has turned to artificial intelligence to help it maintain the wires and pylons that transmit electricity from power stations to homes and businesses across the UK. The firm has been using six drones
for the past two years to help inspect its 7,200 miles of overhead lines around England and Wales. Equipped with high-res still, video and infrared cameras, the drones are deployed to assess the steelwork, wear and corrosion, and faults such as damaged conductors.
Historically, such work was undertaken by engineers climbing up pylons or using helicopters.
[National Grid’s chairman John] Pettigrew said that while the company’s electricity network only accounted for about 3%, or £35, of a typical dual-fuel energy bill, protecting consumers was important. But he said ensuring returns were reasonable under the new regime was key to attracting investors, he said. “Many investors today are global, they can choose to invest in the UK, the US or Europe.”
He conceded that the reforms would mean a smaller National Grid in future. “The changes are likely to reduce some headcount,” he said.
Oh, really? And he doesn’t hide that reality by claiming that the displaced workers will be reassigned to more creative pursuits.
is a powerful tool in helping our associates complete repetitive tasks so they can focus on other tasks within role and spend more time serving customers,
But really, if you are rolling out 360 robot floor cleaners obviously that will reduce the hours of workers who formerly washed the floors.
Everyone wants well-trained AI. In years to come, AI systems may scan your medical X-rays, drive your car, and decide whether or not you get a mortgage. AI promises vast gains in efficiencies, and, when combined with robotics, may replace human workers in many dull and repetitive jobs.
The humans currently doing those jobs will likely not be happy about being replaced. Many experts believe that AI will also make inroads on white-collar jobs, and say the transition to an AI economy will put vast swaths of people out of work. Kai-Fu Lee, the former head of Google China, recently predicted that 50 percent of the world’s jobs are in danger
Techno-optimists argue that as AI does away with some jobs, it will create new ones, as has happened before in history—for example, in the transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy.
But the question remains: Will humans want these new jobs?
Prepping data for AI is certainly a growth area, says Darrell West
, director of the Brookings Institution’s center for technological innovation and author of the recent book The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation
. “These are the new-style jobs that will be created by AI and automation: part-time, paid based on tasks completed, without benefits,” he says. “We do have to think about the quality of jobs that are being created.”
West argues that workers are about to suffer from a one-two punch, with increasing levels of AI and automation coming at the same time as a transition to a less-secure gig economy. “It’s the combination of technological revolution and the change in business models that will produce the long-term impact,” he says.
To ease financial pressure on farmers reluctant to make big one-off investments in equipment, the Small Robot Company plans to sell its services as a monthly subscription, charging 600 pounds ($765) per hectare a year.
With a bright orange 3D-printed body and beefy all-terrain wheels, Tom resembles an oversized roller skate. Their light weight means these robots won’t compact soil the way tractors do, Scott-Robinson said.
On Butler’s farm, Tom trundles along crop rows taking hundreds of thousands of high-resolution pictures during the growing season. The images are fed to Wilma, the artificial intelligence platform, which is being trained to tell the difference between wheat and weeds.
In 2019, the company will start trials for two more robots, Dick and Harry. Dick will deliver fertilizer directly to soil around roots, instead of wasteful blanket spraying and use a laser or micro-spray chemicals to kill weeds. Harry will insert seeds into the earth at a uniform depth and spacing, eliminating the need for tractors to plow furrows.
I wrote a piece called Forty Acres and a Bot
last year, where I suggested low cost and competent bots might allow workers displaced by automation to support themselves as homesteaders in exurbia:
While we may see the creation and rollout of new training programs, it’s unclear whether they will be able to retrain those displaced from traditional sorts of work to fit into the workforce of the near future. Many of the ‘skills’ that will be needed are more like personality characteristics, like curiosity, or social skills that require enculturation to take hold. Individual training – like programming or learning how to cook – may not be what will be needed. And employers may play less of a role, especially as AI- and bot-augmented independent contracting may be the best path for many, rather than ‘a job.’
Homesteading in exurbia may be the answer for many, with ‘forty acres and a bot’ as a political campaign slogan of 2024.
Prepare for that future.
Across Wall Street, men are adopting controversial strategies for the #MeToo era and, in the process, making life even harder for women.
Interviews with more than 30 senior executives suggest many are spooked by #MeToo and struggling to cope. “It’s creating a sense of walking on eggshells,” said David Bahnsen, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley who’s now an independent adviser overseeing more than $1.5 billion.
This is hardly a single-industry phenomenon, as men across the country check
their behavior at work, to protect themselves in the face of what they consider unreasonable political correctness – or to simply do the right thing. The upshot is forceful on Wall Street, where women are scarce in the upper ranks. The industry has also long nurtured a culture
that keeps harassment complaints out of the courts and public eye, and has so far avoided a mega-scandal like the one that has engulfed Harvey Weinstein.
Now, more than a year into the #MeToo movement – with its devastating revelations of harassment and abuse in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and beyond – Wall Street risks becoming more of a boy’s club, rather than less of one.
“Women are grasping for ideas on how to deal with it, because it is affecting our careers,” said Karen Elinski, president of the Financial Women’s Association and a senior vice president at Wells Fargo & Co. “It’s a real loss.”
There’s a danger, too, for companies that fail to squash the isolating backlash and don’t take steps to have top managers be open about the issue and make it safe for everyone to discuss it, said Stephen Zweig, an employment attorney with FordHarrison.
“If men avoid working or traveling with women alone, or stop mentoring women for fear of being accused of sexual harassment,” he said, “those men are going to back out of a sexual harassment complaint and right into a sex discrimination complaint.”
The pendulum swings, and then swings back.
Older workers—or “perennials,” as this cohort has sometimes been called
—are now the fastest-growing population of workers, with twice as many seniors as teenagers currently employed in the US.
In the 30-year span from 1994 to 2024, workers aged 55 and older will go from being the smallest segment of the US working population to the largest
, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other industrialized nations are seeing similar trends; in Japan and South Korea, the workforce is aging even faster
I intend to work into my seventies, or longer, so long as I still have my marbles.
Strangely, few companies are adapting to how seniors want to wind down their working years: a little at a time.
Only 19% of US companies offered some form of phased retirement
to workers in 2017, according to the Society of Human Resource Management, and less than a third of those companies offered the option through formal programs. More commonly, it’s a perk given only to the highest performers. But addressing employees’ requests this way, on a case-by-case basis, opens the door to charges of age discrimination and can lead to valuable employees leaving altogether.
Have to get that into the mix as soon as possible.