Read on the street 25 January 2020
Last week, I introduced our weekly reading (and listening) list with the mildly depressing news that there is a moment in our lives – for me, right now – when we reach peak misery.
This morning, I try to strike a more optimistic note. Having worked with a few androids over the years (supremely clever, but no idea how humans work), I was particularly interested in a piece published by Wired that suggests, and I’ve simplified things here, robots will not take our jobs. Instead, we will peacefully co-exist: humans the bosses and they our handy assistants.
According to Byron Auguste, CEO of Opportunity @ Work - a non-profit organisation helping to reshape the US labour market - early adopters of these droids will be “rewarded with rapid reskilling, more inclusive innovation, creativity at every level, greater openness to change, better earnings and more fulfilling experiences”. So, R2-D2, switch yourself on pal, get me a coffee and make me more productive and skilful. Have a good weekend.
You should stop worrying about robots taking your job
Robots are going to take our jobs, aren't they? That received wisdom is challenged in this piece by Byron Auguste, who says there may be hope for humans yet. She argues that augmentation technology - i.e. human skills being amplified by robots or AI - is the future, and it's a future in which human jobs can easily be safeguarded, and that protections for workers can actually be improved as a result.
Read on Wired.
You should worry about the erasure of political history
Last Friday, the Washington Post reported that the National Archives had altered the signs on a photograph from the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. The Archives had censored a handful of the more top-shelf words (about Trump) for a poster advertising a show; arguably to be seen many more times than the show itself. They later apologised.
Still, this instance reflects some pretty dramatic historical narratives, including the Soviets’ use of censoring as a method of control. Luckily, in this case, a swift media reaction was instrumental in correcting the record. A lesson learned in the importance of press freedom.
Read in The New Yorker.
It’s our way, not the Huawei
This article is worth a read, if only for the pun.
The issue of whether to include the Chinese-owned telecoms giant Huawei in the UK’s 5G infrastructure network was long-grassed by the government last year, losing out to Brexit amongst other things. Now it’s back on the agenda and, unfortunately for the government, the basic facts remain the same.
Read in City AM.
Predictions for 2030
The 2020s were once “the future”. And yet, here we are and not a hover board in sight (curse you, Marty McFly). The other perspective on that future is one profoundly dystopian, reflecting deeper-seated anxieties about the way the world is heading (think The Terminator for AI or Water World for climate change).
This conversation between Cambridge politics professor David Runciman and technologist Azeem Azhar picks apart likely scenarios for the decade ahead, striking a chord somewhere between optimism and pessimism. That to me, feels realistic.
Listen to the Talking Politics Podcast.
Larry Fink isn’t going to read your sustainability report
In his recent annual letter, BlackRock chief executive Larry Fink declared that climate change has brought us to “the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance” and we all ought to place sustainability at the centre of our lives and businesses. But, for most companies, sustainability has been a side-line; a policy to publish and then ignore.
The problem with this is investors don’t read sustainability reports. Instead they are looking for businesses to embed sustainability and ESG in all financial reporting and truly disclose how it is helping them thrive.
Read in the Harvard Business Review.
Britain could be Canada
A curious feature of the Brexit debate over the past few years is the absence of “the UK”. Instead, Britain’s future has either been Swiss, Norwegian or Canadian, depending on your personal taste in customs arrangements. Now that we seem to have settled on Boris Johnson’s preference, what does that mean in practice? This Atlantic article charts the way forward. A middle-sized nation, liberal in outlook and multi-ethnic in make-up, happy to be independent of a much-larger trading bloc immediately over its borders and at its most effective when working multilaterally. Happy? Effective? TBC…
Read in The Atlantic.
The trouble with cutting ‘bangs’
Bangs – or fringes to you and me – have long been the staple of women on the brink. In the annals of Twitter, they represent a humorous shorthand for needing therapy. Kaitlyn Tiffany exposes the problems with this analogy in this fantastic piece.
Read in The Atlantic.
Why playing chess is an essential life lesson in concentration
Jonathan Rowson, co-founder and director of research institute Perspectiva, is a chess grandmaster. In his eyes, the game is the pinnacle of reliable concentration, so intense that the feeling in itself is an escape from the monotony of everyday life. We as a civilisation are mostly existing with token levels of concentration, just enough to scrape by, using the same solutions to fix the same old problems. But, unless we can learn to properly concentrate and think more broadly, how do we expect to tackle the crises that lie ahead?
Read on aeon.
Written by Malcolm Robertson, Founding Partner