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

AI and Disruption

Anne says: Today’s Friday Faves aligns with the nature of conversations that will be occurring at Disrupt Sydney conference today. The team have selected a range of articles that represent the ways we need to consider and engage with digital disruption – including AI (artificial intelligence), robots and technologies. As we have done for the last 5 years, the team were scheduled to present a workshop on Saying what is not said: using personas to convey meaning rather than achieve a technological end, a combination of our work in the field of human centred design and Nat’s research into our practice of using personas. We will not be presenting this workshop, although we know she would have wanted us to, we find the process of representing her work, combined with our theory in practice approach, was just a little too soon to manage.

This week, I’ve collated a number of resources with the intention of counter-balancing some of the fear-mongering and wild claims about robots and AI taking over the world. You’ll probably notice that the team have also selected articles along these lines – highlighting future scenarios, but not discounting the changes we will face.

There are 2 TED Talks by leading AI developers that should provide some inspiration – particularly if you take on their mindsets about the meaning of work and our personal lives.

First up – Tom Gruber (the co-creator of Siri). I love the way he draws us into speculation about the future with AI. He asks:

“How smart can our machines make us?”

A powerful refocus on working with what he calls: humanistic AI.

The second TED Talk is from computer scientist and Google China’s President, Kai Fu Lee. He sets the scene for the future of work. About halfway through the talk (around 6-7 minute mark), he presents his future scenario of jobs. How AI will liberate us from the routine and mundane and how people will work alongside AI with analytical tools. The irreplaceable aspect of humans: our brains and our hearts.

Jakkii extends Kai-Fu Lee’s introduction here with the need for compassion in doctors as AI and machines take over take segments of their roles. (I had a hip arthroscopy procedure in 2017 conducted by a robot!!)

Now comes the real world scenarios. Recently released reports from LinkedIn and the World Economic Forum outlined new and emerging roles that will be created by the presence of AI.

“Machines and algorithms in the workplace are expected to create 133 million new roles, but cause 75 million jobs to be displaced by 2022 according to a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) called “The Future of Jobs 2018.” This means that the growth of artificial intelligence could create 58 million net new jobs in the next few years.”

From the Emerging Jobs in Australia report from LinkedIn, these jobs align with the roles identified by Kai-Fu Lee – not quite to the full extent as he describes them, but certainly trending in that direction.

So yes – there will be disruption. Yes, it may be a bumpy ride. But I find it inspiring – as with the examples also collected by the team this week – when we view the future scenarios and the people behind these developments.


How To Survive The Robot Takeover With Your Job Intact

Joel says: Now I know that headline will likely strike fear in some people but before you grab your pitchforks and prepare to fight back against our upcoming robot overlords you should probably give this article a read. Yes, it seems AI and robots are going to come and disrupt our lives really soon. With the capabilities of both increasing daily, it will become inevitable. And with them taking the load of many mundane tasks it seems that some jobs will become redundant for humans.

If you are concerned robots will your job, it’s time to stop worrying and decide what you are going to do about it. Robots and Artificial Intelligence are already starting to reshape the world and our workplaces. AI software can detect breast-cancer tumours on X-ray scans as effectively as doctors, and driverless cars on Californian highways have fewer accidents than human drivers.

The capabilities for AI will erase many mundane process-driven jobs humans carry out, but new jobs will emerge in their place.

In 2013, the US Department of Labour forecast that 65% of children at school would eventually be employed in yet-to-be-created jobs. There were no social media managers and application user interface designers before the internet arrived.

The article goes on to talk about a book titled Don’t Worry About the Robots: How to Survive and Thrive in the New World of Work, by Jo Cribb and David Glover, offering advice to those interested in preparing for the workplace of the future.

“Our message is simple. Disrupt yourself and your thinking before someone else does,”

It sounds exhausting – and scary. But by investing in yourself and having clear professional goals, based on an understanding of where you want to go, you’ll build the confidence to navigate the disruption that is coming.


Getting emotional over a robot

Helen says: Hal is the latest star to enter the medical training market. Designed to help train medical students, Hal is a hyper-real robot with changing expressions who speaks, breathes, has a pulse, bleeds, cries, urinates and his pupils respond to light. His tongue and throat can swell and he can be hooked up to a defibrillator in the event of a cardiac arrest.

It was noted that students felt stressed when working on the old style rubber mannequins, so how much stronger will their reaction be when interacting with this lifelike robot? When something is close to human-like, we often find it creepy, but the more human-like it becomes, the more positive is our emotional response to it; this is referred to as the uncanny valley effect. The article suggests the creators decided to keep Hal blemish free to ensure he was not so real as to be a distraction to the users. However, even when knowing something is not real, it seems we are not immune from having very real emotional reactions to a simulated person.


If they don’t want to lose their jobs to a machine, doctors will need to become compassionate ‘human connectors’

Jakkii says: We’ve all been thinking a lot about disruption this week, and in line with Disrupt Sydney’s theme for the year, Robots Against the Machine?, most of our articles have honed in on AI and robots and how they might disrupt specific industries – and indeed all of our workplaces, and our everyday lives.

Along with Helen this week, my piece touches on medicine, with advice from Kai-Fu Lee that addresses the premise of Joel’s article – that we can survive robots and AI with our jobs – and ties it all together with its links back to Anne’s shared pieces that look at the broader picture of AI, disruption and the future of work.

“If we look at what AI cannot do, there are really two main things,” Lee said on the latest episode of [podcast] Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “One is creative jobs. Jobs like scientists, storytellers, artists and so on. And the other are the compassionate people who really have created a human-to-human connection, trust.”

Firstly, I find it interesting to see Kai-Fu Lee describe ‘scientist’ as a creative job – I think that would’ve piqued Nat’s interest as well as someone who had strong philosophical views on science. Secondly, I think not only does this tend to ring true, but it also echoes what we’ve seen and heard about AI over the years. As AI becomes more advanced, what remains in humans’ favour, as it were, is our very humanness and our capacity for creativity, compassion, and empathy.

In this podcast, Kai-Fu and podcast host Kara Swisher have a great discussion that looks at China, big tech, data, AI and where it’s headed, governments and education. What I particularly enjoyed about this podcast was both the different, non-Western perspective on AI and technologies, along with what I think is a rather pragmatic view of what disruption may do to jobs. For example, in discussing the changes he expects for doctors, Kai-Fu suggests we could have 10 times as many doctors because the focus of training to be a doctor would shift to a more significant focus on compassion – and, presumably, a bunch of study units on how to work with AI.

I think how automation, robotics and AI will disrupt jobs that are heavy on routine is more immediately clear and obvious to people – after all, disruption through robotics and automation has been happening on factory floors for many years. Where it can be less clear is understanding the impact on roles such as lawyers and doctors, and I think discussions like this one are useful in painting this picture. The type of future Kai-Fu alludes to seems to be to be the most realistic, one in which some jobs will disappear, some will change dramatically, others will change in part, and still others will be brand new. I also think governments need to be doing much more to invest in this future, right from kindergarten education through to programs for reskilling workers into jobs of the future. Here in Australia, I’m not convinced our politicians – of any stripe – understand the coming disruptions or how to manage them in a meaningful way that works for the future of the country. We risk falling behind as a nation and, worse still, leaving our people behind because we failed to address the coming changes.

As individuals, we need to prepare ourselves; as businesses, we need to prepare our business and our employees; as citizens, we need to ask more of our politicians in order to prepare our country.


Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: platform monopoly, tech between science and fiction, and skinning fish for fashion. 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:

Amazon’s antitrust antagonist has a breakthrough idea

Why science fiction is the most important genre

Other stories we bring up:

Lina Khan’s Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox in the Yale Law Journal


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