Archive September 2014
For many years I did a weekly segment on ABC Radio Australia live into Hong Kong Radio’s Morning Brew Show with Phil Whelan and on my recent trip there I couldn’t resist going live into studio with Phil and reminiscing about the old days and more importantly catching up on all things Future.
Just like the old days, our conversation meandered and veered down the paths of what a Futurist is and does, future tech, gadgets, cell phones, wearable technology, 3D printing, society, food, the pitfalls of new tech and new thinking and generally where our world is headed and is that a good thing or not, as well as hearing from his Hong Kong listeners on their thoughts of future tech and the world ahead.
Have a listen now…
Woolworth’s recently published a report on the Future of the Supermarkets complete with predictions about who their future consumers may be and the what, where, when and how of what they might want from them and this was the spark that started the chat between Rod Quinn of ABC Local’s Overnight and I.
In this 45 minute radio segment we discussed all things Future Retail and took a tonne of callers questions (who knew there were so many people awake and interested at 4.15 a.m.) around the topics of:
• The increasing shoppers’ desire for “local” and “fresh” produce
• Whether in-store shopping will be for these items only
• Whether long-term food items, i.e. pantry items, will be ordered almost entirely online
• The change in the grocery shopping experience and self checkouts
• How “local” and “fresh” produce is monitored and marketed
• Whether the “average shopper” has changed from a nuclear family / mum buying the groceries
• How Australia’s supermarkets will adapt, or how they need to adapt, to meet this desire for a different shopping experience
• The cramped aisle concept being on its way out as supermarkets evolve into something altogether different.
• How likely the Big Two – Coles & Woolworths, or Colesworth as we affectionately called them, may be affected by changing consumer sentiment in the future?
A great discussion and some really great callers questions, click on the this link ovn3, wait for the pop up screen and then choose your player or download option.
ABC Perth Radio – Breakfast Show with James Lush
A great topic always has lot’s of different angles and possibilities and I picked up the thread of the Future of Retail later that same day on my regular Saturday Breakfast segment with James Lush on ABC Perth, have a listen to this for a different take on the Future of Retail:
One of Britain’s leading doctors recently made headlines with his calls for the UK to switch to a four-day week, to help combat high levels of work-related stress, and to let people spend more time with their families or take part in health-promoting activities. He talks about a “maldistribution of work” that is damaging people’s health, and that the five day working week should be phased out.
This all sounds great in theory, particularly for those of us who put the hours in at the office, and it makes sense that people should be able to focus on the things that are important to them, rather than being chained to their desks.
However, before employers everywhere start to panic, I can’t help feeling the doctor ends up missing the bigger picture of where the concept of ‘work’ is heading across the globe. While a reduction in our 9-5, Monday – Friday routine is undoubtedly true, we are in fact going to experience a far more seismic shift.
So, exactly what is the future of work going to look like? Well, like it or not, the notion of a weekend will soon become obsolete, as workplaces move into a world that exists on a project and task basis.
That means the religious need for a weekend will become gradually irrelevant, as we increasingly work where and when it’s most appropriate, rather than shoehorning it into a regimented weekday pattern.
The increasing globalisation of our economies with multiple time zones is one of many factors driving this trend, as well as the growth of technology allowing us to work remotely, when and where we choose, with little or no compromise.
This ability to work where and when you want will allow families to choose together time that suits them all, to be able to come together for important events and school activities and to reframe family back into the centre of activity, rather than something that must be juggled in a busy week.
This evolution will change what it means to work, where work is done, what family and social time is and when it is done and will impact on all industries and many others and is not meant to be the only way to work in the future, but rather one of the continuum of work-style choices that we will choose from.
We are already seeing this evolution play out in certain industry sectors, but more in the form of general flexibility of hours.The mining industry adopts a ‘fly in, fly out’ roster where miners work for months on end and then take the equivalent time off. Doctors and nurses regularly work long hours then take time off in lieu. More and more businesses are allowing workers the choice to work remotely without having to come into the office.
Clearly, the four day week wouldn’t work for everyone, but at the moment, for many of us, it’s simply beyond our grasp. What’s important to recognise is that on one hand we have people locked into working excessive hours and on the other, we have those in part-time contracts, wanting more hours. A four day week would provide a comfortable middle ground, giving people, above all else, the ability to change the hours they work.
So, in a few years’ time, don’t be surprised if your relaxation time with the family happens in the middle of the week, while the weekend is spent in the office. Just remember that three day weekend waiting for you!
Morris Miselowski is one of the world’s leading futurists with more than 30 years experience advising businesses across 140 different industries on how-to adapt to today’s changing world.
Here’s an interview I did recently with House and Garden looking at what our kitchens will be like, what appliances we may be using and how, where and when we may be cooking and what we may be cooking on.
published in House and Garden September 2014 edition
Just like horses were made redundant as a mode of transport when Henry Ford started mass producing cars early last century, there’s a growing fear that humans will also soon face being put out to pasture.
That’s the controversial message at the heart of this viral video on robotics currently doing the rounds on the web. It offers a rather compelling and grim argument on the scale and impact of the automation trend.
It’s hard to miss the ongoing debate around robotics and their impact on the workforce. If you believe everything you read, this one movement is set to crush the middle class, revolutionise work and axe jobs all at the same time. It’s an issue that is being discussed at all levels of society, from the open forums of Reddit all the way to the executive circles of the Davos Connection Hayman Island Leadership Retreat.
The latest video from prolific YouTube broadcaster CGP Grey doesn’t quite hint at an outcome for the trend, but with clever wordplay and pictures he paints the rise of the robots as a negative. And in doing so makes quite a few compelling points, enough to make this columnist think twice about the prospects of a robot revolution.
To put the video to the test, we asked two experts who view the robotics revolution in a rather positive light. Did it change their mind? Well, no.
“The video is mostly accurate in the presentation of the facts, but flawed in its argument,” says senior lecturer in mechanical engineering at University of Melbourne’s Denny Oetomo.
“It is absurd to imagine that the world will stand by as a significant proportion of mankind goes unemployed without reacting,” he adds.
“First world nations, which constitute the major push of automation, will not be able to sustain their economies by investing into technologies that causes a quarter of their workforce to go unemployed.”
Business futurist Morris Miselowski says the creation of new jobs will offset any losses endured by the rise of robotics. About 60 per cent of the tasks we will be doing in the next 10 years do not exist yet, he argues.
“Ten years ago hardly anyone worked in, or made, any real money in the digital and social media space and now there’s hardly a job that doesn’t contain tasks that are influenced by it, let alone the millions of jobs created within it,” he says.
Though, Miselowski admits that new technologies will pose some challenges for humanity.
“The path ahead requires us to cut the ties with many of our past norms and cultural values,” he says.
“It will require us, to re-examine what ‘work’ is, who has to do it, where and when and if that means that not everybody works then how else to people gain income, a sense of dignity and achievement.”
Morris Miselowski, business futurist
(Miselowski replied to both questions in one response.)
It’s an age old debate and technology and automation have always been predicted to do away with work — in the ’70s and ’80s populist predictions had us headed to three-day work weeks, paperless office and hover boards.
Much of the video paints a picture of technology replacing jobs and there’s an estimate I’ve heard that by 2030 we will have shed two billion jobs.
To compound this we will add three billion people to our planet over the next 35 years that all deserve to be educated, housed, fed, employed and have quality of life.
There will be a huge displacement of jobs as we move to replace routine jobs with technology and bots, this is inevitable.
But the conversation of the new jobs that are going to be created, and new industries gets little air time.
Many of the jobs that we are going to lose have only been created in the last 100 years, why can’t we do this again and again and again, because through the millenniums that’s exactly what we’ve done.
Ten years ago hardly anyone worked in, or made, any real money in the digital and social media space and now there’s hardly a job that doesn’t contain tasks that are influenced by it, let alone the millions of jobs created within it.
I routinely posit that 60 per cent of the tasks we’ll be doing in 10 years haven’t yet been thought of.
The role and nature of work will change and our interplay with technology will evolve.
My theory on our relationship with technology future goes like this:
Digital data (which we’re drowning in and is readily available at the end of any search engine or semantic exploration) is the raw ingredients from which we will make decision and take actions. Knowledge is what technology will routinely give us as it takes this vast amount of data and crafts it into something specific and useful to our inquiry and at this point humans will step in and take this data and knowledge and add the spice of humanity to it and turn it into true wisdom and purpose.
This like many of our other future issues cannot and will not be solved by a single solution or approach.
Many jobs will continue to require people and artisans to use their wisdom to create and make.
People are herd animals and most of us do want to be around other people.
The choice to purchase items made by robots is a human choice, we have instructed the technology and machines to do it and theoretically if we told them to stop and we’ll do it instead, they would and we could — but we won’t.
The path ahead requires us to cut the ties with many of our past norms and cultural values. It will require us, to re-examine what “work” is, who has to do it, where and when and if that means that not everybody works then how else to people gain income, a sense of dignity and achievement.
Although looking into the eye of the storm, it seems bleak and we question what jobs will there be left for us to do, if technology does replace us on the factory and office floors, I am confident that we will have new jobs, new industries, but more importantly that we will begin to have the conversation that allows for new work styles and practices to evolve; where the notion of work and what we pay people for will be debated and perhaps without returning to a totalitarian, communist or any other word that has populist negative connotations we will begin to explore the very notion of work and its place in our society.
Powered exoskeletons are allowing paraplegics to walk and giving fully able people many times normal human strength.
Robotic drones, some completely automated, are flying through our skies and exploring underground and in the ocean.
Some researchers are even working on forms of invisibility – some like the “Predator’s” adaptive camouflage, and others that literally bend light around an object.
These things are with us now, but some people are employed to predict what will come next.
Australian business futurist Morris Miselowski is one of those people, making a living analysing social and technological trends to prepare his clients for the next decade and beyond.
Right now, however, Miselowski’s job is to talk about a video game.
The latest edition in the record-breaking Call of Duty series, subtitled Advanced Warfare, is due in a few months, and Miselowski has been contracted to discuss the real-world technology on display in this near-future techno-thriller.
“I try to understand tomorrow’s landscape,” he says. “My role is to imagine what might be, and with CoD all of the imagining has been done. All of the technologies we talk about are there in a virtual sense; even though we can’t physically do these things yet, we can virtually have a go at them, talk about what they might be, and how we might use them.
“When I was a child my imagination was fired by science fiction, watching Star Trek and that kind of thing. Today’s kids are fired up by gaming, a sort of first-hand experience.
“I had to sit looking at my television screen and not really doing it, but these kids are doing it.
“What I find interesting is not so much in the mechanical process of the gun firing, but the thought process of how do I use it, in what environment will it be useful, how will people engage with it? They’re really getting that first-hand experience.”
On the topic of whether some technologies should not be developed, Miselowski falls back on the ethics of application, rather than the technology itself.
“I follow a great philosopher by the name of Maxwell Smart,” he says. “And he said that things can be used for niceness or evilness. That’s really what this comes down to with technology, and it always has.
“It doesn’t matter what the technology is, it’s always benign. Technology is a box; you can turn it off, never pick it up, never use it. It’s only in the hands of people that you can decide to do good or bad with it.
“Take fire for example. We can use it for wonderful things like keeping us warm and cooking and all kinds of things, but in the hands of a small minority it can be used for something … not as wonderful.
“We’re always going to have that, but that’s never a good enough reason, to me, to say we shouldn’t have a technology. What we should have is people who respect it more, and know how to use it better or more wisely.”
Miselowski believes more advanced military technology will lead to smaller deployments, smarter applications of hardware and ultimately less death.
“I think battle and warfare is a precision conversation now,” he says. “It’s not about numbers so much any more.
“Only a few years ago you might have had to send thousands of people into a battle, but now you can send just a few, and you can have many of them remote and away from the fight using things like drones, which we see in the game. You can go in and do surveillance, do reconnaissance, do the firing if that’s required. That’s saving human lives.”
Miselowski is also excited by the possibilities of video games, in particular online multiplayer games.
“Multiplayer gaming is not just one person thinking in isolation but a collective digital tribe moving and thinking together,” he says.
“My great desire is to see what kind of thinking this generation will get out of playing this game, and what the conversation will be in five or 10 years as they play with it and see the possibilities out there.”
He also hopes that, as with many other technologies originally developed for warfare, great benefits will come from these apparently destructive future technologies.
“They’re used for warfare in the game, but they’re used for so many things. They’re being used for healthcare in Japan, allowing staff to pick up patients and move them around.
“There’s a lot of prototyping being done to use those technologies for physically disabled people – quadriplegics, paraplegics.”
Miselowski hopes the experience of playing with these technologies in a virtual arena will spark gamers’ imaginations, leading them to consider more peaceful applications.
“When you have the reality of these inventions you begin to find other purposes for them. The people playing this game see it for what it is, but I think they also see it for what it could be.”
Gamers can try out this virtual technology for themselves when Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare launches in November on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC.
DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez