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

Why the future of work is human


Anne says: The robots aren’t going to take our jobs!

That’s according to Deloitte Australia’s recently published report: Why the future of work is human. But how can that be? Just about every other media outlet is telling us they are! And there’s a whole industry building up to reskill workers impacted by robots, learning to work alongside robots, robot operators etc etc etc. What are Deloitte thinking? How did they arrive at this contrarian position? Here’s the response:

Where new technologies do take effect, they generally create as many jobs as they kill. It’s just that the ones that they kill are easily spotted, while the ones they create are hiding in plain sight.

This is a kind of feel-good report, incorporating a number of warnings – in particular, for Australia (it’s part of Deloitte’s Building the Lucky Country series) – while identifying the shift in the job market is away from hands (manual labour) to our heads and hearts, jobs where human skills like creativity, innovation, caring for others, and collaboration are currently in demand. There’s an interactive graph on the skills shortages across industries currently, then extrapolated out to future skills shortages over the next decade or so. The full report goes into more detail about the skills shortages and the speed of change amplifying the skills gaps. Most organisations appear to be lagging behind these changes and are preparing people for now – not the future. Most workers (according to the report) lack at least 2 of the 18 essential skills in the current market.

The report looks at some of the wider trends, including flexible working, self-employment, and job stability. Another interesting aspect introduced in the report highlights roles that are routine and non-routine, predicting that non-routine roles are the ones least likely to be impacted by robots, but also greatly enhanced by AI and data analytics. 

There’s a lot more in the report that reviews the use of office space, the role of experience in jobs – however, the key emphasis is the skills shortages and the need for Australia to address these gaps urgently.

It’s fascinating and somewhat alarming when you consider their future of work and the skills gaps identified. What will you be doing to ensure your future of work is assured?


Can you spot the photoshopped face?


hHelen says: Last week, Joel wrote about deepfakes and some of their possible negative consequences and he touched on a tool being developed to help identify these fakes. UC Berkeley was one of the publishers of the research paper mentioned in the article referenced and was funded by Google, Microsoft and US Government agency DARPA. Its title, “Protecting World Leaders Against Deep Fakes,” highlights a huge vulnerability. If seeing is believing, the importance of ongoing R&D work in this field cannot be overstated.

UC Berkeley also teamed up with Adobe to research how to detect facial manipulations in Adobe Photoshop. They have successfully developed a tool that detects altered images 99% of the time compared to the human detection rate of 53%. Adobe published this blog that I’m sharing with you this week that details their research framework and findings. Acknowledging the importance of being able to trust what we see, and ‘identify and discourage misuse’ was the reasoning behind their research, and whilst this initial work is limited only to images made using Photoshop, Adobe has similar projects underway on other digital media created with their products.

It is more likely that this effort by Adobe is about risk mitigation for the company, but in any case, it is good to see a business giving consideration to the ethical implications of the technology they create. I think it should become commonplace not only after development but also during the development phase.


Younger generations are growing horns in the back of their head


Up to half of all young people could be developing horn-like growths in the backs of their heads, startling Australian research suggests.

Joel says: When I first saw the headline and opening statement of this piece I thought I was going to be reading another interesting piece about evolution, this time centring around humans progressively growing horns. What do we need horns for? Who knows! Perhaps the hat industry needs a bit of a shakeup. But after diving deeper into the piece It became a far more serious piece about the impact of modern technology habits on our health.

The findings of two professors from the University of the Sunshine Coast have discovered that 41% of people aged between 18 and 30 had developed a horn-like lump on the back of their skull, some of them up to 30 millimetres in size. The discovery was made after analysing 218 X-Ray images and further MRI scans ruled out that the growths were caused by genetics or injury.

The researchers hypothesise that these new growths are likely caused by poor posture due to extensive mobile and gadget use.  

“Shifting the head forwards results in the transfer of the head’s weight from the bones of the spine to the muscles at the back of the neck and head.”

What started out as an article of intrigue quickly became quite serious when the researchers mentioned that these types of growths are normally found in the elderly with long term poor posture. And that it typically starts out painless but we could all be setting ourselves up for a future of chronic pain.

With many of us spending our free time browsing or reading off mobile devices, especially those travelling to and from work via public transport, it’s definitely highlighted for me the importance of keeping your head upright when possible and trying to make a conscious effort to maintain good posture. 


VR is training cops to empathize with the people they might kill


Jakkii says: One of the interesting things about technologies like virtual reality (VR) is that we don’t always have a good feel for “real-world” applications beyond gaming, and often the possibilities seem more hype than practical. That’s one of the reasons I really like coming across articles like this, that give you some insight into how VR is being used. 

You’re most likely familiar with a number of high-profile police shootings in the US – if no others, I’m sure you’ve at least heard about the case of Australian-American Justine Damond, who was killed in a police shooting; the officer who fatally shot her was recently found guilty in his trial on charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter (he was acquitted on a further charge of second-degree intentional murder). More often, police shootings involve a person with a disability or a person of colour, and all situations where a police officer fatally shoots someone – especially an unarmed person – should cause us all grave concern. The police do a difficult job, but for good reason, they are not judge, jury and executioner, and fatal shootings should be rare, not common. 

So, what can we do about it? Training of officers in the US varies widely and is likely to be particularly reliant on size and available budget of the relevant jurisdiction (certainly this article suggests that may be the case). Questions of consistency and ensuring all officers are trained – and continually so – are bigger issues than the subject of my piece this week. Instead, the focus here is more about how technologies might be used to enhance training. In this case, the technology in question is VR, and the use case is its immersive nature, enabling police officers to see and, to some degree, feel the world around them through the eyes of someone with a disability (autism) or suffering a profound mental health issue (schizophrenia). The intent is to help police to develop empathy with people in those situations whom the police may confront in their policing and have need to engage with in an attempt to de-escalate a situation, provide assistance and, if necessary, take them into custody – without needing to employ force. 

What’s quite interesting to me is that the training in question was developed by Axon, maker of tasers. There’s probably a cynical view to be taken about that, but I think even the idea that they’ve gone down this path solely to help prevent potential PR disasters when tasers are used and result in harm, still ends up in a positive place – if training such as this can help reduce escalations and – in the end, harmful or fatal outcomes – because police officers develop a better idea of how the world might look to someone else, I’m all for it. That said, as the article points out, one of the potential flaws here is that there’s minimal evidence that using VR in this fashion to instil empathy is actually effective. In fact, in addition to potential issues of intergroup empathy bias, the article points out that some prior research has indicated that people can be less empathetic towards their competitors, while researchers caution empathy exercises may backfire if the person concludes things ‘aren’t that bad’ for the subject of the exercise.

Overall, though, my sense is there’s some interesting potential there. It certainly then leads me to think about other ways in which similar, but tailored, programs could be used in order to help workers in other scenarios – or maybe even for executives to empathise a bit better with their employees’ actual experience of the workplace. 😉 What do you think – how might VR be useful in your workplace for learning and development (or other applications!)?


This Week in Social Media

Politics, democracy and regulation

Privacy and data

Cybersecurity and safety

Society and culture

Extremism and hate speech

Moderation and misinformation

Marketing, advertising and PR


Libra – Facebook’s cryptocurrency

We’ve shared links in past Friday Faves about Facebook’s move into cryptocurrency starting with the first hints back in December 2018. This week the news really hit the mainstream when Facebook released its white paper on Libra, planned to launch in 2020. 

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: flying cars, China pushes electric vehicles, and the future of the automobile. 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:

00:45 – Flying cars are coming to Melbourne courtesy of Uber (Or are they?) 

07:56 – Elon Musk is gonna take his Tesla to the Old Town Road (his pickup can have horses in the back)

10:48 – China is building up to 20 Electric Vehicle Detroit clones

Other stories we bring up:

Uber Copter is no solution for NYC’s congestion problem

Flying drone taxis are making only slow progress in Dubai

China bars cities from restricting Electric Vehicle car registrations

BMW and JLR announce electric vehicle innovation partnership

Our previous discussion of BYD electric buses in China

Our previous discussion of Tesla’ patents free for anyone and any company to use

Norway will be forced to spend big bucks on its electric grid due to love of EVs


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