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Work Futures Daily - Human Blinkers

Blinkers are the new walls, Retail robots, AI in time tracking, Family robots, CEO psychopaths, Platf

Work Futures

October 18 · Issue #1014 · View online
The ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

Blinkers are the new walls, Retail robots, AI in time tracking, Family robots, CEO psychopaths, Platform organizations, Noise into knowledge

Beacon NY - 2018-10-18 — There is a strange dystopic air to the Panasonic Wear Space headgear (see below). I admit that I wondered if it was a spoof when I first saw the photo.
Has it come to this? I mean, wearing headphones all the time is not too crazy, a seemingly sensible accommodation. But Wear Space is a giant step into accepting the bizarreness of everyday office life.
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Long Takes
Panasonic’s human blinkers help people concentrate in open-plan offices | How bad is the backlash against open offices? Natashah Hitti writes about Panasonic’s Wear Space headgear, basically blinders intended to help us cope with distraction in open plan offices.
So, it’s no longer ‘headphones are the new wall’. Now, we are in fact wearing walls:
Sharing a similar aesthetic and concept to horse blinkers, the device consists of a curved strip of flexible material that wraps around the back of the user’s head, and extends out to shield the sides of their eyes, blocking out any distractions in their peripheral vision.
The user’s viewing angle can be adjusted by pulling or pushing the two ends of the device further apart, or closer together, to narrow or widen the visibility, depending on the desired level of concentration.
This partition is fixed around the wearer’s head by a pair of noise-cancelling headphones fitted to the inside of the curved body. These are used to block out ambient sounds, and feature three levels of noise cancellation depending on the environment.
Wireless and bluetooth connected, the device can be connected to a smartphone or PC to listen to a chosen sound or music.
Pink noise, of course, to drown out the forty other people working within thirty feet in your co-working space.
How Robots and Drones Will Change Retail Forever | Christopher Mims surveys the state-of-the-art in the ‘physical cloud’ – the world of AI and robots in the logistical supply chain for ecommerce giants. What’s coming?
Thanks to retail’s low margins and the high cost of robots, warehousing has been slow to embrace automation, lagging behind industries like farming and car manufacturing. That changed when Kiva Systems, founded in 2003 in Reading, Mass., developed robots that could bring items to workers. At one point, Kiva’s clients included Gap, Saks Fifth Avenue and Staples. Then in 2012, Amazon bought Kiva for $775 million, took Kiva’s robots off the market and made them the backbone of its distribution centers. According to Deutsche Bank, acquiring Kiva reduced Amazon’s fulfillment costs by 20%, and it blew an enormous hole in the plans of its competitors. Because of patents and the difficulty of recreating Kiva’s deep well of expertise, new robotics companies weren’t able to offer comparable systems until the past couple of years.
Some of those retailers are trying to eliminate jobs, but Amazon is doing the opposite—for now. The company employs 575,000 people, up from 340,000 a year ago. Many of them work in fulfillment centers, performing tasks that robots haven’t mastered but could master soon.
Christopher Atkeson, a robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon, says a robotic arm capable of replacing Amazon’s warehouse workers will be available within five years.
Amazon is coy about its long-term plans. Tye Brady, the chief technologist for Amazon Robotics, says only that the company is always seeking to make its employees more efficient. Other retailers are more blunt. Richard Liu, the CEO and chairman of, a leading e-commerce company in China that relies heavily on automation, has said his goal is a 100% robot workforce.
Expect that as soon as possible the millions now working in warehousing and logistics – including delivery drivers – will be automated out of existence.
Short Takes
Memory raises $5M to bring AI to time tracking | I am going to see if a persistent app that tracks my every action (on my Mac) can in fact come up with a usable record of how I spend my time. Dear god, let’s hope so.
The next generation of home robots will be members of the household | To the extent that companies are like families, much of what Cynthia Brazeal writes about ‘social robots’ holds for the workplace, not just for the home.
Psychopaths in the C-Suite? | I find myself cringing when I read 'To some extent, psychopathic tendencies might be good for leaders in moderation’. Researchers found that, in fact, there is 'no evidence that most or even many corporate leaders are psychopaths’.
Platform Organizations: The Next Big Thing? | The Corporate Rebels write about Haier’s transformation into a platform organization.
From the Archives
Turning Noise into Knowledge | Lee Bryant on social scale and content in work technology. A must read.
Quote of the Day
Narcissistic managers only hire people who won’t threaten their power.
Humble managers only hire people they can learn from.
Wise managers know they can learn from anyone.
| Adam Grant (via twitter)
Crossposted from
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Stowe Boyd, 17 South Cedar Street, Beacon NY 12508