Thought Pieces

Curiosity and What Equality Really Means

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

The New Yorker
Atul Gawande

I want to start with a story. One night, on my surgery rotation, during my third year of medical school, I followed my chief resident into the trauma bay in the emergency department. We’d been summoned to see a prisoner who’d swallowed half a razor blade and slashed his left wrist with the corner of the crimp on a toothpaste tube. He was about thirty, built like a boxer, with a tattooed neck, hands shackled to the gurney, and gauze around his left wrist showing bright crimson seeping through.

The first thing out of his mouth was a creepy comment about the chief resident, an Asian-American woman. I won’t say what he said. Just know he managed in only a few words to be racist, sexist, and utterly menacing to her. She turned on her heels, handed me the clipboard, and said, “He’s all yours.”

I looked at the two policemen with him to see what they were going to do. I don’t know what I expected. That they’d yell at him? Beat him? But they only looked at me impassively, maybe slightly amused. He was all mine.

So what now?

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In a world of digital nomads, we will all be made homeless

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

The Guardian
John Harris

Whose utopia is this, when people have to sever emotional links and leave where they grew up to find dependable work?

The office-space empire WeWork was founded eight years ago in New York. It currently leases 240,000 sq metres of real estate in London alone, which reportedly makes it the city’s largest user of offices after the British government. The basic deal is simple enough: you can either pay to put your laptop wherever there is space, or stump up a little more for a more dependable desk or entire office – and, in either case, take advantage of the fact that, with operations in 20 countries, WeWork offers the chance to traverse the planet and temporarily set up shop in no end of locations.

Part of the WeWork idea, moreover, is that a place to toil is only part of what is on offer. As well as your workspace, there will be free beer on tap, regular yoga and pilates sessions, and more. As the working day winds on and such distractions – along with the necessity of meeting other footloose hotshots, and comparing “projects” – take up more of your time, a couple of questions might spring to mind: what is work, and what is leisure? And does the distinction even count for much any more?

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AI, automation, and the future of work: Ten things to solve for

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Mckinsey Global Institute
James Manyika and Kevin Sneader

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming businesses and will contribute to economic growth via contributions to productivity. They will also help address “moonshot” societal challenges in areas from health to climate change.

At the same time, these technologies will transform the nature of work and the workplace itself. Machines will be able to carry out more of the tasks done by humans, complement the work that humans do, and even perform some tasks that go beyond what humans can do. As a result, some occupations will decline, others will grow, and many more will change. While we believe there will be enough work to go around (barring extreme scenarios), society will need to grapple with significant workforce transitions and dislocation. Workers will need to acquire new skills and adapt to the increasingly capable machines alongside them in the workplace. They may have to move from declining occupations to growing and, in some cases, new occupations.

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Skill shift: Automation and the future of the workforce

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

McKinsey Global Institute 
Jacques Bughin, Eric Hazan, Susan Lund, Peter Dahlström, Anna Wiesinger, and Amresh Subramaniam

Skill shifts have accompanied the introduction of new technologies in the workplace since at least the Industrial Revolution, but adoption of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will mark an acceleration over the shifts of even the recent past. The need for some skills, such as technological as well as social and emotional skills, will rise, even as the demand for others, including physical and manual skills, will fall. These changes will require workers everywhere to deepen their existing skill sets or acquire new ones. Companies, too, will need to rethink how work is organized within their organizations.

This briefing, part of our ongoing research on the impact of technology on the economy, business, and society, quantifies time spent on 25 core workplace skills today and in the future for five European countries—France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom—and the United States and examines the implications of those shifts.

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Capitalism in the age of robots: work, income and wealth in the 21st century

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Johns Hopkins University
Adair Turner

My title is “Capitalism in the age of robots” and my aim is to consider the possible long-term impact of rapid technological progress – and in particular of work automation and artificial intelligence. And I will sometimes use the word “robots” as shorthand for any sort of machine – any combination of hardware and software – that can perform any sort of work, rather than specifically meaning something which looks like a human, with legs, arms and a smiley face.

I will argue that the rapid, unstoppable, and limitless progress of automation potential will have profound implications for the nature of and need for work, and for the distribution of income and wealth. But also profound implications for the very meaning of some concepts and measures which play a fundamental role in economic analysis – in particular productivity growth and GDP per capita. At the limit indeed, one can question whether the very concept of “an economy” or of “economics” – if defined as the study of production and consumption choices amid conditions of inherent scarcity – have any meaning in a world where, eventually, all human work activities can be automated.

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Rise of the machines: has technology evolved beyond our control?

Monday, 18 June 2018

The Guardian
James Bridle

The voice-activated gadget in the corner of your bedroom suddenly laughs maniacally, and sends a recording of your pillow talk to a colleague. The clip of Peppa Pig your toddler is watching on YouTube unexpectedly descends into bloodletting and death. The social network you use to keep in touch with old school friends turns out to be influencing elections and fomenting coups.

Something strange has happened to our way of thinking – and as a result, even stranger things are happening to the world. We have come to believe that everything is computable and can be resolved by the application of new technologies. But these technologies are not neutral facilitators: they embody our politics and biases, they extend beyond the boundaries of nations and legal jurisdictions and increasingly exceed the understanding of even their creators. As a result, we understand less and less about the world as these powerful technologies assume more control over our everyday lives.

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