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Readers comment on business news

Robotic risk | Aug. 9

Machines likely to replace workers

Your article should be required reading for educators and young people. The importance of technological advances in robotics as a leading contributor to weak economic recovery is poorly appreciated by economists.

I finished reading Martin Ford's book (Rise of the Robots) a couple of weeks ago and agree that it is hard to find fault with his conclusions. The counter-argument that cognitively challenging tasks can be better performed by a combination of a human and machine — remember his account of chess-playing robot and human player team beating a robotic player that in turn could beat a human player — doesn't sound very convincing given the increasing abilities of machines to correct and adapt their internal programs.

When I was a young college professor, I spent a summer working for IBM exploring ways that psychological theories and data could be used to accelerate the development of machines that ''could change their own parameters,'' as the jargon went in the 1960s. The most advanced program at the time was a checkers-playing robot created by IBM's Arthur Samuel. It trained itself using book games that were programmed into it using complex algorithms. Its success, like Big Blue and Watson after it, depended mostly on brute-force memory capacity and processing speed. Analogies to human cognition processes were relatively unimportant. Current efforts to adapt Watson to performing medical diagnoses will soon give many doctors a run for their money.

James L. Fozard, Ph.D., Palm Harbor