Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week
Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive.
Navigating the Future of Work
Anne says: Deloitte University Press have released Issue 21 of the Deloitte Review that features a special issue topic: Navigating the future of work.
For some readers, this may sound rather cliche! Another report predicting digital disruption and robot overlords or another bunch of consultants predicting what’s going to happen!! However, this issue provides some respite from the hype by guiding the readers through research-based topics and their implications. In addition, there’s a balanced amount of pragmatic actions for organisations to review some useful next steps, along with questions and frameworks for considering pathways through the forces of change discussions.
This piece outlines the groundwork considerations to base your future directions, including a framework (p.30) for understanding the future of work. The key element, as with all well crafted strategic frameworks, is to apply your contextual organisational environment.
The online version also includes some short videos and podcasts, for those who prefer to examine content in more than a single written medium.
Take some time over the next couple of weeks to explore the considerations, challenge the assumptions and their relevance to your context, then revisit the articles with the intention of preparing for your future.
Read the full report: https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/deloitte-review/issue-21.html
Meet the world’s first high end real-time CGI Avatar
Nat says: Sometimes you have to accept the fact that other people’s PhDs are a lot cooler than your own. Mike Seymour, also from the University of Sydney, once explained the premise of his PhD to me as ‘Why can’t Siri be a face you interact with?’ and it appears that he and a team of technical wizards have created something that might one day lead to that reality. Launched last week in the US, ‘Meet Mike’ is an Avatar that uses special AI algorithms to create a realistic facial reconstruction of Mike’s face, which allows for real-time rendering so you can communicate with Mike via virtual reality.
The aim of this research is to explore responses to digital humans which will someday enable virtual assistants to be deployed in contexts from health care, aged care, education and, of course, entertainment.
The MEETMIKE project involves research teams in North Carolina, Serbia, Manchester (UK), San Fransisco, and China; along with combined research between the University of Sydney Business School, IT (Engineering) and Psychology, and overseas with University of Southern California, Indiana University and Iowa State University. The technology behind Digital Mike is far too great for my understanding, but more information about the project, including a video demo and an explanation of the tech, is available via the shared link.
Although the technology exceeds my know-how, I at least can look at this creation from my usual existential lens. Are we now in the age of man creating himself as a machine, or – quite literally – of creating an image of himself? Perhaps there is a hidden God-like pursuit in our drive to create digital human replicas; to achieve immortality via a machine. Or perhaps such technological progression is just man’s version of birthing life, albeit in an artificial form, as women are the gatekeepers of natural life. Who knows? But I love exploring the underlying philosophical meaning behind life’s pursuit at the hands of technology!
Could a robot do your job?
“The tasks most likely to be automated are typically the most dangerous, least enjoyable and often lowest paid. Machines will make work ‘more human’.” – AlphaBeta Report
Emilio says: In this fast-paced, often dizzying and oh-so-fascinating tech and digital era that we live in, what perhaps strikes the greatest fear in people is automation. Yep, robots, machines, artificial intelligence and all the possibilities that could be realised from deep learning and algorithms.
The fear isn’t entirely unfounded because of the underlying uncertainty over what the future holds with our jobs. Stanford University’s Jerry Kaplan articulated it brilliantly when he said “automation is blind to the colour of your collar”. We all face the real risk of losing our source of income, our very quality of life.
A recent report released by consulting firm AlphaBeta claims that increasing automation will, in fact, affect every worker. That’s roughly 12 million of Australia’s workforce that will be impacted over the next 30 years. But before you break into panic and despair, automation, as the report claims, won’t necessarily mean jobs will be completely taken over by robots, systems and machines. There are jobs at greater risk than others – particularly roles requiring low skills and repetitive tasks – but for the majority of jobs, the change will be how present tasks are performed in the future.
Yet there’s also a silver, and a rather ironic, lining to it. Jobs will become “more human” with automation, they say, as drudgery is eliminated and more time created for creativity and interpersonal tasks.
Curious and a bit unsettled, I looked up my occupation (Marketing Consultant) against the AlphaBeta dataset to find out whether a career redirection might be in order. It turns out only 28% of my tasks are ‘automatable’, with strategising, analysis and operational tasks less likely to be usurped by machines.
Although this provides some relief for now, I have laid out a three-point personal action plan in the face of sweeping automation: 1) adapt quickly, by embracing automation and using systems relevant in my line of work for a deeper understanding of how they operate and create efficiencies; 2) learn and relearn, by identifying and acquiring new, critical skills and further nurturing creativity and other soft skills which robots cannot easily replace; and 3) diversify, by creating multiple opportunities using the new and enhanced skills. By being proactive in these areas, the goal is to become ‘robot resilient’, outsmart the machine, and reclaim the future.
Want to know how your job will be impacted by automation? Read on to find out.
Why Facebook Should Pay Us a Basic Income
A basic income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement.
That is, basic income has the following five characeristics [sic]:
- Periodic: it is paid at regular intervals (for example every month), not as a one-off grant.
- Cash payment: it is paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing those who receive it to decide what they spend it on. It is not, therefore, paid either in kind (such as food or services) or in vouchers dedicated to a specific use.
- Individual: it is paid on an individual basis – and not, for instance, to households.
- Universal: it is paid to all, without means test.
- Unconditional: it is paid without a requirement to work or to demonstrate willingness-to-work.
Mark Zuckerberg recently visited Alaska. During and after that trip, he praised Alaska’s social security programs, with a particular nod to the state’s investment fund. Borne of oil proceeds, the Alaska Permanent Fund pays a dividend out to registered residents each year – a form of basic income, though one that isn’t sufficient to support any individual. The program started in the 70s and is a contributing factor to more equitable wealth distribution and lower poverty rates in the state. The trip has led to Zuckerberg praising universal basic income and suggesting it become part of the “new social contract” he believes we will need as improved automation and AI increasingly put humans out of the work we know today. It should be noted that whether Zuckerberg has the right ideas about universal basic income (UBI) is up for debate.
But going along with Zuckerberg, in this piece the author argues that Facebook just might be the key to providing a revenue source for that basic income via the data mine it sits upon.
If, as the saying goes, data are the new oil, then we may have found a 21st-century revenue stream. Data could do for the world what oil has done for Alaska.
I’m not entirely convinced the author is serious, rather than being provocative, but it’s an interesting idea trying to answer the important question: where does the money for a basic income come from, and how would we ensure its longevity? Other ideas include using “Space,” or taxing robots.
And beyond ‘how would we pay for it’ lies for many a more important question: what will people do if they receive a UBI? What will they spend their time doing, and will any work still be done by humans? And if many people currently define themselves by what they do for a living, what will it mean to be you if you’re no longer defined by your work? These are questions for which there are not necessarily easy answers, particularly those that speak to identity, meaning, and our very existence.
What do you think about universal basic income? What might a future in which humans receive a UBI look like? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Why Disney’s streaming service is the biggest disruption since Netflix
Joel says: Disney have announced this week that they have plans to end their agreement with Netflix and start their own Disney branded streaming service for their properties. Disney originally partnered with Netflix US at the end of 2012 for a deal that would allow Walt Disney Studios’ animated and live-action films to be available on Netflix beginning in 2016.
Disney, you see, isn’t any ordinary US film and television studio. In addition to its own library, which includes Frozen and Beauty and the Beast, Disney also owns Lucasfilm (which makes Star Wars) and Marvel (which makes everything else).
That makes the content play for a proposed Disney streaming platform one of the most potentially disruptive in recent memory. Or, in short, “hello Netflix, welcome to the rest of us.”
While I don’t believe this will be the end of Netflix in any way – they still have their vast catalogue of Netflix Original titles that many of the user base love – it will cause a large disruption to their schedule when the deal ends in 2019. It appears most likely that people who enjoy the Disney content will be adding another service to their list of monthly subscriptions. But who knows? We may get some Disney Original exclusive titles out of the new service, which would no doubt have people throwing money their way.