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A somewhat longer version of my Frontiers talk about technology and the future of the economy, with additional material pitched to an audience of Internet operators at Apricot 2017, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on February 27, 2017

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  1. “…47 percent of jobs are “at risk” of being automated in the next 20 years.” Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, Oxford University “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?”
  2. Will there really be nothing left for people to do? Is there really nothing left for humans to do?
  3. Our global economy has the mistaken idea that the goal of technology is to maximize productivity, even if that means treating people as a cost to be eliminated.
  4. That’s a problem “The people will rise up before the robots do.” Andy Macafee Co-author, The Second Machine Age Erik Brynjolfsson and Andy Macafee
  5. We’ve seen this happen before
  6. The weavers of the Luddite rebellion couldn’t imagine…
  7. They couldn’t imagine…
  8. What is our failure of imagination?
  9. It isn’t technology that wants to eliminate jobs “Technology is the solution to human problems. We won’t run out of work till we run out of problems.” Nick Hanauer
  10. Some global grand challenges technology can help us solve • Climate change. • Rebuilding and rethinking the infrastructure by which we deliver water, power, goods, and services like healthcare. • Dealing with the “demographic inversion”  in developed countries— the lengthening lifespans of the old and the smaller number of young workers to pay into the social systems that support them. • Income inequality and income insecurity. • Displaced people. How could we use technology to create the infrastructure for whole new cities, factories, and farms, so people could be settlers, not refugees?
  11. What does this have to do with you?
  12. The fundamental design pattern of internet applications is that they are hybrids of human and machine, enabling us to do things that were previously impossible
  13. “The hope is that, in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today.” - J.C.R. Licklider, Man-Machine Symbiosis,1960
  14. We are building a global brain, composed of all of us, augmented and connected by technology. You are responsible for the health of its nervous tissue.
  15. What are the implications?
  16. 1. The nature of work is changing “My grandfather wouldn’t recognize what I do as work.” - Google Chief Economist Hal Varian
  17. So he says…
  18. How is this possible? McDonalds 440,000 employees, 68 million monthly users Snap ~300 employees, 100 million monthly users
  19. 2. Many of today’s workers are programs. Developers are actually their managers Every day, they are inspecting the performance of their workers and giving them instruction (in the form of code) about how to do a better job
  20. 3. The algorithm is the new shift boss At companies like Uber and Lyft, algorithms tell people what to do
  21. This is where things get problematic Algorithms can no longer just be optimized for the user. They have to take into account the needs of workers too. Companies like Uber are far behind the curve in realizing this.
  22. Those programmers are actually managers
  23. “ God did not make being an auto worker a good job!” —David Rolf, SEIU
  24. We have choices to make as a society!
  25. 4. The lessons of technology are also lessons for business organizations “Services not only represent a software structure but also the organizational structure.” Werner Vogels, Amazon CTO
  26. “Doing digital is not the same as being digital.” Josh Bersin Deloitte
  27. These are 21st century management books
  28. It was no accident that the rescue of healthcare.gov in the fall of 2013 was carried out by a team many of whose key players were Site Reliability Engineers from Google.
  29. 5. Government too is being reshaped by the digital “This isn’t just how we should be developing software. It’s how we should be developing policy.” Cecilia Muñoz, Director, White House Domestic Policy Council
  30. How governments typically work • Massive programs are enacted based on some one’s theory of change • The implementation of that program is outsourced via a contracting system looking for the lowest bids • Governments have expertise in policy, not in implementation • Implementation is what makes the difference • Measurement of success and failure, when it happens at all, is in timescales of years or decades
  31. “We have to go from apps to ops.” Jennifer Pahlka Code for America & USDS
  32. Government statistics, economic modeling, and regulations are too slow for the pace and scale of the modern world “Would you cross the street with information that was five seconds old?” - Jeff Jonas, IBM Fellow
  33. 6. Algorithms are power tools for our minds
  34. Users post 7 billion pieces of content to Facebook a day. Expecting human fact checkers to catch fake news is like asking workers to build a modern city with only picks and shovels. At internet scale, we now rely increasingly on algorithms to manage what we see and believe.
  35. But we do have a responsibility to get the transformation right! The great question of the 21st century will be “ Whose black box do we trust?” John Mattison
  36. “It takes a machine to get inside the OODA loop of another machine.” Observe Orient Decide Act A DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge team
  37. 7. We need a new approach to regulation One that is akin to an airplane autopilot, focused on outcomes, not rules. One that is based on real-time feedback loops. One that is tolerant of failure, not one that tries to prevent it.
  38. Regulation in the age of algorithms Must focus on outcomes, not on rules. Must operate at the speed and scale of the systems it is trying to regulate. Must incorporate real-time data feedback loops. Must be robust in the face of failure. Must address the incentives that lead to misbehavior. Must be constantly refined to meet ever-changing conditions.
  39. 8. The boundaries between physical and digital are blurring “The smartphone is becoming a remote control for real life.” Matt Cohler, Benchmark Partners
  40. Speech interfaces may have an even bigger impact on this trend than the smartphone
  41. Which of these teaches us most about the “internet of things?”
  42. “Uber is a lesson in building for how the world should work instead of optimizing for how the world does work.” Aaron Levie, Box.net
  43. Don’t use technology to replace people. Use it to augment them to do something that was previously impossible
  44. What about self-driving cars?
  45. Economic Transformation Takes Time and Effort Goldman Sachs Investment Research estimates it won’t be till 2060 that all vehicles are autonomous. The AI transformation itself will drive the economy for decades to come.
  46. The “self-driving airplane” has been with us for decades. What happened?
  47. Self driving cars will enable new kinds of services
  48. Text @timoreilly
  49. Zipline: Blood and medicine on demand in Rwanda
  50. AI will help us tailor treatment to each individual
  51. The White House Brain Initiative: Could AI help us build “cognitive prosthetics”?
  52. Bringing specialists to the bedside with Google Glass
  53. Climate change is for our generation what World War II was for our parents and grandparents.
  54. “The New Deal’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation helped light up America — moving it from 10 percent of homes having electricity in 1930 to more than 60 percent a decade later. [We] utterly transform[ed] the economy in about five years, by using idle capital.” –Louis Hyman Borrow: The American Way of Debt
  55. The March of Progress
  56. “With great power comes great responsibility.”