Robots, Jobs, and the Future

Twenty years ago last week, the internet came to NPR offices. Twenty years from today, it’s possible that radio operators could all be put out of their jobs by robots. So before you take some time to read about the bleakness or brightness of the future–depending on who you ask–we’ll lighten the mood with a satirical plug for online dating site Christian Tingle. Later this month we’ll feature Michael Toy writing on how not to date like Jesus, but for now, enjoy this. Because God can use the internet too.


A Vision of the Future From Those Likely to Invent It – NY Times

An engaging (or distracting, depending on your disposition) interview/graphic that does exactly what the title says. For instance:

“What is the next issue to undergo a sea change in social acceptance?

Far more generalized acceptance of widespread variations in human behavior. All of us who were raised pre-Internet were taught that there is something called ‘normal,’ and I think that whole concept might go right out the window.” Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape.

Is your job at risk from robot labor? Check this handy interactive – Quartz

Watch out, accountants, insurance underwriters, telemarketers, and retail cashiers. The robots are coming for your jobs.

A memo from 20 years ago – NPR

It is what it is: an official NPR memo from April 28, 1994 announcing the arrival of the internet at NPR offices. How did they explain the internet back then?

 “The internet is a collection of computer networks that is connected around the world…A code of ‘netiquette’ exists among users and within user groups, but otherwise, you pay your money, find your niche and take your chances.”

Sounds about right.

Technology Is Taking Over English Departments: The false promise of the digital humanities – New Republic

“The Google Ngram Viewer allows the user to search all of Google Books for strings of characters. This sounds like a powerful tool, but as Aiden and Michel put it through its paces, it turns out once again that the digital analysis of literature tells us what we already know rather than leading us in new directions. It is not surprising to learn, for instance, that the incidence in print of the name of any given year is most common in that year itself, so that more books containing “1950” were published in 1950 than in any other year. One reason this is not surprising is that all books’ copyright pages include the year of publication; but Aiden and Michel ignore this fact, which tends to nullify their conclusions about the “forgetting curve.” Once again, meta-knowledgeknowledge about the conditions of the data you are manipulatingproves to be crucial for understanding anything a computer tells you. Ask a badly phrased question and you get a meaningless answer.”

Why the Smart Reading Device of the Future May Be … Paper – Wired

“From this perspective, the feel of pages under one’s fingertips isn’t simply old-fashioned charm. It’s a rich source of information, subconsciously informing readers of their position in a text. Reading experts say that sense of position is important: It provides a sort of conceptual scaffold on which information and memory is automatically arranged, and the scaffold is strongest when built from both visual and tactile cues.”

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About the Contributor

Benjamin Robertson

Benjamin Robertson
Benjamin Robertson is a founding editor at Second Nature. He has worked in advertising for the Chicago Tribune and Gannett, and now is a web developer at Mediacurrent. He studied Communications and Media Studies under Dr. Read Schuchardt at Wheaton College in Illinois. He has presented papers on Marshall McLuhan, media ecology, and Christianity at the Media Ecology Association, National Communication Association, and the McLuhan's Philosophy of Media Centennial Conference in Brussels. He lives with his wife, Ruth, in Greenville, SC. His personal website is


  1. Hugh.Mather says:

    Nice! Només volia respondre. M’ho estimava al seu càrrec. Mantingui el bon treball.

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