Diginomica | The month in brief – reading material, briefings, roadshows

By Brian Sommer

Great HR stories worth your attention

I saw an interesting statistic in the latest Human Resource Executive magazine:

Somewhere between 75 million and 370 million people may need to switch jobs by 2030 due to automation.

With that in mind, check out all of these stories that focus on this disruption.

Are there good jobs in the Gig Economy?– Nicole Torres wrote a short review of not one but three books on the Gig Economy for the July-August 2018 Harvard Business Review.  These books include:

“Humans and AI are Joining Forces” – This Harvard Business Review piece (by James Wilson and Paul Daugherty) takes readers through how workers will transform because of new technologies like AI.  A key sentence:

While AI will radically alter how work gets done and who does it, the technology’s larger impact will be in complementing and augmenting human capabilities, not replace them.

Before you take sides as to whether new tech will eat jobs and make us all need a guaranteed minimum wage, read this piece.

A similar tale unfolds in “Making AI Into Jobs” by David Rotman in this month’s Sloan MIT Technology Review.  I particularly liked this bit:

There is no sillier- or more disingenuous – debate in the tech community than the one over whether robots and AI will destroy jobs or, conversely, create a great abundance of new ones. In fact, the outcome depends on various economic factors. And how it will play out as the pace of AI intensifies, no one knows.

I agree. I’ve watched several analyst colleagues get ridiculously argumentative on this issue with each hectoring the other and neither making highly defensible points.  What I do believe is that people will either choose to adapt to a changing world or be victimized by it. What we as individuals, as governments and as educators need to do is get in front of the challenges and opportunities that machine learning, AI and robotics bring. Waiting around is not a strategy but a recipe for major problems.

The Politics of Angst in Robot City USA (also in MIT Technology Review) tells not only how robot usage tipped Toledo to Trump in the last election but it also explains how Toledo dealt with the economic devastation triggered by the 2008/9 recession. This quote stands out:

Regional leaders believe one reason the area suffered so badly was a failure to adapt to new technology. So after the recession they placed new emphasis on closing the “skills gap.” They wanted to create a “pipeline of people,” Herringshaw says, who could maintain robots, work with robots, program computerized machines. A basic high school diploma was no longer adequate.

So, if we want a better future, we need to learn from those who are staring it down now.

But the issues with AI aren’t just limited to potential job losses. Bloomberg BusinessWeek had a solid piece called “A.I. Has a Race Problem”. When some facial recognition software can misidentify 35% of people of color, this is a technology that’s been rushed to market without adequate tuning and support. This is really bad as the organizations using this technology can include law enforcement and other governmental entities. When organizations rely on a poorly functioning and poorly understood technology, people will suffer.

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