Big news on the Wolfram language

Wolfram Alpha has been freely accessible on the Web for some time now. It allows anyone to do some of the work that Mathematica can do, in a browser. Now, it looks like the new Wolfram language, a very ambitious project to open up programming to many more people, is also going to be freely available on the Wolfram “cloud”. Details in this post by Wolfram himself. When I get some time freed up, I want to play with this!

Diane Coyle wonders where the Robots for the People are

Diane Coyle maintains The Enlightened Economist blog (and has written a thoroughly enjoyable book on the GDP, no less), so I visit her blog every so often. Today’s offering discusses Martin Ford’s book Rise of the Robots. She is optimistic about capitalism creating a wave of new jobs, as it has done every time pessimism about technology stealing jobs from people became prominent in the last 250 years. Whether that is going to continue this time is an open question. I do want to emphasize the distributional problems of the rise of the robots, and I will do it by simply quoting here her last paragraph:

Well, maybe I’m delusionally optimistic. Ford ends the book with figures from the BLS. Between 1998 and 2013, there was a 42% real increase in US GDP, but no increase in the total hours worked. He thinks that’s a bad thing. I think it’s a good one – with the huge proviso that the benefits of growth must be widely shared. They haven’t been. We don’t have the people’s robots. That’s the real problem.