Covid-19 Could Accelerate the Robot Takeover of Human Jobs

 – Re-Blogged From MIT Technology

Machines were supposed to take over tasks too dangerous for humans. Now humans are the danger, and robots might be the solution.

Inside a Schnucks grocery store in St. Louis, Missouri, the toilet paper and baking ingredients are mostly cleared out. A rolling robot turns a corner and heads down an aisle stocked with salsa and taco shells. It comes up against a masked customer wearing shorts and sneakers; he’s pushing a shopping cart carrying bread.

The robot looks something like a tower speaker on top of an autonomous home vacuum cleaner—tall and thin, with orb-like screen eyes halfway up that shift left and right. A red sign on its long head makes the introductions. “Hi, I’m Tally! I check shelf inventory!” A moment of uncertainty ensues. Tally freezes, sensing the human, and the customer pauses, seeming unsure of what to do next. Should he maneuver around the robot? Or wait for it to move along on its own? After a few seconds, the customer chooses to divert, and heads down another aisle.

Franziska Barczyk

No Checkout Needed: Amazon Opens Cashier-less Grocery Store

Associated Press – Re-Blogged From Headline Wealth

Amazon is aiming to kill the supermarket checkout line.

The online retailing giant is opening its first cashier-less supermarket, the latest sign that Amazon is serious about shaking up the $800 billion grocery industry.

At the new store, opening Tuesday in Seattle, shoppers can grab milk or eggs and walk out without checking out or opening their wallets. Shoppers scan a smartphone app to enter the store. Cameras and sensors track what’s taken off shelves. Items are charged to an Amazon account after leaving.

Called Amazon Go Grocery, the new store is an expansion of its 2-year-old chain of Amazon Go convenience stores. At 10,400 square feet, the supermarket is more than five times the size of the smaller stores, and stocks more items beyond the sodas and sandwiches found at Amazon Go. The new market stocks fresh baked bread, blood oranges, butternut squash and other food to whip up dinner or stock the fridge.

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Online Retailers Up the Ante on 1-Day Delivery

By Associated Press – Re-Blogged From Headline Wealth

This year, holiday stress may take on a whole new meaning for online retailers.

Amazon, Walmart and others have promised to deliver more of their orders within 24 hours of customers clicking on “Buy.”

The coming weeks will be the first test of whether they can make that happen during the busy holiday shopping season, when onslaughts of orders and bad weather can lay waste to even the best delivery plans.

It’s an expensive feat that requires not just additional planes and vehicles, but more workers and reams of data to help retailers prepare and predict what shoppers may buy.

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1000 Amazon Employees Threaten Strike over Lack of Climate Action

By Eric Worrall – Re-Blogged From WUWT

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice have threatened to strike because Amazon is not doing enough to promote climate action.

Nearly 1,000 Amazon employees plan a walkout to protest climate change

By Jordan ValinskyCNN Business
Updated 1934 GMT (0334 HKT) September 9, 2019

New York (CNN Business)
Nearly 1,000 Amazon employees have pledged to walk out in protest of what they say is their company’s inaction on climate change. 

The collective known as “Amazon Employees for Climate Justice” posted a letter online Monday declaring that Amazon should lead on the issue because it’s “one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world.”

For example, the group wants Amazon to stop donating to politicians and lobbyists who deny climate change. It also wants Amazon to stop awarding contracts to fossil fuel companies. And the group wants the company to test electric vehicles in cities that are most affected by the company’s environmental impact. The group said it was “critical” for Amazon to emit zero emissions by 2030.

Read more: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/09/09/business/amazon-employee-climate-change-walkout/index.html

I just have one question.

Given Amazon’s alleged reputation for working employees to the limit of their endurance, how did 1000 employees ever manage to find the personal time and energy to develop outside interests? For shame Bezos, your shareholders expect more from you.

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Nasdaq De-FAANGed?

By Zachary Mannes – Re-Blogged From Silver Phoenix

We generally chart the regular NASDAQ — the NDX, QQQ, and the futures — but when you consider that a mere five momentum names, affectionately given the acronym “FAANG,” comprise nearly 40% of the weighting of the entire index, a glance at the Equal Weight version is not a bad idea. I prefer the First Trust  (QQEW) to the Direxion (QQQE) as it seems to chart slightly cleaner and the “EW” is easier to remember.

Watching for nuanced differentiation in the patterns between the QQEW and NDX, it is possible to see the potential for the former to lead a bit. For example, back in August/September of 2018, QQEW marked a divergent high. More recently, the QQEW began to count more like the blue 5th wave extension of (5) of Primary Wave 3 before the NDX shifted from it’s “(B)” wave.

More importantly, though, is that fact that the Equal Weight does not get pulled to such price extremes by the disproportionate momentum of a scant few stocks. The Primary Wave 3 in NDX has stretched all the way to the 223.6% Fibonacci extension as measured in log-scale off the July 2010 low for Primary 2. By contrast, the QQEW hit a more perfect 161.8% Fibonacci extension for it’s Primary wave 3 top.

The disproportionate extension, though, also appears to affect the downside corrective moves.

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Amazon Dumps NYC Headquarters and Its Promised 25,000 Jobs

By Associated Press – Re-Blogged From Newsmax

Amazon.com Inc. abruptly dropped plans Thursday for a big new headquarters in New York that would have brought 25,000 jobs to the city, reversing course after politicians and activists objected to the nearly $3 billion in tax breaks promised to what is already one of the world’s richest, most powerful companies.

“We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion — we love New York,” the online giant from Seattle said in a blog post announcing its withdrawal.

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Amazon Cancels NY Headquarters

By Pamela Geller – Re-Blogged From Freedom Outpost

The Amazon plant would have brought much-needed jobs to New York City. It would have employed thousands of people who now are out of luck because of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s socialism and virtue-signaling. She and other socialists don’t want people to work, they want to, as President Trump has said, turn this country into Venezuela, where people are searching through garbage cans for something to eat.

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Google, Facebook, Amazon May Be ‘Antitrust Situations’

By Bloomberg – Re-Blogged From Newsmax

President Donald Trump, stepping up his criticism of technology firms he says are favoring liberal points of view, said they may be in a “very antitrust situation” but repeatedly said he can’t comment publicly on whether they should be broken up.

“I won’t comment on the breaking up, of whether it’s that or Amazon or Facebook,” Trump said in an Oval Office interview Thursday with Bloomberg News. “As you know, many people think it is a very antitrust situation, the three of them. But I just, I won’t comment on that.”

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Amazon Isn’t Paying Its Electric Bills. You Might Be

By Mya Frazier – Re-Blogged From Bloomberg

For a little while earlier this year, it seemed as though 87-year-old Rosie Thomas and her neighbors in the small town of Gainesville, Va., had beaten Amazon. Virginia’s largest utility, Dominion Energy Inc., had planned to run an aboveground power line straight through a Civil War battlefield—and Thomas’s property—to reach a nearby data center run by an Amazon.com Inc. subsidiary. After three years of petitions and protests in front of the gated data center, skirmishes punctuated by barking dogs and shooing police, Dominion agreed to bury that part of the line along a nearby highway, at an estimated cost of $172 million.

Mid-Year Review Of The Retail Apocalypse

By David Haggith – Re-Blogged From http://www.Silver-Phoenix500.com

For a year and a half I’ve been writing about the retail apocalypse that is going to add to US financial woes. This is not a problem created by economic collapse but a problem that I have said will greatly contribute to economic collapse and that is so massive and widespread that it assures some level of economic decline all on its own. As everyone knows, the problem is largely created by a change in shopping paradigms (mostly due to Amazon) that is shuttering brick and mortar stores as people shop online.

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Amazon Forages into Healthcare with Pharmacy PillPacks

By Bestboy3 – Re-Blogged From The Corporate World

addiction aid bottle capsule

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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Your Shopping Experience Is on the Verge of a Major Transformation. Here’s Why.

By Peter H Diamandis – Re-Blogged From Singularity Hub

Exponential technologies (AI, VR, 3D printing, and networks) are radically reshaping traditional retail.

E-commerce giants (Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba) are digitizing the retail industry, riding the exponential growth of computation.

Many brick-and-mortar stores have already gone bankrupt, or migrated their operations online.

Massive change is occurring in this arena.

For those “real-life stores” that survive, an evolution is taking place from a product-centric mentality to an experience-based business model by leveraging AI, VR/AR, and 3D printing.

Let’s dive in.

E-Commerce Trends

Last year, 3.8 billion people were connected online. By 2024, thanks to 5G, stratospheric and space-based satellites, we will grow to 8 billion people online, each with megabit to gigabit connection speeds.

These 4.2 billion new digital consumers will begin buying things online, a potential bonanza for the e-commerce world.

At the same time, entrepreneurs seeking to service these four-billion-plus new consumers can now skip the costly steps of procuring retail space and hiring sales clerks.

Today, thanks to global connectivity, contract production, and turnkey pack-and-ship logistics, an entrepreneur can go from an idea to building and scaling a multimillion-dollar business from anywhere in the world in record time.

And while e-commerce sales have been exploding (growing from $34 billion in Q1 2009 to $115 billion in Q3 2017), e-commerce only accounted for about 10 percent of total retail sales in 2017.

In 2016, global online sales totaled $1.8 trillion. Remarkably, this $1.8 trillion was spent by only 1.5 billion people — a mere 20 percent of Earth’s global population that year.

There’s plenty more room for digital disruption.

AI and the Retail Experience

For the business owner, AI will demonetize e-commerce operations with automated customer service, ultra-accurate supply chain modeling, marketing content generation, and advertising.

In the case of customer service, imagine an AI that is trained by every customer interaction, learns how to answer any consumer question perfectly, and offers feedback to product designers and company owners as a result.

Facebook’s handover protocol allows live customer service representatives and language-learning bots to work within the same Facebook Messenger conversation.

Taking it one step further, imagine an AI that is empathic to a consumer’s frustration, that can take any amount of abuse and come back with a smile every time. As one example, meet Ava. “Ava is a virtual customer service agent, to bring a whole new level of personalization and brand experience to that customer experience on a day-to-day basis,” says Greg Cross, CEO of Ava’s creator, a New Zealand company called Soul Machines.

Predictive modeling and machine learning are also optimizing product ordering and the supply chain process. For example, Skubana, a platform for online sellers, leverages data analytics to provide entrepreneurs constant product performance feedback and maintain optimal warehouse stock levels.

Blockchain is set to follow suit in the retail space. ShipChain and Ambrosus plan to introduce transparency and trust into shipping and production, further reducing costs for entrepreneurs and consumers.

Meanwhile, for consumers, personal shopping assistants are shifting the psychology of the standard shopping experience.

Amazon’s Alexa marks an important user interface moment in this regard.

Alexa is in her infancy with voice search and vocal controls for smart homes. Already, Amazon’s Alexa users, on average, spent more on Amazon.com when purchasing than standard Amazon Prime customers — $1,700 versus $1,400.

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, the future combination of virtual reality shopping, coupled with a personalized, AI-enabled fashion advisor will make finding, selecting, and ordering products fast and painless for consumers.

But let’s take it one step further.

Imagine a future in which your personal AI shopper knows your desires better than you do. Possible? I think so. After all, our future AIs will follow us, watch us, and observe our interactions — including how long we glance at objects, our facial expressions, and much more.

In this future, shopping might be as easy as saying, “Buy me a new outfit for Saturday night’s dinner party,” followed by a surprise-and-delight moment in which the outfit that arrives is perfect.

In this future world of AI-enabled shopping, one of the most disruptive implications is that advertising is now dead.

In a world where an AI is buying my stuff, and I’m no longer in the decision loop, why would a big brand ever waste money on a Super Bowl advertisement?

The dematerialization, demonetization, and democratization of personalized shopping has only just begun.

The In-Store Experience: Experiential Retailing

In 2017, over 6,700 brick-and-mortar retail stores closed their doors, surpassing the former record year for store closures set in 2008 during the financial crisis. Regardless, business is still booming.

As shoppers seek the convenience of online shopping, brick-and-mortar stores are tapping into the power of the experience economy.

Rather than focusing on the practicality of the products they buy, consumers are instead seeking out the experience of going shopping.

The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and computation are exponentially improving the in-person consumer experience.

As AI dominates curated online shopping, AI and data analytics tools are also empowering real-life store owners to optimize staffing, marketing strategies, customer relationship management, and inventory logistics.

In the short term, retail store locations will serve as the next big user interface for production 3D printing (custom 3D printed clothes at the Ministry of Supply), virtual and augmented reality (DIY skills clinics), and the Internet of Things (checkout-less shopping).

In the long term, we’ll see how our desire for enhanced productivity and seamless consumption balances with our preference for enjoyable real-life consumer experiences — all of which will be driven by exponential technologies.

One thing is certain: the nominal shopping experience is on the verge of a major transformation.

Implications

The convergence of exponential technologies has already revamped how and where we shop, how we use our time, and how much we pay.

Twenty years ago, Amazon showed us how the web could offer each of us the long tail of available reading material, and since then, the world of e-commerce has exploded.

And yet we still haven’t experienced the cost savings coming our way from drone delivery, the Internet of Things, tokenized ecosystems, the impact of truly powerful AI, or even the other major applications for 3D printing and AR/VR.

Perhaps nothing will be more transformed than today’s $20 trillion retail sector.

Hold on, stay tuned, and get your AI-enabled cryptocurrency ready.

Join Me

Abundance Digital Online Community: I’ve created a digital/online community of bold, abundance-minded entrepreneurs called Abundance Digital.

Abundance Digital is my ‘onramp’ for exponential entrepreneurs — those who want to get involved and play at a higher level. Click here to learn more.

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Zipline Launches the World’s Fastest Commercial Delivery Drone

By Martin Giles – Re-Blogged From MIT Technology Review

The California-based startup’s new machine takes to the skies just as the US is about to loosen rules governing drone operations.

couple of years ago, Zipline created a national drone delivery system to ship blood and drugs to remote medical centers in Rwanda. Now it has developed what it claims is the world’s swiftest commercial delivery drone, with a top speed of 128 kilometers an hour (a hair shy of 80 miles per hour).

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“Tech Wreck,” “Techlash,” “Techmageddon” – Whatever You Call It, Wall Street Is Terrified Of It

By John Rubino – Re-Blogged From Dollar Collapse

Back in the 1990s, critics of the dot-com bubble used to point out that the global economy depended on the US stock market and the US stock market depended on, like, ten Internet stocks with negative aggregate earnings. The resulting inverted financial pyramid was, the critics claimed, very easy to tip over.

They were right of course. But apparently not right enough to keep us from repeating the same mistake. From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Warning Sign: Tech Stocks Are Dominating Global Markets Like Never Before

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It’s Not Just Amazon’s Fault

By Vitaliy Katsenelson, CFA – Re-Blogged From http://contrarianedge.com

Retail stocks have been annihilated recently, despite the economy eking out growth. The fundamentals of the retail business look horrible: Sales are stagnating and profitability is getting worse with every passing quarter.
 
Jeff Bezos and Amazon get most of the credit, but this credit is misplaced. Today, online sales represent only 8.5 percent of total retail sales. Amazon, at $80 billion in sales, accounts only for 1.5 percent of total U.S. retail sales, which at the end of 2016 were around $5.5 trillion. Though it is human nature to look for the simplest explanation, in truth, the confluence of a half-dozen unrelated developments is responsible for weak retail sales.

This Bubble Gets Its “Alternative Paradigm”

By John Rubino – Re-Blogged From https://dollarcollapse.com

Towards the end of financial bubbles, asset prices behave in ways that can’t be explained with rational/historical metrics. So new ones are invented to make sense of things. In the 1990s tech stock bubble, earnings were “optional” and “eyeballs” – that is, the number of visitors to a dot-com’s website – were what determined value. In the 2000s housing bubble, home prices would always rise, which justified pretty much any selling price and asset backed security structure.

Now David Einhorn, a high-profile (and highly frustrated) hedge fund manager, has offered an explanation for today’s bubble:

David Einhorn: ‘We wonder if the market has adopted an alternative paradigm’

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Amazon to Test Own Delivery Service to Rival FedEx, UPS

By Spencer Soper (at Bloomberg) _ Re-Blogged From Newsmax

Amazon.com Inc. is experimenting with a new delivery service intended to make more products available for free two-day delivery and relieve overcrowding in its warehouses, according to two people familiar with the plan, which will push the online retailer deeper into functions handled by longtime partners United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp.

The service began two years ago in India, and Amazon has been slowly marketing it to U.S. merchants in preparation for a national expansion, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the U.S. pilot project is confidential. Amazon is calling the project Seller Flex, one person said. The service began on a trial basis this year in West Coast states with a broader rollout planned in 2018, the people said. Amazon declined to comment.

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Amazon Is Subduing Inflation

By Edward Yardeni – Re-Blogged From Newsmax

“World’s Greatest Price Wrecker” is a moniker that seems appropriate for Amazon, especially after the price cuts it announced earlier this week at its new subsidiary, Whole Foods.

However, the phrase actually dates back to the 1930s.

It was used in ads by Michael J. Cullen, who’s widely credited with having had the idea for supermarkets. During an era of mom-and-pop enterprises, the suggestion of “monstrous” stores, with plenty of parking, separate departments, self-service, discount pricing, and high-volume sales was revolutionary.

When Cullen’s idea was ignored by his then-employer Kroger Grocery & Baking Co., he struck out and opened King Kullen on Long Island. Ads for the new enterprise cried out: “King Kullen: World’s Greatest Price Wrecker.” King Kullen continues today as a family-controlled operation on Long Island with 32 locations.

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Amazon’s Whole Foods Conquest Is a ‘Game Changer’

By Mark Lennihan – Re-Blogged From Newsmax

CNBC’s Jim Cramer says Amazon.com Inc.’s purchase of Whole Foods is a “game changer” for the food industry.

Amazon.com Inc said on Friday it would buy U.S. organic supermarket chain Whole Foods Market Inc for $13.7 billion, including debt, marking the internet retailer’s largest deal and biggest foray into the brick-and-mortar retail sector, Reuters reported.

“This is such a game changer. … They will now dominate food within the next two years,” the “Mad Money” host said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“I’m taking down numbers for everybody who sells food. Everybody. Because you can’t compete [with] Amazon. They will not let you compete,” Cramer said, noting Amazon can now “change the whole paradigm.”  Continue reading

Why Inflation Is Unlikely To Return

By Rick Ackerman – Re-Blogged From http://www.Silver-Phoenix500.com

Is it possible that wage inflation is re-emerging in the US after a 35-year hiatus? That’s what the experts seem to believe, but there are good reasons to think they will be wrong. Consider the substantial pay increase that minimum-wage workers received in many cities and states where this issue was on the ballot in November. In theory, they will have more money to spend, and this will push the prices of goods and services higher.  In practice, because their employers, particularly those in the fast food business and brick-and-mortar retail, are in a last-ditch fight for survival, it is far more likely that a vast number of low-wage jobs will be eliminated. Even now, we are seeing workers who received raises in 2017 ask their employers to reduce their hours so that they can continue to qualify for food stamps and Obamacaid.

This is the reality of the minimum wage world, and arbitrarily boosting hourly pay to $15/hour will only make things worse for employers and employees.  At best, the economic result will be a push with the broad benefits of higher wages offset by a reduction in entry-level and low-paying jobs. In any event, the day is surely coming when McDonald’s will be able to operate a busy franchise with just two or three employees behind the counter. Amazon is already making similar strides in the grocery-store business. And Uber, having already made taxicab medallions worthless in many cities, could someday displace half the taxi drivers in America with driverless fleets like the one they are testing in Pittsburgh.

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Macy’s Crushed By Amazon

By John Rubino – Re-Blogged From http://www.Silver-Phoenix500.com

This is a tale of changing environments and the organisms that are, as a result, dying off.

First, consider the bricks and mortar retailers. Amazon, the dominant online seller of virtually everything, reports a spectacular quarter with soaring sales and (fairly new for them) strong profits. But in a world of flat consumer spending, where families have already used up their savings, their kids’ college funds and the loose change in their sofas to make ends meet, one store’s feast is necessarily another’s famine. And the physical retailers — which require you to actually go to them in order to buy their stuff — now find the water hole dry and the trees barren of leaves. Here’s what Macy’s reported this morning:

Macy’s results reminiscent of financial crisis

(CNBC) – Macy’s dismal first-quarter results are bringing back unwelcome memories of the financial crisis, as the retailer on Wednesday reported two metrics that harken back to that period of economic malaise.

During the first quarter, the department store chain said its comparable sales fell 5.6 percent. That marks a deceleration from its fourth-quarter same-store sales decline of 4.3 percent, and represents its most severe decrease in this metric since second quarter 2009. During that quarter, Macy’s comparable sales slid 9.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the retailer reported a 36 percent year-over-year drop in operating income. That not only marks its seventh straight quarter of year-over-year declines for this metric, but it is far steeper than any quarter during the Great Recession, said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics. In second quarter 2009, by comparison, the retailer’s operating income fell closer to 10 percent.

It’s hard to see how Macy’s survives in its current form. But it might hang on longer than Italy’s major banks, which are saddled with a profligate and therefore ungovernable home country locked within a currency union managed by Germany for Germany. The result is catastrophic:

Tumbling Banco Popolare leads Italian bank shares lower

(Reuters) – Shares in Banco Popolare plunged 14 percent on Wednesday after a surprise first-quarter loss driven by loan writedowns — the main focus of investor concerns over Italian banks.

Banco Popolare booked loan writedowns requested by the European Central Bank as a condition for approving a planned merger with Banca Popolare di Milano that will create Italy’s third-biggest banking group.

To improve its loan loss provisions Banco Popolare must raise 1 billion euros in a share issue slated for early June.

Italian banks have lost nearly 40 percent of their market value so far this year, weighed down by concerns they could need additional capital to shoulder losses from sales of bad loans that rose to 360 billion euros ($410 billion) during a long recession.

A share rebound triggered by the hasty creation last month of the fund intended to inject capital into weaker lenders and buy their bad loans proved short-lived.

Banco Popolare said late on Tuesday that it had written down loans for 684 million euros in the first quarter, nearly four times more than in the same period of 2015, posting a net loss of 314 million euros for the first three months.

CEO Pierfrancesco Saviotti told an analyst call that the loan writedowns were the first step towards selling chunks of bad loans and that it would book further provisions this year.

He said the ECB wanted provisions to cover 62 percent of the most troubled loans up from a 60 percent coverage ratio the bank reached in the first quarter.

Bankers say other Italian banks are likely to follow in the steps of Banco Popolare and raise cash to make up for loan losses.

Loans to insolvent borrowers are valued on average at around 40 percent of their nominal value on Italian banks’ balance sheets but market prices for these assets reach at most 30-35 cents on the dollar when the loan is backed by a good-quality property.

The problem for both physical retailers and Italian banks is that the world continues to change in unfavorable ways. E-commerce keeps getting easier and more fun, and malls as a result keep getting emptier, with no end in sight. (Actually there is an end in sight, which is when most malls are cleared of bankrupt retailers and converted to refugee housing.)

As for Italian banks, the euro is up lately, which makes Italy that much less competitive on global markets and Italian borrowers that much less likely to cover their payments. And with interest rates trending ever-more-negative, there’s not much for even a well-run bank to do with excess capital these days.

Which leads inescapably to the conclusion that while Macy’s and the Italian banks are the weakest and therefore most vulnerable organisms in this ecosystem, they’re just the first to go. Other US retailers will report a string of bad numbers in the coming month and other banks around the world will follow the Italians’ lead. Here’s a Zero Hedge chart comparing the stock price of Germany’s iconic Deutsche Bank to (iconic in a different way) Lehman Brothers pre-Great Recession:

As a result, in the coming year the dominant question will morph from “what to buy?” to “what crashes next?”

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