Opinion The Big Crunch


  Wednesday, 19 Jul 2017 | 2:52 PM ET

Half of American jobs are at risk from automation, new study suggests

Posted ByNick Wells
Robotic arms weld body shells in an auto manufacturing plant.
Oliver Bunic | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Robotic arms weld body shells in an auto manufacturing plant.

The American workforce is under tremendous pressure, with change coming on multiple fronts. That uncertainty is leading to political and social turbulence, a new research paper suggests.

One in four American jobs are at risk of being shipped overseas in the coming years and about half could be replaced by automation, according to Ball State University's Center for Business and Economic Research. A new paper titled, "How Vulnerable are American Communities to Automation, Trade, and Urbanization?" combines several recent studies on employment trends to present a stark view of the future job situation for certain parts of the country.

"Some places and people observe robust benefits while others observe primarily costs" from the changes underway, the researchers wrote. "This has important economic, social, and political implications."

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  Monday, 17 Jul 2017 | 1:56 PM ET

Emojis changing the way people and businesses communicate

As ridiculous as it sounds, Monday is celebrated as World Emoji Day.

That's because July 17 is the day that appears on the iPhone emoji for "calendar." The day was picked because it's the birthday of Apple's iCal product.

Emojis, those digital images people send each other by text and social media, reflect the changing nature of communication, both for individuals and for businesses. Think about it: We went from the phone to email. Then from email to text messages. Now, we're going from actual language just to pictures.

Consider that the majority of Instagram users employ emojis in their posts, according to social media analytics blog quintly. About 76 percent of Americans said they used emoji in business communications, according to a survey cited by The Atlantic.

There are 2,666 official emojis in the Unicode Standard, as of May, that always work. Plus there are countless unofficial emojis introduced by companies, brands and even individual celebrities. Apple marked World Emoji Day by releasing final versions of a few new emojis that will be part of iOS 11, which comes out this fall. There's a new "bearded person," "breastfeeding" and a mushroom-cloud-exploding head, plus a zombie and some others.

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  Friday, 14 Jul 2017 | 11:57 AM ET

These AI bots are so believable, they get more dates than you

"You sound cute, got a picture?"

"Nicole, your [sic] beautiful, are you single?"

"I love you, Jen."

Those may sound like messages from a dating app, but they're actually real emails people have sent to customer service representatives at places like car dealerships, insurance companies and education firms.

The problem: Those customer service reps aren't human. They're algorithm-powered software programs created by Conversica, a company that specializes in conversational artificial intelligence.

The conversation around machines moving into the American workforce usually focuses on robots taking jobs hard skills like automated manufacturing and fast food cashiers. But a new breed of artificial intelligence is emerging that focuses more on soft skills for jobs like sales and marketing. The chatbots from companies like Conversica allow sales teams to ignore dead-end leads and focus their human power on actual sales.

Advances in natural language processing and buzzword terms like "machine learning" allow increasingly sophisticated communication between humans using artificial intelligence programs.

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  Tuesday, 11 Jul 2017 | 1:35 PM ET

Amazon Prime Day: Billions in lost productivity

While you're looking for a good deal on Amazon Prime Day, your company and the country are likely being dealt an economic blow. Consider how much productivity employers are losing from their workers staring at Amazon.com today rather than doing their work.

We tried to estimate the value of all that lost work and came up with a rough number around $10 billion.

Think of it this way: The full Prime Day lasts 30 hours, but people are only in the office for about a third of that time. Consider the estimated 85 million people on Amazon Prime already, and assume they each spend about one minute for each of the five minutes that new deals roll out, or 12 new ones an hour, to see if the deals are right for them.

A whopping 78 percent of members said they'd consider deals on Prime Day while at work, according to data from Fluent, a marketing company. Only 22 percent said they wouldn't shop while on the job.

Then consider U.S. gross domestic product and productivity data: 2016 GDP is estimated at $18.5 trillion, which is about $0.92 a minute for each worker. Put it all together, and you're looking at an estimated $10 billion in lost worker time, thanks to Amazon Prime Day.

Obviously, that's an estimate. We know a lot of new people will sign up for Prime membership just to get the deals today, which could send this number higher. We also don't really know how much time they'll spend on deals: It could be less if consumers aren't impressed with the offerings, or it could be more if they are.

"The reality is everyone is shopping on Amazon at work, at home, on the train, everywhere," said Joe McCann, CEO of NodeSource, an enterprise software firm. "Are people going to be even more distracted at work? Absolutely. Just as much as they would be during Cyber Monday or even Black Friday."

That $10 billion might not be taken away from their jobs, though. It could just be part of the daily bleed from other time-wasting activities such as Facebook, Twitter and this week's Wimbledon tournament.

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  Tuesday, 11 Jul 2017 | 12:23 PM ET

School shopping shifts earlier thanks to Amazon Prime Day

Posted ByNick Wells
Jamie Grill | Getty Images

The school year starts early these days, and you have Amazon to thank for that.

Retail shoppers are taking advantage of the online giant's Prime Day to get a jump on back-to-school shopping for the fall semester. Amazon's annual event offers subscription members various deals over a 30-hour period in July.

Fresh data provided to CNBC show how shopping for back to school is starting earlier in in the year. Online-only shopping for back-to-school peaks the week of Prime Day, long before many brick-and-mortar stores have rolled out their displays, according to Cardlytics, a firm that tracks purchasing data.

"Retailers should start marketing their online channels at the beginning of the summer, to capture the early online spend," said Dani Cushion, chief marketing officer at Cardlytics, "and their in-store channels mid-summer through the start of the school year."

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  Thursday, 13 Oct 2016 | 12:03 PM ET

The numbers are staggering: Harry Potter and the $25 billion franchise

General view of atmosphere of fans at the 'Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 An IMAX Experience' release party at AMC Loews Kips Bay 15 theater  in New York.
Getty Images
General view of atmosphere of fans at the 'Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 An IMAX Experience' release party at AMC Loews Kips Bay 15 theater in New York.

In anticipation of the latest film in the Harry Potter franchise, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," the full lineup of Harry Potter will be returning to theaters for a week beginning on Thursday.

Time Warner is looking to further cash in on an eight-film franchise that has already earned more than $7 billion in box office revenue since 2001. Scholastic, which sold more than 160 million copies of the seven Harry Potter novels in the U.S., also published the screenplay for the film. At $24.99 for the hardcover, that adds to the nearly $8 billion in book sales that have already been wrung out of the series.

As in the Star Wars franchise, the value of toy sales shouldn't be underestimated. Hasbro and especially Mattel have both made money on Potter games and toys, and total sales so far are estimated at over $7 billion. All told, the total value of the franchise so far has been around $25 billion.

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