Automation Makes Us Dumb

22. November 2014

  A typical Nick Carr! (R.C.)

Date: 22-11-2014
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Human intelligence is withering as computers do more, but there’s a solution.

Computers are taking over the kinds of knowledge work long considered the preserve of well-educated, well-trained professionals.

Artificial intelligence has arrived. Today’s computers are discerning and sharp. They can sense the environment, untangle knotty problems, make subtle judgments and learn from experience. They don’t think the way we think—they’re still as mindless as toothpicks—but they can replicate many of our most prized intellectual talents. Dazzled by our brilliant new machines, we’ve been rushing to hand them all sorts of sophisticated jobs that we used to do ourselves.

But our growing reliance on computer automation may be exacting a high price. Worrisome evidence suggests that our own intelligence is withering as we become more dependent on the artificial variety. Rather than lifting us up, smart software seems to be dumbing us down.

It has been a slow process. The first wave of automation rolled through U.S. industry after World War II, when manufacturers began installing electronically controlled equipment in their plants. The new machines made factories more efficient and companies more profitable. They were also heralded as emancipators. By relieving factory hands of routine chores, they would do more than boost productivity. They would elevate laborers, giving them more invigorating jobs and more valuable talents. The new technology would be ennobling.

Then, in the 1950s, a Harvard Business School professor named James Bright went into the field to study automation’s actual effects on a variety of industries, from heavy manufacturing to oil refining to bread baking. Factory conditions, he discovered, were anything but uplifting. More often than not, the new machines were leaving workers with drabber, less demanding jobs. An automated milling machine, for example, didn’t transform the metalworker into a more creative artisan; it turned him into a pusher of buttons. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gesund muss der Chef aussehen, klug nicht!

6. November 2014

06.11.2014 | 10:14 | Jürgen Langenbach (Die Presse)

Von des Gedankens Blässe sollten Führungskräfte sich nicht angekränkelt zeigen, im Gegenteil, Kraft muss die Gesichtsfarbe ausstrahlen. Meist: Nur für Kooperation ist Intelligenz gefragt.

Hart und kantig, lang gezogen, doch in der Mitte breit, mit einem Wort: So richtig männlich muss ein Gesicht sein, wenn es Erfolg haben will – bei den Frauen, aber auch in der Politik: Männer mit Babyface haben bei Wahlen kaum Chancen. Das stand hier schon oft zu lesen, aber in Gesichtern steht ja noch anderes geschrieben, die Gesundheit etwa oder die Intelligenz, sie spielen bei der Wahl des Führungspersonals durch die Geführten mit, man darf es wenigstens vermuten.

Brian Spisak (Management und Organisation, Uni Amsterdam) hat es nun getestet, an Kandidaten für Führungspositionen in der Wirtschaft. Die waren fiktiv, man hat zunächst aus drei Fotos von Studenten am PC ein Mustergesicht konstruiert und das dann von 148 Probanden beurteilen lassen. Ausgangspunkt war die Vermutung, dass für unterschiedliche Führungsaufgaben unterschiedliche Charaktere geeignet sind und dass die Untergebenen bzw. Mitarbeiter diese auch sehen wollen. Wenn es etwa in einen Kampf geht („Raiding“), werden kräftige und Gesundheit ausstrahlende Gesichter ihren Truppen Vertrauen einflößen, natürlich auch, wenn es um Kämpfe zwischen Unternehmen geht. Read the rest of this entry »


FT interview with Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page

1. November 2014

Date: 01-11-2014
Source: The Financial Times

Even the search engine’s original mission is not big enough for what he now has in mind

PageGoogle co-founder Larry Page

Wouldn’t the world be a happier place if 90 per cent of the people with jobs put their feet up instead and left the robots to do the work? Why didn’t the last house you bought cost only 5 per cent of what you paid for it? And is there any reason why you or your children shouldn’t one day enjoy limitless cheap power from nuclear fusion and a greatly extended lifespan?

These are the sort of questions that occupy Larry Page. At 41, the co-founder and chief executive of Google is freeing himself up to think big. A reorganisation in recent days has shifted responsibility for much of his company’s current business to a lieutenant and left him with room to indulge his more ambitious urges. The message: the world’s most powerful internet company is ready to trade the cash from its search engine monopoly for a slice of the next century’s technological bonanza.

Silicon Valley Special

Looking forward 100 years from now at the possibilities that are opening up, he says: “We could probably solve a lot of the issues we have as humans.”
It is a decade on from the first flush of idealism that accompanied its stock market listing, and all Google’s talk of “don’t be evil” and “making the world a better place” has come to sound somewhat quaint. Its power and wealth have stirred resentment and brought a backlash, in Europe in particular, where it is under investigation for how it wields its monopoly power in internet search.

Page, however, is not shrinking an inch from the altruistic principles or the outsized ambitions that he and co-founder Sergey Brin laid down in seemingly more innocent times. “The societal goal is our primary goal,” he says. “We’ve always tried to say that with Google. I think we’ve not succeeded as much as we’d like.” Read the rest of this entry »