Mike Brown.

In America, in 2014, the life of a black man is valued less than that of a dog.



20 Aug 21:30

500HP Electric Sportscar With Shelby Chassis Does 0 - 60MPH in 3.4 Seconds, Available Next Year

electric-sportscar-1.jpg This is the Renovo Coupe, a 500HP electric sports car with a Shelby American chassis (based on the 1964 - 65 Shelby Daytona Coupe) and 1,000 ft-pounds of torque that can rocket you from 0 - 60MPH in 3.4 seconds. For reference, it takes my car almost a minute and a half to get up to 55MPH, at which point it feels like it's going to shake itself apart and explode. Still, all the ladies love it. "What is it?" A flower delivery van. Keep going for several more shots and a video. If you're interested in buying one, buy me one too.
21 Aug 11:19

Brigham Young Boots Gay Greeting Cards

by Joe Jervis
Brigham Young University has told Hallmark to get those gay greeting cards off of the racks.
Placed by Hallmark, the cards reading "Mr. and Mr." and "Mrs. and Mrs." were quickly removed when bookstore staff discovered them after photos surfaced online. The outside vendor stocked the shelves without realizing the school wouldn't want to sell the cards marketed to buyers celebrating unions between two brides and two grooms, BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said. Asked why they were removed, Jenkins referenced the BYU honor code. It states that while being attracted to people of the same gender doesn't violate the honor code, acting on those feelings is a violation. "Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings," it states.
19 Aug 04:00

August 19, 2014

18 Aug 21:01

Cuteness Overload: Link + Zelda Forever

by Brad
19 Aug 08:06

What a Twist!

by Brad
19 Aug 20:30

Police op-ed: 'Do what I tell you,' I may shoot you if you 'threaten to sue me'

by Xeni Jardin
A police officer raises his weapon at a car speeding in his general direction as a more vocal and confrontational group of demonstrators stands on the sidewalk during further protests in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters in Ferguson, Missouri on Monday, after days of unrest sparked by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A police officer raises his weapon at a car speeding in his general direction as a more vocal and confrontational group of demonstrators stands on the sidewalk during further protests in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters in Ferguson, Missouri on Monday, after days of unrest sparked by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Ladies and gentlemen, an officer of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?

Got it.

"Sunil Dutta, a professor of homeland security at Colorado Tech University, has been an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department for 17 years."

Here's the rest of his essay in the Washington Post.

Robin Sloan on Ye Olde Geek Shoppe

At Medium, Robin Sloan writes an appreciation of Nerdhaven, the archetypal shop in Everytown "catering to comic book readers, the D&D players, the gatherers-of-Magic."

Copyright extortion startup wants to hijack your browser until you pay

Rightscorp, the extortion-based startup whose business-model is blackmailing Internet users over unproven accusations of infringement, made record revenues last quarter, thanks to cowardly ISPs who agreed to lock 75,000 users out of the Web until they sent Rightscorp $20-$500 in protection money.

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18 Aug 06:30

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Ferguson, MO and Police Militarization (HBO)

by LastWeekTonight
In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, John Oliver explores the racial inequality in treatment by police as well as the increasing mil...
Views: 3726451
44737 ratings
Time: 15:10 More in Film & Animation
14 Aug 17:52

MeFi: "Respectfully officer, I don't have to answer that."

by joseph conrad is fully awesome
16 Aug 06:37

Twitch Plays Pokemon: The Cartoon

by Don

Helix be praised!


YouTuber lightsen animated what Twitch Plays Pokemon might look like if it were a cartoon.

16 Aug 17:00

Star Citizen Teases, Racing, First-Person Shooting

by Mike Fahey

Star Citizen Teases, Racing, First-Person Shooting

Every time I think Chris Roberts' gorgeous crowdfunded space sim couldn't possibly get any better, the folks at Roberts Space Industries release teaser videos for things like spaceship racing and first-person shooter modules.

Most exciting for me is the upcoming racing module for Star Citizen, which adds what looks like planet-based competitive racing to the already extensive list of things to do in your pretty spaceship.

Kind of a Wipeout vibe going on there, which I really dig. Racing will be available in game version 0.9. As reader Sig Ra points out, you can catch a live -ish demo of racing in action over on Twitch.

Then there's this.

Yes, the space sim is adding first-person shooting. During his presentation at Gamescom this weekend, Chris Roberts named Illfonic as the studio working on this particular module, which we'll learn more about at PAX Australia this year. Shooter fans may remember Illfonic as the studio behind Nexuiz for the Xbox 360 and PC.

That's a lot of gameplay being packed into a single title. But wait, there's more!

New hangars!

And a commercial for the coolest damn ship I've yet seen for the game, the Constellation.

You can keep up with all the new reveals over at the official Star Citizen website. I swear this game is going to kill me.

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15 Aug 05:34

Beware the Refreshment

Some people just can't handle their drinks!
15 Aug 19:14

Potato Salad Guy Announces PotatoStock 2014

by Brad

Zach Brown, the jokester from Columbus, Ohio who somehow managed to raise over $55,000 in crowdfunding via Kickstarter, announced that he will spend the money to host a day-long benefit concert to raise more money to combat poverty and homelessness in the local community.

15 Aug 21:03

Double Feature: Lonkin Park & Petch Perfect

by Brad
14 Aug 18:35

Founder Of One Laptop Per Child: Maybe Net Neutrality Isn’t Such A Good Idea After All

by Kate Cox

I found this whole talk fascinating. I'm still not convinced that there is an acceptable middle ground, but I'm left more certain than ever that the Telcos are the last people who could possibly find it.

The FCC is still working through the public comments about their current net neutrality proposal, and it will be many months still before any final rule is made. But one industry veteran, with over four decades of experience in defining the digital world, suggests that maybe we want to slow down and rethink this a bit. What if, he suggests, true net neutrality isn’t actually everything we think it’s cracked up to be?

Nicholas Negroponte spoke with Big Think about the impossibility — and undesirability — of true neutrality in an entirely digital world.

Negroponte is not a new player in the world of high tech. His career in computer technology spans more than 40 years. He’s the chairman emeritus of the MIT media lab and founder of One Laptop Per Child. He also helped launch Wired, where he wrote a monthly column about the increasing transformation of everything into digital things. Negroponte’s 1996 book Being Digital discussed the eventual doom of physical media (like the then still relatively new CD-ROM) and shift into a world of, as he frequently says, bits, not atoms.

In other words, the man is an expert who’s been in the field for a long time, and who has no fear of the digital future (and the digital now). And yet, he says, net neutrality is not actually a good idea.

“The term net neutrality has a little bit of a pejorative ring,” says Negroponte. “How would you want something not to be neutral? … Neutrality seems to be a feature of good. And so yeah, you kind of want this to be net neutral,” he says.

But, there’s, well, a “but.”

“But the truth is all bits are not created equal,” Negroponte continues, explaining just how much more data — how many more bits — some kinds of technology use than others. An entire book, digitized, is about a megabyte. One second of HD video, though, is more than a megabyte. And it’s not just about entertainment or communication. With the internet of things dawning, everything needs access to a connection.

Take medical devices, for example. “If you have a pacemaker that transmits — this is an imaginary pacemaker now that communicates and monitors your health by sending data up to the cloud,” Negroponte suggests. “Then a few bits of your heart data are, you know, a small fraction of a book. So you have bits that represent your heart, bits that represent books, and bits that represent video. And so,” he concludes, “to argue that they’re all equal is crazy.”

Using Negroponte’s example makes his conclusion ring true. Literal life and death, in that case, would hang on the ability for certain data to move unimpeded at all times. Losing a stream of Breaking Bad halfway through a season finale might be irritating, but it’s not anywhere near the same league as interfering with a lifesaving medical device.

What we need, then, is some kind of middle ground, Negroponte suggests — but he also doesn’t quite suggest where that might be. Instead, he likens available bandwidth to a limited natural physical resource. If it’s immoral to use up all of the air, or water, or oil on frivolous things, is it perhaps also immoral to use up the internet?

“Those of us who were there at the beginning of the Internet never imagined that Netflix would represent 40 percent of it on Sunday afternoons,” Negroponte explains. “It was just off the charts. We just didn’t think that. There is, to me, a certain morality in that, because why the hell are you streaming video? Maybe streaming should be illegal.”

“But,” he concludes, “the point being, that all bits aren’t created equal and whether that resolves itself into net neutrality or not net neutrality is a separate story.”

Negroponte has a point: all bits may not be equal! But the most important, vital bits of data moving around are sometimes not owned by the company with the most money to spend on moving them through.

If, as Negroponte implies, all data traffic doesn’t need to be treated equally, then the next discussion becomes the question of who gets to decide for everyone else what traffic gets priority, and what gets sideline into oblivion. And that discussion is both loaded and challenging. We can all agree that pacemakers are important, sure. But are cloud-connected cars? Refrigerators? Thermostats? Ceiling fans?

And what about all that streaming video? Netflix is huge but they’re not the only streaming game in town. As we’ve seen from around the country and around the world, live streams of major events, from everyday citizens and from media, are one of the best ways for audiences to learn about major news events. What person, group, company, or other entity then would determine whose information is most important for the world to be able to learn?

Negroponte, alas, doesn’t float a suggestion to the questions his assertion raises. But he is sure that digital technology, in whatever form, is still the future.

The (6-minute) video and full transcript are available on the Big Think.

15 Aug 15:46

Humans Need Not Apply

by C. G. P. Grey

Further Reading:



Every human used to have to hunt or gather to survive. But humans are smart-ly lazy so we made tools to make our work easier. From sticks, to plows to tractors we’ve gone from everyone needing to make food to, modern agriculture with almost no one needing to make food — and yet we still have abundance.

Of course, it’s not just farming, it’s everything. We’ve spent the last several thousand years building tools to reduce physical labor of all kinds. These are mechanical muscles — stronger, more reliable, and more tireless than human muscles could ever be.

And that's a good thing. Replacing human labor with mechanical muscles frees people to specialize and that leaves everyone better off even though still doing physical labor. This is how economies grow and standards of living rise.

Some people have specialized to be programmers and engineers whose job is to build mechanical minds. Just as mechanical muscles made human labor less in demand so are mechanical minds making human brain labor less in demand.

This is an economic revolution. You may think we've been here before, but we haven't.

This time is different.

Physical Labor

When you think of automation, you probably think of this: giant, custom-built, expensive, efficient but really dumb robots blind to the world and their own work. There were a scary kind of automation but they haven't taken over the world because they're only cost effective in narrow situations.

But they are the old kind of automation, this is the new kind.

Meet Baxter.

Unlike these things which require skilled operators and technicians and millions of dollars, Baxter has vision and can learn what you want him to do by watching you do it. And he costs less than the average annual salary of a human worker. Unlike his older brothers he isn't pre-programmed for one specific job, he can do whatever work is within the reach of his arms. Baxter is what might be thought of as a general purpose robot and general purpose is a big deal.

Think computers, they too started out as highly custom and highly expensive, but when cheap-ish general-purpose computers appeared they quickly became vital to everything.

A general-purpose computer can just as easily calculate change or assign seats on an airplane or play a game or do anything by just swapping its software. And this huge demand for computers of all kinds is what makes them both more powerful and cheaper every year.

Baxter today is the computer in the 1980s. He’s not the apex but the beginning. Even if Baxter is slow his hourly cost is pennies worth of electricity while his meat-based competition costs minimum wage. A tenth the speed is still cost effective when it's a hundred times cheaper. And while Baxtor isn't as smart as some of the other things we will talk about, he's smart enough to take over many low-skill jobs.

And we've already seen how dumber robots than Baxter can replace jobs. In new supermarkets what used to be 30 humans is now one human overseeing 30 cashier robots.

Or the hundreds of thousand baristas employed world-wide? There’s a barista robot coming for them. Sure maybe your guy makes your double-mocha-whatever just perfect and you’d never trust anyone else -- but millions of people don’t care and just want a decent cup of coffee. Oh and by the way this robot is actually a giant network of robots that remembers who you are and how you like your coffee no matter where you are. Pretty convenient.

We think of technological change as the fancy new expensive stuff, but the real change comes from last decade's stuff getting cheaper and faster. That's what's happening to robots now. And because their mechanical minds are capable of decision making they are out-competing humans for jobs in a way no pure mechanical muscle ever could.

Luddite Horses

Imagine a pair of horses in the early 1900s talking about technology. One worries all these new mechanical muscles will make horses unnecessary.

The other reminds him that everything so far has made their lives easier -- remember all that farm work? Remember running coast-to-coast delivering mail? Remember riding into battle? All terrible. These city jobs are pretty cushy -- and with so many humans in the cities there are more jobs for horses than ever.

Even if this car thingy takes off you might say, there will be new jobs for horses we can't imagine.

But you, dear viewer, from beyond 2000 know what happened -- there are still working horses, but nothing like before. The horse population peaked in 1915 -- from that point on it was nothing but down.

There isn’t a rule of economics that says better technology makes more, better jobs for horses. It sounds shockingly dumb to even say that out loud, but swap horses for humans and suddenly people think it sounds about right.

As mechanical muscles pushed horses out of the economy, mechanical minds will do the same to humans. Not immediately, not everywhere, but in large enough numbers and soon enough that it's going to be a huge problem if we are not prepared. And we are not prepared.

You, like the second horse, may look at the state of technology now and think it can’t possibly replace your job. But technology gets better, cheaper, and faster at a rate biology can’t match.

Just as the car was the beginning of the end for the horse so now does the car show us the shape of things to come.


Self-driving cars aren't the future: they're here and they work. Self-driving cars have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles up and down the California coast and through cities -- all without human intervention.

The question is not if they'll replaces cars, but how quickly. They don’t need to be perfect, they just need to be better than us. Humans drivers, by the way, kill 40,000 people a year with cars just in the United States. Given that self-driving cars don’t blink, don’t text while driving, don’t get sleepy or stupid, it easy to see them being better than humans because they already are.

Now to describe self-driving cars as cars at all is like calling the first cars mechanical horses. Cars in all their forms are so much more than horses that using the name limits your thinking about what they can even do. Lets call self-driving cars what they really are:

Autos: the solution to the transport-objects-from-point-A-to-point-B problem. Traditional cars happen to be human sized to transport humans but tiny autos can work in wear houses and gigantic autos can work in pit mines. Moving stuff around is who knows how many jobs but the transportation industry in the United States employs about three million people. Extrapolating world-wide that’s something like 70 million jobs at a minimum.

These jobs are over.

The usual argument is that unions will prevent it. But history is filled with workers who fought technology that would replace them and the workers always loose. Economics always wins and there are huge incentives across wildly diverse industries to adopt autos.

For many transportation companies, the humans are about a third of their total costs. That's just the straight salary costs. Humans sleeping in their long haul trucks costs time and money. Accidents cost money. Carelessness costs money. If you think insurance companies will be against it, guess what? Their perfect driver is one who pays their small premium but never gets into an accident.

The autos are coming and they're the first place where most people will really see the robots changing society. But there are many other places in the economy where the same thing is happening, just less visibly.

So it goes with autos, so it goes for everything.

The Shape of Things to Come

It's easy to look at Autos and Baxters and think: technology has always gotten rid of low-skill jobs we don't want people doing anyway. They'll get more skilled and do better educated jobs -- like they've always done.

Even ignoring the problem of pushing a hundred-million additional people through higher education, white-collar work is no safe haven either. If your job is sitting in front of a screen and typing and clicking -- like maybe you're supposed to be doing right now -- the bots are coming for you too, buddy.

Software bots are both intangible and way faster and cheaper than physical robots. Given that white collar workers are, from a companies perspective, both more expensive and more numerous -- the incentive to automate their work is greater than low skilled work.

And that's just what automation engineers are for. These are skilled programmers whose entire job is to replace your job with a software bot.

You may think even the world's smartest automation engineer could never make a bot to do your job -- and you may be right -- but the cutting edge of programming isn't super-smart programmers writing bots it's super-smart programmers writing bots that teach themselves how to do things the programmer could never teach them to do.

How that works is well beyond the scope of this video, but the bottom line is there are limited ways to show a bot a bunch of stuff to do, show the bot a bunch of correctly done stuff, and it can figure out how to do the job to be done.

Even with just a goal and no example of how to do it the bots can still learn. Take the stock market which, in many ways, is no longer a human endeavor. It's mostly bots that taught themselves to trade stocks, trading stocks with other bots that taught themselves.

Again: it's not bots that are executing orders based on what their human controllers want, it's bots making the decisions of what to buy and sell on their own.

As a result the floor of the New York Stock exchange isn't filled with traders doing their day jobs anymore, it's largely a TV set.

So bots have learned the market and bots have learned to write. If you've picked up a newspaper lately you've probably already read a story written by a bot. There are companies that are teaching bots to write anything: Sports stories, TPS reports, even say, those quarterly reports that you write at work.

Paper work, decision making, writing -- a lot of human work falls into that category and the demand for human metal labor is these areas is on the way down. But surely the professions are safe from bots? Yes?


When you think 'lawyer' it's easy to think of trials. But the bulk of lawyering is actually drafting legal documents predicting the likely outcome and impact of lawsuits, and something called 'discovery' which is where boxes of paperwork gets dumped on the lawyers and they need to find the pattern or the one out-of-place transaction among it all.

This can all be bot work. Discovery, in particular, is already not a human job in many firms. Not because there isn't paperwork to go through, there's more of it than ever, but because clever research bots sift through millions of emails and memos and accounts in hours not weeks -- crushing human researchers in terms of not just cost and time but, most importantly, accuracy. Bots don't get sleeping reading through a million emails.

But that's the simple stuff: IBM has a bot named Watson: you may have seen him on TV destroy humans at Jeopardy — but that was just a fun side project for him.

Watson's day-job is to be the best doctor in the world: to understand what people say in their own words and give back accurate diagnoses. And he's already doing that at Slone-Kettering, giving guidance on lung cancer treatments.

Just as Auto don’t need to be perfect -- they just need to make fewer mistakes than humans, -- the same goes for doctor bots.

Human doctors are by no means perfect -- the frequency and severity of misdiagnosis are terrifying -- and human doctors are severely limited in dealing with a human's complicated medical history. Understanding every drug and every drug's interaction with every other drug is beyond the scope of human knowability.

Especially when there are research robots whose whole job it is to test 1,000s of new drugs at a time.

Human doctors can only improve through their own experiences. Doctor bots can learn from the experiences of every doctor bot. Can read the latest in medical research and keep track of everything that happens to all his patients world-wide and make correlations that would be impossible to find otherwise.

Not all doctors will go away, but when doctor bots are comparable to humans and they're only as far away as your phone -- the need for general doctors will be less.

So professionals, white-collar workers and low-skill workers all have something to worry about.

But perhaps you're still not worried because you're a special creative snowflakes. Well guess what? You're not that special.

Creative Labor

Creativity may feel like magic, but it isn't. The brain is a complicated machine -- perhaps the most complicated machine in the whole universe -- but that hasn't stopped us from trying to simulate it.

There is this notion that just as mechanical muscles allowed us to move into thinking jobs that mechanical minds will allow us all to move into creative work. But even if we assume the human mind is magically creative -- it's not, but just for the sake of argument -- artistic creativity isn't what the majority of jobs depend on. The number of writers and poets and directors and actors and artist who actually make a living doing their work is a tiny, tiny portion of the labor force. And given that these are professions that are dependent on popularity they will always be a small part of the population.

There is no such thing as a poem and painting based economy.

Oh, by the way, this music in the background that your listening to? It was written by a bot. Her name is Emily Howel and she can write an infinite amount of new music all day for free. And people can't tell the difference between her and human composers when put to a blind test.

Talking about artificial creativity gets weird fast -- what does that even mean? But it's nonetheless a developing field.

People used to think that playing chess was a uniquely creative human skill that machines could never do right up until they beat the best of us. And so it goes for all human talent.


Right: this might have been a lot to take in, and you might want to reject it -- it's easy to be cynical of the endless, and idiotic, predictions of futures that never are. So that's why it's important to emphasize again this stuff isn't science fiction. The robots are here right now. There is a terrifying amount of working automation in labs and wear houses that is proof of concept.

We have been through economic revolutions before, but the robot revolution is different.

Horses aren't unemployed now because they got lazy as a species, they’re unemployable. There's little work a horse can do that do that pays for its housing and hay.

And many bright, perfectly capable humans will find themselves the new horse: unemployable through no fault of their own.

But if you still think new jobs will save us: here is one final point to consider. The US census in 1776 tracked only a few kinds of jobs. Now there are hundreds of kinds of jobs, but the new ones are not a significant part of the labor force.

Here's the list of jobs ranked by the number of people that perform them - it's a sobering list with the transportation industry at the top. Going down the list all this work existed in some form a hundred years ago and almost all of them are targets for automation. Only when we get to number 33 on the list is there finally something new.

Don't that every barista and officer worker lose their job before things are a problem. The unemployment rate during the great depression was 25%.

This list above is 45% of the workforce. Just what we've talked about today, the stuff that already works, can push us over that number pretty soon. And given that even our modern technological wonderland new kinds of work are not a significant portion of the economy, this is a big problem.

This video isn't about how automation is bad -- rather that automation is inevitable. It's a tool to produce abundance for little effort. We need to start thinking now about what to do when large sections of the population are unemployable -- through no fault of their own. What to do in a future where, for most jobs, humans need not apply.

Robots, Etc in the Video

Terex Port automation

Command | Cat MieStar System.

Bosch Automotive Technology

Atlas Update

Kiva Systems

PhantomX running Phoenix code

iRobot, Do You

New pharmacy robot at QEHB

Briggo Coffee Experience

John Deere Autosteer (ITEC Pro 2010). In use while cultivating

The Duel: Timo Boll vs. KUKA Robot

Baxter with the Power of Intera 3

Baxter Research Robot SDK 1.0

Baxter the Bartender

Online Cash Registers Touch-Screen EPOS System Demonstration

Self-Service Check in

Robot to play Flappy Bird

e-david from University of Konstanz, Germany


Empty Car Convoy

Clever robots for crops

Autonomously folding a pile of 5 previously-unseen towels

LS3 Follow Tight

Robotic Handling material

Caterpillar automation project

Universal Robots has reinvented industrial robotics

Introducing WildCat

The Human Brain Project - Video Overview

This Robot Is Changing How We Cure Diseases

Jeopardy! - Watson Game 2

What Will You Do With Watson?

Other Credits

Mandelbrot set

Moore's law graph

Apple II 1977

Beer Robot Fail m2803

All Wales Ambulance Promotional Video

Clyde Robinson

Time lapse Painting - Monster Spa