Honkin’ down the highway. In a minor key

Two great pieces of entertainment over the past few days. Maggie Smith and an ensemble cast in the movie of The Lady in the Van and Brian Wilson, leading another ensemble cast, playing Pet Sounds (and more) at the Opera House.

Both central protagonists suffered greatly for their art, and the piano was central to that art. Both wreaked creative chaos on their families and close friends (and initially not so close, in the case of Alan Bennet), and both endured long periods where they disappeared from public life. Both enjoyed periods of beautiful redemption at the end of long tortured lives. Both were (and are in Brian’s case) buoyed by a supporting cast that in some ways help spread the load, and provide alternate perspectives, and both were quite spectacular. Shout out to Al Jardine and his son Matt, who did a lot of the heavy lifting on vocals, sensitively and with grace.

‘Honkin’ down the highway’ was a 1977 track, written by Brian and sung by Al. The song seemed like the kind of song you’d sing forty years later only if you’d lost the rights to the whole Beach Boys catalogue. They did the Beach Boys songbook, beautifully, so I can only assume Honkin’ was a nod to friendship, and rolling down life’s highway.

Brian Wilson and band 20160329

Postscript. Sydney Morning Herald music critic Bernard Zuel slammed the same show, and said Brian Wilson should stop now (Beach Boy was once genius but it’s time to let it go’) and while I think he’s got a valid point, he was overly harsh on the band and the performance. I don’t feel inclined to share the link to the review, such as it was; I really enjoyed the show and so did many others. There’s an objectivity – or level of cynicism – inherent in being a critic. If we didn’t see artists after their prime (or before?) what would be left? Do critics seek out only those ‘perfect’ moments? The fact that they have to (?) adopt this outsider mindset must mean they miss the ‘social’ aspects of a night like Tuesday, so why take the seat? Leave it to someone gullible enough to enjoy the show

Yoshimi battles the pink robots. Automation is so yesterday

Automation is so yesterday

Thomas H. Davenport

In 2011, Foxconn Technology Group (iPhone and iPad and assemblers) said they’d deploy a million robots within three years. CEO Terry Gou believed the robots would replace a million workers. In 2015, Foxconn has  about 50,000 robots installed, and still employs a million humans.

‘It is not cost effective to have a fully automated production line given the short product cycle of smartphones. Flexibility of workers is still crucial in a fast changing market.’ Analyst Kaile Huang, Wall Street Journal blog

‘Competitively, automation is a fast route to a dead end. Standardized products and processes will initially be cheaper, but then other firms will adopt the same approaches. Everyone’s prices will drop, as will profit margins. Companies won’t have enough margin to create innovative new products or processes. The strategic appeal of consistent, low cost machines will initially seem very seductive, but it will become much less so over time.’ Tom Davenport, Wall Street Journal blog

‘None of this means that humans shouldn’t worry about smart machines taking their jobs. Some of that will happen, and it will most likely impact the people who are already suffering in our economy those with the least education and experience… But many human jobs will persist because smart leaders will realize that augmentation combining smart humans with smart machines is a better strategy than automation.’ Tom Davenport, Wall Street Journal blog

Organizations that care about innovation, agile response to change, and high quality customer service will realize the value that humans bring to such essential attributes of contemporary business… We’re beyond the Industrial Age, and we should move beyond automation as a way to improve our businesses.’ Tom Davenport, Wall Street Journal blog

Million dollar baby. Incubate pitches

Demo Day Wrap Up: Class 6 Pitches to Potential Investors

INCUBATE recognised some of the key achievements of the latest class to undertake the 14-week startup accelerator program at the culminating Demo Day event on Tuesday night (March 22 2016).

The event saw a final pitch from each team to three entrepreneurs and an audience of around 300 attendees, to attract funding from potential investors in a tertiary education version of the Shark Tank.

It was a good night and while there was nothing Earth shattering, it was good to think about the way the event itself was staged (at the CPC), the approaches the entrepreneurs took to presenting (ear worn microphones rock), and the ideas they were pitching, from pre-school education and micro-donation apps, to aerial drones to monitor farmlands
via Demo Day Wrap Up: Class 6 Pitches to Potential Investors | Incubate

Working in the coalmine. About to slip down

CSIRO report: Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce

This 112 page (plus research appendices) report examines plausible futures for jobs and employment markets in Australia over the coming twenty years.

Whilst Australia’s workforce is continually changing the current period in history is characterised by a combination of forces likely to be associated with greater, faster and different transitions than previously experienced.

The report merits a full read and commentary but for now, the accompanying video is helpful in assimilating some the high level perspectives of the report:

‘… We’re entering into a period of rapid technology fuelled disruption of labour markets. A lot of jobs are going to be extinguished by technology but a lot of new jobs are going to get created. There is opportunity and risk here. And all of the jobs we do are going to be reshaped by technology as well.‘ Dr. Stefan Hajkowicz, Research Scientist Data61

… People worry that our jobs are all going to be replaced by machines. But I see the future as one where people get to do exciting fulfilling creative work, while machines do the jobs they they’re best able to do. I think the main thing is to make sure that people aren’t left behind, so we need to make sure that we are equipping people with the skills that they need for new jobs…‘ Renee Leon, Secretary of the Department of Employment

Ensuring we have enough digitally literate workers in the future is a key challenge. It’s not just technical skills however we also need to focus on professional skills, in entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation. How to bring technology products to market. And we need to focus on developing our local IT ecosystem…‘ Andrew Johnson, CEO, Australian Computer Society

Over the next twenty years, the job market in Australia is going to become much more dynamic, with a much higher rate of job destruction and job creation required. In fact, our view is that the rate of job destruction is going to be as high as it was during the GFC, but for a much longer and sustained period within Australia.’ Brad Noakes, Partner, Boston Consulting Group

If you look at the challenges and opportunities of the digitally enable world, it certainly needs collaboration. And really collaborate in solving these fundamental challenges we have identified in the study. I think it’s a foundational piece, it doesn’t give answers to all the challenges. It’s a framework to take this subject further, and really start thinking about what are the implications from a policy making perspective.

Not only policy making on government, but also policy making in terms of what has to be done at university level but also industry level and how can we really take this forward and help Australia evolve into a knowledge based economy.‘ Patrick Maes, CTO, ANZ Bank