The HR Person at Your Next Job May Actually Be a Bot

3. August 2016

Date: 03-08-2016
Source: Technology Review

Chatbots are being prepped to take over many administrative tasks.

The next time you’re hired, you might find yourself getting information about payroll, vacations, and expenses by talking to a chatbot instead of consulting a handbook for new employees or talking to someone in HR.

A startup called Talla, based in Boston, is working on chatbots designed to help new workers get up to speed and be more productive. The company is using advanced machine learning and natural language processing techniques in an effort to create software that is smarter than the average bot. Read the rest of this entry »


5G Wireless Is Coming, and It’s Going to Blow You Away

28. July 2016

Date: 28-07-2016
Source: Technology Review

A massive FCC spectrum release—and new advances in wireless technologies—accelerate an era of incredibly fast data.

Mobile data consumption is soaring, but a broad set of technology advances is poised to transform what today’s smartphones and other wireless mobile devices can do—ushering in high-resolution video and fully immersive, 3-D environments.

At the NYU Wireless lab in Brooklyn, students are testing prototype equipment—forerunners to next-generation phones—that are able to transmit a blazing 10 gigabits of data per second, all while moving around crowded courtyards.

And Samsung recently showed how a car traveling at 25 kilometers per hour could maintain a gigabit-per-second connection as the car moved in and out of range of mobile transmitters called base stations. Read the rest of this entry »


Business Models, Information Technology, and the Company of the Future

4. March 2016

Date: 04-03-2016
Source: Technology Review

by Haim Mendelson

Information technology has, of course, played a major role in reshaping business models over the past 20 years.

The basic social conventions of the preceding Industrial Era were all built around the notion that people physically moved in response to needs. For instance, if you wanted to buy something, you went to a store. If you wanted to build something, you worked in a factory.

But in the Internet economy, value creation doesn’t require that kind of physical movement, and income accumulates not in the form of cash, but in terms of clicks.

By changing the focus of innovation from atoms to bits, and from hardware to software, IT has dramatically accelerated the process of new business-model creation. Developments such the convergence of virtual and physical identities, models and reality, and those atoms and bits are likely to change the nature of the firm and, with it, the essence of innovation. Read the rest of this entry »


Will Machines Eliminate Us?

29. January 2016

Date: 29-01-2016
Source: Technology Review

People who worry that we’re on course to invent dangerously intelligent machines are misunderstanding the state of computer science.

Yoshua Bengio leads one of the world’s preëminent research groups developing a powerful AI technique known as deep learning. The startling capabilities that deep learning has given computers in recent years, from human-level voice recognition and image classification to basic conversational skills, have prompted warnings about the progress AI is making toward matching, or perhaps surpassing, human intelligence.

Prominent figures such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have even cautioned that artificial intelligence could pose an existential threat to humanity. Musk and others are investing millions of dollars in researching the potential dangers of AI, as well as possible solutions. But the direst statements sound overblown to many of the people who are actually developing the technology. Bengio, a professor of computer science at the University of Montreal, put things in perspective in an interview with MIT Technology Review’s senior editor for AI and robotics, Will Knight. Read the rest of this entry »


You’ve Been Misled About What Makes a Good Password

21. October 2015

Date: 21-10-2015
Source: Technology Review

Common advice on how to make a strong password is misleading, according to a new study of password-guessing techniques.

WHY IT MATTERS: Passwords are widely relied on for authentication but are frequently leaked online or implemented poorly.

“Password must include upper and lowercase letters, and at least one numeric character.” A common scold dished out by websites or software when you open an account or change a password—and one that new research suggests is misleading.

A study that tested state-of-the-art password-guessing techniques found that requiring numbers and uppercase characters in passwords doesn’t do much to make them stronger. Making a password longer or including symbols was much more effective.

“Attacks are more sophisticated now, and those best practice countermeasures are a little bit out of sync,” says Matteo Dell’Amico, a researcher at Symantec Research. He worked with Maurizio Filippone at the French research institute Eurecom. The pair presented a paper on their work at the ACM Computer and Communications Security conference last week. Read the rest of this entry »


Can We Shape the Robot Revolution?

7. October 2015

Date: 07-10-2015
Source: Technology Review

A robotics pioneer warns that technologists must consider how advances in machine intelligence will eradicate jobs.

BrooksRodney Brooks

New technologies are poised to have a profound impact on employment and society, robotics pioneer Rodney Brooks warned on Monday at Solve, a conference being held this week at MIT.

Brooks, a professor emeritus at MIT and one of the cofounders of the robotics company iRobot, said rapid advances threaten to upset many areas of work in the coming decades. “We see a common theme right now,” Brooks said, “which is digital technology changing the nature of work.”

Robotics is already playing a role in a major employment shift in manufacturing, in fact. Safer, cheaper, and smarter robots could foster a shift in employment in countries such as China in the coming years, as rising wages enable people to move from manufacturing to other kinds of employment. Brooks founded a company called Rethink Robotics that is making a robot designed to take over tasks currently done by hand on manufacturing lines.

During Solve, high-profile scientists and business leaders will consider trends that could affect the ability of millions of people to find meaningful employment. Sessions aimed at addressing the issue will include academics such as Erik Brynjolfsson, who has researched the issue of digital innovations and employment, and Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet (the company previously known as Google).

Brooks compared the broader coming technological shift to the invention of the cotton gin—a device for automating the process of separating cotton fibers from seeds. Read the rest of this entry »


Online and Self-Employed

30. September 2015

Date: 28-09-2015

Source: Technology Review

 

New technologies give employers access to a world of workers while offering freelancers more ways to build a career.

Recently Megan Guse has been fielding questions from her former classmates about the atypical path she has taken since graduating from the University of Illinois law school. Three and a half years ago, after finishing a fellowship in the Champaign County state’s attorney’s office, Guse didn’t take the expected next step of joining a law firm or getting a government job.

Instead she became an independent contractor. She does legal work, mostly on contracts, for a company called Versata, which specializes in acquiring and restructuring struggling software companies. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Versata operates globally with almost no full-time employees. Like Guse, most of its workers are contractors. Read the rest of this entry »


The number of workers over 65 is growing fast.

29. September 2015

Date: 28-09-2015
Source: Technology Review
Subject: Aging Workers, New Technology

Technologists see a big business in helping the aging workforce.

The American tradition of retirement at age 65 is crumbling. As older workers stay on the job longer, challenges ranging from eyestrain to aching joints become increasingly prevalent. In response, technologists and ergonomics experts are rethinking working conditions.

As recently as 1992, less than 3 percent of the American workforce consisted of people age 65 and over. Today that proportion has nearly doubled, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it’s expected to reach 8.3 percent by 2022. Most of these 13.5 million older workers will be between 65 and 74, but nearly 2.6 million will be 75 and over.

One reason for this demographic shift is improved longevity. American men who reach 65 can expect to live another 17.9 years on average, the National Center for Health Statistics calculates, while women can count on 20.5 years. Both figures are up more than a third from the norms of the 1950s. With so much life still ahead, high-status workers may not want to be idle, while low-paid workers often find that meager savings won’t let them quit. At the same time, thanks to the service sector’s steady ascendancy over manufacturing, many jobs require less physical stamina. Read the rest of this entry »


Work in Transition

28. September 2015

Date: 28-09-2015
Source: Technology Review

Digital technologies are changing the nature of the jobs we do. What does that mean for the future of work?
About five years ago, machine learning reached a point where software could, with guidance from senior lawyers, effectively take over the time–intensive task of legal discovery, in which one party in a lawsuit combs through its documents to determine what it must show to the other side before trial.

This is a job that junior lawyers, paralegals, or—increasingly—less expensive contract lawyers had traditionally done, and some fretted that the change might be just the first step in the computerization of the law. But while machine learning does well with structured tasks like searching for relevant words, handling documents similar to others already identified, and even reconstructing simple summaries of a baseball game, it is far less adept at constructing something like a legal memo, where persuasiveness can rely on developing novel arguments, explains economist Frank Levy, an MIT professor emeritus who, with Dana Remus, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, is researching computers’ impact on the practice of law. Read the rest of this entry »


On the Edge of Automation

28. September 2015

Date: 28-09-2015
Source: Technology Review

Jurvetson CCFive hundred years from now, says venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson (pictured), less than 10 percent of people on the planet will be doing paid work. And next year?

Production at Ford Motor Company’s new engine plant in Elabuga, Russia, will be 95 percent automated.

As a founding partner at the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson and a board member at SpaceX and Tesla Motors, Steve Jurvetson spends a lot of time thinking about the future, often the distant future. One of Elon Musk’s biggest backers—Jurvetson boasts that he owns the first Tesla production Model S—he was also a founding investor in Hotmail, the precursor to Microsoft Outlook, and sits on the board of Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics, the constructor of the first synthetic cell.

His firm claims to have funded companies that have created more than 20,000 jobs in the past five years, and to have brought nearly two dozen companies to $1 billion in value before exiting. Jurvetson spoke to Business Reports senior editor Nanette Byrnes about why he thinks 90 percent of people will be unemployed in 500 years and how we might transition to that sharply different future.

Are today’s new digital technologies destroying or creating jobs?

I absolutely believe in the near to medium term there is going to be net job creation, as there always has been. Think of all the Uber jobs. The opportunity is not yet fully tapped to, in a sense, distribute [over the Internet] the service economy. The service economy is bigger than the goods economy, so the online equivalent should be even bigger and more powerful than the online marketplace for physical goods.

“Five hundred years from now everyone is going to be involved in some kind of information or entertainment … There will be no farmers, there will be no people working in manufacturing.”

Many of these new jobs, including those at Uber, are taking shape on what you call the “edge of automation.” Do you fear that these jobs might quickly disappear as technology keeps evolving?

Everything about Uber has been automated except for the driver. The billing, the fetching—every part of it is a modern, information-centric company. Interestingly, what that means is as soon as automated vehicles arrive, that driver is easily removed. You don’t have to restructure any part of that business.

What you’re farming out to humans today are those things that computers just barely can’t do. We know from Moore’s Law and improvements in computing that in two or three years [much of this] work will be automated.

If a startup or new business venture has created a job that involves human labor, it probably has done so in a way that is pretty marginal. Whether you’re a technology enthusiast or a detractor, the rate at which this will shift is probably going to be unprecedented. There will be massive dislocation.

Which jobs will survive?

In the long run, 500 years from now, everyone is going to be involved in some kind of information or entertainment. Nobody on the planet in 500 years will do a physically repetitive thing for a living. There will be no farmers, there will be no people working in manufacturing. To me it is an impossibility that people would do that. People might do it for fun. You might have an organic garden in your backyard because you love it. Five hundred years from now I don’t know if even 10 percent of people on the planet have a job in the sense of being paid to do something.

It’s hard to imagine what that life would be like.

It pretty much will be what life was like for most of human history—just without the gruesome servitude. The concept of a “job” is pretty recent. If you go back a few hundred years, everyone was either a slave or a serf, or living off slave or serf labor to pursue science or philosophy or art. We’ll live off the production of robots, free to be the next Aristotle or Plato or Newton. Unless we’re miserable without doing busy work.

Is there some way, some government policies or strategies, to minimize the pain of such a dramatic shift?

I don’t think that anyone in Washington is going to get their head around this and make meaningful change. No politician has a 50-year horizon. I see zero chance that long-term thinking will govern policy.

The knock on Silicon Valley today is that it’s not taking on big problems either.

I do lament how many investors focus on all the short-term sugar buzz of some marginal improvement in something—nothing history books are ever going to be written about. In many cases these are quick and easy ways to make money. I do think there are more and more entrepreneurs all the time that think big. Those are the people we should be finding and funding. Most of them will fail, but the ones who succeed will change the world, and that is progress.