In Kenya, businesses are looking to broaden access to energy by fusing micro grid technology with the significant uptake of mobile phone payment systems.
Margaret Mwangi runs a salon in Kenya. With her business not connected to Kenya's main grid, she makes use of a local solar micro grid operated by smart metering technology business SteamaCo to get electricity.
SteamaCo says that it operates in nine countries, serving 3,000 homes and businesses, using mini grids as well as biogas digesters and solar irrigation pumps...[more]
Our partners at the joint FAO/IAEA Insect Pest Control Lab in Vienna, Austria have been working to perfect the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) in order to sterilize and release male mosquitos in Zika hotspots. Releasing millions of said male mosquitos increases competition for female mosquitos, making it more difficult for non-sterilized males to find a mate...[more]
Reporting in from our last assignment, in which you were asked to shoot a portrait in three different ways: clean white light, warm/cool light, and warm/cool light with the shadows muddied up with a little green. I did this one along with you—twice—and learned a lot in the process.
Which brings up a valuable point. You can read about this stuff all you want. But until you actually get off your ass and do it, you're not going to learn it.
In other words, learning to use color in your lighting is just like anything else. Read more »
A better language map of China.
- David Chang
Karen Stenner, The Authoritarian Dynamic, cited by Thomas Edsall in The End of the Left and the Right as We Knew Them
Or, as Peter Beinart says,
it means celebrating America’s diversity less, and its unity more.
Biotech once looked to China for cheap labor. It may soon find mounting competition instead.
Thanks to bountiful investments and loosening regulations, China has become a nascent biotech powerhouse that investors and entrepreneurs say could one day rival the industry’s Western incumbents. Fueled by a sudden influx of foreign-trained talent, a new generation of Chinese startups is racing to treat the world with medicines invented at home...[more]
Sometimes, you can learn a lot by watching. But not always.
An alien observing our behavior in elevators would note that most of the time, a person gets in, approaches the front corner, leaves that corner, goes to the back and then stands silently, staring at the numbers above the door.
Only one of those actions is actually required. If you don't push the button (or have someone push it for you) nothing happens. The rest—the moving to the back, standing silently and most of all, staring at the numbers—it's just for show, a cultural tradition.
Most practices work this way. From eating in restaurants to marketing, we add all sorts of extraneous motion to our effort. Which is fine, unless you don't understand which ones actually matter to the outcome.
Too often, we train people in the motions without giving them understanding. Then, when the world changes, we're stuck staring at the numbers going by, unable to find the insight to push a new kind of button.
We're pretty good at finding demons to be afraid of.
- The other.
- The one in the shadows.
- The family member we can't possibly please.
- The invisible network of foes conspiring against us and what we stand for.
It turns out, though, that the one who usually lets us down is us.
Our unwillingness to leap, to commit, to trust our own abilities.
It's the internal narrative that seeks disaster just as much as it craves reassurance.
That's the one we ought to be vilifying, fortifying ourselves against and frightened of.
It gets less powerful once we are brave enough to look it in the eye.
- Margaret Atwood, A Handmaid’s Tale
Thompson is one of the smartest people thinking deeply about the new economics of our era. He disassembles the Whole Foods acquisition by Amazon with cutting logic: Amazon wins in its many markets by employing a consistent approach, which is to construct a high fixed cost services capability that allows for high scalability. For example, AWS was motivated by the need to support Amazon’s book (and later everything else) e-commerce business, which allowed the company to offer the various modules of that service to others. Voilá, a $6B/year business on top of the high efficiency of the e-commerce operation, which itself is a service for others. 40% of products sold on Amazon are offered by other vendors.
He parses the Whole Foods acquisition as following the same pattern: it is building Amazon Grocery Services, and needs Whole Foods (or an alternative) as the first-and-best customer:
WHOLE FOODS: CUSTOMER, NOT RETAILER
This is the key to understanding the purchase of Whole Foods: to the outside it may seem that Amazon is buying a retailer. The truth, though, is that Amazon is buying a customer — the first-and-best customer that will instantly bring its grocery efforts to scale.
Today, all of the logistics that go into a Whole Foods store are for the purpose of stocking physical shelves: the entire operation is integrated. What I expect Amazon to do over the next few years is transform the Whole Foods supply chain into a service architecture based on primitives: meat, fruit, vegetables, baked goods, non-perishables (Whole Foods’ outsized reliance on store brands is something that I’m sure was very attractive to Amazon). What will make this massive investment worth it, though, is that there will be a guaranteed customer: Whole Foods Markets.
In the long run, physical grocery stores will be only one of the Amazon Grocery Services’ customers: obviously a home delivery service will be another, and it will be far more efficient than a company like Instacart trying to layer on top of Whole Foods’ current integrated model.
I suspect Amazon’s ambitions stretch further, though: Amazon Grocery Services will be well-placed to start supplying restaurants too, gaining Amazon access to another big cut of economic activity. It is the AWS model, which is to say it is the Amazon model, but like AWS, the key to profitability is having a first-and-best customer able to utilize the massive investment necessary to build the service out in the first place.
Go read the whole thing.
I confess that I did think a bit more than usual about personal security on my recent trip to France, although I did not take extra precautions. However, the increased levels of security at Charles De Gaulle added at least an hour to my standing in lines, even with the priority line made available with Air France Economy Plus tickets. For those in regular economy, the line looked to be several hours longer.
So, did that mean Paris is more dangerous than before? Probably. What’s a business traveler to do? Probably more insurance.
But maybe I should have thought more about cybersecurity:
Dale Buckner, president and chief executive of Global Guardian, a travel risk management company, said that to deal with cybersecurity effectively, “you have to create a defense in depth.” Many organizations still allow employees to use Wi-Fi in hotels and other public places.
“Fake accounts are so widespread, it’s an industry,” he said. “The world has changed.”
Nearly a third of travel managers in the corporate travel association survey reported increased concern about data privacy, but few corporations were addressing it with policies. Only 6 percent did not permit the use of public Wi-Fi with business devices.
“We have had to up our game,” said Dennis J. Garritan, co-managing partner of the private equity firm Palmer Hill Capital. “The old rules proved insufficient.”
He noted that travel to emerging markets was more important as business had become increasingly competitive. Widespread security issues also mean that clients need to be reassured, he said. Sometimes, using a secure line for phone conversations is enough, Mr. Garritan said, but personal trips are increasingly necessary.
He and colleagues have strategies to keep themselves — and their data — safe on high-risk business trips: no mobile phones, laptops or tablets (disposable phones are used for personal conversations); no charging of devices at airports or hotels; no use of open Wi-Fi, especially in China; required annual travel safety training; changing of all business and personal passwords after travel; wiping clean all borrowed or rented local devices used on trips and more robust travel insurance.
I can’t imagine going to those lengths, although I guess I could buy a solution like LastPass, and change passwords before and after international travel. And maybe getting signed up with the US State Department’s Smart Traveler program:
An often-overlooked resource, safety experts said, is the State Department, which maintains lists of insurance providers for overseas coverage and suggests actions that travelers can take during crises abroad. Its expanded use of social media enables quicker and greater outreach. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program provides real-time alerts and safety information during emergencies like civil unrest or disease outbreaks, so the local United States Embassy can locate and assist citizens.
Dr. Garritan of Palmer Hill Capital said he and colleagues enrolled in the smart traveler program because they do not take GPS-enabled devices on high-risk business trips. “It is always reassuring,” he said, for the State Department to “know where you are, when you will be there and when you’re scheduled to come back.”
The fact is, there’s nothing infallible about “direct experience” (…). Indeed, experience is never direct. It is a sort of virtual reality, created by our brains using sketchy and flawed sensory clues, given substance only by fallible expectations, explanations, and interpretations. Those can easily be more mistaken than the testimony of the passing hobo. (…) This logic of fallibility, discovered and rediscovered from time to time, has had profound salutary effects in the history of ideas. Whenever anything demands blind obedience, its ideology contains a claim of infallibility somewhere; but wherever someone believes seriously enough in that infallibility, they rediscover the need for reason to identify and correctly interpret the infallible source. (…) [Popper]: [A]ll ‘sources’ are liable to lead us into error at times. And I propose to replace, therefore, the question of the sources of our knowledge by the entirely different question: ‘How can we hope to detect and eliminate error?’ (…) Popper’s answer is: We can hope to detect and eliminate error if we set up traditions of criticism—substantive criticism, directed at the content of ideas, not their sources, and directed at whether they solve the problems that they purport to solve. Here is another apparent paradox, for a tradition is a set of ideas that stay the same, while criticism is an attempt to change ideas. But there is no contradiction. Our systems of checks and balances are steeped in traditions—such as freedom of speech and of the press, elections, and parliamentary procedures, the values behind concepts of contract and of tort—that survive not because they are deferred to but precisely because they are not: They themselves are continually criticized, and either survive criticism (which allows them to be adopted without deference) or are improved (for example, when the franchise is extended, or slavery abolished). Democracy, in this conception, is not a system for enforcing obedience to the authority of the majority. In the bigger picture, it is a mechanism for promoting the creation of consent, by creating objectively better ideas, by eliminating errors from existing ones. “Our whole problem,” said the physicist John Wheeler, “is to make the mistakes as fast as possible.” (…) [T]hat only means that whenever possible we should make the mistakes in theory, or in the laboratory; we should “let our theories die in our place,” as Popper put it. (…) [L]essons can be learned to prevent them from happening again. “We are all alike,” as Popper remarked, “in our infinite ignorance.” And this is a good and hopeful thing, for it allows for a future of unbounded improvement. Fallibilism, correctly understood, implies the possibility, not the impossibility, of knowledge, because the very concept of error, if taken seriously, implies that truth exists and can be found. The inherent limitation on human reason, that it can never find solid foundations for ideas, does not constitute any sort of limit on the creation of objective knowledge nor, therefore, on progress. The absence of foundation, whether infallible or probable, is no loss to anyone except tyrants and charlatans, because what the rest of us want from ideas is their content, not their provenance. (…)Indeed, infallibilism and nihilism are twins. Both fail to understand that mistakes are not only inevitable, they are correctable (fallibly). Which is why they both abhor institutions of substantive criticism and error correction, and denigrate rational thought as useless or fraudulent. They both justify the same tyrannies. They both justify each other.”
- | David Deutsch, Why It’s Good To Be Wrong.
Languages Of China.
(Without the freedom to criticize, there is no true praise.)”
- | Pierre Beaumarchais, Le Mariage de Figaro
Life’s real-time demands are completely out of sync with how today’s workers are paid. As a result, tens of millions of workers wake up with the same problem: they need some of their earned pay today but payday is still several days away. It’s not the fault of employers though. The options for delivering payday have not changed since the industrial revolution.
The team at Instant believes that employees need more control over their cash flow and we quickly discovered that most employers agree. So we asked ourselves a simple question: If someone was going to reinvent payday what would it look like? Our answer is Instant.
Instant is made up of passionate and dedicated experts in finance, payments and software. We are experienced entrepreneurs, inventors and managers who know what it takes to lead change. Above all, we love what we do.
Instant is deeply dedicated to helping businesses and employees get more out of their relationship.
After all, life is instant. Your pay should be too!
A system to get 50% of hourly worker’s money to them at the end of their shift. Smart.
Interesting deep background on ISIS, which suggests it may be on a path toward fading away:
From its inception, the Islamic State’s real power resided not in religious extremists like Mr. Baghdadi but in a corps of former Saddam Hussein loyalists behind the scenes who had linked up with convicted jihadists when they were together in American-run prisons in the mid-2000s. These ex-Baathists, with a talent for eye-catching violence and unsurpassed knowledge of the inner workings of Iraqi society, kept the Islamic State alive through lean years before leading it to sweeping victories following the American departure from Iraq.
Now almost all of the ex-Baathist leaders are dead, as are most of their immediate lieutenants. This represents a key difference between the Islamic State today and Al Qaeda in 2011: When Osama bin Laden died, many of his deputies were around to keep the organization running.
This Islamic State, by contrast, has been robbed of any strength in depth it may once have possessed. With Mosul mostly back in Iraqi hands and United States-backed forces encroaching on Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, it is only a matter of time before the group will cease to be.
Customer service used to be a great divide. Well-off companies would heavily invest in taking care of customers, others would do the minimum (or a bit less). Of course, back then, organizations couldn't possibly give you all the service you might dream of. They can't all afford to answer the phone on one ring, it's expensive to hire enough operators and train them. And they certainly can't dedicate an operator just to you, someone who would know your history and recognize your voice.
Today, though, when more and more of our engagements are digital, it doesn't take an endless, ongoing budget to delight people. All an organization needs to do is care enough (once) to design it properly.
To make a process that is easy to use, clearly labeled and well designed.
To build a phone system that doesn't torture you and then delete everything you typed in.
To put care into every digital interaction, even if it's easier to waste the user's time.
[Insert story here of healthcare company, cable company or business that doesn't care enough to do it right. One where the committees made the process annoying. Or where the team didn't cycle one more time. Or where the urgency of the moment takes attention away from the long-term work of system design. The thing is, if one company can do the tech right, then every organization with sufficient resources and motivation can do the tech right.]
The punchline is simple: In consumer relations and service, good tech is free.
It's free because it pays for itself in lower overhead and great consumer satisfaction and loyalty.
But it requires someone to care enough to do it right.
Perhaps we need to change the recording to, "due to unusually lazy or frustrated design and systems staff (and their uninvolved management), we're going to torture you every single time you interact with us. Thanks for your patience."
The Next Einstein Forum (NEF), an initiative of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (Aims) in partnership with Robert Bosch Stiftung, has announced the launch of NEF Africa Science Week in Lilongwe from 26 to 30 June.
Malawi’s Rachel Sibande, NEF Ambassador, who is also founder of the country’s first technology hub and incubator space, mHub, together with local academic, science and technology champions, will lead the event...[more]
Claire Cain Miller lays out what is likely to happen in retail, and Amazon has become the prime mover with the Whole Foods buy:
Imagine this scene from the future: You walk into a store and are greeted by name, by a computer with facial recognition that directs you to the items you need. You peruse a small area — no chance of getting lost or wasting time searching for things — because the store stocks only sample items. You wave your phone in front of anything you want to buy, then walk out. In the back, robots retrieve your items from a warehouse and deliver them to your home via driverless car or drone.
Amazon’s $13.4 billion purchase of Whole Foods, announced Friday, could speed that vision along. Amazon has already made shopping for almost everything involve spending less time waiting, doing work or interacting with people, and now it could do the same for groceries. It’s already trying with a store in Seattle, Amazon Go, that has no salespeople or checkout lines.
Our mental image of job-killing automation is robots in factories or warehouses. But the next jobs to disappear are probably ones that are a much bigger part of most people’s daily lives: retail workers and cashiers in stores and restaurants.
For a long time, economists argued that routine jobs like factory and clerical work were vulnerable to automation but that jobs in both the service and knowledge sectors were safer. They require human skills that are hard for machines to imitate, like judgment and adaptability. These skills are useful when an executive makes strategic business decisions or when a chef fries one customer’s egg and scrambles another’s.
But it has become increasingly clear that parts of every job will be automated — and that the service sector is next. Although certain service jobs like health aide or preschool teacher still seem safe, others, like those in retail and food service, are already being displaced. It’s not hard to teach a machine to do routine tasks like scanning bar codes, stocking shelves or dunking fries in oil.
Eight million people, 6 percent of American workers, are retail salespeople and cashiers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cashier jobs are expected to grow 2 percent by 2024, significantly slower than 7 percent job growth over all, and technology is the main reason, according to the bureau.
Half the time worked by salespeople and cashiers is spent on tasks that can be automated by technology that’s currently in use, according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report. Two-thirds of the time on tasks done by grocery store workers can be automated, it said. Another report, by Forrester, estimated that a quarter of the tasks salespeople do would be automated this year, and 58 percent by 2020.
Estimates like these are guesses at best, because imagining the future is an act of science fiction.
Reading the comments on the story gives a taste of the fear these scenarios are causing:
So where do those workers go who are going to be increasingly replaced by technological advances? At what cost to society is this exponential rate of ever newer technological efficiencies? At what point are Amazon and similar behemoths the great societal destabilizers?
Not every efficiency is responsible.
When so many jobs are replaced by automation, who do the capitalists imagine will be able to afford to buy any of the goods and products and services being offered and delivered via robots? Other robots?
Bill Lance Ridgefield, CT
But why would we want any of this? If the only consideration is maximizing profit for the investor class, we’re going to end up in a very sad world.
Rather than cutting taxes on the rich people and corporations, it seems to me that the taxes should be super-progressive, so that it doesn’t necessarily make economic sense to automate away jobs, or send jobs overseas, or cut product quality to the bone, just to make a few more bucks profit.
We’ve got six billion people in the world. Let’s leave something for us all to do.
This is wonderfully counterintuitive:
Nathan Konty | How to be original
In 2011, Nikolaus Franke, Marion K. Poetz, and Martin Schreier set out to find: Where do the best ideas come from?
They created an experiment to see what would happen if you asked people for solutions to problems who were in the same industry as the problem vs people outside the industry.
For example, carpenters have a problem where they don’t wear their safety masks enough. The masks are meant to provide protection against dust and chemicals, but carpenters frequently leave them off because they get sweaty and uncomfortable. If you ask a group of carpenters how to solve that problem, would they come up with the best ideas?
Or, would rollerbladers?
So these researchers asked three different groups for solutions to a problem like this: carpenters, roofers, and rollerbladers.
What they found was extremely interesting.
Roofers, outside the carpentry industry but nearby since they are also professional “craftsmen”, came up with more novel ideas than carpenters to get carpenters to wear protective masks more frequently.
But the real surprise was that rollerbladers came up with the most novel solutions to the carpenters’ problem.
The research found that, in general, the farther out you are from a problem’s market domain, the more novel the solutions became.
In other words, if you want more original ideas, you better look elsewhere from the place you spend all your time in.
| Marilynne Robinson, Reformation, From The Givenness of Things
Cultural pessimism is always fashionable, and, since we are human, there are always grounds for it.
To value one another is our greatest safety, and to indulge in fear and contempt is our gravest error.
- | Wallace Stevens, Letters of Wallace Stevens
...Africa Improved Foods (AIF), a partnership between DSM, the World Food Programme, the Rwandan government, and various other stakeholders like the International Finance Corporation, is the first public-private partnership to take root in Africa specifically to address malnutrition.More here
To source the maize and soy that forms the base of the porridges, the AIF consortium is working with 7,500 Rwandan smallholder farmers, the majority of whom are women; the AIF plant has also created 314 new jobs, all filled by locals. “It’s an astounding fact that over half the people in the world who suffer from hunger are small-scale farmers,” says Rick Leach, president and CEO of the World Food Program USA. “Sourcing from local small-scale farmers will help to deal with extreme poverty and chronic hunger in the country.”
The AMA and the insurance companies they brought in as partners are the ones that contrived the jury-rigged upside-down health care system in the US, and we need to start over, not prop it up or use twine and baling wire to hold it together:
Physicians established a particularly elegant model: the prepaid doctor group. Unlike today’s physician practices, these groups usually staffed a variety of specialists, including general practitioners, surgeons and obstetricians. Patients received integrated care in one location, with group physicians from across specialties meeting regularly to review treatment options for their chronically ill or hard-to-treat patients.
Individuals and families paid a monthly fee, not to an insurance company but directly to the physician group. This system held down costs. Physicians typically earned a base salary plus a percentage of the group’s quarterly profits, so they lacked incentive to either ration care, which would lose them paying patients, or provide unnecessary care.
This contrasts with current examples of such financing arrangements. Where physicians earn a preset salary — for example, in Kaiser Permanente plans or in the British National Health Service — patients frequently complain about rationed or delayed care. When physicians are paid on a fee-for-service basis, for every service or procedure they provide — as they are under the insurance company model — then care is oversupplied. In these systems, costs escalate quickly.
Unfortunately, the leaders of the American Medical Association saw early health care models — union welfare funds, prepaid physician groups — as a threat. A.M.A. members sat on state licensing boards, so they could revoke the licenses of physicians who joined these “alternative” plans. A.M.A. officials likewise saw to it that recalcitrant physicians had their hospital admitting privileges rescinded.
The A.M.A. was also busy working to prevent government intervention in the medical field. Persistent federal efforts to reform health care began during the 1930s. After World War II, President Harry Truman proposed a universal health care system, and archival evidence suggests that policy makers hoped to build the program around prepaid physician groups.
A.M.A. officials decided that the best way to keep the government out of their industry was to design a private sector model: the insurance company model.
In this system, insurance companies would pay physicians using fee-for-service compensation. Insurers would pay for services even though they lacked the ability to control their supply. Moreover, the A.M.A. forbade insurers from supervising physician work and from financing multispecialty practices, which they feared might develop into medical corporations.
With the insurance company model, the A.M.A. could fight off Truman’s plan for universal care and, over the next decade, oppose more moderate reforms offered during the Eisenhower years.
Through each legislative battle, physicians and their new allies, insurers, argued that federal health care funding was unnecessary because they were expanding insurance coverage. Indeed, because of the perceived threat of reform, insurers weathered rapidly rising medical costs and unfavorable financial conditions to expand coverage from about a quarter of the population in 1945 to about 80 percent in 1965.
But private interests failed to cover a sufficient number of the elderly. Consequently, Congress stepped in to create Medicare in 1965. The private health care sector had far more capacity to manage a large, complex program than did the government, so Medicare was designed around the insurance company model. Insurers, moreover, were tasked with helping administer the program, acting as intermediaries between the government and service providers.
With Medicare, the demand for health services increased and medical costs became a national crisis. To constrain rising prices, insurers gradually introduced cost containment procedures and incrementally claimed supervisory authority over doctors. Soon they were reviewing their medical work, standardizing treatment blueprints tied to reimbursements and shaping the practice of medicine.
It’s easy to see the challenge of real reform: To actually bring down costs, legislators must roll back regulations to allow market innovation outside the insurance company model.
The answer is a single payer system, managed as a national health service. You can expect the AMA and insurance companies to be totally opposed.
“The fact that we have a populace that no longer knows what to believe from a media industry they once trusted, is not an accident.”
— Bob Hoffman
Online advertising is corrupt at its core — an astute piece from The Ad Contrarian. It picks up on something I’ve previously been duped by — ads masquerading as news.
When an online publisher only makes money from traffic and clicks, good journalism will always be sacrificed for clickbait tactics.
Writing down your thoughts is both necessary and harmful. It leads to eccentricity, narcissism, preserves what should be let go. On the other hand, these notes intensify the inner life, which, left unexpressed, slips through your fingers. If only I could find a better kind of journal, humbler, one that would preserve the same thoughts, the same flesh of life, which is worth saving.
Moreover the writer invents himself as a character in this form. He shapes himself from the shards of the everyday, from the truth of that daily life. Which is also a truth not to be scorned.”
| Anna Kamienska, In That Great River: A Notebook
I am endlessly seeking that journal because I feel my inner life slipping away if I cannot annotate the world streaming by.
I wish Appelo had offered his technique/model for synthesizing all the junk he read into this specific list of 13 topics. My problem is always determining if something is missing. I’d need a model, not a list to decide if this list is sufficient. I don’t want to have to read all 13 posts to decide: I need the abstraction first.
Almost nothing in our daily lives is actually a winner take all competition.
Somewhere, there's someone fitter, faster, thinner, quicker, smarter, more popular or richer than you. And there's someone else fitter, faster, thinner, quicker, smarter, more popular or richer than they are. And you're (far) ahead of someone else who is busy looking at you from behind.
And yet we see people angry because someone's passing their car, or gaining more followers online. They mistakenly believe it's a race. It rarely is.
If you can use your situation as fuel, fuel to dig in and care more and do better, by all means.
But if not, ignore it. Do your work, not theirs.
Moshe Vardi, an esteemed computer science professor from Rice University in Houston, grabbed media attention in February when he boldly predicted to attendees at the annual meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science that artificial intelligence could displace almost half of the world’s population out of their jobs in the next 30 years.
Others who fear a robotic takeover are Tesla and SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk and physicist Stephen Hawking. Both are not just fearful of AI’s ability to displace human jobs in the economy; they think robots could potentially end mankind altogether.
Not everyone is as bearish on the future of jobs and technology — or humanity. Dermot O’Brien, chief human resources officer at payroll provider and consulting firm Automatic Data Processing Inc., or ADP, said technologi…orkplace futurist and senior partner at Kolaborative, a San Francisco consulting firm focused on the future of the workplace.
These improvements, based on Schumpeter’s theories, come in the form of six waves of disruption, Von Feldt said. In 1785, the first wave came through the development of waterpower, textiles and iron. This lasted until 1845, when the second wave used steam, rail and steel.
Following was the third wave in 1900 with electricity and chemicals; the fourth in 1950 with electronics and aviation; and the fifth in 1990 with software and digital products.
The economy is now nearing the sixth wave, Von Feldt said, which will hit in 2020 in the form of nanotechnology, renewable energy, robotics, AI and other innovations.
Research by management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. in 2015 predicted that 45 percent of activities currently done by workers can be automated, and in 2013 research firm Gartner Inc. found that by 2030 smart machines will replace 90 percent of all jobs.
Is it dead, yet?
Google launched Plus without a clear plan to differentiate the service from Facebook. It bet on a charismatic leader with a flawed vision, ignored troubling indications about the social network’s traction (or lack thereof) with users and continued throwing features at the wall long after many had written Google+ off for dead.
The slow demise of Google+ sheds light on how a large technology company tries and often fails to innovate when it feels threatened. The Google+ project did lead to inventive new services and created a more cohesive user identity that continues to benefit Google, but the social network itself never truly beat back existing rivals. Facebook is now larger than ever, with 1.4 billion users and a market capitalization more than half of Google’s. It continues to poach Google employees. Facebook and Twitter are also slowly chipping away at Google’s dominance in display ad revenue.
“Google+ built a seamless identity and a social graph that rolled out to all Google products so they could log on using the same identity,” says Punit Soni, a former Google product manager who worked on Plus and is now chief product officer at Flipkart. Finally, Soni says, “Google knew who you were.”
“What it could not do is give Google another destination to consume stuff,” he adds. That’s where Facebook continues to win.
Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, was even more candid in his remarks about Google+ during a meeting with business leaders and antitrust regulators in Germany this March. He referred to the social network as part of a “painfully long list of unsuccessful Google products.”
The only question is when will they shut it down?
On reflection, they should have bought Twitter, and integrated it with Google Reader, a beloved product that made no sense to kill, and Gmail.
Morgan Stanley is setting human financial advisors with ‘algorithmic’ help, which will soon become AI-based
Call them cyborgs. Morgan Stanley is about to augment its 16,000 financial advisers with machine-learning algorithms that suggest trades, take over routine tasks and send reminders when your birthday is near.
The project, known internally as “next best action,” shows how one of the world’s biggest brokerages aims to upgrade its workforce while a growing number of firms roll out fully automated platforms called robo-advisers. The thinking is that humans with algorithmic assistants will be a better solution for wealthy families than mere software allocating assets for the masses.
At Morgan Stanley, algorithms will send employees multiple-choice recommendations based on things like market changes and events in a client’s life, according to Jeff McMillan, chief analytics and data officer for the bank’s wealth-management division. Phone, email and website interactions will be cataloged so machine-learning programs can track and improve their suggestions over time to generate more business with customers, he said.
“We’re desperately trying to pattern you and your behavior to delight you with something you may not have even been asking for, but based on what you have been doing, that you might find of value,” McMillan said in an interview. “We’re not trying to sell you, we’re trying to find the things you want and need.”
Faced with competition from cheaper automated wealth-management services and higher expectations set by pioneering firms like Uber Technologies Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., traditional brokerages are starting to chart out their digital future. It turns out that the best hope human advisers have against robots is to harness the same technologies that threaten their disruption: algorithms combined with big data and machine learning.
The idea is that advisers, who typically build relationships with hundreds of clients over decades, face an overwhelming amount of information about markets and the lives of their wealthy wards. New York-based Morgan Stanley is seeking to give humans an edge by prodding them to engage at just the right moments.
Morgan Stanley will pilot the program with 500 advisers in July and expects to roll it out to all of them by year-end.
Additional high-tech tools are coming: [Jeff] McMillan [chief analytics and data officer for the bank’s wealth-management division] and others are working on an artificial intelligence assistant – think Siri for brokers – that can answer questions by sifting the firm’s mountain of research. (The bank produces 80,000 research reports a year.) The brokerage also is automating paper-heavy processes like wire transfers and creating a digital repository of client documents, such as wills and tax returns. Established advisers tend to be older, so Morgan Stanley is hiring associates to train those who need help.
Morgan Stanley isn’t swearing off robo-advisers, either. It plans to release one in coming months, along with rivals Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The technology was pioneered by startups Wealthfront Inc.and Betterment LLC and went mainstream at discount brokers Charles Schwab Corp. and Vanguard Group Inc. Robos could have $6.5 trillion under management by 2025, from about $100 billion in 2016, according to Morgan Stanley analysts.
An in-house robo-adviser and a learning machine that acquaints itself with rich clients might alarm advisers who plan to keep working for decades. McMillan is adamant that the flesh-and-blood broker will be needed for years to come because the wealthy have complicated financial planning needs that are best met by human experts.