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Tag: jobs

The Unbundling of Jobs

Wednesday, 22 August, 2018

“In the mass economy, each job used to be a bundle. With that job came money, health care, a pension, provable solvency to purchase a house and a car, the promise of stability and constant enrichment, and more. Each worker accepted a ‘bargain’: division of labour in exchange for a ‘bundle’ of benefits and security. Work wasn’t necessarily fulfilling and interesting. But the bargain made the relative alienation perfectly acceptable.”

So begins The Unbundling of Jobs and What it Means for the Future of Work by Laetitia Vitaud at Medium. She believes that the “bargain” is ending and the “bundle” is being undone, but a brighter future beckons thanks to what she calls the “digital transition” that’s happening right now. Those who “hunger for more autonomy, flexibility and purpose” will be at the forefront of adopting “new work models”, and these workers, “freelancers, in particular” will be “in a position to negotiate a new ‘bundle’, one where work comes with self-fulfillment and autonomy,” claims Vitaud.

This may be true for an elite, but those who have been unbundled and unbargained will face new overlords intent on devising ever more repressive forms of bondage. In the past, serfs would pay dues (in the form of work) to the manor in exchange for using part of the lord’s land to produce their own food. If the microserfs of the future ever get around to reading history, they’ll find the Middle Ages oddly familiar.


The amazing Amazon jobs and money machine

Monday, 30 October, 2017 0 Comments

Hear this: Amazon now employs 542,000 people, up 77 percent on a year ago.

And this: The company announced third quarter sales were up 34 percent to $43.7 billion. But there’s more. Consider this:

“Amazon launched Amazon Wind Farm Texas, its largest windfarm yet, which generates more than 1,000,000 megawatt hours of clean energy annually from over 100 turbines. Amazon now has 18 solar and wind projects live across the U.S. with more than 35 on the way. Together, Amazon’s renewable energy projects now produce enough clean energy to power over 330,000 homes annually.”

Those stats, and many, many more can be found in the retailer’s press release from last Thursday, which makes for thought-provoking reading.

As Jeff Bezos once said: “There are two kinds of companies, those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second.”


Work: Accompany will replace the PA/EA with a CoS

Sunday, 22 January, 2017 0 Comments

Amy Chang is betting that her app, Accompany, can replace the PA (Personal Assistant) many executives employ to manage their complicated schedules and lives. By the way, PA is undergoing a professional and linguistic update right now and the main contenders for the new title are Executive Assistant and, Amy Chang’s own favourite, Chief-of-Staff. With its hints of martial hierarchy, authority and White House glamour, Chief-of-Staff should emerge as the winner.

Back to Accompany. It’s marketing itself as an intelligent Chief of Staff and its goal is provide an automated briefing with all the information you need before you walk into a meeting. This includes relevant files, e-mail conversations with participants, details about their lives pulled from the web and up-to-date information on company performance. This is already a crowded space and Accompany will have to battle with apps such as Clara, Tempo and Charlie, but as Matthew Lynley pointed out last month in TechCrunch, Amy Chang is in the money: “Digital chief-of-staff app Accompany raises $20M and launches a UK Beta.”

Accompany


Man vs. Machine

Saturday, 21 January, 2017 0 Comments

“A good receptionist should have certain characteristics: helpful, friendly, organized. But do they need to be human?” That was the question posed in Davos, where the future of work was debated with an increasing intensity during the past few days. The elites will do fine in the robotic revolution but they could still lose their sinecures, and more, if those dispossessed of jobs and dignity rise up against their new overlords.

Michael Marczewski is a motion designer based in London and working at ManvsMachine. His “Vicious Cycle” clip, which features a group of autonomous robots performing a range of repetitive functions, is fitting for this post-Davos moment because it ponders what might happen if the demands become unbearable for the robots. The music is by Marcus Olsson, one half of Kungen & Hertigen, a sound team based in Stockholm and Eksjö. The other half is Staffan Gustafsson.


Robots: Is it really different this time?

Tuesday, 7 June, 2016 0 Comments

That’s the question posed by Louis Anslow, whose Newtru.st is researching “new ways to accredit knowledge without tests or physical intermediaries.” Technology, says Anslow, “has always triggered fears of mass unemployment. In 1811 it was the Luddites, who assumed they were done for.” From those roving bands of English workers who destroyed machinery in the 19th-century, Anslow tracks the dread of technology right up to the present in Robots have been about to take all the jobs for more than 200 years. Now, he says, “the advent of self-driving cars and consumer facing A.I., the fear of automation is once again at a fever pitch.”

Telemarketing robot


Job creation in the New Economy

Thursday, 12 March, 2015 0 Comments

“WhatsApp crossed 1B Android downloads. btw our android team is four people + Brian. very small team, very big impact.” So tweets @jankoum. One billion Android downloads is an amazing achievement, but the boast of this being done with just five people is alarming as it confirms the theory expressed in The Jobless Future that the technologies which make modern abundance possible are enabling the production of much more output using far fewer people.

Jan Koum


Working with Beansprock and SAFFiR

Friday, 6 February, 2015 0 Comments

As we come to the end of our week of looking at developments in the emerging robotics/AI area, all signs indicate that the subject is moving from the technology pages to the mainstream. A sample of today’s headlines from Al Jazeera, Slate and Reuters: Hotel staffed by robots to open in Japan, Automated journalism is no longer science fiction, China to have most robots in world by 2017, an on and on and on.

Where is all this taking us? Well, take a look at Beansprock, a machine learning-based job search platform. Slogan: “Our artificial intelligence evaluates thousands of new tech jobs while you sleep and emails you only the best one.” When it knows a user’s skills, Beansprock can then predict which jobs are a match and which ones are not. The focus is on the tech industry in San Francisco, Boston and New York, and the company claims that it’s processing tens of thousands of job postings every day. Long term, the founders hope to expand the platform to include non-technical jobs.

Another example: “It’s what we call the hybrid force: humans and robots working together.” The person being quoted there by The Verge is the program manager at the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research. Thomas McKenna was speaking at the unveiling of the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR). What can it can that humans cannot? Well, it’s loaded with sensors such as infrared stereo-vision and laser light detectors, which enable it to find its target through thick smoke. The creators imagine a future where human-robot hybrid teams will work together as first responders when fires break out. This, then, is the near future. It’s a world where robotics and AI will be working for us and with us.


Robots rising

Thursday, 15 January, 2015 0 Comments

The title of Martin Ford’s new book, due out in April, is Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future. Snippet:

Rise of the Robots “Artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making ‘good jobs’ obsolete: many paralegals, physicians, and even — ironically — computer programmers are poised to be replaced by robots. As technology continues to accelerate and machines begin taking care of themselves, fewer jobs will be necessary. Unless we radically reassess the fundamentals of how our economy and politics work, this transition could create massive unemployment and inequality as well as the implosion of the economy itself.”

No industry will be spared. In “precision farming,” for example, a “nurse” robot will tend to individual plants, injecting water, pesticide or fertilizer in the exact amounts required — instead of spraying an entire field. And “picking” robots are going to take over back-breaking jobs that would otherwise go to migrant workers.

Meanwhile, San Francisco startup Modbot is designing industrial and hobby robots that will piece together like Lego. Typically robots like this might cost $25,000, but the modular nature of the Modbot could reduce the price tag to $2,500. The picture is completed with a simple smartphone app that would control your robot.


If coding is the new black why are you wearing blue?

Monday, 6 May, 2013 0 Comments

One of the reasons the Mashable website is so popular is that it exudes positivity. Sure, there are viral cat videos, but it’s mostly tech optimism. Typical of the genre is the recent article by Adam Popescu, “Coding Is the Must-Have Job Skill of the Future.” Not content with that broad statement, he adds that “Coding is the new black,” and he quotes Hank Leber, CEO and cofounder of the data-sharing utility GonnaBe, who calls coding the new literacy. “Leber cites the growing unemployment rate and diminishing prospects for newly-minted college graduates as motivators,” writes Popescu.

But is that really true? If coding is so cool and it’s where the jobs really are, why are millions of Greeks, Spaniards, Portuguese, Irish and lots of Americans signing on for welfare instead of learning MySQL or to how to administer Cisco and Linux? On the face of it, getting a job as a programmer appears easy as it doesn’t require a particular degree or training. Indeed, programming or system administration can be learned by anyone anywhere who has a personal computer and an internet connection. That being the case, it’s perplexing that millions of jobless Americans haven’t learned to code. And neither have millions of up-and-coming Chinese, Indians and Africans who could, theoretically, make fortunes if they learned the skills needed to turn First-World customer needs into working code. Here’s an e-commerce website that the government of California has spent $327 million upon, and it still isn’t finished. Coders from less wasteful cultures would surely have completed the job for less.

As it happens, there’s a good reason why everyone isn’t a good programmer. Simply, the job is not for everyone. Jeff Atwood, who runs the excellent Coding Horror blog, put up a post titled “So You Don’t Want to be a Programmer After All” last week and it contains some sobering insights for those dreaming of instant app riches. According to Atwood, it all comes down to one word: passion. If you don’t have a passion for software, you won’t be a good programmer and you would be better off doing something else. Coding may be cool in some quarters, and the software field does offer great opportunities, but according to Mashable’s rival, The Verge, Orange is the New Black. Talking of memes, Lucy Kellaway, management columnist with the Financial Times, is adamant that “White is not the new black.” She concludes, “Black is black, white is white.” Hard to argue with that. Punditry is, by a mile, the best job of all. Unlike coding, where logic counts, the pundit can say whatever she wants, no matter how obvious or vague.