Winning in the Age of Bohonomics

Archive for the tag “Martin Ford”

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.” – 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) ( ).

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 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


A Roadmap for U.S. Robotics From Internet to Robotics, 2013 Edition. Web:

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.

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