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.
Job vacancy: Robot sitting
Anne says: The article from Wired asks: How would you like to babysit robots?
But wait – don’t start preparing your resume – it’s a call centre job, not one that see you physically hanging out with baby robots!! This article describes some scenarios where robots have been deployed in customer facing service roles (not a new concept) – but – things are not as straightforward as they seem. The robots get stuck and require interventions to get them out of these situations. Interventions from people in call centres who take over the controls and guide them into safety.
This returns to the question I raised back in November: Are we ready to share our lives with robots? It’s rather ironic – call centres being set-up with people responding to distress calls from robots. So while others are screaming out about robots taking our jobs, others are quietly creating new roles that create an interaction between people and robots.
These new roles – robot guides – raise a series of new issues. The mindset shift required to become a remote robot operator (there goes the baby sitting concept!); the privacy of given situations – who is accessing the data collected or camera being used by the robot; and how will our interactions with robots alter if we know they’re accessible by operators in a call centre? Which further raises the viability of having a robot delivering room service in hotel, that actually requires a human to intervene as it gets stuck in a hallway because there’s a trolley in the way, for example.
The final paragraphs skate across the psychological and ethical issues, ignoring a number of questions that we need to be addressing. As we anthropomorphise robots, assign them names, take on baby sitting roles, how will this shape our behaviour? Would you sign up to be a robot guide? And how do you think you’d behave?
Our idea of work is completely wrong
In 2018 ask yourself this question: are you doing the work you love?
Nat says: I know I’m one week late to the 2018 Friday Faves blog, but I think I can get away with this outlook-for-the-year post given that we are still in January. If you’ve been following or reading our Friday blog series throughout 2017, you will know that I have mentioned, on more than one occasion, the philosopher Alan Watts. There’s no denying he is my ‘go-to’ philosopher for a lot of things; especially new concepts where I think to myself I wonder what AW would say about this.. and, eerily enough, he seems to have had an opinion on just about everything.
In sharing this article I want to draw your attention to the questioning of “work”, that thing that comprises most of our lives. The word itself means physical and mental effort, and many people wake up each morning feeling dreary about the day to come ‘at work’. One of the many inspirational things Watts says about work is the encouragement for people to find what they love, then make a living from it. Throughout his teachings and writings he asks, ‘What would you do if money were no object’? Once you answer that question, you can make a living from doing just that, as true happiness, in his view, comes from skill and enjoyment in vocation. This is in direct contrast to what work has become these days – a means to an end via the pursuit of money. I doubt you would answer Watts’ question with “I would sit in front of a computer screen, five days per week, doing tasks for someone I dislike, for a company I do not believe in”. So why do you do it?
We in the West tend to divide life into work and play, which means most people work at tasks they hate so that they can make enough money to stop doing it and just ‘play’. But what is that money spent on if not the products and services made by other people who also hate their work? This is the rat race 101 and, in theory, we could have built our entire economy purely from what people love doing. Instead of calling it work, we would have realized it was play.
The shared article sheds light on Watts’ stance that there is in fact no such thing as ‘work’ per se, as life itself is ultimately playful. It is our human judgment and taking ourselves much too seriously that we think work should both define and comprise the majority of our waking lives. I often ask people, including the students I teach, “Which is far worse? To have succeeded or to have failed in an occupation you spend 40 years hating?” Ever since I was a child I would tell myself that I wanted to earn a living by reading and writing, and all of my jobs have enabled me to do just that – especially in my current position as a PhD student. As a result, my interests and ‘work’ have always been complimentary. I get paid to do what I love doing. Yes, it can be hard, but funnily enough enjoyment can come from overcoming difficult tasks.
Given that the whole “new year, new me” mantra is still ripe in January, ask yourself whether you are doing ‘work’, or have you found a vocation you enjoy doing where you can interpret its work as play?
It’s the (democracy poisoning) golden age of free speech
Jakkii says: Last year in our Friday Faves I shared several pieces in a similar vein to this week’s article, namely “We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads;” “Something is wrong on the internet;” “How one woman’s digital life was weaponised against her;” and “Youtube is addressing its massive child exploitation problem.” Each of these is worth a read (or watch – the first was a video) and your consideration, if you didn’t get the opportunity last year.
This week I share a piece in Wired, authored by “technosociologist” Zeynep Tufekci, that addresses the issue of trust, ‘fake news’ and censorship via the big three: Facebook, Google (including Youtube), and Twitter.
These are, in my view, important reads for all of us. Whether we agree in full is not the point; rather that we consider the possible impacts upon us, our communities, and our democracies. That we consider our collective responsibility – that we ponder and address the role regulatory frameworks and lawmaking may need to play.
If my reading and anecdotal experience is at all representative, there exists a trust problem between us and these platforms – one that may well spread further and further. This possible spread presents a potentially significant problem for workplaces – when trust is eroded in social networks, how do we maintain (or increase) trust in our internal social platforms? Particularly notable: when trust is eroded in Facebook, will we see a flow-on erosion of trust in Workplace, Facebook’s internal platform? These are questions we must consider now, because trust is imperative in an organisation – whether or not the platforms themselves are trustworthy.
Technology closing the disability access gap
Helen says: 1981 was the UN declared International Year of Disabled Persons. I recall my father, who has had a prosthetic leg since a young boy, saying life became so much easier for him. Planning authorities started regulating construction to ensure accessibility and reserved car spaces, accessibility ramps, handrails and accessible toilets became common place. Mobility devices and other cleverly designed gadgets have further helped people living with a disability to enjoy a higher level of independence. These changes have been significant, but what excites me is what comes next?
Andrew Jack in the shared piece “Disability tech goes mainstream” provides some great examples of how assistive technology can transform lives, such as video games for the disabled, accessibility controls on devices for the visually impaired and a speech-generating machine to aid communication.
Software that enables users to navigate devices and control screens with their eyes is a now reality, and AI tech features such as Alexa, Siri and Google Home are making redundant the need for accessible formats that were designed to cater specifically for the disabled.
With the rise in popularity of user friendly AI driven technologies, not only are they becoming more affordable, they are now also within the reach of the abled and disabled alike.
Augmented reality: Why 2018 might be the year AR tech goes mainstream
Joel says: We’ve had some discussions in the office recently regarding what 2018’s tech trend may be. Previous years have had Virtual Reality, Fitness Trackers and Digital Home Assistants, but according to this article by the abc, 2018 may be the year we all start hearing about Augmented Reality (AR).
Augmented reality (sometimes also referred to as “mixed reality”) is the technique of adding computer graphics to a user’s view of the physical world.
You might have experienced this on your smartphone if you played the game Pokémon Go. Or perhaps you have tried placing furniture in your house using the IKEA Place app or the AR View feature on Amazon’s smartphone app.
One of the earliest pieces of AR tech the world was presented in recent years was the Google Glass. Although it has been plagued by long development times, numerous beta versions are confirmed to still be releasing, although news of Google Glass has been pretty quiet of late.
At last weeks CES technology show in Las Vegas there was no shortage of AR devices on display, with Magic Leap joining the likes of Microsoft, Meta, ODG, Mira and DAQRI to launch an AR headset. At the same time we are seeing Apple, Google, Facebook, Snap and others rushing to release platforms for smartphone-based AR. It seems this is only the beginning of the AR computing future.
2018 is looking to be the year AR technology really goes mainstream as it’s now being adopted into a vast array of industries. Nissan has launched an AR experience that lets customers view cars in dealerships through a smartphone. In Australia, CHOICE has seen great success with its CluckAR app that augments egg cartons with an indication of how happy the hens are back at the respective egg farm. For worker training, the HoloCrane is an example of how AR will enable a novice to practise a skill in situ, without the risk of damage to expensive equipment.
Check out the full article to see more examples of how AR could go mainstream in 2018 and what challenges it may face along the way.
Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast
This week: Instagram is loving nature to death and a recap of last year’s Instagram stories.
Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.
The stories this week:
Other stories we bring up: