Saturday, 30 April 2016

Go Physical

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is making good progress and we have seen computers doing very well at strategy games like Chess and Go.

AI is ideal for situations where a large quantity of data has to be processed as the basis of a 'logical' decision.  This applies in strategy games, and in commercial activities such as stock and commodity trading.

So computers can play chess.  But they can't easily pick up the chess pieces.  They are much less adept physically than 'mentally'.

This means that as the next generation of schoolkids start to look for jobs, a number of what are currently high paid jobs might be being performed by computers.

Those kids should look to become plumbers, gardeners or carpenters - working physically and flexibly.

Will this result in a redistribution of wealth from knowledge workers to manual workers? That remains to be seen. But the manual workers might have work - and feel engaged and rewarded by that work.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Good - but not good enough.

The UK Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) suggests the productivity picture might finally be starting to change.
The EEF recently unveiled some mixed findings. On the positive front, its report – Productivity: the state of the manufacturing nation – revealed that over six in ten UK manufacturers (64%) achieved productivity growth in the past two years, while 57% expect to make further gains in the next two. It also points out that manufacturing’s productivity growth outpaced the service sector and the UK economy as a whole in the two decades to 2014, suggesting that, while the manufacturing sector might not have the size and critical mass it once had, it is an altogether leaner animal than in days gone by.
However, the key message from the EEF would appear to be that manufacturers cannot rest on their laurels – indeed, almost half of manufacturers (49%) questioned said the UK manufacturing’s productivity lags behind competitor nations.
So, reasonable progress but the report card suggests "Could do better"

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Potential or waste of effort?

How will the Internet of Things (IoT) impact on productivity - of different sectors?

We know that lots of (mainly technology) companies are betting big on IoT  - but is this investment wise?

For consumers, developments like smart thermostats, smart lighting and so on are interesting - but how compulsive a purchase are they?  The ability to control my lights from my phone is pointless if I am not at home and unnecessary if I am.

Of course, I',m probably missing the point, failing to see the 'vision'  Perhaps IoT is not a consumer-led change ... perhaps it is industry that will reap the benefits.

I need to go now - and think about the brave new world.  Perhaps you do too. All of the investment going on will drive change - but not necessarily in planned directions.  The winners will be those that first spot the twists, turns and diversions on the road ahead.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

We cannot afford to fail

The USA recently held National Agriculture Day. 

A key concern expressed by many of those participating this year was the need for greater investments in the very foundation of American agriculture: the research, development and extension services required to maintain the high productivity and environmental sustainability of American farmers and ranchers and to provide sufficient nutritious food, fibre and biofuel for a growing world.

Challenges include the multiyear drought in California and many Western states; threats from disease affecting livestock, poultry and citrus crops; nutrition and obesity-related health issues; and a troubling shortage of young farmers and veterinarians choosing agriculture as a profession.

 But we cannot afford to fail - the global population will rise by 2.3 billion by 2050.  We have to feed all those people!

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Productivity secrets

What are the secrets to productivity development at the national level?

Well, after many years experience in a range of countries, I would have to say "Don't ask me".

Thee is no panacea, no golden bullet.

If I had to offer any advice, it would be to ;

Get the macroeconomy right - reduce regulation, open up markets

Invest in infrastructure (especially communications - roads, ports, airports - and telecommunications)

Invest in skills  (basic, vocational and technical).

Be lucky!