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Situational awareness: The Nasdaq closed down almost 4.5%, signaling a market correction for the first time in two years, and the Dow Jones and S&P 500 lost all gains for 2018. The bloodbath comes against forecasts of a recession.
Okay, let's start with ...
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
The last year has seen vigorous pushback against forecasts of a robot nightmare — that machines, over the coming decades, will vaporize whole swaths of employment, leaving tens of millions of people jobless.
But if the dystopian forecasts were alarmist, the backlash against them are veering too sharply in the other direction.
The backdrop: In 2015, futurist Martin Ford captured the nightmare vision in "Rise of the Robots," a book that attracted wide attention with a picture of massive job losses rendered by the speed and breadth of the new age of automation.
Over the last year or so, other futurists have dissented.
All in all, society is being whipsawed into agitated anxiety, followed by lulling calm.
What they're saying: I checked with a few people in the future field as to what is going on with the forecasts. The main answer — we are in a real fix, but it is barely yet visible. And, though jobs may be created for everyone once automation digs deep into businesses across the economy, no one knows how long it will take to create them, nor what they will pay.
Meanwhile, the first signs are already with us:
History says that technological change — though it can seem sudden — actually moves slowly. The hit from automation will be another 10–20 years, says Azeem Azhar, a senior adviser on artificial intelligence at Accenture. "Look at how long it took the internet (established 1969) to evolve a company that could destroy mattress vendors," he tells Axios. "And yet when it hit those vendors, it smashed them only one year after a major merger."
Azhar adds: "It has taken cloud computing 12 years to go from Amazon's first offering to something which the bulk of industry will rely on — and that is a much easier shift with more easily understood benefits than these societal ones we expect to see."
The bottom line: I receive almost weekly pitches from analysts and futurists dismissing the dire forecasts. So why the wave of optimistic projections?
Bahat says, "I think it is all about staying credible. Warn too far out and soon people will start crying foul when they don't see it. Until it hits the reading and writing public, then staying credible is all about how 'close' to the current conventional wisdom you are."
Azhar says, "We're all forecasters now, and it is in the interests of the pundits, tech vendors and the founders to promote the future. A faster future = more $$$."
A July protest against Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New York City. Photo: Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
At a time when Big Tech is under attack for cooperating with military and police, Amazon is facing scrutiny for marketing its surveillance software to U.S. immigration officials.
Driving the news: Amazon has confirmed that it met with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Silicon Valley over the summer to discuss Rekognition, its controversial facial recognition software. Emails obtained by a watchdog group show that Amazon followed up in an apparent attempt to close a sale of the technology, writes Axios' Kaveh Waddell.
Why it matters: Amazon’s entanglements with ICE are becoming increasingly public. Just yesterday, a report published by several advocacy groups linked Amazon’s cloud technology to the agency’s work.
Details: The June meeting was first reported by the Project on Government Oversight in The Daily Beast, and Amazon confirmed in a statement that the meeting took place.
What they’re saying:
POGO said that one concern is that facial recognition systems have been susceptible to gender and racial biases, often identifying women and people of color less accurately than men and white people.
Other law-enforcement agencies have already tried out Rekognition. An Oregon sheriff's department began using the software in 2017, and the Orlando Police Department in Florida extended a test of it in July.
NYSE, 1979. Photo: Santi Visalli/Getty
Imagine buying or selling stocks with a simple command: "Alexa, buy 10 shares of Apple." Keep imagining because we're not there yet.
Driving the news: TD Ameritrade said today that it is the first brokerage firm to allow clients to buy stocks using Alexa, writes Axios' Courtenay Brown.
But it's a lot more complicated than that: Trading on Alexa is actually a 10-step process (not including the one-time setup), per an audio demo that Axios heard.
Harrumph. In the same time, you could phone in the trade, or use TD's mobile app.
The bottom line: This is a big task for Alexa, which is notorious for mishearing verbal cues. Buying stocks via home assistant won't be a one-step process anytime soon. That's a good thing, since any errors would be more disastrous than, say, accidentally ordering too many dollhouses.
Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. Photo: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty
No AI won't solve fake news (Gary Marcus, Ernest Davis — NYT)
Red Sox's Fenway Park is old and energy-stingy (Maggie Teliska — Axios)
The latest indictment of Russia's troll farm (Medium)
Korean shares may be signaling global recession (John Kemp — Reuters) (tweet)
Germany is trying to survive an "iPhone moment" for cars (Patrick McGee — FT)
Insta-ready apple cake. Photo: Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald/Getty
We've reported on the rise of Instagram-friendly retail — brick-and-mortar stores paying special attention to decor to get millennials and Gen Z-ers through the door.
Now, Instagramification is coming for your old family recipes, reports WSJ.
The big picture: Instagram is changing the way we shop, eat and travel. We are curating everything — from Sunday dinner to a day at the beach — to pop as a square photograph on a screen, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.