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Robots and Bohemians: Unholy Alliance for Better Futures?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Jari Kaivo-oja (Research Director, Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku)

“Science, says Kevin Kelly, is the process of changing how we know things.  It is the foundation our culture and society.  While civilizations come and go, science grows steadily onward.  It does this by watching itself.” – https://edge.org/conversation/speculations-on-the-future-of-science Rise of the Robots is a landmark book which continues the provocative analyses of Lights in the Tunnel of Martin Ford (2009).

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Martin Ford gives us new and updated arguments to the discussion of technological revolution we are facing today everywhere, in the US, in the Euro zone and in the BRICS countries. Not only developed post-industrial countries rely on advanced robotics – but also developing countries are adopting new AI and robotics solutions. Only few eminent thinkers think about the futures of corportions and nations after rise of robots. Fortunatelly – we have eminent scholar and engineer Martin Ford to think forward. Technological foresight analyses tell that next 15-20 years are meaning enormous and disruptive changes in our economies and business networks. The threat of jobless future and massive technological unemployment are real and evidence-based. Only the very fool conventional neoclassical economist doubts it.

System modeler Martin Ford provides a lot of empirical evidence from US, which indicate not marginal changes but massive technological disruptions in the US economy. Martin Ford continues the tradition of John Maynard Keynes in his discussion about technological unemployment. He also continues the tradition of Joseph Schumpeter in his discussion of disruptive technological changes (McKinsey Global Institute 2013) . Martin Ford has now updated these classical analyses to meet the grand challenges of today and tomorrow. We must give full respect to him.

AI and robotics are making “good jobs” obsolete and vanishing. Smart software, robots and AI-based solutions replace many white-collar jobs. Paralegals, journalists, office workers, teachers, health care professionals and even computer programmers are poised to be replaced by disruptive technological innovations. Autonomous robotics and swarm robotics change many service architectures and service designs. Key change – identified by Martin Ford is that a tight relationship between wages and productivity does not hold any more in the US economy. This is a dangerous phenomenon for the future welfare of people. Robotics is not a novel issue in the economic history. In industries and agriculture there have been a lot of robots and automation solutions. All we know the Luddites discussion and Race Against Machine analyses of Brynjolfsson and McAfee (2011) (http://www.amazon.com/Race-Against-The-Machine-Accelerating-ebook/dp/B005WTR4Z ).

Now newest thing is the emergence of service robotics. We can see many service robotics innovations in health care, hotel and recreation industries, retailing, and libraries – and in many other service sectors. Personally, I think that Mr Martin Ford is absolutely right when he notes that we are moving towards a new economic paradigm of smart machines. He is not in bad company, because there are such research fellows like Ray Kurzweill and Michio Kaku, who think in similar way. Personally, I respect these eminent research fellows. It is also good to remember that Gardner Inc notes that “CIOs must start considering how to develop ethical programming for smart machines”. Realizing the potential of smart machines and AI — and ensuring successful outcomes for the businesses and societies that rely on them — will hinge on how trusted smart machines are and how well they maintain that trust. The trust matters. Central to establishing this trust will be ethical values that people recognize and are comfortable with. Transparency of rise of the robots will be needed.

There will be need to develop policies and social innovations which recognize disruptive innovations and their impacts on industries and services. As Martin Ford says we need transformation of higher education, new thinking in the health care sector, new industrial Industry 4.0 strategies (as Germans say it), national robotics strategies (like From Internet to Robotics, 2013) and new kind of consumer politics. We need also new social innovations for the super-intelligence solutions and for the singularity. Radical innovations cannot be managed by incremental innovations. More fundamental new ideas and inventions will be needed. These ideas must go beyond crazy year of  1848 (see De Maesschalck 2005 and  http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/888/). We are busy now to respond to these “old challenges of capitalism”. New capitalism needs BohoBusiness (2015) thinking if we want to be honest to ourselves.

It is interesting to compare our recent book BohoBusiness – Winning in the Age of Bohonomics with Martin Ford´s outstanding book Rise of the Robots. Our book shares many similar themes with Martin Ford´s book.  In our book key theme is a question: What human beings should do in the conditions of disruptive changes?  Our approach to question is linked to the analyses of learning, bohemian attitude, flexible radical organization culture, role of human creativity and social innovations. These issues are vital in the conditions of radical and disruptive changes. We are also discussion much about global trends and associated changes. In this context the ownership and distribution of wealth are not marginal issues. For example, creating a learning and creative hybrid economy in the conditions of robotics will be a very challenging social and cultural issue. Our book provides some new fresh insights to this broad old challenging issue.

Probably a biggest issue in robotics debate will be the question: “How are we organizing society when too many people are coming into the labor market and too many machines are throwing people out?”.  Our sincere answer is focused on self-organization of individuals, organizations and institutions of capitalism, because we rely on the learning capacity of capitalism. First pre-condition for this kind of self-organization is, of course, future awareness. Both Martin Ford´s book (2015) and our book (2015) have already now improved future awareness of many people and decision-makers. We need more political and economic decision-makers who understand complex social problems like robotics and AI driven society. However, a new economic paradigm is not automatically developed. We know quite well this societal challenge. One can just study the current storyline of post-modern Greece and its economy to understand this.

I just was an expert in the EU OSHA Bilbao conference in Bilbao, Spain in May 2015, where the official delegate member of Greece explained to me in EU OSHA workshop session what robotics means for Greece. I was informed that it means cosmetics robotics in isolated islands for them and they were very happy with this strategic economic growth approach.  In the session, the German delegate explained to me much more comprehensive program of the robotics strategy in German economy. To conclude …. pre-conditions on robotics matter – whether it is in the U.S. or China – just to mention it for curiosity. Of course, I know that US strategy “From Internet to Robotics” (2013) is a smart strategy and Ford focuses on it. Smart action from him, indeed. To sum up … the real character of corporations and organizations still matters. Organizations´ culture can make or break their existence and business. We still need visionaries and change makers. In many cases they are radical and bohemian game changers. In BohoBusiness we propose an unholy partnership: bohemian individuals and organizations combined with smart machines.

This combination is motivated with Win + (Win*Win) logic: A manager is saying: “I” = Win. A leader is saying: “Me = Win * Win”. A social innovator is saying: “We all” = Win + (Win*Win). Our message is: Grand robotics and AI strategy should follow “We all” –logic.

BohoBusiness book tells how this strategy will be implemented in real life contexts. Mercenary futures (not fragmented and alienated) futures wait for us, if we understand this BohoBusiness -equation.

Buy BohoBusiness

References

A Roadmap for U.S. Robotics From Internet to Robotics, 2013 Edition. Web: https://robotics-vo.us/sites/default/files/2013%20Robotics%20Roadmap-rs.pdf

Andersson, Cristina & Kaivo-oja, Jari (2015) BohoBusiness. Winning in the Age Bohonomics. Talentum. Helsinki.

Brynjolfsson, Erik & McAfee, Andrew (2011) Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution Is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy. Digital Frentier Press. Lexinton, Massachusetts.

Cunliffe, John and Guido Erreygers (2001) “The Enigmatic Legacy of Fourier: Joseph Charlier and Basic Income”, History of Political Economy 33(3), pp. 459–484. De Maesschalck, Edward (2005) Marx in Brussel. Davidsfonds. Louvain.

Ford, Martin (2009). Lights in the Tunnel. Automation Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future. Acculant Publishing. USA.

Ford, Martin (2015) Rise of the Robots. Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future. Basic Books. New York.

McKinsey Global Institute (2013) Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy. May 2013. Report by James Manyika, Michael Chui, Jacques Bughin, Richard Dobbs, Peter Bisson, and Alex Marrs. http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/business_technology/disruptive_technologies

Media and Ubiquitous Computing

Mark Wiesner, HCI chief scientist at Xerox PARC, formulated that ubiquitous computing (ubicomp) can be called “third wave” of the computing revolution, where computing culture moves off the desktop and out into the world.

In a ubicomp world, everything is animated. Today, we still live in a world where objects count themselves. In the future, whether it is radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags or another kind of sensor, one finds information systems that in real time track objects whose presence can be read by satellite, radio or scanner. The Internet of Things is the name of the growing movement in ubicomp design in which sensor-linked objects, actions and capacities are tethered to a network. The Internet of Things describes a consortium of web-designers who are creating sense-able objects that can be located and interacted with across a network. Implicit in the logic of the Internet of Things is also an idea of the sensible object.

For media houses ubiquitous revolution means big challenges. Already multimedia included many challenges for the media and journalists. One of big challenges will be increasing mobility of media coupled with an increasingly consequential relation to space, place and time where the physical world and virtual platform intersect. Some people are talking about X-reality engagement in the ubicomp context.

Pervasive computing is leading us to pervasive media, to the world of the Internet of Things, where media houses are operating fluently. Before we are facing the era of pervasive media, there will be a transition period. With ubicomp the computational work of information processing is integrated to objects, activities and sites of the everyday. Such obvious objects and activities are smart media houses, home studios of journalists and their smart cars. The ubicomp has not yet achieved the full scale of pervasive computing to which it aims.

The term pervasive media is used to describe a global culture that engages a spectrum of networked technologies. The pervasive media includes many issues, especially many novel ubiquitous technology platforms. Such issues are virtual worlds, voice-over-Internet protocol, mobile rich media and texting, microblogging formats like Twitter, Web-based video (You Tube), social profile pages (Facebook) and web logs (blogs). Together this spectrum of media technologies is leading us to transmediated communication. There will be convergence of pervasive media technologies. This converge process can lead to surprising results with many technological affordances. Probably pervasive media as a whole simulates presence, where ability to be authentic matters. Digital technologies change conventional static media and multimedia. As Marshall McLuhan said: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and then our tools.” Key concepts of pervasive media are:

  • Social networking
  • Social media
  • Social bookmarking
  • Blogging
  • Wiki
  • Web 2.0, Web 3.0 and Web 4.0.
  • Structural modularity
  • User-generated content
  • Content sharing
  • World Wide Web

The word media means “ways of transmission”. It encompasses all of the various technologies we use to record information and transmit it to others. The era of pervasive media means hyperconnectivity, whereby people and machines stay perpetually connected via an ever expanding network of diverse communication channels. New digital devices provide new possibilities for hyperconnectivity. Hypermedia is a term which refers to a host of digital technologies that enable the presentation of multimedia content in a nonlinear form.

Hypermedia is probably a key future issue in the pervasive media development. Media will almost never be a standalone kind of product any more. Multiple touch-points are available for the consumers of media content. Interaction with the audiences will be two way creating a conversation media. Some pieces of news are serial and some media content are tailored for very sophisticated global audiences. Hypermedia is used as a logical extension of the term hypertext in which audio, graphics, plain text, video and other hyperlinks intertwine to create a generally non-linear medium of information.

Sources

Costello, V., Youngblood, S.A. & Youngblood, N.E. (2012) Multimedia Foundations. Core Concepts for Digital Design. USA: Focal Press.

Coleman, B. (2011) Hello Avatar. Rise of the Networked Generation. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Meeting Robotization and Automation Challenge of the Ubiquitous Society: Towards Infinite Possibility Frontiers?

Technological and in broad sense ubiquitous revolution is today delivering a world of opportunity and leisure. Today computer technology is cheap. People are expensive. Computers are becoming smaller and smaller, and can be attached, embedded or blended to almost all things from man-made to natural ones in the world. During ubiquitous revolution computers become integrated parts of these things instead of independent individual artifacts. Due to the attachment, embedment and blending as well as emerging ubiquitous networks, ordinary things surrounding us are capable of (1) computing and communicating, (2) connecting and/or being connected to each other, and (3) behaving and acting rationally with some smartness or intelligence. Smart ubiquitous machines and robots are so called “everywhere” systems.

But this kind of new technological opportunity will not be delivered to all. For many people coming ubiquitous tech revolution will deliver misery and decline. Because of economic cost structures many workers will be replaced by the new technologies over the coming decades. Robots and automation mean silent revolution in many work places and societies. The economics of this new world will be revolutionary.

One big problem of this revolutionary technology wave is that our policy makers do not understand it. They are not understanding, what is happening when computers and robots are doing most of the work. This means that our world has the potential to become immeasurably wealthier and richer. It is up to us to decide who will benefit and how the benefits of ubiquitous revolution should be distributed and redistributed. The basic dynamics of the cyber age creates many open windows for us.

The advance of science and technology is offering us a gift. But do we know how to receive it? The gift could be nothing less than prosperity for all. More wealth is available for not just those people who are able to grab it for themselves. Big link to prosperity to wealth has been the job. New technologies are powerful creators of jobs, until the moment it becomes mature and breaks free of human involvement. Many technologies have an infant age, an adolescent age, a mature stage and finally an old age. This technological cycle create promises, but need constant care and attention. During this technology cycle many jobs are created. New technologies open new horizons, but they also destroy some old structures and models of behavior. Some innovations are also disruptive, not constructive.

In its mature stage the old technology is well understood and can fend for itself. It does not require assistance to get on with its work. Jobs are eliminated but it still delivers the goods. However, in its old age old technology is subject to attack and replacements. This cycle is a typical process of capitalism. Capitalism can only be understood as an evolutionary process of continuous innovation and creative destruction as Joseph Schumpeter defined it.

B. Joseph Pine II and Kim C. Korn (2011) have presented a big vision of future technologies in their book “Infinite Possibility”. They see that ubiquitous revolution will create for us infinite frontier concerning the progression on economic value. Customization and commoditization of goods, services, experiences and transformations are key activities in this process of “infinite possibility”. The digital frontier provides us many possibilities in the universe, where time, space and matter create many alternative possibilities.
Real and virtual spaces are creating one interesting dimension of the space. Atoms and bits are creating second key dimension of the matter. Thirdly, actual and autonomous time is third critical dimension of the time. These 3 dimensions of time, matter and space create new frontiers for wealth creation and innovative solutions in economies and societies.

To understand the scale and scope of new possibilities in these 3 dimensions can help us to create more wealth and more jobs in the future. Infinite possibility is not gross overstatement. It is analogical to LEGO brick game, a simple thing of material substance, which is genuinely immeasurable, and truly limitless.

Now need bohemian creativity to build our own LEGO games of the future. This means that we must be ready to build up new technological innovation, new business innovation and new social innovations for a society with new technological infrastructures and settings. We must be able to create modular and systemic innovations, which are really reshaping human futures.

Index
1 Ubiquitous robot
Web: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubiquitous_robot
2 Joseph Schumpeter
Web: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schumpeter
3. Infinite possibility paradigm
Pine II, B. Joseph and Korn, Kim C. (2011) Infinite Possibility. Creating Customer Value on the Digital Frontier. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers Ltd.
4. LEGO thinking
Gregersen, Hal, Dyer, Jeff and Christensen, Clayton M. (2012) Book excerpt: How strong are your Lego thinking skills? April 27th, 2012. Web: http://smartblogs.com/leadership/2012/04/27/book-excerpt-how-strong-are-your-lego-thinking-skills/

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