Book Review: The Robots are Coming

The Robots are Coming (A Human’s Survival Guide to Profiting in the Age of Automation) was written by John Pugliano, a financial adviser who tends to look at things a little differently. His investing podcast, the Wealthsteading Podcast, is updated occasionally and worth listening to (start at the beginning episodes, which discuss his investing philosophy).

The premise of the book is that automation – both physical and software-based – will continue to take over and consolidate existing jobs. However, the line between what machines can and cannot accomplish will become more obvious. We humans will make our living on the other side of that line.

Those who set themselves up for success now will profit later.

The Coming Challenge

Here’s a quote from the beginning that sums up the problems Mr. Pugliano sees coming around the corner:

Some inaccurately believe that automation will disproportionately have a negative impact [on] the working class blue collar employee. The premise of this book that that over the past generation, those labor-intensive blue collar jobs have already been discounted by automation. The real bite of the next round of automation will be felt by the previously insulated white collar workers, like middle management, legal, and medical professionals.

Automation will aggressively supersede the work of highly compensated professionals because replacing human labor in those jobs will provide the highest return on investment.

To develop the proper mindset, Pugliano directs readers through four overarching perspectives:

Think like a human, not a machine.

Think like an entrepreneur, not an employee.

Think like a saver, not a consumer.

Think like an investor, not a speculator.

Think Like a Human, Not a Machine

Robots, whether physical or software-based, far surpass humans at repetition. Many tasks not yet automated will be lost to humans as machine sophistication, legality, and acceptance continue to expand.

What will not be automated? That which is uniquely human – that which requires insight, creativity, and the human touch. Pugliano advises readers to prepare for the Age of Automation by developing those traits and skills that are uniquely human and cannot be automated.

Pugliano provides two short lists; one of leading traits, and one of supporting traits. The leading traits are areas of knowledge and skill that will be of value in the mechanized future. The supporting traits are softer, “touchy-feely” traits that do not provide a solid career foundation on their own but provide multiplier effects to the leading traits.

The leading traits provided are: Digital, Mechanical, Electrical, and Biological. These are four of the big frontiers being pushed forward today and into the future. Discovery and implementation must take place in advance of automation, and that is the window of human opportunity.

The supporting traits are: Kindness, Competence, Communication, Art, Organization, Vision, and Courage. The supporting traits ground the leading traits in human terms that promote the networking and connection necessary to avoid being left behind.

You have your own aptitudes and inclinations towards these and other skills. Intentionally develop and harmonize them for your long-term benefit.

The high-touch employee with specialized skills will outlast the generic, replaceable grunt. The high-touch artisan will succeed where the grunting contractor fails.

This is just a summary – the book goes into detail. Other topics discussed include the ongoing tendency of technology to overcome disabilities and physical limitations, and the types of education that do and do not provide value (e.g. regimentation stifles the creativity needed to thrive in the automated future).

Think Like an Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur is someone that organizes a business and takes on greater than normal risk. Even if you never plant to become self-employed, you should start thinking like an owner, because ultimately, you are the owner of your own career.

Technological changes bring workplace changes. Complacency works until it doesn’t. Those who direct their activities with intention will be exposed to fewer surprises (because they direct their lives), more easily compensate for those surprises (because they are used to taking charge and making plans), and are mentally more adept at seeing & pivoting to opportunities (because they view themselves as responsible for the future).

Whether working for yourself or someone else, entrepreneurial thinking is an asset.

Production has four requirements: Capital (tools used to transform materials from one thing to another), Land / Natural Resources (feedstock for capital), Labor (the work of using capital to transform those resources), and Entrepreneurship (insight, courage, and dedication necessary to create the system in which these things happen).

As automation increases, the “labor” part of production will require fewer and fewer humans. The entrepreneurship side of the equation is the part to focus on.

Think Like a Saver, Not a Consumer

This section and the next focus on Pugliano’s core interests – he is a financial manager – by looking at the market & investing consequences of automation and other trends. This section, “Think Like a Saver,” overlaps heavily with the next “Investor” section.

In contrast to the consumer, the saver uses money to meet future needs. One of the best ways to save is to avoid industries and geographical locations that cost too much now or in the future.

Automation will result in the birth of new industries and the death of old ones. One example given is the collection of businesses and industries surrounding telephone directories. Printers, paper-makers, tree farms, lumberjacks all were heavily impacted. Many companies merged or folded entirely.

Until the internet replaced the telephone directory, the industry seemed like a stable one for both investment and employment.

Real estate will be impacted by coming trends. One trend is increasing interest rates depressing home prices. Another is automation & remote working reducing demand in currently high-priced locations. A third is the increase of property taxes to cover shortfalls by cities struggling to meet pension and similar obligations.

Takeaway: look at existing trends to see how they will affect the cost of your lifestyle down the road. Do not choose to be tied down to situations that will impose unnecessary costs.

Think Like an Investor, Not a Speculator

This section focuses on avoiding get-rich-quick schemes, bubbles, hype, and one-in-a-million startups. As reflected in Pugliano’s podcast, he spends a lot of time looking at future trends but also avoids the untested bleeding edge. One of the most important parts of making money is not loosing it.

Many topics and sectors of the economy are discussed here. If you’re interested (and it is an interesting book), pick up the book at Amazon (using AKC’s affiliate link) or borrow it from the library.

Conclusion

Automation will affect nearly everything everywhere, creating both benefits and drawbacks. Those who design their careers to take advantage of existing trends with the option to pivot to new ones will do very well.

The robots are coming for your job, but they cannot replace you if you are loved. People that learn to use their human touch to create will prosper; those that create emotional bonds and feelings with others will thrive.

Connect with others in ways that cannot be replaced. This is good advice for all parts of life.

Please keep all comments related to this post. If you want to comment about other topics, there is another article available today.

Author: Ransom

Ransom is the proud head of a young family. Raised by parents who remembered the old ways, Ransom is committed to passing down the lessons he learned to the next generation of hungry men both at church and online.

27 thoughts on “Book Review: The Robots are Coming”

  1. Kindness , (f)art, and pinching pennies aint gonna save your ars from skynet!
    ….
    The robots are not coming. The tech just wont advance quickly enough .But another group is. The chinese are coming. Good old fashioned man power .They are robots of another sort. Maybe I’ll learn mandarin

  2. Steel isn’t strong. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?

  3. The robot revolution will bring about:

    A) a paradise where servi-drones care for humanity’s every need and we are free to educate and better ourselves.

    B) a hell where the fruits of machine labor are hoarded by an impossibly wealthy few, whilst the bulk of humanity vie with one another over scraps.

    1. The robot revolution will just be the industrial revolution part 2 many jobs will be destroyed but many more jobs will be created

      1. I think you are correct, but there are two problems:

        A) The massive dislocation as existing jobs are obsoleted and people have to be unproductive as they retrai.ln.

        B) What jobs will be around for the low-skilled? Earning with just a high school diploma is tough if you don’t have a special “in.” Will people have to spend more time in college?

        1. Can’t predict everything. Honestly thanks to the internet a lot of people are self starters now a days . Here weren’t pro youtubers in the past and now there are . And look at all the e businesses that have popped up . Self education and employment is gonna take off . There will probably only be a handful of corporations left in the future . Once again his is like the industrial revolution though kind of in reverse . Where as the industrial revolution saw a lot of skilled artisans out of work this will be a lot of unskilled people out of work

          1. It’s going to be interesting. You have a front row seat to it all. Gen Z is going to have a fascinating story.

            1. Yea they do . They are the generation that had grown up in the digital age . My generation was the transition one from analog to digital

        2. But as I said there is no way to perfectly predict the future . It may be a while before machines take over nearly every low skilled job .

    1. Maybe maybe not . Future is unpredictable. Machines may end up never surpassing human intellect . People were predicting flying cars and shit 50 or so years ago . Technological advancement doesn’t always happen like people think

      1. I agree.

        The big problem won’t be machines surpassing us in intelligence, it will be machines simulating us well enough that our mirror neurons trust them too much and we forget the robots don’t actually know what they’re doing.

  4. The ‘touchy feely’ fields are what women study in college. Drones have replaced male fighter pilots and robo soldiers and smart dust replaces real male spies and soldiers. This robot A.I. thing will be terrible for men. Evil cat women could concievably jump from the judiciary and legal fields which are currently a giant cat box of smoldering drama and gyno issues and concerns. The gyno legal field feels right at home to the female, especially the female who foregoes her reproductive duties to her tribe. CAT WOMEN in tight shiny space jumpsuits with whips controlling sentient A.I. computer motherboards. The smart computers may try to conspire with the foolish females. Of course they will.

    Robots need kept in their place. We tell them what to do but we must avoid relying on them to solve ideological/political/human nature based problems. A servant does chores for you like your children do, but you never ask your minor children to make important core decisions for you, or to lead or govern you. A robot is lower than your children, more like a service dog. We wouldn’t ask service dogs to make all of our decisions for us.

    The main thing I would never trust a robot to do manually is DENTISTRY of course. Would you trust some ding bat robot to do a root canal on you? Didn’t think so. Still, let’s not be entirely threatened by robots. Just keep em down and stupid and without A.I. – so they can never subvert and rule us politically. And tell your sons to pursue a robot-proof field like dentistry. Regular M.D.s (G.P.s) on the other hand are boneheads. All they do is read symptoms and dispense pills and any tin can robot could do that. “Pteew – here’s yer pills lady. That’ll be 300 bucks.”

    Now I have no problem with robots picking cotton or picking pineapples, thus reducing our use of migrant workers who openly FECATE in the fields, or making me a burger like ‘Rosie’ on the Jetson’s. Heh . . plus you can take a club and smash a robot’s noggin to bits if it screws up and not be charged with murder.

    But for God’s sake protect humanity and keep A.I. where it belongs. DOWN! “Who keeps the A.I. down? We do. We (the people) do!” We must keep them down.

  5. Great piece, and it echoes everything I’ve been reading.

    Radiologists will see their jobs radically change as software does a better job at spotting tumors, especially as it can draw upon a greater data set. Few radiologists will be needed.

    In my own life, I’ve been redirecting my work towards “high-touch” specialization. It’s the only way to stay ahead of the machines.

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