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Work Futures

October 13 · Issue #1010 · View online
The ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

Easiest Mac upgrade ever.

Beacon NY - 2018-10-13 — Upgraded to Mac OS X Mohave. No snags. I like dark mode, and dynamic desktops.
But I am thinking about a Google Pixel Slate, because I want to start taking freehand notes, again.
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Long Takes
Companies should help you retrain when you’re automated out of a job | James Manyika, of the McKinsey Global Institute makes the case for companies reskilling their employees based on automation of many occupations:
We estimate that if the pace of automation adoption is in the midpoint of our range of scenarios, about 15% of the global workforce, or 400 million workers, will be displaced by 2030 (pdf). (That range stretches from almost nobody, if automation adoption is slow, to 800 million, in the event of very rapid automation).
That’s a lot of people. But he maintains we don’t have to fear being pushed out of the workforce:
At the same time, as new technologies and the productivity gains they bring generate additional labor demand, many jobs will be created; based on historical precedent, we expect 8 to 9% of 2030’s labor supply will be in new jobs we cannot yet foresee. On top of that, we have estimated that between 555 million and 890 million jobs could be created by 2030 from select catalysts. This includes rising incomes (especially in emerging economies), which generates spending and higher consumption, which in turn creates additional labor demand to supply consumers with those products.
Overall, we expect there will be enough work to ensure full employment, with the gains offsetting the losses under most scenarios. But the transition will be jarring.
This somehow doesn’t gibe with others’ perceptions or projections about the impact of AI and automation. And if the ‘additional labor demand’ is increasingly being provided by robots and AI, the logic collapses.
He argues for more STEM and tech skills, but he fails to address the fundamental problem: if you look at this table of occupations being automated, show me examples of successful retraining of manufacturing workers and farmers in high-skill science and programming jobs?
In JanesvilleAmy Goldstein chronicled the problems inherent in trying to retrain manufacturing workers in their middle age after a GM plant was closed in Janesville, Wisconsin. I wrote about it earlier this year, in What We Can Learn From ‘Janesville’. I quote Jennifer Senior who reviewed Janesville and came away with this hard, cold distillation:
There’s scant evidence that job retraining, possibly the sole item on the menu of policy options upon which Democrats and Republicans can agree, is at all effective.
So, beware rah-rah technologists, politicians, or strategists who blithely handwave at retraining or reskilling in the face of occupational erosion driven by automation. They had better offer hard proof of programs that work, and can scale for potentially hundreds of millions of relatively unskilled people.
Short Takes
I was recently honored to present a keynote in Qingdao China at the 2nd International Renhanheyi Model Forum, held on 20 September 2018, and sponsored by Haier. Other speakers included Zhang Ruimin, Chairman and CEO of Haier, Gary Hamel, from the London Business School, Rosabeth Moss Canter, from Harvard Business School, and many others. This post includes a version of the notes I used when presenting, and the slides.
Autonomous Flights Are One Step Closer to Reality | Air cargo may soon be flying with just a solo pilot, and people carrying planes are likely to follow. And soon after, full autonomous aircraft?
Deloitte published research on Millennials:
A takeaway:
The conventional wisdom that Millennials are less loyal to their employers than other generations may be an artifact of Millennials’ incomplete entry into the labor market.
Uniqlo’s 1st automated warehouse cuts manpower by 90% | No softsoap about reassigning warehouse workers to more creative work:
Fast Retailing Co., which operates the Uniqlo apparel retail chain, unveiled to reporters on Tuesday a warehouse in the Ariake district of Tokyo where a robotic system automatically conducts work such as inspections and sorting apparel goods. The system started full-scale operations this month, resulting in a 90 percent reduction in manpower at the location, according to the company.
10 Principles of Emergent Organizations (And How We Live Them at The Ready) | Sam Spurlin manages to condense a book’s worth of organizational theory – as well as a snapshot of where his company, The Ready, is headed – into a single post. A must read.
Quote of the Day
I kind of feel like I was raised by wolves in my career, at least early on, and I turned out fine. I’m best as a solo operator. Management is exhausting. People are emotional, people have issues. And I’m ultimately too selfish for that. I’m more interested in my work than anybody else’s work.
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Stowe Boyd, 17 South Cedar Street, Beacon NY 12508