Saturday, 22 September 2018

Robots Good?


I was musing about robots recently - as one does ... and started thinking about the sociology of such devices. Humans in a work situation can be excellent performers as  individuals but the real performance gains come when humans are organised into cooperative and collaborative teams.

Will the same be true for robots?

Are robot designers and manufacturers building ‘social skills’. Into their robots. Modern AI and machine learning approaches should make this possible. If robots could organise themselves into cooperative and collaborative groups, we may be astonished at the productivity gains we see.

 AI is quite a controversial area with many observers and commentators nervous about the potential threats in the future from sentient, intelligent (though artificial) beings.

With the potential for cooperative abilities built in, we might see autonomous workgroups ... but sometime in the future could we see robot ‘trades unions’ and even robot armies. 

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Think before you count.


I read a piece the other day on the use of productivity measures for academic staff. The measures were all about output quantity (presumably with the proviso that papers wouldn’t be published if they didn’t meet quality criteria). However what matters is not quantity of output or quality of output but the impact of that output - how is thinking or practice changed as a result. 

This is difficult to measure as truly innovative and original ideas could take years to achieve their full impact. But attempting to judge it - even subjectively - might be a better measure than simply counting it. 

Productivity measures can be quite difficult to establish in certain contexts but we should be as creative with our measures as we are with our productivity improvements. 

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Intelligent life.

Artificial Intelligence is said to be set to revolutionise many sectors. Is this a force for productivity gains or just a threat to jobs?

Well, as the Australian Productivity Commission said recently, technology has over time created many more jobs than it has replaced.  But like Moore’s law, most technology trends eventually come to a juddering halt. So, AI might destroy more jobs than it creates.

If so, we will need to change how we distribute and share wealth - the fruits of productivity. Wealth inequality has been growing over the last 20 years. We have seen very few experiments in halting, or even slowing, it.

Yet, unless we find a way of ensuring that the many without work share the gains made by the few in work, society seems doomed.

Of course I could be wrong. (I often am.) Ai might create a range if jobs that we haven’t even thought about yet ... and we will continue our march of inequality to ....???

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Go Retro

Modern workplaces seem antagonistic to efficient working and productivity.  They are noisy, stressful, full of constant chatter. constant interruptions from telephones, streams of emails and so on.

Perhaps its time to turn the clock back.  Get rid of some of the technology. Start to think about the workers, not the kit. We know that productivity is all about people - let's show them we believe that by thinking about their needs. 

Let's give them the time and space they need to be productive and creative.