Tag Archives: Jobs

The End of Men? Not in the Retail Sector

By Virginia Postrel – The collapse of traditional retailing reverses a much-heralded trend: Jobs that involve working with things are disappearing, while those that demand a winning personality — celebrated as “emotional intelligence” — are growing.

Men lose while women win, especially at the bottom of the educational and income ladder.

Contrary to the feminine triumphalism that declares traditionally male skills obsolete, the economy is full of surprises and cross-currents. In the retailing world, demand for people-pleasing sales clerks is down.

Like capital-intensive factories, warehouses with robot assistants make workers more productive and hence more valuable. In Amazon’s cutting-edge facilities, they complement human skills. more> https://goo.gl/RNMzln

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Raising good robots

We already have a way to teach morals to alien intelligences: it’s called parenting. Can we apply the same methods to robots?
By Regina Rini – Philosophers and computer scientists alike tend to focus on the difficulty of implementing subtle human morality in literal-minded machines. But there’s another problem, one that really ought to come first. It’s the question of whether we ought to try to impose our own morality on intelligent machines at all. In fact, I’d argue that doing so is likely to be counterproductive, and even unethical. The real problem of robot morality is not the robots, but us.

Can we handle sharing the world with a new type of moral creature?

We like to imagine that artificial intelligence (AI) will be similar to humans, because we are the only advanced intelligence we know. But we are probably wrong. If and when AI appears, it will probably be quite unlike us. It might not reason the way we do, and we could have difficulty understanding its choices.

Plato’s student Aristotle disagreed. He thought that each sort of thing in the world – squirrels, musical instruments, humans – has a distinct nature, and the best way for each thing to be is a reflection of its own particular nature.

‘Morality’ is a way of describing the best way for humans to be, and it grows out of our human nature. For Aristotle, unlike Plato, morality is something about us, not something outside us to which we must conform. Moral education, then, was about training children to develop abilities already in their nature. more> https://goo.gl/cVSt0W

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America Needs the World

The U.S. is heading toward a trade war it cannot win.
By Tavis Jules – President Donald Trump ended his address to a joint session of Congress by saying “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.”

Trump’s job as de facto representative of the world is a byproduct of post-World War II era restructuring that ushered in over seventy years of American dominance and greatness while allowing America to significantly influence and shape educational development priorities, agendas and directives of global institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization.

Since the 1980s, the mantra of open markets has equated to open educational systems in the name of democratic governance and transition. In line with Washington Consensus principles of deregulated labor markets, privatization of nationalized industries, and openness to trade under the banner of ‘saving’ national education and preparing a new generation of global workers to exploit their untapped capital, governments have been slowly opening their educational markets to all forms of trade and services.

These neoliberal policies crystallized in 1995 when the U.S.-led WTO in its General Agreement on Trade in Services identified education as one of 12 tradable services, under the movement of natural persons. Thus, education became subjected to global trade and commercial rules.

Trump’s congressional message of not knowing the full scope of what his job is or should be, highlights the narrowness which is fed through his policy advisers, who too often apply established models to current circumstances, rather than considering the radical reinterpretations of the issues.

In today’s overly interconnected world, the U.S. is heading towards a trade war it cannot win; America needs the world, but the world does not need America when the emerging and frontier markets show such promise. more> https://goo.gl/6Tyf03

Updates from Chicago Booth

Can we save retirement?
What the US and other countries can learn about social security reform
By Alex Verkhivker – When it comes to pension crises, American workers are not alone. In the United Kingdom, many of the country’s almost 6,000 employer-sponsored, defined-benefit programs are underfunded.

In Greece, Poland, and across the European continent, a demographic mismatch means there are not enough incoming taxes to fund promised payouts.

Privatization is often suggested as a solution to pension crises. Rather than have governments or employers fund workers’ retirements, why not give retirees more control over funding their retirements, with private individual accounts?

Many critics of privatization are quick to point to Chile as a cautionary tale. The Chilean government privatized its pension system in 1980, its secretary of labor and social security inspired by Milton Friedman’s book Capitalism and Freedom.

In Mexico, money is automatically deducted from workers’ wages and placed in individual accounts. Then individuals choose from a menu of assets in which to invest and work through regulated, professional money managers, each of which offers a single investment product.

But competition did not materialize as the government had hoped it would. Hastings, Hortaçsu, and Syverson looked at where investors lived, which fund managers they invested with, how much money they saved—and earned after fees. They find that while many people expected competition to drive down costs, the average asset-weighted load was a steep 23 percent, and balance fees were another 0.63 percent. Those fees ate away—a lot—at returns. more> https://goo.gl/usSmNP

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Updates from GE

Game On: Augmented Reality Is Helping Factory Workers Become More Productive
By Tomas Kellner – As chief engineer for advanced manufacturing at GE Healthcare, Jimmie Beacham, 43, is in charge of a futuristic laboratory in Waukesha, Wisconsin, experimenting with new ways to make things. He and his team are using the Xbox and a connected Kinect motion tracker to bring augmented reality (AR) into the factory and help workers become more efficient. “We are projecting the work instructions onto the parts and use sensors to monitor the assembly and give feedback to the operator,” Beacham says.

Specifically, the Kinect and a camera are following the worker’s movements and feeding them to a computer that stores the assembly instructions. The computer controls an overhead projector that displays the manufacturing steps on the workbench. Based on the visual and sensory feedback, the system signals the operator immediately if an error occurs or guides them to the next step.

The system currently at the Waukesha lab came from Light Guide System, a Detroit-area maker of augmented reality tools for industry. The first applications are focusing on guiding workers through “the critical steps where we can’t afford to make a mistake,” Beacham says. But his team has already started expanding its scope and connecting it to face recognition technology, collaborative robots, or cobots, and Predix, GE’s software platform for the Industrial Internet. more> https://goo.gl/KaGM9r

Here’s the real Rust Belt jobs problem — and it’s not offshoring or automation

By Josh Pacewicz and Stephanie Lee Mudge – Many struggling U.S. cities and states compete fiercely with one another to attract and keep firms that offer jobs. Unfortunately, these are not the “good” jobs that Americans are looking for, jobs with middle-class pay, benefits and security.

This race to the bottom drains public coffers, preoccupies local leaders and fuels voter cynicism. “America First” sidesteps the problem.

Since the corporate mergers and restructurings in the 1980s, most cities depend not on one or two large factories but on many small subsidiary operations — light manufacturing, food processing, professional service firms, call centers, hotels and retail. These smaller subsidiaries mostly move between struggling cities and towns rather than leaving for other countries.

Much of the blame for that falls on federal policy. Unions have been hobbled by a changing legal environment. A corporate merger wave unleashed by financial deregulation eliminated local owners who paid workers living wages and contributed generously to their towns.

Tax code changes led to ballooning senior managers’ earnings at the expense of line-workers’ wages. Without changing the federal policies that led to these trends, bringing manufacturing back will not create good, safe jobs. more> https://goo.gl/leRpP1

Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan is vaporware that’s never going to happen

Rambling nonsense is not a legislative strategy.
By Matthew Yglesias – It’s pure vaporware, and unless something dramatic changes to the overall structure of the administration, it always will be.

In addition to Trump not doing any work on the legislative process around an infrastructure bill, the interview also makes it clear that he has no knowledge of the underlying subject matter.

Trump’s explanation for how he will overcome his lack of knowledge is that he will establish a commission, led by two other real estate developers who also lack relevant knowledge.

All of which is to say that Trump isn’t going to attach a $1 trillion infrastructure plan as a sweetener to his health care bill or his tax bill for the simple reason that there is no $1 trillion infrastructure plan and never will be. Trump has no plan, and no understanding of the issue, and to the extent that his aides are involved in infrastructure, it’s to try to convince him to talk up deregulation as more important than spending money. more> https://goo.gl/JZrEwK

Hierarchy in organizations: when it helps, when it hurts

BOOK REVIEW

Friend & Foe, Authors: Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer.

By Steve Kelman – You can’t say either hierarchical or participatory arrangements are always good or always bad. Instead, there are some organizational tasks for which hierarchy works best, and others where hierarchy creates problems.

How does hierarchy help?

It helps groups of people coordinate their activities and gives people information about who does what. It reduces the need to bargain and argue over such decisions.

Google initially tried to work without managers, but found that “the lack of hierarchy created chaos and confusion. … As they learned, even Google needs hierarchy.”

How does participatory management help?

It helps when the information the group needs to have to make good decisions is more complex and uncertain. The danger of hierarchy is that it tends not to generate a wide range of information.

“The more complex the task, the more likely we are to make a mistake or miss something critical” in a hierarchical organization.

Hierarchy can also suppress dissent, because people don’t want to take on those at the top. more> https://goo.gl/qSusGs

If US trade with China is so unfair, why is GM the best-selling car there?

By Tim Fernholz – While the US taxes imported cars and cars parts at a maximum of 2.5%, China charges tariffs of between 21% and 30%. This gives foreign automakers who want to sell in China a big incentive to manufacture there to avoid the import charge. But China also requires foreign subsidiaries to operate as 50-50 joint ventures with Chinese companies. These, of course, then become classrooms for Chinese engineers to gain foreign know-how.

This isn’t exactly anyone’s definition of “fair” trade, but there is a logic to the situation. The system came into play in 2001, after China joined the World Trade Organization. At the time, Chinese industry was much further behind America’s. The idea was that future rounds of WTO negotiations would lower China’s trade barriers further, but global trade talks have stagnated completely.

Ironically enough, therefore, this “unfair” situation for America is a product of globalization’s stumbles, not the unyielding march forward that the Trump administration portrays it as.

And any attempts to convince China to drop its protections will now be coming from the most protectionist American administration in recent memory. more> https://goo.gl/7Supvh

Parliamentary Democracies Are Just Better at Resisting Populism

By Leonid Bershidsky – Recent and upcoming political upheavals in a number of countries provide some evidence that the institutional design of democracies can be critically important.

A clear advantage is emerging for countries that don’t directly elect a president: They are more likely to resist the wave of populism sweeping the West.

Where there are no direct presidential elections, populists must win many individual elections over many cycles in order to rise to a nation’s chief executive; Donald Trump seized the White House in his first run for public office. It took less than 17 months.

When a country’s constitution provides for the direct election of a president, even with largely ceremonial powers, a strong leader with a lot of political weight can quickly turn things around and make the office more powerful, and more dangerous, than written laws allow. more> https://goo.gl/nmQGCC