The Future of Work/ Automation debate rumbles on. UBI seems to be back in the news, and even luminaries such as Bill Gates are positing there has to be some fiscal redistribution. CSIRO’s Data61 chief executive Adrian Turner presents the counter-argument. Well, actually, I’m not sure the article does that but Turner sees the displacement of jobs as inevitable, sector by sector and doesn’t agree with the idea of a robot tax, rather that society focus on re-skilling people out of disrupted industries into newly created jobs.
Vinsel spoke yesterday at the SOH Festival of Dangerous ideas. It was a slightly annoying session – I wanted to believe and disbelieve (in innovation) at the same time. In his talk, I felt Vinsel argued one-sidedly the dichotomy between ‘innovators’ and ‘maintainers’, without acknowledging the sense I felt all the way through, that it’s a question of balance of both (and more). My concerns were partially addressed on the day – Vinsel noted his comments were ‘polemical’, but better mollified in the comments of his original post, where (in response to comments about the Maker movement) he notes, ‘This work is polemical obviously, and my strategy in it was to pull together things that aren’t juxtaposed frequently enough… some of what I say is unfair–or at least is only partial–but that’s the nature of the genre.‘
My feeling is that innovation remains very valid, but I share a lot of Vinsel’s concerns about both its (1) being used as a panacea (and/ or proxy) for many other (critically important) things, and (2) the increasing use of innovation jargon/ rhetoric, to obscure what is really going on.
So, I feel that a better understanding of Vinsel’s concerns is going to help me a lot better in understanding and performing my day job, and a few things besides.
More to come, I hope.
Daniel Petre (from a 2009 bio in The Age) ‘If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, then you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life (Maslow).’
I’ve been aware of Daniel Petre since the early 90s and his success as Microsoft’s first non-US VP) his work in the early days of e-Commerce, read one of his books (The Lucky Country?), his philanthropy and that he now works in the innovation/ funding/ startup space. While that ‘light’ take is essentially accurate, the thought of hearing Petre’s thoughts was enough to make me choose this talk over Mike Jay’s Media Social gig at Taylor Square at the same time. And that was a big call.
This isn’t a full recount of Petre’s talk, I wanted to listen and engage, not report.
Petre sat right back by the window, at the back of the presentation space. Just him, on a stool, and a handful of notes.
It turned out the the talk was essentially a take on the ‘Rise of the machines’, and so notes would have been redundant for the bulk of the session, but a couple of points below (paraphrasing for future reference, in the absence of notes):
- People are pretty lousy at forecasting and understanding what’s going on, especially with technology (e.g. McKinsey projected a total 990,000 mobiles in the US in the 90s, wrong by an order of magnitude)
- Elon Musk (the only man to have founded three billion dollar companies), Stephen Hawkins and (Petre’s old boss) Bill Gates have all said mankind has let the genie out of the bottle with technology, especially AI
- There are a number of advanced robotics programs in existence (and it seems they all live on YouTube. Petre commented on some, not all of these)
- Read Nick Bostrom’s ‘Superintelligence’ for a non-Kurzweil non- technologist take on our AI and SI future
- It’s unclear what changes will be but (approx.) 30-50% of jobs lost to technology will not be replaced ‘one to one’
- The ‘West’ will be hit hardest – let’s face it, if you’re in Africa on a tiny income, a reduction is going to impact your way of life less vs. our leveraged, technology-centric, consumer society
- People will need to get – literally – smarter to compete – grow their individual (and collective) IQ
- When employers give credit to Coursera qualifications to the same extent as traditional univeristies, the latter will be in big trouble
- Qualities of critical thinking, creativity and empathy will be the ones to endure/ cultivate (Petre sees a larger role for human carers, post automation (Autogeddon?)
- There may well be a ‘right-sizing’ in terms of human population
Petre is aware of (and I think) supportive of UBI and cited an example of where a social experiment favoured UBI but was quashed by a (let’s call it) a conservative backlash. Very few of the FG audience seemed aware of UBI, with one person calling out, ‘Work for the dole’
I had to leave before the Q&A finished as Eve arrived early for a trip to the Vivid lights, but it was Petre that was the more illuminating in the end
‘Capitalizing on the power of microfactories and the crowd, we may be able increase the speed and scope of innovation in manufacturing. Instead of investing our energy in just a few ideas, maybe we’ll eventually test hundreds or more. And in the process, who knows what genius designs we’ll find?’
How Microfactories Can Bring Iterative Manufacturing to the Masses SingularityHub 13 April 2016
A 10 minute video of Archie Reed, HP Enterprise @ Convergence 001, giving his take on what’s coming down the line