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 I forgot…

Anne says: Every week, we, as a team remind each other to submit our Friday Fave articles for the blog for Jakkii to wrangle, collate and publish. Every week someone exclaims… “Oh, I nearly forgot!! Thanks for the reminder!” My article this week is all about short term working memory – remember the magic number? Seven, plus or minus two. Well done – that means you must have stored this in your long term memory.

The widely accepted number was published by George Miller, a cognitive psychologist, in 1956. (Here’s a link to the original paper) Miller stated that: the number of items that humans can actively hold in their conscious awareness at once is limited, on average, to seven. It’s likely you’ve even played memory games to test the theory – some people have all sorts of visual tactics, ways of grouping items into a single unit, and using mnemonics. However, understanding why more than the nominal magic number holds true has eluded scientists. Until now.

A new study by a group of neuroscientists has generated some new hypotheses about how our minds search for patterns, or ‘predictive coding’, based on our existing knowledge and experiences. When we’re presented with too much information that is not related, we hit overload. The model below explains this far better than I can:

The implications, in our world of information overload, are going to be valuable in how we design our digital workplaces and how we manage tasks. Think about multi-tasking – we’re told to concentrate on 1 task at a time. But if we group similar tasks, and avoid overloading our working memory with too many unrelated items, perhaps this may increase effectiveness.

Exciting times ahead for people who claim to have hopeless memories – these developing models may provide new ways of managing how we interact with our busy digital and physical worlds.


The Bullshit-Job Boom

Nat says:The “bullshit” job discussion has been making the rounds recently, coinciding with David Graeber’s latest book exploring the phenomenon. Graeber puts forward an interesting debate, especially in terms of what constitutes a bullshit job, and why such jobs should be viewed in a negative light. In my view, however, the world is based in unified opposites. We as humans literally use bullshit to fertilise our lawns, so why do we have an issue with metaphorical bullshit appearing as part of our shared economic landscape? My point being that good jobs need their BS counterparts.

Examples of BS jobs that are discussed in the shared article refer to problems associated with modern-day capitalism and the western world; such as someone working to develop a reality TV show called “Transsexual Housewives”, or something much deeper at play in which our daily 9-5 grind can be seen as a bizarre way to spend our (life) time. What the BS jobs debate brings to the fore is a discussion about why we work, and what we are working towards. Many people work purely for money, but what is that money spent on if not the goods and services of nameless others who also wished they did not have to work? I’ve always found working for the sake of money an odd way to spend one’s life. If you say that getting money is the most important thing, you’ll spend your life wasting your time. You’ll do things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing. To work for money is to bet most of your prime years of life on the assumption that you will have the time to enjoy it later — when you physically or mentally will not be able to. Yet even if you have money, there is nothing in the world that money can buy you that it cannot buy others, other than the rate and quantity of expenditure, and man-made perceptions of quality. There is only so much money you need to survive, the rest is for showing off.

So what about working for more than just money? On an individual level, work can be seen as an identity thing — a sense of purpose and belonging for one’s life. On a societal level, work can be seen as our capacity to help one another; to become greater than our suffering. However, with our current technological know-how, we could have, in theory, already achieved universal basic income and automated a lot of our current processes. So why is this not yet our reality? On a philosophical level, it appears that we possess a capacity to create, which itself is cloaked by desires of our own selfish immortality. We create knowledge, technology, and literally other human beings (children), but seldom do we pause to reflect or question what we are creating or striving towards on a holistic front. What we try and create is meaning, yet we often do it at the cost of the collective world, and such meaning seems to be held together by the bullshit work required for its actualisation.

Realistically, all of our jobs can be seen as bullshit, because they all become nothing. Jobs evolve in line with technological and societal change, and each of us will die and leave our work behind for someone else to pick up or ignore the pieces entirely. I guess the point I am making is that for us to debate the bullshit job era, we need to be asking philosophical questions of what we think work (and life) is all about. Perhaps the “bullshit” thing we need to be addressing is the realisation that none of us get out of this gig alive, and we cannot have “good” in this life without the BS “bad” also being present. Additionally, bullshit work for me might be heavenly work to you (or to someone working minimum wage in a factory, for example). After all, the grass is always greener because it is fertilised with bullshit.


Chatbots, our new co-workers

Helen says: The take up of chatbots in the work place is growing because they contribute to cost savings, provide efficiencies and free us from mundane tasks.

This article highlights eight ways chatbots will impact the digital workforce:

  • Tasks that were taken offshore will be handled by bots, replacing the outsourcing model.
  • Workers are likely to use bots themselves in order to achieve greater efficiencies.
  • Chatbots will become a central marketing asset by influencing the buyer’s journey.
  • They will become the ultimate sales assistant, qualifying leads for their sales reps.
  • Their ability to process information quickly make them perfect as product advisers to buyers on the web.
  • Bots have a strong foothold in the B2C world and their next frontier will be B2B.
  • As they become increasingly more personalised, bots will deliver excellent customer service.
  • Chatbots currently communicate with us but they will learn to talk to each other too.

Leslie Swanson points out that soft skills focusing on emotion, creativity and reasoning will become an important differentiator between the worker and the bot. Such skills will be needed for ongoing participation in the workplace.


Uber’s ‘flying cars’ could be operational in Sydney or Melbourne by 2020

Two-hour commutes could be cut to just 20 minutes if a new method of transport gets the go-ahead. And it could be here by 2020.

Joel says: Uber believes it has a solution to the clogged roads that increase stress and make you late to work in our biggest cities in Australia: “UberAir” flying cars.

The Californian tech giant plans to begin testing the UberAir program here by 2020. If everything goes smoothly enough their goal is to have commuters sharing short, cheap flights using Uber’s “flying cars” by 2023, which will slash travel times for those travelling around the cities.

Uber has even identified possible routes for its aircraft, showing a two-hour trip by car in Sydney, for example, could become a 20-minute trip by UberAIR.

“In Sydney, residents spend seven whole working weeks each year commuting, two of which are wasted unproductively stuck in gridlock.

“On-demand aviation has the potential to radically improve urban mobility, giving people back time lost in their daily commutes. Uber is close to the commute pain that citizens in cities around the world feel.”

Uber is even pitting Sydney against Melbourne to see which will be the first to adopt the idea and host the testing of the project when UberAir testing begins down under.

Check out the full article to see the other plans Uber has in mind that look to change the way(s) we travel in the future.


How Language Shapes the Way We Think

Jakkii says: I had the good fortune over the last couple of weeks to travel abroad to countries where I don’t speak the language. Naturally, this TED Talk then seemed a perfect fit for me to share this week as I reflect on humans, language, and communication.

I was also interested in this talk because I’m a big believer in the idea that the words we use shape the way we think. It’s one of the reasons I reject the excuse often used to dismiss the challenges to language choice as “political correctness gone mad” – such as when people call out casually racist or sexist language, or how we now (thankfully) consider the word “retarded” inappropriate for describing people with developmental challenges and disabilities. I think the argument is somewhat circular: surely how we think shapes the words we use? It’s probably the case that both are true – our thoughts shape our words, but in turn our words can shape our thoughts.

This TED talk is a great 15 minute introduction to the idea of how whole languages teach us different ways of thinking, giving examples of how, for instance, in German where bridges are ‘feminine’ they are often described as ‘beautiful’ and elegant’, whereas in Spanish where bridges are ‘masculine’ they are often described as ‘strong’ and ‘long’. There’s also a fascinating discussion of an Indigenous language in which cardinal direction is of significant importance – in the culture where this language is spoken, humans are surprisingly well-equipped (compared to many of the rest of us) at orienting themselves in the world.

“The beauty of linguistic diversity is that it reveals to us just how ingenious and how flexible the human mind is,” Boroditsky says. “Human minds have invented not one cognitive universe, but 7,000.”

“Languages, of course, are living things. Things that we can hone and change to suit our needs.”

Give the video a watch and then reflect a little about the language we speak in broad terms (e.g. English), and about the language we speak in detail. Maybe those ideas of chanting self-help mantras at ourselves in the mirror each morning aren’t so ridiculous after all…

“It’s about how the language you speak shapes the way you think. That gives you the opportunity to ask: why do I think the way that I do? How could I think differently? And also, what thoughts do I wish to create?”


A Normal Day

This week one of our Ripple Effect Group associates, Nicole White from the ID Crowd, is featured on the Learning Uncut podcast talking about her fabulous podcast project for “A Normal Day,” which was delivered via a podcast series for health practitioners.

Nicole describes why and how they used podcasts for this solution, inspired by the popular Serial podcast series, and how they managed their stakeholders to adopt a podcast approach rather than “traditional” self-paced elearning, as well as sharing tips and challenges with using podcasts for learning and some great resources for inspiration and further information.


Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: winter is coming, Uber knows you’re tipsy, and take the call. 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:

The AI winter is coming

Uber applies for patent to spot drunk passengers

No one answers their phone anymore

Other stories we bring up:

Our previous discussion of the fatal Uber crash

Uber’s drunk technology

More on Uber’s drunk technology

The Plan B drink driving campaign

All the things you can do with your WeChat account in China

Are we headed for another tech bubble? 

Google Gmail compose helps write emails

Chat bots negotiating meetings and making calendar entries

Apple Watch can be used as a Walkie Talkie

Too much of a good thing, solar might overload the grid


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