• Abundance Theory

Scenario wherein future technologies and machines reduce the impact of scarcity of goods on human economies to negligible levels. Belief that because lots of resources will be available, humans will want to share them evenly.

  • Anthropomorphism

Treating something not human as if it has one or many human qualities. For example, assuming that a robot designed to look like a human has human emotions or intellect.

  • Apocalypse

The abrupt failure of all major human civilizations, in one form or another. Human-centrism calls it the "end of the world/universe/whatever" but most of the rest of reality should survive the human apocalypse just fine.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)

A computer system that is able to perform tasks that humans can and that seem intelligent or that is able to perform tasks that humans agree demonstrate intelligence, i.e. the ability to reason, learn, and understand, to some degree.

  • Belief

Accepting a thought, view or judgement as true, regardless of whether it is or is not actually true. Without this certainty, belief becomes opinion.

  • Cognition

The general case is the set of all higher level human mental processes. Interestingly, standard definitions have nothing to say about creativity.

  • Cognitive Computing

Can describe either hardware or software solutions modeled after poorly understood processes in human cognition, or hardware or software solutions possessed of agreed upon "human like" attributes such as context awareness. As a field, cognitive computing is limited by our weak understanding of human cognition.

  • Creative Economy

We define this as a set of economic activities reliant on human ability to think up novel and valuable ideas. Economists and Futurists often do not define or poorly support their definitions of creativity.

  • Creativity

In an automation and machine learning context, it is a set of cognitive processes by which novel ideas of potential value are generated and expressed.

  • Curiosity

The intent to learn. Curiosity is sometimes directed at specific situations or objects and sometimes it manifests as a more general attitude toward new experiences and encounters.

  • Deep Learning

A machine learning technique for cascading levels of data identification and categorization. It may be learning, but it lacks understanding.

  • Emergent Behavior

Actions exhibited, as a result of rules-based interactions among constituent members of a system, without being directly encoded in those rules based interactions. These implicit actions may or may not have been planned or desired.

  • Employment

Performing a job on an ongoing basis. Employees perform a job for an entity or organization that reports employment activities to economists.

From the US BLS: Persons 16 years and over in the civilian noninstitutional population who work at all (at least 1 hour per week) as paid employees; worked in their own business, profession, or on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family. Excluded are persons whose only activity consisted of work around their own house (painting, repairing, or own home housework) or volunteer work for religious, charitable, and other organizations.

  • Executive Functions

The orchestrating processes which manage the higher level processes of human cognition and the resources upon which they are dependent, such as those involved in reasoning, problem solving, and memory.

  • Free Agent or 1099 Economy

Humans with jobs but without employers. A contract workforce.

  • Globalization

In our context this is the ability for work to migrate to any person or organization, in any country, who can offer a competitive price for the total finished product of the work. For physical goods this might include shipping raw materials and/or finished products.

  • Great Displacement

Our label for the upcoming large scale displacement of human work by automation - machines, robotics and intelligent computer systems.

  • Human

Homo Sapiens Sapiens, a hairless member of the great ape family (Hominidae). Most think that digital watches are a pretty neat idea (again).

  • Hypothesis

A proposed explanation for something that has been observed. Typically fewer observations make for less accurate hypotheses and more observations improve accuracy. Learning results from testing hypothesis to see if they hold up with more and better observations.

  • Imagination

The ability for an entity to create behavioral models of concepts, things, processes, events, etc., that the entity has not directly observed with its own senses. Direct observation results in “memories” which can be used as the basis for creating behavioral models. Being taught a behavioral model is learning, which results in memories, but memories are not imagination.

  • Imitating

Copying what someone or something else is doing. It is an action oriented and focused on behavior, even if the action is staying still for some period of time.

  • Imitating Machines

The title of this blog, it refers to people performing work that can potentially be automated. Within organizations, the things that people are imitating are machines. It also refers to machines that can imitate increasingly-sophisticated human behaviors well enough to displace more sophisticated jobs, the things that machines are imitating are individual people.

  • Industrial Revolution

The invention of machines that could do work without using human or animal power, initially using steam engines, that started in England in the late 1700s and spread to the rest of the world over the following century and a half. Roughly 60 to 120 years ago the Industrial Revolution produced massive displacements of human jobs in many different regions of the world.

  • Intelligence

Generically, it is the ability to learn, reason and understand. But when humans test for it, they test mostly test for algorithmic learning - memorization and simple learning skills - as opposed to reflexive or executive functionality.

  • Intuition

The ability to believe one knows or understands something without having to consciously think about it. This is more than likely a misunderstanding in describing how humans actually think, and it will be resolved as humans learn more about how they actually think.

  • Job

A recurring act of performing work in exchange for money. Preferably for an entity or organization that reports employment activities to economists. Work means achieving a measurable effect - in a job it means doing so repeatedly.

  • Job Displacement

When a job moves from one group of humans to another, or from humans to machines. We are not aware of any cases where a job moved from a machine to a human, with the exception of fashion oriented “hand-crafted” goods used as status symbols or art.

  • Judgement

The ability to create a set of potential options and then choose between them. Considered to be an attribute of wisdom. Many humans believe that understanding the options or making sensible decisions is critical, but they are thinking much too hard about it, as they only do those things under extenuating circumstances.

  • Learning

Gaining knowledge and experience through doing. All Chordate life on Earth is capable of at least limited learning (and quite possibly other families of life). Humans confuse learning with memorizing experiences and ideas that someone else learned.

  • Machine

An inanimate object that can perform work. Our only examples are from planet Earth, where humans are so far the sole creators of machines. Humans currently control machines. Humans operate some machines and have designed others to operate autonomously. Humans often use machines to  manufacture other machines. A machine is a tool (though not all tools are machines) and is an example of technology.

  • Machine Intelligence

The demonstration of intelligent behavior by a machine; this behavior may or may not resemble human intelligence.  See "AI".

  • Machine Learning

A technique for creating computer-based machines that can learn. Humans are getting very good at designing these systems.

  • Machine Sapience

A machine that can understand options and make decisions, where insufficient data is present to fully justify any option. Humans do not know how to design these systems.

  • Machine Sentience

A machine that is aware of itself. We eschew philosophical debate here in favor of awaiting measurable definitions of self-awareness; see "Sentience".

  • Memorization

Remembering knowledge, experiences and observations that one's self or someone else created or had to learn, like the name of the place you live, how to light a fire, or where you left that wildebeest carcass.

  • Money

An abstraction of work performed, so that work can be disaggregated from directly using it to pay for everything. Represents an amount of time spent working at a relative value to other work. Money can be traded for goods and services; money normalizes barter by abstracting away direct comparisons between disparate goods and services.

  • Neural Network

A system of hardware and software modeled after or influenced in principle by the nervous systems of animals and humans.  These systems are hampered by humans' current very limited understanding of how biological neural systems function, including their own.

  • Novelty

Most commonly defined as new or original behavior, we prefer unexpected behavior. When something or someone behaves in a novel manner, it means the observer does not understand it, it is broken, or it made a different choice than the observer would have.

  • Occam’s Razor

Simpler theories or hypotheses are preferable to those that are more complex. Often interpreted as “the simplest answer is usually correct”, but in practice it is more that simpler theories are more likely to model the real world better. We like to couple it with Einstein's observation: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." Read more here.

  • Occupation

A set of similar jobs. Humans in the same occupation perform similar work.

  • OODA Loop

Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. The scientific method is a very close analog of the OODA loop, for the good reason that the scientific method is also a sensory loop: observe, hypothesize, predict, experiment, and then loop back to observe to check if the hypothesis and predictions match observed behaviors. Like the OODA loop, the scientific method is an iterative process.

  • Opinion

A judgement, whether true or not, usually with self-recognition from the owner that they have incomplete data or understanding of the item or topic in question. Otherwise it is not an opinion, it is a belief.

  • Overfit

In statistical modeling, this refers to modeling noise or errors in the data rather than modeling an actual function of the data. It can occur when there is too little relevant data (a small sample size or incorrect/biased data was gathered for each sample) or when there is too much extraneous data masking the underlying trends. Humans have many expressions and euphemisms for their ability to overfit, such as: "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

  • Reason

The use of logic to make judgements and decisions. Humans pride themselves on using this, but they do so sparingly. Higher level logic, judgements and decisions are perhaps dependent on symbolic thinking and semantics.

  • Robot

A machine that can act somewhat autonomously, without continuous human guidance.

  • Robotics

The artistry, science and technologies used to create robots.

  • Sapience

Having wisdom and judgement. Humans pride themselves on exhibiting this, but it is rare among their population. Wisdom and judgement are contextual based on value systems and individual or group points of view. It is not necessary to be sentient (self-aware) to be sapient. However, some level of intelligence seems to be required to achieve sapience.

  • Self-Awareness

Humans do not agree on its meaning or how they seem to be self-aware. It seems to involve reflecting on one's own motivations and existence. "I think, therefore I am."  In lieu of more objective measures, we will consider any reasonably complex recursive executive cognition to be evidence of self-awareness. Self-awareness does not imply intelligence or sapience.

  • Semantics

The study of meaning, usually associated with human language and symbols. But perhaps any animal that can understand symbols can understand meaning, in a fashion. "Fetch the ball..."

  • Sentience

Being self-aware. Humans are biased to believe that they are the only animals who are self-aware. Humans consistently confuse sentience with intelligence and sapience. We choose not to engage in a philosophical debate here, and will consider anything with reasonably complex recursive executive functions to be self-aware. Sentience does not imply intelligence or sapience.

  • The Singularity

A future point in time, when some humans predict that Artificial Intelligences will have become intelligent enough to improve their own thinking processes and, subsequently, technology then becomes more complex at a rapid (perhaps exponential) pace and exceeds humanity's ability to understand it.

  • Skill

A learned ability to perform all or part of a job. Simple jobs may have one or few skills involved. Humans and machines can learn skills.

  • Symbol

A thing that represents something else. In our use, symbols are words, images or abstract strings of characters. Humans and computers use symbols to represent things and concepts, and combine symbols with syntax to create meaning, memories, and cognition.

  • Syntax

A set of rules which determine the behavior of a system. In human languages, syntax is the grammar of a language that helps encode meaning (see "Semantics") on words, which are symbols.

  • Technology

A created tool, machine or process. A rock may be a tool, but it is not technology, no matter how hard you hit someone else with it. A knapped flint spearpoint is definitely technology.

  • Thinking

The ability to consider abstract relationships between symbols using semantics. May or may not depend on self-awareness.

  • Tool

Anything that is not part of you that you can use to achieve an effect on something else. Tools may include found objects, technology, words, other people, etc. Tools may be physical or semantic.

  • Tripartite Cognition Model

A descriptive model of human cognition distinguishing between three (3) processes: 1. Autonomous, 2. Algorithmic, and 3. Reflexive.

  • Uncertainty

Not knowing if something is true or false, or not yet having an opinion about which option to choose.

  • Understanding

The belief that one knows or can adequately explain why a fact exists or an event happened. Humans often make  assumptions regarding causality, and so they mostly have the illusion of understanding based on their beliefs.

  • Value

The relative merit of different kinds of work, translated into "fair" trade or money.

  • Wetware

Biological brains and nervous systems, the water and carbon based analog versions of high tech digital hardware and software.

  • Wisdom

The ability to make "good" decisions based on deep knowledge and experience. It is a relative quality and considered a human attribute.

  • Work (Jobs and Employment)

When talking about jobs and employment, this means expending energy to perform an action that results in a measurable effect. Unlike in physics, it is possible to have a job, expend energy, and not perform measurable work.

  • Work (Physics)

When talking about the physical world, work means applying force (some form of energy) to an object to move it. We measure work by the amount of force required to displace an object a certain distance. In physics, application of force (energy) always results in work.