“Will Robots Eat Our Jobs?”

Happy 136th Birthday RMIT!

With a subject as enticing as “will robots eat our jobs?” I found myself mid-morning at RMIT’s green-slimed Storey Hall, expecting a bit of a lecture.

What I got was more.

A whole lot more.

Not only was it the University of Technology’s 136th birthday party, but there was molecular gastronomy on offer.

My goodnesss. It was eye-opening and mouth watering.

From the cater waiters dressed as Pris from ‘Blade Runner‘ to a thirty minute roller skating extravaganza that was part ‘Xanadu‘ and part ‘Starlight Express’, to a panel discussion involving the most animated university Vice Chancellor put on this green earth (Martin Bean) introducing a whole new word to the lexicon.

Meet “micro-credentialing”.

In a world in which you have multiple careers, a freelance economy, and ever evolving technology and capability, it’s exactly what the blog is aiming to wean you onto. Constant short bursts of self development.

Since introducing the concept, RMIT has delivered over 8,000 of the blighters, with the aim of creating a ‘pick and mix’ option for students and return-to-study types, but if you’re not sure you want to commit to these just yet, you can access the blog calendar, or sit at home and try some online offerings like Coursera or the number one educator in the world which I am surprised to learn is ‘YouTube.’ (I mean I get it but I’m not sure that I’d put it in that category.)

This week alone I’ve attended a webinar on programming chat bots with Microsoft UK; a seminar on how to edit Wikimedia and Wikipedia with Andy Mabbet at ACMIT X; learned about the policy ecosystem in Australasia at UniMelb and the Modern workplace at Microsoft HQ, discovering that Australian and state governements are disconnected and seem not to have invested in ways to share knowledge and colloborate on policy, and a business in regional Australia is using Microsoft 365 (the way of the future for shared services) and purely mobile solutions to deliver healthcare to seniors in rural, regional and remote areas of New South Wales.

PHEW.

Telehealth being a pet subject, I’ll be following up on Integrated Living and recommending it to my policy connections in health, tech and gov.

I also visited WanChain at Stone and Chalk who seem to be a middle ware interface or exchange type entity allowing trade between different types of cryptocurrency.

I asked them tricky questions about privacy and health data and we are going to continue the conversation.

Last but not least, I also made a new connection.  The Chief Strategist at Deloitte Australasia Robert Hiliard whose career trajectory includes an interest in letting go of the ‘digital’ descriptor in the transformation space and a short story involving a thirteen year old, a Commodore 64 and an early inventory and accounts management system created from scratch for a furniture retailer in country Victoria.

Disconcertingly, 2 per cent of Chief Executives in Australia think that technology has the capacity to seriously disrupt their businesses.

An alarming 71 per cent think that someone somewhere in the business is (probably) looking into the issue of disruption and the implications of new technologies. (Specifically “that guy with the red hair” to give an example of one of the answers supplied to researchers in response to my exact question, aka ‘who?).

This is really bad news. For so long we have promoted people to the top because of their ability to cut through, or as I prefer to see it, pay no attention to the detail. Speaking as someone who loves complexity and systems design, this has always meant my own career was never going to hit the heights but geez I’ve seen some really incompetent people rise up the ranks.

If these stats are real, Australia is headed for some nasty shocks.

Mr Hiliard is the first person to confirm my previously quietly held concerns that blockchain is “ugly” by which he means there are other  better options in the market that do the same thing better and I mean it seems to be attended by a yuge amount of hype and not a lot of information as to how it is actually better than other options.

(Example: you need US dollars to float an ICO. In laymans’ terms that means you make your digital currency out of existing currency… Why would anyone do that?)

Then there are the calls to regulate and apply the rule of law to these speculative creations, which is fine, except it doesn’t gel with my understanding of these currencies as having been created to avoid “gummint control” and tax, and allow the black market to flourish with some certainty.

So there’s that.

Finally, on the question of whether robots will eat our jobs the consensus seems to be no. They won’t.

At least twice this week the poster child for the future of humans and robots has been cited as two teams of chess players currently kicking goals on the world chess circuit (OMG. Why do you do this to yourselves, technologists?) in which the yuman and the off-the-shelf bot are working collaboratively. The machine doing the routine and predictable behavioural bits, and the creative tactics coming from the higher cognitive reasoning bits of the human’s imagination and brain. I can see how this would help risk management. Specifically my ability to reign in executives making rash decisions. However, I also note that behavioural interviewing (which is a pet hate, because it literally looks backwards, and assumes that we will only ever do what we have only ever done, which is precisely the type of work that machines will eat alive) isn’t interested in the ability of the human to have several careers and be creative. It vitiates against it. It may be what we need, but it’s not how we’re recruiting….

It begs the question whether the guy with the red hair who’s supposedly dealing with the threat of disruption actually exists or is he a figment of our irrationally positive imagination?

oznor

 

 

 

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