Work Futures Minipost - Meaning Two Things At Once

| Submit to the Ecosystem or Die | Niche Co-working | AI Bosses | Edward St. Aubyn | The Death of Jibo | Slack Soars |

Beacon NY - 2019-06-24 — Is it Monday already?


I owe today's title to Edward St. Aubyn's quote of the day.


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New posts at On The Horizon: Rent the Runway’s Platform Strategy Becomes Clear and The Present and Future of On-Demand Work Platforms. Check it.


What Happens After Amazon’s Domination Is Complete? Its Bookstore Offers Clues | David Streitfeld details the downside of market dominance in the case of Amazon's bookselling business, which now commands more than 50% of book sales in the US. The company has grown an enormous ecosystem of sellers and resellers of books, but relies on the millions of ecosystem partners to self-police:

But Amazon takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore, never checking the authenticity, much less the quality, of what it sells. It does not oversee the sellers who have flocked to its site in any organized way.

This laissez faire attitude has opened the door to counterfeiting, which seems to be growing. The answer to the problem of counterfeiting appears to be surrendering to Amazon, and making the e-commerce behemoth the wholesaler of your books.


While people puzzle over WeWork, niche co-working spaces continue gaining traction | Connie Loizos on the growth of niche co-working:

This week, a young, New York-based startup called Alma raised $8 million in funding to expand its “co-practicing community of therapists, coaches, and wellness professionals,” which it first launched from a space on Madison Avenue last fall.

As CNN was first to report, the company is charging psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and acupuncturists $165 per month to become Alma members, which comes with services like billing and scheduling and even a matchmaking service that purports to connect professionals with patients. They also pay an hourly rate to book identically outfitted rooms that can be used interchangeably.

I'd like public libraries to start offering co-working plans, but I want my own carrel, like I had in college as part of the honors program.


[This is a story taken verbatim from the Work Futures Daily today, the newsletter for paid sponsors. Just so you know what is available for $5 per month. Normally, I would have condensed this to less that 100 words in the Minipost.]

A.I. May Not Take Your Job, but It Could Become Your Boss | Kevin Roose looks at AI workbots that monitor the fine-grained details of workers activities — Is the customer support rep talking too fast? Is the Amazon warehouse picker moving too slow? — and wonders where it is heading:

For decades, people have fearfully imagined armies of hyper-efficient robots invading offices and factories, gobbling up jobs once done by humans. But in all of the worry about the potential of artificial intelligence to replace rank-and-file workers, we may have overlooked the possibility it will replace the bosses, too.

No, I haven't.

Management by algorithm is not a new concept. In the early 20th century, Frederick Winslow Taylor revolutionized the manufacturing world with his “scientific management” theory, which tried to wring inefficiency out of factories by timing and measuring each aspect of a job. More recently, Uber, Lyft and other on-demand platforms have made billions of dollars by outsourcing conventional tasks of human resources — scheduling, payroll, performance reviews — to computers.

But using A.I. to manage workers in conventional, 9-to-5 jobs has been more controversial. Critics have accused companies of using algorithms for managerial tasks, saying that automated systems can dehumanize and unfairly punish employees. And while it’s clear why executives would want A.I. that can track everything their workers do, it’s less clear why workers would.

“It is surreal to think that any company could fire their own workers without any human involvement,” Marc Perrone, the president of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents food and retail workers, said in a statement about Amazon in April.

I disagree. If we are using algorithms to sidestep human cognitive biases in hiring -- Roose discusses Pymetrics, that has developed AI to do exactly that — then it make equal sense to rely on algorithms to sidestep similar biases in firing. Roose seems to agree, to some extent:

Using A.I. to correct for human biases is a good thing. But as more A.I. enters the workplace, executives will have to resist the temptation to use it to tighten their grip on their workers and subject them to constant surveillance and analysis. If that happens, it won’t be the robots staging an uprising.

I believe an uprising is inevitable, one that I have been calling the Human Spring, and which I predict for 2023. The Human Spring will be caused by growing discontent in the Western industrialized nations, and the proximate causes are the rise of artificial intelligence and its impact on work, economic inequality, and panic about ecological catastrophe from climate change and the results of climate change, like the worldwide immigration crisis.

The uprising won't be driven by minimal workbots monitoring the speaking rate of call center workers. Instead, it’s sparked by the fear and ongoing reality of full-blown AI taking over the jobs of call center workers, robots fully displacing the Amazon warehouse workers and Walmart shelf-stockers, and autonomous trucks sidelining a workforce of tens of millions of truckers and taxi drivers.

[ I wrote What Will a Corporation Look Like in 2050? for Wired in 2015 that details the three scenarios for the futures based on the Human Spring in 2023. A post I wrote recently — An End To Predictions, A Call For Revolution — touches on some of these ideas, and has been published by The Startup on Medium.]

Quote of the Day

Forget heroin. Just try giving up irony, that deep-down need to mean two things at once, to be in two places at once, not to be there for the catastrophe of a fixed meaning.

| Edward St. Aubyn


They welcomed a robot into their family, now they’re mourning its death | Ashley Carmen writes about the emotional ties people have with their Jibo robot toys:

A future in which they grow so attached to their robot that they celebrate its life, its birthdays, and eventually, mourn its death.


Slack Stock Soars, Putting Company’s Public Value at $19.5 Billion | Erin Griffith reports on the surge in interest in Slack following going public, moving from the initial $26 reference price to $38.62. That means the company is valued at $19.5 billion, triple its private valuation of $7.1 billion. Even at that price, it might be time to buy.


New posts at On The Horizon: Rent the Runway’s Platform Strategy Becomes Clear and The Present and Future of On-Demand Work Platforms. Check it.