Tag Archives: Productivity

Connecting People to Prosperity in the Exponential Age

By Vanessa Bates Ramirez – “Our assumptions about how economies function no longer seem to hold true entirely because of exponential technology.”

This claim came from entrepreneur and Singularity University faculty member, Amin Toufani.

In what he calls exponential economics or “exonomics,” Toufani breaks the tech-driven changes happening in the modern economy into seven pillars: people, property, production, price, power, policy, and prosperity.

Toufani pointed out that exonomics’ ultimate goal is to connect people and prosperity.

“Technology is empowering all of us, and people seem to be doing what companies used to do and companies seem to be doing what governments used to do,” Toufani said.

The democratizing effect of information technology is enabling small teams to have an outsized impact. He showed a graph of collaboration app Slack’s user growth, and it’s practically a vertical line. A few years old, Slack reaches millions of users, many of whom pay for the service, and was recently valued upwards of $9 billion.

The kicker? Slack was created by a team of 12 software developers. And it’s far from the only such example. more> https://goo.gl/wpBRPz

Will robots make job training (and workers) obsolete?

By Harry J. Holzer – Automation eliminates the number of workers needed per unit of good or service produced. By reducing unit costs it raises productivity and, in a competitive market, product prices should decline. All else equal, this will raise consumer demand for the good or service in question.

Whether or not this rise in product demand is sufficiently large to raise overall employment for the product depends on whether the fall in workers needed per unit of production is proportionately lesser or greater than the rise in the numbers of units demanded; if lesser, than product demand will rise.

Labor economists believe that workers mostly pay for general skill development (often in the form of lower wages, when the training occurs on the job), while employers are willing to share more in the costs of developing worker skills more specific to their needs.6 A shift away from specific towards more general skill training will thus involve a shift of the costs of training away from employers towards workers (or the public), and less sharing of any risks involved in whether the market rewards those skills over time.

Some workers whose tasks can mostly be performed by machines will be displaced, while demand is enhanced for others who can work along with the new machines—perhaps as technicians or engineers but also in a range of newer tasks that the machines cannot perform, including more complex analysis or social interactions with customers and coworkers. more> https://goo.gl/pveH2W

Understanding The Digital Revolution And What It Means

By Henning Meyer – The digital revolution, used here as shorthand for broader technological change, is one of today’s most hotly debated topics in politics, economics and business.

We are undoubtedly faced with large-scale disruptions in many areas that require adjustments.

To analyse exposure to the digital revolution and potential policy solutions you need to start breaking it down into manageable dimensions. Three areas in particular warrant special attention: What are the forces shaping the application of new technologies? What does the digital revolution mean for the future of work? And what kind of policies could help to address these issues?

There is a general lack of structured analysis of the ways in which technological progress translates into real life. This is an important shortcoming as it leads to a distorted view of real-time developments. Here we try to structure this process and identify five filters that in effect moderate technology’s impact.

First, an ethical filter. This filter restricts research itself as it sets a permission framework for what can be done.

Second, a social filter. Social resistance against technological change is not new and it is likely to be more intense in areas where there is a perceived threat to people’s jobs.

Third, a corporate governance filter.

Fourth, a legal filter also moderates what is possible and what is applied in the real world.

Last but not least a productivity filter. This filter means in principle that the application of new technology does not have a dramatic effect on productivity because either the productivity bottleneck lies elsewhere or diminishing marginal returns mean that there is little real improvement in products or services. more> https://goo.gl/nZdclG

Updates from GE

By Yari M. Bovalino & Tomas Kellner – Frank Herzog was still in elementary school in the historic Bavarian city of Bamberg when he fell in love — with metals. So ardent was his passion that he later quit high school to pursue it. “I was young when I realized that I loved the material,” he says.

More than three decades later, Herzog’s fascination with shiny objects continues. He is the founder and CEO of Concept Laser, a pioneering maker of 3D printing machines, including the world’s largest industrial printer for metals. His machines can print delicate jewelry and dental implants as well as massive engine blocks for trucks.

Last fall, GE acquired a majority stake in Herzog’s company, and Concept Laser is now part of GE Additive, a new GE business dedicated to supplying 3D printers, materials and engineering consulting services.

Herzog, 45, grew up in a state that’s obsessed with engineering. Mechanical engineers alone account for 17 percent of Bavaria’s workforce. more> https://goo.gl/uS55hn

The Difference Between Real And Pretend Strengths

BOOK REVIEW

The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan, Author: George Bradt.

By George Bradt – Real strengths are made up of talent, knowledge and skills. It’s not enough to study a subject. Expertise is born of practice.

Real strengths enable people to do what they need to do. Pretend strengths may be intriguing at first, but end up disappointing.

Too many people think they should be able to sell because they’ve worked with salespeople before, either as buyers themselves, providing support to sales, or making products or services that others sell. They can’t sell. Selling requires talent, knowledge and skills born of practice.

Too many people think they can teach because they’ve been students.

Frontier Communications bought AT&T’s wire line services in Connecticut. They were excited because the transaction was going to: “be accretive” and “improve Frontier’s dividend payout” while customers “will have the same products and services that they currently enjoy”. (From their press release.)

Wasn’t true. The day of the transfer, my voicemail service got “disabled”. And it stayed disabled for 11 days. Each of the four times I called Frontier I was informed that they would “open a ticket”. I didn’t want a ticket. I wanted voicemail.

Frontier’s not a real phone company. It just plays one on TV. more> https://goo.gl/pH2m1L

Murphy’s Law is totally misunderstood and is in fact a call to excellence

By Corinne Purtill – You have likely at some point heard the saying known as Murphy’s Law: Everything that can go wrong will.

Murphy’s Law originated at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California, the same place where Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947. Around that time, a team of Edwards engineers was working on Project MX981, a mission to determine the amount of force a human body could sustain in a crash.

In the late 1940s, the team received a visit from an Air Force captain and reliability engineer named Edward A. Murphy, Jr. The details of the story vary. The best and most comprehensive history of Murphy’s Law comes from documentarian Nick T. Spark, who interviewed the surviving witnesses more than 50 years after the fact. more> https://goo.gl/CwNE5e

Updates from GE

Leaner Than Lean: How Digitalization Transforms Manufacturing
By Randy Stearns – If you want to see the future of manufacturing, follow the Tama River about 45 kilometers upstream from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to the GE Healthcare facility in Hino, Japan. Inside this outwardly conventional, low-rise suburban business complex is emerging the blueprint for the future of manufacturing, tweak by painstaking tweak.

The Hino factory makes both parts for large medical scanners and small, precision equipment. Compared with similar facilities, its production lines are exceptionally efficient — fast, with less waste, errors and unplanned downtime — thanks in part to the successful integration of advanced digital information technology with operational systems. GE calls this convergence of hardware and software on the shop floor the brilliant factory.

The Hino plant is where the Industrial Internet meets Kaizen, the Japanese concept of continuous improvement pioneered by Toyota after World War II that undergirds Lean methods for eliminating waste in manufacturing. more> https://goo.gl/euCTYE

Coding is not ‘fun’, it’s technically and ethically complex

By Walter Vannini – Coding isn’t the only job that demands intense focus.

But you’d never hear someone say that brain surgery is ‘fun’, or that structural engineering is ‘easy’. When it comes to programming, why do policymakers and technologists pretend otherwise?

For one, it helps lure people to the field at a time when software (in the words of the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen) is ‘eating the world’ – and so, by expanding the labor pool, keeps industry ticking over and wages under control. Another reason is that the very word ‘coding’ sounds routine and repetitive, as though there’s some sort of key that developers apply by rote to crack any given problem.

It doesn’t help that Hollywood has cast the ‘coder’ as a socially challenged, type-first-think-later hacker, inevitably white and male, with the power to thwart the Nazis or penetrate the CIA. more> https://goo.gl/kfU3QD

Updates from GE

Chips Ahoy: The Port Of LA Is Getting A Digital Makeover
By Kristin Kloberdanz – The day after Christmas in 2015, workers at the Port of Los Angeles set a personal record. They unloaded a massive cargo ship called the Benjamin Franklin, the largest ever to land in North America, in just three and a half days.

Such brisk efficiency takes lots of planning. The right equipment has to be in place to move the merchandise from the ship and onto trucks and trains for distribution. In this case, it was a months-long logistical exercise — carried out mostly by telephone and spreadsheets.

Port operators knew they could do better. So they partnered with GE to create a pilot program making cargo shipment data visible with GE software. The pilot, which went live this week, will help the port’s complex system of shippers, terminal operators, trucks, rail cars and other components run more efficiently.

Seth Bodnar, GE Transportation’s chief digital officer, says the port resembles a giant restaurant. “In the past, we didn’t know who to serve until the customer showed up — you didn’t know what was coming off the ship until a couple of days before the ship arrived,” he says.

Such short notice can lead to bottlenecks. The new GE software system makes data available to the ports two weeks before the ship arrives, giving everyone plenty of time to synch their assets. The system will also tell workers the cargo’s final destination so that trucks and machines can be ready to move the goods in the most efficient way possible. The payoff can be huge. Bodnar says that a 1 percent improvement in efficiency at just one port can net $60 million in savings. more> https://goo.gl/EcDUvb

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