Category Archives: Leadership

AI will rob companies of the best training tool they have: grunt work

By Sarah Kessler – Deloitte has what it calls an “apprenticeship model.”

The international auditing and professional services firm hires thousands of entry level employees with the expectation that most of them will work hard, then leave after they’ve learned marketable skills.

The organization—like many companies—looks like a pyramid, with many more employees at the bottom level than at the middle or top level.

That structure makes sense when there’s a lot of grunt work to do.

Today, Deloitte has technology capable of scanning and reviewing thousands of contracts–an entire year of human work–in an hour.

As Deloitte relies more on AI, it won’t necessarily have the same need for entry-level employees to do basic work such as combing through contracts.

Here’s the problem, Cathy Engelbert says: “Where do [those middle-level employees] get that experience and judgment? That’s probably the number one thing I worry about as we shift our model.” more> https://goo.gl/DDzQjn

GE’s Immelt bets big on digital factories, shareholders are wary

By Alwyn Scott – The $4 billion GE has spent on developing digital products – ranging from tiny sensors in jet engines to augmented reality and software that can crunch large volumes of data – is on the scale of investments Google and Facebook Inc (FB.N) made to build their businesses, Bill Ruh, CEO of GE’s digital division, told Reuters.

Now that GE has shed non-essential operations, including most of its large financial unit, its fortunes will rise or fall depending on whether that investment delivers.

GE’s technology – and similar systems by IBM, Siemens AG (SIEGn.DE) and others – is a hot new battleground in manufacturing.

The companies promise they can spot problems before machines break down, yield cost savings of 30 percent or more, and raise labor productivity that has slowed sharply in recent years.

The company has spent $5 billion setting up new U.S. factories in the last five years. As it now adds digital technology to its plants, it needs fewer, and higher skilled, workers than in the past.

“We’re going to have a smarter worker,” Jeff Immelt said in an interview. “We’re not going to have as many workers.” more> https://goo.gl/MDXuzw

The Robot Economy: Ready or Not, Here It Comes

By JP Sottile – This is the “next economy,” and, ready or not, it is coming at the double-time speed of Moore’s Law. This rapid acceleration of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming “The Future of Employment’s” apocalyptic premonition — that 47 percent of all jobs in the United States may be lost to automation over the next two decades — into a solemn epitaph for the rapidly fading era of manufacturing-based, consumption-driven economics.

Even low-paying farming jobs could be completely upended by robotic fruit pickers with the deft touch needed to harvest food in American and European fields. Robots are already replacing cheap migrant workers shut out by anti-immigrant policies. And new robot-staffed factories are producing modular houses, while robotic bricklayers promise to do to the construction trades what automation did to coal mining.

An often overlooked element, though, is the way automation helped maintain continued growth in productivity, even as wages lagged. As the Guardian recently noted, “As of 2015, a typical production worker in the US earned about 9% less than a comparable worker in 1973. Over the same 42 years, the American economy grew by more than 200%, or a staggering $11tn.” This divergence between wages and productivity drove wealth inequality. more> https://goo.gl/a7rHdR

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Behavioral Insights: A New Tool for Performance Management

By Michael Kalin and Lindsay Moore – Now, through What Works Cities, an initiative launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies to help mid-sized cities use data and evidence to improve decision-making and results, innovators in municipal governments are taking the next step in process improvement, integrating behavioral science into their toolkits and rigorously testing these insights to understand what works.

These efforts center on helping improve service delivery by taking the science of human decision-making into account. While we know intuitively that people are not always entirely rational actors, too often policy is designed as if we were. more> https://goo.gl/HoIBd1

What is human capital?

BOOK REVIEW

The Death of Homo Economicus, Author: Peter Fleming.
The Road to Serfdom, Author: F A Hayek.

By Peter Fleming – Back in the 1960s, Friedman envisaged a society in which we’d all be wealthy, thriving entrepreneurs. What we got in reality was a pay cut, reduced holiday or sick leave, a chronic skills deficit, credit-card debt and endless hours of pointless work. If anything, the story of human capital theory in Western economies has been about divesting in people, not the opposite.

That’s because it was born within an extreme period in 20th-century history, when many believed that the fate of humanity was hanging in the balance. It should therefore be approached as such, a rather eccentric and largely unrealistic relic of the Cold War.

Only in that highly unusual milieu could mavericks such as Hayek and Friedman ever be taken seriously and listened to. In the face of communist collectivism, the Chicago school developed a diametrically opposed account of society, one populated by capsule-like individuals who automatically shun all forms of social cohesion that isn’t transactional.

These loners are driven only by the ethos of self-serving competitiveness. Blindly attached to money. Insecure and paranoid. No wonder we’re so unwell today. more> https://goo.gl/hLM2ey

Goodbye, Golden Age of Growth

BOOK REVIEW

The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War, Author: Robert J Gordon.

By Robert J Gordon – The rise in the U.S. standard of living from 1870 to 1970 was a special century — and won’t likely be repeated. Growth over the next quarter century will resemble the slow pace of 2004–2015, not the faster growth rate of 1994–2004, much less the rapid rate achieved between 1920 and 1970.

The 1920-70 expansion grew out of the second industrial revolution, when fossil fuels, the internal-combustion engine, advanced metals and factory automation came together to produce electric lighting, indoor plumbing, home appliances, motor vehicles, air travel, air conditioning, television and much longer life expectancy. (The first industrial revolution, mostly in Britain in the late 18th century, involved the early use of iron and steel, steam engines and factory production.)

Households also benefited from the second industrial revolution in ways that escaped measurement, including the convenience, safety and brightness of electric light compared with oil lamps, and freedom from the drudgery of carrying water that clean, piped water made possible.

The slower rate of productivity growth since 1970 is important evidence that the third industrial revolution — the one resulting from computers and digitalization — has been less important than the second industrial revolution. Not only has the growth rate been slower since 1970, unmeasured improvements in the quality of everyday life created by computing are less significant than those of the previous industrial revolution. more> https://goo.gl/8IUAvR

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I write on the internet. I’m sorry.

By Michael Brendan – One of the main reasons they feel like this is because of the internet, particularly social media’s effect on the way news is created and delivered to you. And how all of this has warped the experience of those who have lived through these social changes.

It isn’t just about politics either, but almost every dimension of human experience.

Do you love architecture? Someone just built a monstrosity next to a building you loved. Click here.

Do you adore products by Apple? Well, they’re screwing them up. Click here.

Did you just feel that unnamable, almost unmentionable surge of gratitude for all the people you’ve known in life and all the kindnesses their presence brought to you? Click here and see that most of them have contemptibly dumb opinions about everything.

The internet doesn’t coddle you in a comforting information bubble. It imprisons you in an information cell and closes the walls in on you by a few microns every day. It works with your friends and the major media on the outside to make a study of your worst suspicions about the world and the society you live in. Then it finds the living embodiments of these fears and turns them into your cell mates. And good heavens it is efficient. more> https://goo.gl/b9DXYn

Seeking a policy response to the robot takeover

By Alice M. Rivlin – We could soon be living in a world in which driverless vehicles or drones make all deliveries. Those vans and big rigs on the interstates will barrel along to their destinations without drivers; the groceries or prepared food you need for dinner or the prescription your doctor ordered will descend on your doorstep without a human delivery person in sight.

The transition to driverless deliveries will be a bonanza for early investors in the winning technologies. A wide range of consumers and businesses will benefit from cheaper, faster, more reliable delivery of things they buy or parts they need. In the end, most Americans stand to benefit from a higher productivity economy. However, in the near term, the consequences could be devastating for delivery drivers and their families and owners of the soon to be old-fashioned vehicles that require drivers.

Policy makers should be preparing now to respond to this technological revolution, so that we can benefit from the new technology, but mitigate the damage to those who lose out. more> https://goo.gl/30A3Ll

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Why the Phrase ‘Late Capitalism’ Is Suddenly Everywhere

By Annie Lowrey – Now, it is everywhere, in thousands of social-media posts and listicles aimed at Millennials and news stories about modern malaise.

Over time, the semantics of the phrase shifted a bit. “Late capitalism” became a catchall for incidents that capture the tragicomic inanity and inequity of contemporary capitalism.

This usage captures the resurgent left’s anger over the recovery and the inequality that long preceded it—as well as the rage of millions of less politically engaged Americans who nevertheless feel left out and left behind.

“I think it’s popular again now because the financial crisis and subsequent decade has really stripped away a veneer on what’s going on in the economy,” Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, told me. “Austerity, runaway top incomes, globalization, populations permanently out of the job market, competition pushed further into our everyday lives. These aren’t new, but they have an extra cruelty that is boiling over everywhere.”

The current usage also captures the perceived froth and foolishness of Silicon Valley. The gig economy in particular provides plenty of late-capitalist fodder, with investors showering cash on platforms to create cheap services for the rich and lazy and no-benefit jobs for the eager and poor. At the same time, traditional jobs seem to be providing less in the way of security, stability, and support, too. more> https://goo.gl/bwRjd5

Only governments can safeguard the openness of the internet

By Rufus Pollock – On 6 October 1536, in the prison yard of Vilvoorde castle near modern-day Brussels, a man named William Tyndale was strangled then burnt at the stake. His crime? To translate the Latin Bible into English, his native tongue. A priest and scholar, Tyndale was an information freedom-fighter, whose mission was to open up the scripture for ordinary men and women.

Tyndale worked in the midst of an extraordinary new information era, ushered in by the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press. Prior to the press, there were just 30,000 books in all of Europe; some 50 years later, in 1500, there were more than 10 million. The Catholic Church had responded to these developments with alarm. It tried to retain a monopoly on biblical interpretation by declaring translations from Latin heretical. Their logic was simple: control the flow of information, and you control its power.

Like Tyndale, today’s citizens are living through another information revolution.

Tyndale set out to use the technology at his disposal to empower and liberate ordinary people, giving them the opportunity to understand, think and make decisions for themselves. Open information meant believing that people should be free to encounter and recombine ideas at will, without some grand designer dictating the appropriate ends.

Radio offers a cautionary tale. Commentary about radio in the 1920s sounds eerily similar to discussions of the internet today. more> https://goo.gl/2qtcu6