July 16th, 2013 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Innovation, Science & Tech | 4 Comments

5 Jobs We May Have a Chance at Stealing from the Robots


When robots prove more efficient and effective at doing our jobs, what will we do for work?

Panic, most likely. If it’s early enough in the Age of Robots we’ll use our emotion, creativity, and intuition to prove our worth. Organic, spontaneous, and fluid are not generally words you think of when you think of robots. So what can we use to our advantage to get a little competitive edge?

1) Our random thoughts and silly ideas (AKA Creative Writing). With our unique perspectives and past experience to shape our words, and with the vast array of writing styles and applications, robots won’t be ready to take over creative writing jobs for a while. WARNING: Research and testing is being done on social robots with feelings and a sense of ethical responsibility, so we can’t be too far off from emotional, intuitive robots that can read us like a book. Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.

2) Our keen eye for what’s beautiful (AKA Makeup Artistry). For some reason I think people will trust the soft, familiar feeling of people fingers in their delicate, human faces for a long time to come. Potentially rogue metal shards putting my eyeliner on sounds like a lot of fun, and yet, I don’t see a ballerina whisking herself off stage for a quick makeup fix that she will have to either explain aloud or directly program into a robot.

3) Our ear for what sounds “good” (AKA Music Production). Mixing industry knowledge with a feel for innovative sound design and experience with sound production, this job requires a bit of finesse and spontaneity.    

4) Our innovative, imaginative intuition (AKA Art Directing). Across a variety of visual communication mediums, art directors make decisions about how to best position people and things. This requires a long list of past experience to draw from and an instinctively  quick insight.

5) Our fishing skills (AKA Fishermen). Not only is this a dangerous, spontaneous job that requires quick reflexes, and extreme adaptability, it’s also wet. And sometimes disconnected from electricity and the internet. Plus, machines are heavy. On boats you need to spare as much weight on board as possible– and since people would be lighter than today’s typical machinery, we win again!

Don’t get too excited, though. Robots have been taking over our jobs for years already. I’m looking at you two, ATM and Self-Checkout register.

Oh, but isn’t it nice to think that the machines we rely on so heavily to do our jobs are built by engineers and maintained by technicians? Pilots and people need a plane to get across the globe, sure, but a plane needs to be built and programmed before it can even do that. Score one more for people!

So, when robots get creative, intuitive, and random, what do we do?

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July 10th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Innovation | Comments Off

Human resilience in the future

I read and watch a fair number of stories that suppose the Earth is in some kind of apocalypse. Even contemporary futurist thought is rife with societal collapse scenarios. Recently Jamais Cascio wrote a nice critique of these dystopian views. He simply points out that any future that assumes that people will not be resilient and fight back (against aliens, against tyranny, against plague, against climate change when it really bites, etc.) are missing the essential nature of human beings. Worth a read.

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July 9th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy, Environment & Energy, Innovation | Comments Off

Future of water and advertising – a billboard that produces drinking water

Yesterday I had a conversation with John Kenny of the draftFCB Agency. John and I met some time ago when co-presenting to an executive development program. We chatted about the future of marketing and advertising (hey, I’m a huge fan of Madmen). John mentioned that his global firm is moving away from persuasion-based marketing to something that can be called action marketing. That means, do something real, in the actual world, and let viral video do the rest. The example his firm was engaged with blew me away.

There is in Chile and Peru a coastal desert. I’ve been to Lima, which is in that desert. It rains an average of .5 inches a year though the city is next to the sea. The air is quite moist, however, because of the sea. People need clean drinking water, the water is in the air, but it does not fall out. What to do?

The answer came when a technical university, UTEC, needed a marketing campaign. You can read about the project here, but in simple terms what they did was design a highly technical billboard that precipitates and collects water out of the air, and delivers it to tanks built into the structure. Scores of families can obtain weekly drinking water simply by turning the tap a the base of the billboard. Wow. That is future thinking.

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July 9th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Innovation | Comments Off

The security industry and the future

Thinking about the billions spent on security since 9/11 in America, including the recent revelations about PRISM and other data surveillance activities, I came across these interesting numbers from the Atlantic

Since 9/11, the Brady Campaign tells us, there have been an estimated 334,168 gun deaths* in the United States, a figure that includes homicides, suicides, and unintentional shooting deaths. The total is 100 times larger than the toll of September 11, 2001.

And the Economist helpfully points out that the odds of an American being killed in a terrorist attack have been about 1 in 20 million since 9/11.

Our priorities are strange. We will spend a lot to prevent the unlikely, but little to deal with the obvious.

h/t to Digby

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