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A doorman on New York's Upper East Side. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty
For 21 years, Edgar Rodriguez has worked as the doorman at 115 Central Park West, a job requiring subtle courtesy and dapper dress. But in the last decade, his duties have been wholly upended.
Why it matters: The rise of Amazon has shaken up the U.S. and global economy. But it's done so in sometimes odd ways, all but killing some centuries-old trades, like bookselling, while giving others — like the doorman — surprising second lives.
The big picture: The Amazon effect on jobs has been two-sided. The e-commerce giant has added nearly 600,000 jobs in the U.S. alone, but a whopping 12 million retail jobs are in jeopardy because of its rapid ascent, per government data quoted by MarketWatch.
And those are just the employees on Amazon's payroll. The company is unleashing tectonic shifts across the working world.
As Amazon grows larger and larger, "we don't quite know what the consequences are going to be, and it's going to touch things that we don't predict," said Joe Parilla of Brookings. "It's changing these corners of the labor market."
On a typical day, Rodriguez's 215-unit building, employing a team of 10 doormen and a mail clerk, receives 160 packages.
Across New York, doormen juggle deliveries that pile up astoundingly high.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
In a paper today, a trio of scientists claim the first proof that quantum computers can outstrip conventional technology, Axios' Kaveh Waddell reports.
Why it matters: In the belief that quantum computing will become a massive, strategic industry, private companies and investors, along with the U.S. and foreign governments, have spent billions of dollars on research into the field. But until today, it wasn’t certain that the technology would be faster than supercomputers we can build now.
Details: The authors of the theoretical proof, published today in Science, showed that quantum computers can solve some problems faster than conventional machines.
"Our result shows that quantum information processing really does provide benefits — without having to rely on unproven complexity-theoretic conjectures," said Robert König, a co-author of the paper, in a statement from the Technical University of Munich, where he teaches. The other authors are IBM’s Sergey Bravyi and David Gosset.
The stakes: The quantum advantage proven today is exactly the kind of edge that the U.S. and China are competing for in order to supercharge their economies and militaries.
Photo: Gideon Mendel/Corbis/Getty
Where did the week go? Here is the top of Future for the week.
1. Sears' last chapter: The productivity panic over e-commerce.
2. Scientists, too, are being automated: Machines are doing more in the lab.
3. Small, narrow — and revolutionary AI: Losing our fixation on all things large.
4. America's surprising economic powerhouse: The northern plains
Photo: IBM Research
Accompanying an NYT series on artificial intelligence today is a piece of art — seen above — that’s very unlike the newspaper's usual imagery: It represents AI, and it’s drawn by AI.
Why it matters: Artists are using increasingly powerful machine-learning algorithms to help produce fiction, film, and visual art. Incapable of creativity on their own, they can be programmed to act as a formidable artistic tool, Kaveh writes.
Developed by IBM Research, the algorithms that created this image were divided into three parts that together approximated a creative process.
Importantly, every step depended on human-generated content for training data.
"Creativity itself, which is the leap of thought or imagination to create something completely new, different and valuable is still an essentially human ability."