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.

Robopocalypse – NOT!

Anne says: And now – for the Robopocalypse – a recent article in Wired Magazine by James Surowiecki (Wisdom of Crowds author – first published in 2004) – reviews the anxiety of our jobless future when the robots take over.

In previous editions of Friday Faves, (18 August11 August, 4 August, 7 July 31March ) we’ve been reviewing articles about how robots are a potential threat to our jobs. According to James Surowiecki the robots won’t take all our jobs any time soon! So relax – just because a robot concierge in the Bank of Tokyo answered your query (and could effectively do so, fluently, in 6 languages), or a KLM robot escorted you to your flight in Amsterdam – the robopocalypse is not likely for a long time.

On the other hand, our anxiety about automation may be reaching hype proportions and some (think Elon Musk) are highlighting the potential of widespread unemployment and the related impact. Yet, Surowiecki counters these views with evidence – he cites that automation should be showing evidence that productivity is increasing and there would be fewer jobs. In fact, the data is indicating that productivity gains have slowed – dismally – in the past decade. If technology and automation advances were threatening our jobs, we should be seeing significant productivity gains and fewer available jobs. But we’re not. In fact, in some sectors we’re experiencing labour shortages – with no robots in sight to help out! The article cites a number of additional economic indicators that also support this position.

Exploring the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation on the economy and jobs is indicating an increase in work done by humans and an increase in wages – but the work is different. Meaning it’s less about a jobless world and more about the type of jobs humans and robots will be doing.

And finally – the speed of technological advances are not aligned to the hype of robot takeovers. The pace of innovation may be accelerating, but implementation into mainstream industry is not being supported by capital investment. The real impact won’t be experienced for years… probably!

Surowiecki’s closing line speaks to some of the issues we face, while we wait for the robots:

“….given how little companies are investing in new technology and how slowly the economy is growing. In that sense, the problem we’re facing isn’t that the robots are coming. It’s that they aren’t.”


Weird new animal facts discovered with 21st century tracking technology

Nat says: Nothing is immune to being tracked these days, thanks to technology, and this includes animals. In fact, according to the shared article, we are tracking the movement of animals with GPS, satellites, drones, tiny barcodes and “other devices”; meaning we track animals from space as well as deep in the ocean and, of course, on land.

In the book Where the Animals Go, cartographer James Cheshire and journalist Oliver Uberti explore the movements of animals based on recordings that have taken place all over the world. For example, tracking Baboons in Kenya has shown that all group members have a voice, whereas it was previously believed that they lived in strict hierarchical structures. Other examples include the mysterious migration patterns of flightless birds, and the changing job roles of ants, as stated:

By barcoding the backs of carpenter ants, filming their activities, and analyzing their movements over 40 days, researchers learned that ants in a colony change jobs over time. Young carpenters act as nurses and stay close to the queen, later they become cleaners, roaming the nest, and finally they grow up to be exploring foragers.

Our knowledge of the animal world can continue to grow with technology, which is so far revealing the complex nature of animal behaviour that might not have been realised with just human observation alone. It makes you wonder, however, that if they can track animals to this degree, then we as humans would also fall under the same scrutiny. The question then becomes of how much we can learn about life through its physical movements, versus the subjective experience of life via said movements. For animals, this is something we can never know without applying a human lens and our own interpretation onto animal experiences, but for humans? Who knows…


Nokia 3310 3G launches in Australia targeting Millennials and those seeking ‘digital detox’

Joel says: Growing up in the 90’s and early 00’s it was rare to see someone owning a mobile that wasn’t a Nokia. And of those that owned a Nokia it was more than likely a 3310. They were everywhere. Your top score on snake came up frequently on the play ground. But then Nokia tried to fix what wasn’t broken, came into numerous technical problems with their ‘smart phones’ and have all but dropped out of the Australian mobile market all together.

Until some genious had the idea to reboot the 3310 for today’s market. FORGET touchscreens and face-scanners, Nokia wants to bring back number pads and Snake. The refreshed but familiar mobile phone will work on Australian mobile phone networks in its new 3G form, unlike its first reboot that surfaced at Mobile World Congress in February, due to it using a 900-MHz frequency, it was unable to work in Australia and the UK.

“Most of the people who have reached out and bought the Nokia 3310 are Millennials,” HMD Global chief marketing officer Pekka Rantala said. “Many of them, I’m sure, have a smartphone but they have a lot of fun with the Nokia 3310. Some people are buying it as a fun phone, for a summer phone, for a festival phone, and many people buy it as an object of desire.”

So if the new Iphone X or Galaxy Note 8 are just too complicated or out of your price range, Nokia may just have the phone for you. Launching in Australia for just $89.


Recode’s reactions to Twitter’s new, longer tweets: ‘I don’t have time to read your book’

“Make users earn additional characters. They could do so by doing good, or donating money, or by muting Donald Trump.” -Peter Kafka, Senior Editor, Recode

Emilio says: Would Twitter be a better platform to rant, rave and react when the character length of a tweet is supersized to 280?

One of the biggest news to come out this week on social media is the confirmation of persistent rumours that Twitter is to roll out 280-character tweets. Only a handful of ‘tweeps’ have been given the privilege of testing this proposed new feature including, arguably Twitter’s most popular ‘tweep’, Donald Trump.

Immediately after the rollout was announced, the Twitter universe reacted with a slew of both supportive and antagonistic tweets – just check out what the universe is saying on #280characters.

Showing how divided the universe is on Twitter’s expanded tweet length and the accompanying arguments, a challenge was put to the editorial team at Recode, an online technology and business news media outlet. Those in favour of longer tweets had to rave in 280-characters, whilst those against it had to rant in 140-characters (or less). There were some interesting arguments and ideas presented – including a suggestion to make users earn the privilege of tweeting longer, and that this unnecessary new feature encourages waffling and discourages self-editing.

As for me, I think I would rather the status quo. Not that I’m averse to change – it’s just that I believe that concise and to-the-point posts do have the best impact. Even more pressing are the prevailing plagues that Twitter should tackle with greater urgency, namely: vitriol and hate spread by trolls, and the armies of Twitter bots by the millions that are being used by propagandists as Weapons of Mass Distraction and Disinformation (WMDs) which I have written about in an earlier post.

And I really do think that Twitter should focus its efforts on getting more people to discover and use the platform to express themselves and engage with others on issues and topics that matter to them. So supersize isn’t necessarily better – but that’s just me.


Why Don’t People Return Their Shopping Trolleys?

Jakkii says: I’ve been thinking about motivations recently and in my reading came across this piece about why people do or do not return their shopping trolleys. The author outlines 5 trolley returner types, and describes injunctive norms – where our responses are influenced by our pereception of what others will think of us; and descriptive norms – where our responses are influenced by contextual clues. In addition, that people have individual goals, and these can intersect and conflict with – as well as override – these norms.

The article also presents research on whether one norm being broken can encourage us to break others, citing examples of graffiti in alleys with clearly marked ‘no graffiti’ signs increasing the likelihood of littering. And, curiously, an example where littering increased where shopping trolleys were left strewn around a carpark instead of being returned to the receptacle. The author goes on to explain that when we allow ourselves to b inluenced by the poor example set by others, we are contributing to a shift in acceptable behaviours.

What I also found particularly interesting in this piece was the idea that steps we take to proactively mitigate issues can have the unintended consequence of enabling individual goal-driven behaviour to override the norms and ‘chaos’ never takes over. This was illustrated through the example of the ways in which supermarkets attempt to ‘make it easy’ for people to return their trolleys, including trolley attendants and multiple trolley recepticals around parking lots. These mitigating factors mean a ‘chaos’ state is never reached. How often do we implement a proactive policy or process aimed at mitigating issues in the workplace? These issues often play out particularly in online communities our organisations may have for customers, or even for employees. Overwrought rules and regulations frequently have an opposing effect than that intended, by interfering with the natural self-moderation of behaviour in healthy communities. The interplay of goals and norms amongst a collective is something we must give careful thought to when designing or implementing anything intended to mitigate concerns.

But really, the important question is – which returner type are you?


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