In this episode of Motley Fool Answers, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp are joined by senior Motley Fool analyst Simon Erickson to talk about the disruptive trends of artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation. Recent studies conclude that huge numbers of U.S. workers will see their jobs -- or parts of them -- delegated to machines in the next few decades. That will mean great things for efficiency and possibly even society, but how can an individual prepare for the rise of the robots? What jobs are safe? And where should a Foolish investor put his or her money to capitalize on this revolutionary redistribution of work.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on June 13, 2017.
Alison Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers. I'm Alison Southwick, and I'm joined, as always, by Robert Brokamp, personal-finance expert here at The Motley Fool.
Robert Brokamp: Greetings, Alison.
Southwick: Hello! In this week's episode we're going to enlist the help of Motley Fool senior analyst Simon Erickson to help us understand the disruptive trend of automation and AI. Self-driving cars, drones, Alexa! What will it mean for your job and your portfolio? We'll also answer your question about investing in an artificial-intelligence ETF. All that and more, on this week's episode of Motley Fool Answers.
It's time for "Answers Answers," and today's question comes from John. John writes, "I've been looking at artificial-intelligence ETFs and/or mutual funds. I see this is an industry that is only beginning to show its potential and will carry into the future with high rewards. Are there any recommendations on such funds that I should look into, and what should I look at when comparing funds? Thank you. A big fan of your podcast. John."
And joining us to help answer that question is Simon Erickson.
Brokamp: Hi, Simon!
Simon Erickson: Hello, Alison. Hey, Bro. Glad to be here. I feel like I'm in a roomful of celebrities. Thanks for having me on the program.
Southwick: It's great to have you.
Brokamp: Oh, stop, you.
Southwick: Simon, you work on Motley Fool Explorer for Supernova and you are a big, I don't know, techie, nerdy, AI, robotics-following kind of guy.
Brokamp: Are you human?
Erickson: I like the techie part of that the most.
Brokamp: Are you human? That's what I want to know.
Erickson: Yeah, we're looking for the biggest trends that the market's going after for the future.
Southwick: So we brought you in not only to answer this question, but also for our main segment here. But for now let's stick to the question. John wants to find an AI ETF or mutual fund. Where should he look?
Erickson: One that we would recommend is Robo Global. The ticker for that is ROBO, John. It's an ETF that actually does exactly what you're describing. It's tracking a variety of robotics and automation-equipment companies, which we think is a pretty interesting class right now. There's a lot of stuff going on with robotics, and there's a lot of companies making a lot of money off that. That would be one opportunity, I think.
Southwick: This is a pretty nascent sort of industry. Is this the only game in town, or are there other ones to look at?
Erickson: There's a lot of individual stocks, too. When we're talking about ETFs, that's one idea. Of course, we've got a lot of companies we can discuss. Individual equities that are really more focused on robotics and stuff like that.
Brokamp: I'll just throw in a few basic principles about picking funds in general. Cost always matters, and whenever you have a specialized fund or ETF, it's always going to be a higher-cost type of thing, so be prepared for that.
Also, a lot of these things -- depending on the sector that you're looking at -- I would look at the concentration, meaning how many companies does it own and how much of the fund is invested in the top 10 holdings? Some of these are going to be more diversified than others. Especially when you have an emerging industry like this, it could be really riding on the fates of like three to five companies, and that I would say is probably less ideal than something that's a little more diversified.
Erickson: Good point. Eighty-five holdings in this one. Management fee of 0.95%. Bro, you're the expert on analyzing the funds, but at an overview it looks like it's in the right sector for sure.
Brokamp: And it's certainly higher than if you were looking at a regular old index fund. You just have to be prepared for that when you look at a fund like this.
Southwick: Hey, here's a fun stat.
Brokamp: Yes, what's that stat?
Southwick: You're going to find this stat terrifying; however, I find it intriguing and Simon's going to find it ... I don't know.
Southwick: Stimulating. So, according to PwC, 40% of jobs in the U.S. may be vulnerable to replacement by robots in the next 15 years.
Brokamp: Just 15 years?
Southwick: Just. See, you've got 15 years before you're out of a job, Robert Brokamp. I'm going to get a robot to sit in that chair and say, "Buy an index fund!"
Erickson: The Brobot.
Brokamp: A Brobot! There you go.
Southwick: "Buy and hold!"
Brokamp: Both you and my wife will buy one.
Southwick: "Pay attention to fees!" This show's going to be amazing.
Brokamp: Is that how I sound? Thank you very much.
Southwick: No, that's how the Brobot will sound. So apparently the U.S., more than other countries, is at risk of losing jobs to automation. Thirty percent of jobs in the United Kingdom, compared to 35% in Germany and, surprisingly, 21% in Japan -- my theory is it's because they've already replaced so many people with robots. They love their robots over there.
Brokamp: Yes, that's true.
Southwick: Joining us to help unpack what could be a terrifying stat is Simon Erickson. You heard him on "Answers Answers" just now. "As heard on 'Answers Answers.'" He's stuck around to help us unpack the potentially very disruptive industry of AI, automation, and robotics. So Simon, thank you for joining us.
Erickson: Glad to be, here. Thanks for having me, Alison.
Southwick: All right, Bro. You're going to kick off our discussion.
Brokamp: Well, I'm not an expert on this, but I read articles about it here and there, and as you folks know, and long-term listeners know, I'm kind of an awfulizer. I'm always scanning the universe for what's going to be the worst-case scenario and what's going to ruin my life.
So when I see these headlines about robots taking over everything, and headlines about Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking saying that AI is going to destroy humankind, it catches my attention. So while I'm not an expert, I have read things here and there, and then I know Simon covers it, so I thought, "Let's invite him and see if he can make me feel at least a little better."
Erickson: Less awful.
Brokamp: Less awful, yes.
Erickson: Got it. OK.
Southwick: Let's go.
Brokamp: There's two components here, really. First of all, is your job safe, and second of all, what about your portfolio? Is it safe, and how can you profit from this if this really is an emerging trend? So let's start with jobs. Alison presented some stats. I've read similar stats from other folks as well. Some of them have broken up not into specific jobs but different job types, like the skills that you do: physical skills, information gathering, information processing, being empathetic, and things like that.
For example, one study said that about 45% of tasks today could be automated. Even 20% to 30% of a CEO's job could be automated if we wanted to do that. What do you think?
Erickson: The way that I think about that -- I looked at the same study, too. McKinsey did a pretty thorough study on this. It said all these jobs are at risk, but I think the way to frame this is you're not replacing human beings. You're replacing the work that people are doing today.
And robots, for a lot of that work, can be more efficient and a lower cost for companies. Companies will make financial decisions based on return on investment, and I think that a lot of that work like you described, Bro, especially physical labor. Anything that might be data collection and processing. Stuff like that could be more efficiently done by robots, which frees people up to do other things.
Some of the tasks that we saw that really are the least susceptible to having robots disrupt include managing others, or having expertise in certain fields, just like we've seen things over time. We saw that the plow replaced a lot of physical farming hours. The internet replaced librarian hours. And in the coming years, maybe we're going to see self-driving cars replace a lot of taxi driver hours.
For society as a whole, these are pretty big gains that are letting us do other things with that time, but it is replacing jobs that are shifting to other things now. That's the way that I frame it.
Brokamp: And that's the challenge. Can these people who are doing these jobs go find other jobs? One of the reports that I read from Morningstar pointed out that first of all -- this is something we all heard -- that the wage of the middle-income household or worker hasn't really grown. Part of that is because the classic middle-income factory worker for a lot of the last century was someone who is doing one of these jobs that has now since been replaced by robots.
And while some of these jobs that will be eliminated, people will be able to find other jobs, will they be able to make the same amount of income? Or will there be so many jobs that the income inequality will be even greater? What does that look like? Who's going to profit from this change? Will it be people who own capital? Who own stocks? Those are some of the concerns people have.
Erickson: The first robots we used were just replacing physical labor. Machines could pick up things that were heavier, which people couldn't lift with their arms. Then over time, computers got better at processing and remembering things -- as my wife likes to remind me that I always forget at the grocery store -- and now the next phase is going to be robots processing and programming each other. So they're actually training other robots to do things.
And it's scary, because we don't know what that's going to look like, but there will be opportunities that we didn't have before that will happen with this as well.
Brokamp: And it's not just going to be sort of lower-wage jobs, right? You think 30 years ago what was considered a pretty good white-collar job was preparing taxes. Then came TurboTax. Travel agents -- no longer need them. Now they have computers that can look at X-rays and by some studies they actually do a better job than humans do. There are now some computers that not only assist with surgery -- which we've had for years now -- but can actually do the surgery.
So that's part of my concern. As someone who's a father with kids, where do I tell my kids to look to the future in terms of their professions and their human capital?
Southwick: Yeah, I was reading an article in The Economist about this. The quote that stood out was, "What determines vulnerability to automation is not so much whether the work concerned is manual or white collar, but whether or not it is routine."
Erickson: And cost per labor hour. What percentage of a company's costs are related to labor? Does it make sense for them to invest in a robot? Universal Robots is now saying that their $40,000 robots have a payback period of 200 days. That's quick for a capital investment decision. You're going to see more and more of that here in the states. You're already seeing Tesla automate basically all of its car manufacturing, and China, too. There's an arms race, almost, in buying robots across the world right now. China's just got such capacity that they want these, and there's a huge demand for them.
Southwick: To Bro's point -- as if your kids are going to take your advice anyway on what they should be when they grow up -- where do you see safety as far as future employment? What is safe from automation? Aside from being charming podcast hosts?
Erickson: It's going to be a tool for people to make decisions. AI -- anything that's able to find more data more quickly for you to make decisions. We're still going to have managers. Robots aren't going to be in the boardroom or making decisions for companies. You're still going to need people, human beings, to do that stuff. This is just a tool to make management more effective.
Brokamp: Yeah. The research I've done indicates that the more your job relies on human interaction, empathy, persuasion, the safer you're going to be. So that is management, but it's also healthcare workers who are actually dealing with the patients. Education, surprisingly, has come up frequently as a safe job. That surprised me at first, because I thought kids could sit at a computer and learn. But as a former teacher, I also know that it takes a lot of human interaction, skills, and analysis to say, "This kid is learning. Isn't learning. What can we do for them?"
And then the other things that seem to be safer, at least at this point, are anything that relies on some sort of creativity. At this point they've gotten computers to design some things. They've gotten computers to write articles, even, but it's not at the same quality as a human.
Erickson: Yeah. And Alison, the expert comment, too. There's still going to be experts in every field. One of them is going to be the medical field. You're now seeing robotic surgery going into the operating room, which is helping to have smaller incisions, have better patient recoveries, fewer readmissions. If you're a surgeon, that's what you want. You want the patient's outcome to be the best possible. That's a tool that's being used for somebody that's trained on that to use it for their job more effectively. I think we're going to see a lot more of that kind of stuff, too.
Brokamp: There's the question of what computers can do and there's the question of what people want them to do. We could probably automate a lot of healthcare, but do you want a computer to come into your hospital room after the surgery and talk to you about what happened, or do you still want that human interaction from a doctor or nurse helping you?
Southwick: That's one of the cases for why there will always be financial advisors, Bro. You can sleep well at night because hearing another person say you're doing OK, you're going to be OK is better than hearing a robot say "you are fine."
Erickson: That didn't make me feel fine. That voice didn't work for me.
Southwick: You want to hear that warmth and that empathy. A Brobot's not going to be able to deliver what a Bro can.
Brokamp: And I am heartened by these organizations with people like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. They're coming up with these parameters on artificial intelligence. I love it when you read it, because they really are worried about artificial intelligence becoming so smart that it develops a will of its own and it sort of takes over. That they're going to build these things with basically kill switches, where if things get out of control, someone can push that red button and turn everything off. Read any articles about that. It's pretty fascinating. Maybe a little scary, but fascinating.
One thing that I did find somewhat heartening is the argument that if everyone were out of a job, there'd be no demand for goods or services. You've got to still have people who have jobs, who have money to buy things. So society is going to come up with some way to make sure everyone's OK.
If you read about this stuff, you'll start reading more and more about some sort of universal basic income, for example, where everyone in the country gets a certain amount of money whether they're working or not. Everyone is assured at least a certain amount of money. And it surprised me how many libertarians are actually behind this.
You'll hear other things. Bill Gates thinks -- and I think Robert Shiller as well -- that every time a robot takes over a job, if we get to a really bad point, that robot has to pay taxes. I think the example Bill Gates gave was if someone's earning $50,000 a year, they're paying taxes. A robot comes and takes that job, we lose tax revenue. That robot should have to pay taxes, which will pay for the training of the person who lost the job so that they can get a new job. So it will be very interesting to see how all this plays out over the next 15 years, apparently.
Erickson: And generally we want companies to be more efficient. Like if they're saving costs, stuff can get cheaper over time. That can be higher salaries for people. Better for stock investors. A variety of good things can come out of that.
Brokamp: Let's move on to our portfolio. So if people believe this is a trend, this is a way to enhance the performance of your portfolio. Maybe you're frightened now and you know that your portfolio has to get bigger so you can retire sooner. What can you do about that, Simon?
Erickson: Well, I've got a list of 73 ideas, here, Bro, that we can go through on how to play this trend. Just kidding, of course. Or am I? The first is I think that consumer applications are going to be one of the big things that you're going to see robotics in. One of the original for this was iRobot. Have either of you ever had a Roomba?
Erickson: The vacuum?
Brokamp: No, I used to do Zumba. Is that the same thing?
Erickson: I think that's similar, maybe. The Roomba is the best-selling vacuum in the United States this past year.
Erickson: It's completely robotic. It goes around your house. It vacuums for you. Saves you the time that you used to go around and vacuum the floors.
Brokamp: Have they gotten better?
Erickson: They have, because of spatial awareness. Because robots now can make sense of where they are and what they see more and more. So rather than just having an algorithm where it keeps running into something over and over --
Brokamp: That's what I saw, but it's been probably a few years since I've seen one.
Erickson: We had the original model, and I was just picking hair out of the Roomba the entire time. It didn't work well for me, either, but they've gotten significantly better. China and Japan -- they're growing 30% a year in both of those countries. They really love these things.
I think anything that generally saves you time of tasks you don't really want to do, there's a price point for everybody on that, whatever that number is, and when the costs start coming down for these, people will start investing more money in robotic helpers around the house.
Brokamp: Buck Hartzell, who's been on our show and works at the Fool, has a self-propelled lawn mower. He just turns it on and it goes around the lawn and cuts the lawn for him.
Erickson: The other idea I have for this is logistics and warehousing. You're seeing a lot of companies -- Amazon is one of the leaders in this. It invests in robots to do a lot of the inventory management. They bought a company called Kiva Systems five years ago. Spent a little less than $1 billion for that acquisition, and they started using these in their fulfillment centers to pick up products and then fulfill the logistics. Ship them out to everybody that buys stuff on Amazon.
This is pretty amazing when you think about it. They're expecting each fulfillment center to save about $22 million, and when you multiply that by 110 different fulfillment centers, that's $2 billion a year for Amazon. That's about 7% of their total overhead costs just from applying robots. They're one of the early leaders. You're going to see other people following in their path for that one as well.
And then the other one that we talked a lot about over in Explorer is just the disruption of the transportation industry right now.
The average fare that I saw per mile for a taxi across the United States is about $2.50, and the majority of that is actually going to the labor cost ... to pay the driver for spending the time to drive you around. A self-driving car is estimated to get that cost per mile down to about a quarter. Maybe $0.30 a mile. And when you think about that, if you're taking a 10-mile trip, that's maybe $3.00. That's something Google will subsidize to have your attention for a short amount of time, just like an advertising placement would be today. So it's opening up new business ideas.
Brokamp: Wow. As a father of a 16-year-old who's learning to drive now, I wish this was already going on, because the thought of my kid being out on the road terrifies me.
Southwick: It's kind of crazy how companies like Uber and other ride-share companies -- the future is people you don't know driving you around in your cars. But companies like Uber are already investing in self-driving technology. They're already trying to put their workforce out of work. Which is kind of crazy. It's like, yes, they already recognize that we rely on people to drive you around, but it's not always going to be like that.
Erickson: And there is some societal good for that, too, right? I mean, if we can reduce the number of accidents, have self-driving cars that don't drive frantically and crazily all over the roads, maybe that's a win for everybody, too. In addition, a lot of companies will make a lot of money off it.
Southwick: I feel like people have been talking about self-driving cars, and flying cars, and other advancements in cars since the first car was made.
Brokamp: It's The Jetsons.
Southwick: Why now are we seeing, why now do we feel that self-driving cars -- what happened? What was the technological leap forward that's like, "No. this is imminent"? That this is not science fiction anymore?
Erickson: Yeah, sure. First of all, go back and watch The Jetsons again. A lot of that stuff is actually coming true now, and I think they were really ahead of their time. To answer your question, really it's just the better machine vision, which can now make sense of everything that is around it. And deep learning is really the keyword of what's going on here.
Before, machines couldn't really understand what they were seeing around them. Now we're at a point where self-driving cars, through different inputs, can make sense of seeing, "This is a stop sign. This is a kid walking in front of me." And the algorithms, the stuff behind the scenes, can process, "What am I supposed to do?" We actually rode in one of Google's self-driving cars last month out in Mountain View.
Southwick: Was it terrifying?
Erickson: It was completely normal.
Southwick: No, you were terrified. The moment he pushed the button and said --
Brokamp: So you got in the car and then it drove you somewhere?
Erickson: True story. Honest to God, we were out in a self-driving car and there was an accident on the road between two non-self-driving cars.
Brokamp: Well, there's no question that people are horrible. Let's make that clear.
Southwick: That's not up for debate.
Erickson: There was a gentleman in a truck that was stepping out of his vehicle. He might have had a fist as he was walking toward the other car. The self-driving car recognized that was out of the ordinary of what its algorithms were telling it. It slowed down, approached with caution, and then when it realized it was safe, continued to go ahead.
Brokamp: If two self-driving cars hit each other, do they get in a fight? Because that would be kind of cool. They turn into Transformers...
Erickson: And they argue in code.
Brokamp: So you weren't scared at all.
Erickson: At first when I got in I was like, "How is this going to go?" I had no idea what to expect. There was literally a gentleman holding a laptop that was the brains of the car on the passenger side of the front seat. And within two minutes I was completely comfortable. And the residents of Mountain View are kind of used to seeing the self-driving car drive all the time. It wasn't a big deal for them, either.
So again, that's an application that you're going to start seeing. I think it's going to come in pockets and roll out a little bit at a time, but that's a lot of savings for motorists everywhere.
Southwick: Who's going to win the self-driving-car race, because everyone's got one?
Brokamp: Even the traditional car manufacturers --
Southwick: Everyone who's got money to throw at the problem has one.
Erickson: Yes, it's a good question, really. I mean, you kind of see Detroit's trying to sell cars. They're trying to sell the torque and the engine size to people that want to drive it.
Southwick: It's called the ... oh! I thought the name of the car was the Torque. I was like, "Ugh. We need to have a word with their branding in front of it. I don't want to buy a Torque."
Brokamp: It's the same as The Monkees. There's the Nesmith, the Jones.
Erickson: But they're selling the car that we step on the accelerator. You're going, like a sports car. And then Silicon Valley is trying to completely replace the driver altogether to minimize accidents. So there's going to be somewhere of a middle ground between those two.
Southwick: But TBD, who's winning?
Erickson: There's going to be a lot of companies that run the platform that make sense of what's going on. I think NVIDIA is definitely one of my front-runners right now for that, just because they have the graphics processing units that really are the brains that are telling the car what to do.
Brokamp: Final question about this. Whenever you have this type of emerging technology and an emerging trend, people want to invest in it and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. Like 3D printing or the internet. For all that stuff, stocks went up very high. Some of them turned out, like Amazon, to be very great investments. Some of them didn't. So based on what's now going on and these types of investments, have they gotten ahead of themselves or is this now still a decent time to get in?
Erickson: I think that's a very good question to ask, because you have to respect the hype cycle, which basically tells you when you're starting to see a zillion media headlines, that typically means companies could be overvalued. We could be getting ahead of ourselves. We're not actually going to see this as soon as everybody thinks we're going to, but then again, you see a lot of stuff catch on really quickly. NVIDIA tripled their data-center revenue year over year.
The question that I always go back to -- is X Company making it very easy for their customers to use whatever it is they're trying to sell? Is this applicable? Why do I care if I'm buying something from this company, and can I easily ease it into the workflow that I've already got, or do I have to screw up my entire business to do that?
And so for robotics companies, that's a return-on-investment question that has to be integratable into what you're already doing. For self-driving cars it's, "Can I have a model that's a self-driving car that people still want to buy?" I think that's the way around the hype cycle. It's like is this actually useful to the people that want to buy it?
Southwick: Where should people go if they want to learn more about investing, or just in general about automation and AI? What's a good place for them to go to learn more?
Erickson: To Motley Fool Explorer, of course! That's a great way. You know, there's a lot of stuff. We mentioned the McKinsey studies. There's a lot of robotics studies that are out there right now. Maybe peruse some of those and see if there's anything that's interesting.
Southwick: Just keep an eye on the headlines.
Brokamp: Even in my study, there wasn't like one place you go to, although McKinsey has sort of taken the lead on it.
Erickson: Yes, Carnegie Mellon is coming out with a lot of cool stuff from an academic perspective. It goes into the industry itself, and then companies' annual reports. We read through what they're working on. That gives us a bunch of ideas.
Southwick: Let's have a disclaimer. The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations, or not, for the stocks we talked about on the show. Don't buy and sell stocks based solely on what you heard here. All right, Simon. Can you stick around for a little bit of robotic fun?
Erickson: I can!
Brokamp: "Yes, he can, Alison." I'm trying out for the Brobot job. I hope I get it.
Southwick: I'm pulling for you. Do you need a friend?
The robot uprising is upon us, and cropping up in the oddest of places, so we're going to test your robot smarts. These are all stories that I read in the last week alone about the magical step forward we're all taking in robotics.
Brokamp: I assume you got it off the internet, right? So they've got to be true.
Southwick: I got these off legitimate news sources.
Brokamp: OK, go ahead.
Southwick: Who wants to take the first question?
Brokamp: I'll take the first one.
Southwick: This is good. This is perfect for you. A robot priest named BlessU-2 is the latest and most pious technology built in the small German town of Wittenberg, as reported in The Guardian -- a legitimate news source -- just last month. The robot has a touchscreen chest, two arms, and a head. It offers blessings in a choice of German, English, French, Spanish, or Polish, and worshipers can choose between a male or female voice. That's pretty progressive.
Brokamp: A female priest? All right. What kind of craziness is this?
Southwick: Question. BlessU-2 was created to commemorate 500 years since what event happened in that same town of Wittenberg?
Brokamp: Martin Luther nailed the theses up on the church ...
Brokamp: ... door. Hey! There you go.
Southwick: Kicked off the Reformation. Created as a way to get people talking about the future of the church -- considering where it's come in the last 500 years. It was not the first holy robot. In 2016, a Buddhist temple on the edge of Beijing developed a robot monk that could chant mantras and explain basic tenets of the religion.
Brokamp: Well, what do you know?
Southwick: So it's a good thing you didn't go into the priesthood, because you would have been replaced by a robot.
Brokamp: That's right. For listeners who don't know, I did spend a year or two studying to be a priest. That's the reference there.
Southwick: All right, Simon. Here's yours. The world's first operational police robot made its debut just last month in Dubai. He dons a police cap, rides on wheels, and has a computer touchscreen in his chest where you can ask a question, report a crime, or inquire about a speeding ticket. It speaks six languages and can read facial expressions. It's also equipped with a camera that transmits live images to a central operations room, and it can identify subjects wanted by police. The question is, if all goes as planned, what percent of Dubai's police force will be robots by 2030?
Southwick: Closest without going over.
Erickson: I will go with two-thirds. 66%.
Southwick: Whoa! No! Wow, that's aggressive. Just 25%.
Southwick: They expect their robot police force to be 25% of the total police force.
Erickson: That is impressive.
Brokamp: I'm ready.
Southwick: Good news. Here's one job that robots are having a hard time replacing. Two restaurants in Guangzhou, China, that made use of robotic waiters have closed down, and a third remain open but have given all but one of the robots the sack. Can you name one of the three things that the robots were notably bad at which led them to getting fired?
Brokamp: Let's see. Getting the right order to the right person. So the person who ordered the hamburger -- that it's placed in front of that person and not somebody else.
Southwick: OK, you could have literally said anything that a waiter needs to do. The robots could not carry soup or other food without spilling it. They couldn't pour beverages, like tea -- that would be bad.
Brokamp: That would be tough.
Southwick: And they also couldn't take orders.
Brokamp: That's a tough one, too.
Erickson: Worst waiter ever.
Southwick: Each robot cost the equivalent of about 7,000 U.S. dollars, and they required constant repairs. According to the owner of the restaurant, the only thing that the robots were good for was getting customers through the door. He said, "Robots can attract plenty of customers, but they definitely can't reduce the need for human labor."
Last one. This one I'm going to giggle a lot over, so just be prepared. Maybe you're debating between Ferndale or English Apple, but have you considered Stanky Bean? Recently, research scientist Janelle Shane gave a computer a list of about 7,700 what to see if a neural network could do a better job of coming up with names? What did this researcher put into the computer to see if it could name better than we do?
Erickson: Movie titles.
Brokamp: Band names.
Southwick: We are Stanky Bean! Thank you, Detroit! No. The answer is paint colors. So for this experiment, Janelle Shane gave the neural network a list of 7,700 Sherwin-Williams paint colors along with their RGB value -- so red-green-blue -- and then she asked them to invent new paint colors and give them attractive names. The answer is decidedly hilarious.
Stanky Bean is one of the names. It's a rather lovely mauve color. There were names like Burple Simp. Bank -- I can't believe I'm giggling over this -- Bank Butt was a color. That is also a pink color. Caring Tan is one. Light of Blast. Burf Pink. Rose Hork. Homestar Brown.
Brokamp: Sherwin-Williams employees, your jobs are safe.
Southwick: Dondarf is a lovely periwinkle blue. Apparently the computer couldn't really... Grass Bat is red. Sorry, Dorkwood. Stoner Blue is actually a nice color. Turdly.
Brokamp: Stoner Blue. I think that has marketable potential.
Southwick: I think it does, too. There is one that's just called Sink.
Erickson: The best of the list, actually.
Southwick: I don't know. Bank Butt makes me laugh pretty hard. So there you go. Some jobs, yes, are at risk of being lost to robots, but being a server or naming and creating paint colors -- solid jobs for the Brokamp kids to go into. Unless they can't beat Snowbonk or Clardic Fug.
Erickson: Or Police in Dubai. That's safe, too.
Brokamp: That's true, too.
Erickson: At least three-quarters.
Brokamp: That was my conclusion from that. You know what? If I lose this job I can always be a cop in Dubai.
Erickson: There you go.
Southwick: Simon, thank you for joining us today. This has been a fun discussion and you're not scared anymore, are you? Robert?
Brokamp: I'm not scared for myself as much as my kids. I just want to make sure that I steer them in a direction in which they have a future.
Southwick: They're going to be fine. Even if they're English majors, they're going to be fine. That's all that matters.
Rick Engdahl: Have them make robots.
Brokamp: Well, that's what Lucas will do, but I don't know about the other two.
Southwick: Again, thank you for joining us, Simon. That's the show! Summer is upon us, which means you're going to start going on vacation, and when you go on vacation, please won't you consider sending us a postcard? So far we've heard from listeners from such exotic places as the Maldives and Bartlesville, Okla., and I love them both equally, so please send us your postcards this summer, because I love getting them.
Also, I realize it can be a pain to mail something while you're on vacation, so I will happily accept postcards that were purchased on location and then mailed once you're back home. I don't think that's cheating.
Brokamp: And where should they be mailed, Alison?
Southwick: Hey! They should be sent to The Motley Fool, care of one of us. That's fine. Pick your favorite.
Brokamp: Alison! Alison!
Southwick: 2000 Duke Street, 2nd floor, Alexandria, VA, 22314. And thank you to the -- I don't know -- over 100 people who have sent postcards in so far. I really do love each and every one.
Brokamp: We do. It's a lot of fun.
Southwick: They bring us a lot of joy. The show is edited robotically by Rick Engdahl. Our email is email@example.com. For Robert Brokamp, I'm Alison Southwick. Stay Foolish, everybody!
Alison Southwick has no position in any stocks mentioned. Robert Brokamp, CFP owns shares of Tesla. Simon Erickson owns shares of Amazon and Tesla. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, iRobot, and Tesla. The Motley Fool recommends Sherwin-Williams. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.