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Work Futures Daily - The Office Desk Phone Won’t Die

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Office desk phones and email are like cockroaches; Google’s Andrew Moore on AI in business; Google’s
 

Work Futures

November 12 · Issue #1030 · View online
The ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

Office desk phones and email are like cockroaches; Google’s Andrew Moore on AI in business; Google’s walkout and aftermath; The Once And Future Worker; 4 myths about the skills gap; How to learn from each other; Where to cry in an open office.

Beacon NY - 2018-11-12 — How long will it be before the transition to mobile phones translates into the death of the desk phone in the office? 5 years? 10 Years?
In the mean time, Jennifer Levitz talks to people who disconnect them, put them in a drawer, and put tape over the blinking red messages light.
Winter seems to have arrived, in the form of snow yesterday afternoon. We hates it, precious.
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Long Takes
Anthony Acock was swamped at work and needed to make some space on his desk. So the assistant professor of graphic design at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona unplugged his desktop phone and stuck it in a drawer.
“It’s giant and has like five million buttons,” said Mr. Acock, 40 years old. “I don’t even know how to dial out on it.”
At home and work, technology habits have changed a lot over the years—and then there’s the office desk phone. With people carrying smartphones everywhere, a segment of the workforce has a hang up with the clunky office versions. Employees find them annoying and complicated, if they use desk phones at all.
Disconnecting may not be easy, as Mr. Acock found. After a few months, he said, an office manager noticed the phone’s absence and ordered it be put back on the desk.
“I was told to make an appointment with IT to get a training on it, but I just don’t have time for that,” he said.
[…]
In Portland, Ore., Kevin Murphy “unofficially abandoned” his office desk phone in August after a cable that connects to it broke. “I don’t plan to ask IT to fix it,” said Mr. Murphy, who is 46 and directs digital strategy at creative agency CMD. “Nothing good ever comes over a call to your desk phone.”
The device still sits on his desk, quietly collecting dust. “There is a sense of freedom,” Mr. Murphy said.
Office desk telephones, like email, seem very difficult to kill. Like cockroaches.
AI is not “magic dust” for your company, says Google’s Cloud AI boss | Will Knight talks with Andrew Moore, a very down-to-earth guy.
When people come in and say “How do I actually implement this artificial-intelligence project?” we immediately start breaking the problems down in our brains into the traditional components of AI—perception, decision making, action (and this decision-making component is a critical part of it now; you can use machine learning to make decisions much more effectively)—and we map those onto different parts of the business. One of the things Google Cloud has in place is these building blocks that you can slot together.>
Solving artificial-intelligence problems involves a lot of tough engineering and math and linear algebra and all that stuff. It very much isn’t the magic-dust type of solution.
What mistakes do companies make in adopting AI?
There are a couple of mistakes I see being made over and over again. When people come and say “I’ve got this massive amount of data—surely there’s some value I can get out of it,” I sit them down and have a strong talk with them.
What you really need to be doing is working with a problem your customers have or your workers have. Just write down the solution you’d like to have; then work backwards and figure out what kind of automation might support this goal; then work back to whether there’s the data you need, and how you collect it.
A must read.
Short Takes
China’s state-run press agency has created an ‘AI anchor’ to read the news | This was inevitable. I thought it would be ‘weathermen’ first, though. But it’s not really AI. The words are written by people.
Google Overhauls Sexual Misconduct Policy After Employee Walkout | Google agrees to end forced arbitration for claims of sexual harassment after walkout of more than 20,000 workers. The CEO, Sundar Pichai, did not answer other demands, like a representative on the board of directors. Is this superficial, or deep change?
David Gelles has a downbeat profile/interview with Sundar PichaiSundar Pichai of Google: ‘Technology Doesn’t Solve Humanity’s Problems’.
And in related news, Facebook to End Forced Arbitration for Sexual-Harassment ClaimsMicrosoft changed its policy on forced arbitration a year ago, and Facebook followed six months ago.
What the Working Class Is Still Trying to Tell Us | I am not a fan of David Brooks, to say the least, but this short review of The Once and Future Worker by Oren Cass led me to request a review copy. Here’s one example of sensible policy ideas that Cass suggests:
The bulk of his book is a series of ideas for how we can reform labor markets.
For example, Cass supports academic tracking. Right now, we have a one-size-fits-all education system. Everybody should go to college. The problem is that roughly one-fifth of our students fail to graduate high school in four years; roughly one-fifth take no further schooling after high school; roughly one-fifth drop out of college; roughly one-fifth get a job that doesn’t require the degree they just earned; and roughly one-fifth actually navigate the path the system is built around — from school to career.
We build a broken system and then ask people to try to fit into the system instead of tailoring a system around people’s actual needs.
Cass suggests that we instead do what nearly every other affluent nation does: Let students, starting in high school, decide whether they want to be on an apprenticeship track or an academic track. Vocational and technical schools are ubiquitous across the developed world, and yet that model is mostly rejected here.
These 4 myths about the skills gap will hold your company back | I know it sounds like a listicle article, but Stephanie Vozza steps beyond the usual platitudes about reskilling to actually outline some useful advice to companies eager to train up their workers.
And, along those lines, Kelly Palmer and David Blake explain How to Help Your Employees Learn from Each Other: people learn more from their peers than from anything else.
Where to Cry in an Open Office | JiJi Lee is funny.
So many places to collaborate. So few places to weep in private.
From the Archives
The Disruption Machine | In 2014, Jill Lepore took a chainsaw to Clay Christensen’s façade, and it came crashing down. Why do people still quote him? He’s the technology sector’s Sigmund Freud: none of what he says is supported by evidence, but if everyone is talking about it it must be true, right?
Quote of the Day
Every age has a theory of rising and falling, of growth and decay, of bloom and wilt: a theory of nature. Every age also has a theory about the past and the present, of what was and what is, a notion of time: a theory of history. Theories of history used to be supernatural: the divine ruled time; the hand of God, a special providence, lay behind the fall of each sparrow. If the present differed from the past, it was usually worse: supernatural theories of history tend to involve decline, a fall from grace, the loss of God’s favor, corruption. Beginning in the eighteenth century, as the intellectual historian Dorothy Ross once pointed out, theories of history became secular; then they started something new—historicism, the idea “that all events in historical time can be explained by prior events in historical time.” Things began looking up. First, there was that, then there was this, and this is better than that. The eighteenth century embraced the idea of progress; the nineteenth century had evolution; the twentieth century had growth and then innovation. Our era has disruption, which, despite its futurism, is atavistic. It’s a theory of history founded on a profound anxiety about financial collapse, an apocalyptic fear of global devastation, and shaky evidence.
Jill LeporeThe Disruption Machine
Crossposted from workfutures.org.
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