Monthly Archives: April 2014

Most Americans Do Not Want Google-ish Glasses, Drones, Or Lab-Grown Meat

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FastCompany
By Sydney BrownstoneApril 21, 2014

Disruptive technologies are all well and good, but being totally out of touch with what people actually want may not be the best innovation strategy.

If aliens came to planet Earth for a day, but could only explore the confines of a locked, featureless room and Twitter, they might imagine a world in which every person documents his life in data points, drones zip around the airspace, and families argue about Google Glass at the dinner table. Maybe some families do, especially if they live in the Bay Area, but a new Pew Research Center study finds that most Americans aren’t as thrilled about new technologies as Twitter’s unrepresentative sample.

Pew found that 63% of Americans would see personal and commercial drones flying in U.S. airspace as a bad idea. More than half think that Google Glass, implants, or other kinds of heads-up displays that constantly filter information from the world to our senses would be a change for the worse. Only 48% of the population would be interested in riding in a driverless car. Even fewer would be interested in eating lab-grown meat, like the$332,000 in vitro burger supported by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

That doesn’t mean that most Americans are technophobes. On the contrary, 59% answered that they felt technological changes could bring about improvements in people’s lives. More than three-quarters of the sample also believed that lab-grown organs could replace failing ones in humans in the next 50 years. And it’s true that some technologies simply take time to become accepted. The printing press, radio, and electricity were feared by some thinkers at one time, though we don’t know how the majority of the population felt.

The Pew study does show, however, that there are some technologies that the majority of Americans simply don’t dig. Those concerns are probably worth listening to–even if it’s only to incorporate them into the design of these same gadgets.

We’re already seeing that happen with wearable Internet-connected devices, one of the biggest buzz concepts of 2013. While fitness freaks were more excited than ever to strap on a Jawbone Up, one study found that a third of Americans were ditching their wearables within six months. And while big and bigger data has promised better living for years, privacy concerns are not going away. Shaking up the status quo is all well and good, but being totally out of tune with what people actually want may not be the best innovation strategy.

[Image: Google glass via Flickr user Lubomir Panak]

10 tech trends every smart government should know about

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Key Points:

To be truly effective, governments can’t just look at themselves as governments any more. They need to become smart governments. According to technology research house Gartner the ones doing this well, integrate social, mobile, cloud and information into their day-today operations and strategic planning. They use the following approaches:

1. Personal mobile workplace

2. Mobile citizen engagement

3. Big data and actionable analytics

4. Cost effective open data

5. Citizen managed data

6. Hybrid IT and cloud

7. Internet of Things

8. Cross domain interoperability

9. BPM for case management

10. Gamification for engagement

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By 
04.16.14

Digital future

If you’re in government, ignoring or cracking down on tech can come at a massive cost. While some have questioned the idea that social media was vital to the success of the Arab Spring, there can be no doubt that it was an important organizing tool. In the Ukraine meanwhile, the one of the first things the protesters who recently overthrew the government did was set up Wi-Fi so that they could continue communicating with the outside world.

Used properly though, social media can help those in government communicate effectively with the people they serve and even be used to address their issues. Beyond social, technology can also help change the way cities, towns, villages and even neighborhoods are run.

To be truly effective though, governments can’t just look at themselves as governments any more. They need to become smart governments. According to technology research house Gartner the ones doing this well, integrate social, mobile, cloud and information into their day-today operations and strategic planning.

“Smart government integrates information, communication and operational technologies to planning, management and operations across multiple domains, process areas and jurisdictions to generate sustainable public value,” says Andrea Di Maio, managing vice president at Gartner.

The research house has also identified 10 tech trends every government should be aware of:

1. Personal mobile workplace

Regardless of how well governments try to categorize the types of devices and applications people use, they will inevitably miss the fact that on any device, personal use will creep into professional use. Governments may have an illusion of control by either providing and managing those devices or issuing well-articulated policies to allow and manage employee-owned devices.

However, the reality is that government employees, like their corporate counterparts, depending on demographics, personal preferences and pressure to improve performance, can decide how much they want to use corporate information and applications versus personal information and applications.

2. Mobile citizen engagement

There’s growing government interest, says Gartner, in providing citizen-facing services using mobile devices. As well as leveraging social software functionalities. This interest is driven by a combination of pressure coming from the political leadership and from opportunities that new technologies present.

The suitability of government services to be delivered over a mobile channel depends on a combination of demographics, frequency and recurrence of use, immediacy and urgency of use, potential level of automation, relevance of location information for service delivery, and how compelling the use of the service is.

3. Big data and actionable analytics

Big data continues to present government with information management and processing issues that go beyond what their IT departments are capable of. Existing practices that selectively evaluate which data should be integrated are being challenged by the realization that all data can be integrated with technologies that are specifically developed to do so.

The adoption of big data concepts and initiatives in the public sector varies widely among jurisdictions and, to date, is limited to specific use cases such as fraud, waste and abuse detection; enhanced security capabilities; public health surveillance; healthcare management; or combining data from IT and operational technology (OT) applications to enhance security monitoring or increase situational awareness. Governments are searching for ways to use big data to gain business process efficiencies and reduce costs, but are having limited success.

4. Cost effective open data

Many tend to equate open data with public data, but Gartner subscribes to the idea that data can be defined as open when it is machine-readable and is accessible through an API. This can apply to potentially any data that needs to be processed: whether it be public, discoverable through Freedom of Information Act requests, or restricted for use by a particular government agency.

This leads to new ways of mashing up data coming from different sources as well as the ability to build new services and processes based on open data. Governments become both providers of open data to each other and to the public at large (the latter just for public data) and consumers of open data coming from other parts of government as well as from businesses, NGOs and citizen communities.

5. Citizen managed data

Citizen data vaults are services that provide people with the ability to access their data outside of a particular government transaction, allowing them much-finer-grained control over when and how data can be accessed, and by whom, within the relevant legal framework that they are subject to.

Citizen data vaults offer significant potential benefits in meeting Internet users’ evolving expectations, providing more transparent control of individual privacy rights on electronic data, easing the task of integrating different government services, and creating conditions for the creation of value-added services from commercial, nonprofit and peer-to-peer organizations (such as social networks).

On the other hand, there are significant challenges to overcome, including, data availability and reliability, credibility and security as well as the size and complexity of healthcare and other target areas.

6. Hybrid IT and cloud

Governments worldwide continue to pursue both public and private types of cloud services, but the focus is shifting from developing internal cloud services to allowing agencies to purchase commercially provided but governmentally restricted services. For example, government clouds from the likes of Google and Microsoft have shifted email service in a number of agencies from public to government clouds.

Meanwhile, more-open public clouds are being emphasized in several countries mostly for non-critical CRM-like applications. The main objectives pushing cloud adoption have been cost reduction, speed of procurement and deployment, and responsiveness to regulations and needs for cost cutting. The public cloud is also gaining momentum as governments seek savings via consolidated procurement.

7. Internet of Things

The internet is expanding beyond PCs and mobile devices into enterprise assets such as field equipment, and consumer items such as cars and televisions. Governments, as well as most enterprises and technology vendors, have yet to explore the possibilities of an expanded Internet and are not operationally or organizationally ready.

Smart city plans in several jurisdictions aim at exploring the ability to process huge masses of data coming from devices such as video cameras, parking sensors, air quality monitors and so forth to help local governments achieve goals in terms of increased public safety, improved environment, better quality of life.

8. Cross domain interoperability

Smart government initiatives depend on interoperable information — data obtained from external as well as internal sources — and networks that effectively integrate planning, performance analysis and business operations. Attempts to do this successfully have been mixed at best.

Programs aimed at pushing through an entire government structure have often failed to maintain momentum over budget cycles or changes in administration.

9. BPM for case management
There isn’t one market for case management because all cases are not the same. Gartner distinguishes two types of cases. In decision-centric cases, the purpose of the work effort is to make a decision about rights, entitlements, payments, enrollment, priorities, risk or some other high-impact outcome.

In investigative cases, the outcome is uncertain; the purpose of the work effort is to identify interaction patterns among data. When the case is created, it often has very little data and structure. As the investigation progresses, data is added and patterns begin to appear.

Fraud detection and criminal investigations are leading examples of this type. Both decision-centric and investigative cases have a heavy dependence on semi-structured and unstructured information.

10. Gamification for engagement

Gamification can be used by government to motivate interactions with citizens or to achieve more meaningful levels of engagement with employees. Humans are “hard-wired” to enjoy games and have a natural tendency to engage when interactions are framed in a game construct.

Gamification for government services, applications and processes can increase user interactivity and change behavior, resulting in greater engagement. Citizens or employees who can have fun are more likely to change behavior, for example, NASA Moonbase Alpha simulates lunar exploration to stimulate teamwork by using a variety of tools, including a lunar rover.

Governments planning to use gamification must however clearly understand the target audience they intend to engage, what behaviors they want to change, what motivates the audience and maintains their engagement, and how success will be measured.

LED light bulb that doubles as a Bluetooth speaker

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Photo: AwoX website

AwoX, a provider of multimedia interconnection technologies for the home, released an LED light bulb that doubles as a Bluetooth speaker.

The StriimLIGHT twists into any light socket to provide light and sound that you can control using the AwoX smart control app on your smartphone, laptop or desktop computer.

The app allows the user to brighten or dim the light or change its colour, add music, apply an alarm timer to its functions and control the speaker’s volume.

AwoX CEO Alain Molinie said: “Best of all, StriimLight’s unobtrusive design makes it easy to add music to rooms where space is scarce, such as bathrooms and kitchens.”

The light bulb delivers 110 to 240 volts of LED illumination and pumps out the sound via a 10-watt speaker.

There is also a Wi-Fi version, which operates in the same way as the Bluetooth version, while there’s a mini version for smaller sockets.

The cost of each light bulb is $99 and is currently available in the US.

Staying Relevant? As smartwatches explode, where are the watchmakers?

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Between Google Glass, Samsung’s Dick Tracy watches, FitBit and Nike fitness trackers and Apple’s long-rumored iWatch, wearable technology is clearly the next big thing – a $19 billion market by 2018, according to Juniper Research.

For the geek crowd, the conversation is no longer whether consumers will embrace it, but which brand they’ll be wearing: Does Samsung make my butt look big? Does Google Glass go with my shirt?

But what’s striking about the list of companies dominating the wearable landscape is that most are fairly new to the space. Where are all the companies that have been creating watches, glasses and the like for generations?

“We have all the know-how but we don’t want to build up stock of technology bombs people won’t want to buy,” Swatch CEO Nick Hayek told Reuters recently, brushing off the threat of smartwatches. Indeed, Hayek called it a gateway to more traditional watch sales.

‘We don’t want to build up stock of technology bombs people won’t want to buy.’- Swatch CEO Nick Hayek

“If people who never used to wear anything on their wrist start wearing a so-called smartwatch,” he said, “then we certainly can convince them quickly to try wearing a beautiful watch instead.”

Swatch knows a thing or two about “technology bombs.” In 2004, the Swiss watchmaker joined forces with Microsoft for the unfortunately named Paparazzi “smart watch” (this was back before we were savvy enough to combine the terms into a single, handy word).

The device was big and expensive, and it suffered from the hangups we’ve come to expect from tech products released before their time. And it wasn’t alone.

Other watchmakers told FoxNews.com they were also into the tech well ahead of the current boom.

“Since 2011, [we’ve] provided consumers with Bluetooth-enabled timepieces that sync to a smartphone to get email/call alerts, control music and set alarms,” Casio vice president David Johnson said in an e-mail.

The company’s Sports Gear STB-1000 was one a handful of smartwatches announced in January that was actually created by a watch manufacturer.

But Casio never uses the term “smartwatch” in its press materials, and indeed, the device may be more correctly a digital watch with smart features. It pairs with an iPhone to receive notifications and track your activity, but those seeking the app capabilities of a Pebble or Samsung Galaxy Gear will almost certainly be disappointed.

“What truly sets Casio apart in this category is its history as a watch manufacturer,” Johnson said. “The STB-1000 is not a response to what the other manufacturers are introducing; it’s simply the latest launch within our Bluetooth LE series of watches.”

Timex had a similar response when asked how it planned to counter the smartwatch surge, insisting that the company “will continue to be at the forefront of watch technology – as it has been for 160 years.”

Michèle Szynal, a spokeswoman for the Dutch watchmaker, pointed to existing features like fitness tracking as evidence of Timex’s focus on tech, and she advised us to “stay tuned” for future announcements.

Rolex declined to participate in this story.

Rather than simply playing catch-up with gadgets from Samsung, Pebble and the like, watch and smartphone manufacturers have arrived at similar functionality from two different approaches.

Over the years, the Casios and Swatches of the world have slowly added new technologies to their arsenals, arriving at more robust versions of what we’ve traditionally come to think of as a digital watch.

On the other side are companies employing full-color displays and powerful processors developed for the smartphone revolution. The result has been smartwatches that are more akin to tiny phones than Casios.

Some of traditional watchmakers’ reluctance to embrace a more smartphone-like approach can likely be chalked up to the fact that, for a number of them, the smartwatch craze carries a sense of deja vu. After all, the year before Swatch and Microsoft unleashed the Paparazzi on the world, Fossil harnessed the Palm operating system for a wrist-worn PDA that suffered a number of the same problems.

This time out, though, consumers appear ready to wear their computers on their wrists. In the past week, Pebble – that plucky little crowdfunded startup – revealed that it has sold an impressive 400,000 units, while Google announced its Android Wear smartwatch initiative, which will likely further interest in the space from big gadget manufacturers like Motorola.

And, of course, all signs point to a smartwatch from Apple. And if there’s one thing Apple’s good at, it’s bringing marginal hardware categories into the mainstream. Can you see iPod, iPhone, iPad?

Will watch manufacturers continue to play it safe as smartphone makers eat into their market share? Or will they embrace growing public interest and take another shot at the smartwatch space? As Timex told us, we’ll have to “stay tuned.”

Time will tell.

Night-Vision Contact Lenses That Use Infared Technology May Soon Be Possible, Researchers Say

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Those night-vision devices used by hunters and soldiers may soon get a lot smaller — small enough, in fact, to be built right in to contact lenses.

That’s the word from University of Michigan researchers, who say they’ve created the first-ever full-spectrum infrared light detector that works at room temperature. Conventional night-vision devices require bulky built-in cooling units to work properly.

Night-vision technology makes it possible to see light that is imperceptible to our eyes, and heat that radiates from the bodies of people and animals in the dark.

“We can make the entire design super-thin,” Dr. Zhaohui Zhong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the university, said in a written statement. “It can be stacked on a contact lens or integrated with a cell phone.”

The key to the new technology is a lightweight and super-strong form of carbon known as graphene. Ordinarily, graphene absorbs only about 2.3 percent of light that hits it — not enough to generate a usable infrared signal. But by combining two layers of graphene with an insulator, the researchers were able to boost the signal dramatically. Sensors made of sandwiched graphene can detect the full infrared spectrum, in addition to visible and ultraviolet light.

Zhong and his team have yet to integrate their technology into contact lenses, but he says the technological pathway to such devices is clear.

“If we integrate it with a contact lens or other wearable electronics, it expands your vision,” Zhong said. “It provides you another way of interacting with your environment.”

And wearable night-vision contacts are just one possible application of the new technology. Infrared devices are also used to identify gas leaks, help doctors find blood vessels and even allow art historians to see sketches under layers of paint.

“Our work pioneered a new way to detect light,” Zhong said in a statement. “We envision that people will be able to adopt this same mechanism in other material and device platforms.”

A paper describing the research was published online March 16 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

UC Davis taps Ginger.io for psychotic illness study by passively using smartphones

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By: Aditi Pai | Mar 10, 2014 in mobihealthnews

UCDavisGingerioUniversity of California Davis’ Early Diagnosis and Preventive Treatment (EDAPT) Clinic is launching a study in partnership with mobile health company Ginger.io. The 12-month study follow 120 young people who are in the early stages of psychotic illness. Only youth who are enrolled in the UC Davis or City of Sacramento (EDAPT) clinics are eligible to participate.

UC Davis received $588,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fund this study.

All of the children in the study will receive the Ginger.io app that passively collects data from users’ phones including information on their movement throughout the day, call patterns, and texting patterns. Users can also actively record information about how they are feeling each day. If the app senses that something is off with the user, it will automatically notify the user’s family and physician.

This system makes it easier for physicians to gain insights into how a patient is doing on a day-to-day basis and helps users recall information from the week as sessions.

“We are trying to identify the early warning signals that someone is struggling, so we can intervene earlier and hopefully prevent relapse,” Tara Niendam, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of operations for the EDAPT Clinic said in a statement. “If an individual is having a bad week, we can reach out to them quickly, rather than waiting for them to call us or come in to the clinic for their next appointment.”

Niendam added that there were many warning signals that the study could identify. One metric might be whether forgetting a dose of medication could trigger an increase in symptoms or how the number of arguments a user has with family members affects his or her mood.

If study participants do not have smartphones, UC Davis will provide phones via a partnership with T-Mobile USA.

Ginger.io has partnered with multiple other organizations in the past including Sanofi US DiabetesC3N’s IBD Pilot, and UCSF’s Health eHeart initiative.

Ginger.io’s spokesperson Stephanie Wilson told MobiHealthNews in an email that the app is “currently part of the care solutions at Kaiser Permanente and Novant Health and contributes to core research at UCSF, Cincinnati Children’s, and MIT Medical. Ginger.io also recently launched Mood Matters, making the technology directly accessible to people living with depression.”

Robots, Drones and the Uncertain Future of Work

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Key Points:

  • A recent Gartner report identified that 60 percent of CEOs dismiss the idea that automated and smart technologies could displace a huge percentage of jobs in the next 15 years.
  • Unfortunately for today’s average worker, finding or inventing a new job is harder than it once was. When economists look back, they see that it was around 1999 when something changed. Productivity kept going up, but where in the past median household income and employment per capita would have also hitched along, they instead diverged. Median household income is on a steep decline, employment isn’t bouncing back strongly after the Great Recession, and a greater percentage of Americans now identify themselves as “lower class” than at any point in history.
  • A study by two researchers at the Oxford Martin School concludes that within the next 20 years or so, approximately 47 percent of all jobs could be replaced by automation.
  • In addition, decoupling means the upper 1 percent gets a bigger piece of a growing pie, Brynjolfsson said, which also accounts for the shrinking middle class. “A lot of these digital technologies have winner-take-all or winner-take-most economics, where you can get a small group of people producing a better piece of software or insight, and once they’ve digitized that, they can replicate it 10 times or a hundred million times, and dominate the market for that,” he said.
  • What the Industrial Revolution did for muscle power, Brynjolfsson said, the second machine age is doing for brain power, and especially so in government.

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If machines can do something better than people can, it would be senseless to hold back progress for fear of lost jobs. Finding or inventing a new job, however, is harder than it once was.

 

by / March 25, 2014 0

 

At the pinnacle of technological progress, man becomes a god. New machines and software are continually forged in man’s image and taught to do things that once only people could do. A day will come when man’s machines surpass their creators in their capacity to do and to think, and it will be at that technological singularity that the economy will double on a weekly basis and mankind will become peripheral to a new reality and consciousness beyond human comprehension. Conservative estimates place that date at about 100 years from now, but in the meantime, there are smaller fish to fry.

 

The American middle class is shrinking and it’s technology that’s causing it. It’s not all bad. The gains in efficiency begotten by automation have been great for productivity. And productivity means progress. It always has. Since the Industrial Revolution began around 1760, new technologies have been stealing jobs, and since 1760, people have responded by finding or inventing new jobs that contemporary technologies couldn’t do.

 

It’s a good system — in the long term, everyone benefits from technological progress, and while the workers losing their jobs in the interim might feel a bit miffed, people have always found a way to bounce back into an ever-adapting economy. Besides, if machines can do something better than people can, it would be senseless to ignore such utility and hold back progress for fear of a few temporarily lost jobs.

 

Unfortunately for today’s average worker, finding or inventing a new job is harder than it once was. When economists look back, they see that it was around 1999 when something changed. Productivity kept going up, but where in the past median household income and employment per capita would have also hitched along, they instead diverged. Median household income is on a steep decline, employment isn’t bouncing back strongly after the Great Recession, and a greater percentage of Americans now identify themselves as “lower class” than at any point in history.

 

Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, director and professor, respectively, at the MIT Sloan School of Management, named this divergence of productivity and employment “the great decoupling.” Technology is a broad term: It can be equally applied to a stick being used by a chimpanzee to extract insects from the Earth and to a rocket launching a chimpanzee into suborbital flight above the Earth. Today’s technologies are more scalable and complex than the machines people needed to outsmart in the past, which is a big reason for the decoupling.

 

Surveying a county road in 1998 meant that a team of workers needed to get into a pickup truck with a government seal on the side of it, drive, take photos and measurements of the area, return to the office and assess the information that was gathered. Researchers at the Michigan Tech Research Institute found in 2013 that it’s much easier to just send a drone. They also developed software that takes the sensory data gathered by the drone and generates a fully characterized 3-D model. People are still needed in the process to make high-level decisions and babysit the technology when things go wrong, but not as many people are needed. And even fewer will be necessary if the researchers’ concept is honed and commercialized.

 

The trouble is that the guy who once rode along in the pickup truck is now unemployed and he doesn’t know how to design drones or code 3-D modeling software. The average American is looking more and more like that guy. A study by two researchers at the Oxford Martin School concludes that within the next 20 years or so, approximately 47 percent of all jobs could be replaced by automation.

 

“Technology is racing ahead, but our skills, our organizations, our institutions aren’t keeping up,” Brynjolfsson said. “As they adjust, we will see more of the benefit show up in the economics, but right now there are a lot of technologies with more potential than has been fully realized.” This trend is just getting started.

 

A lot of economists, technologists and policymakers agree with McAfee and Brynjolfsson, but some say today’s technologies aren’t special — people will find new jobs just as they always have and no intervention is needed. It’s just the recession, they say. To understand why that’s not the case, people need to look closely at today’s technology, Brynjolfsson said.

 

For example, there are prototypes of autonomous vehicles on the roads. Legislators in Nevada, California, Florida and Michigan have penned laws allowing the vehicles limited public use, and some estimate that almost all vehicular traffic will be autonomous by 2050.

 

In a recent span of two months, Google purchased eight robotics and machine learning companies, not just because the technology will make cars drive themselves, but because smart robots can improve productivity across almost all of the company’s businesses. The problem with this extremely fast progress is that people are relatively slow. Although it won’t happen overnight, today’s 233,000 taxi drivers and 1.7 million truck drivers aren’t ready to become an anachronism.

 

In addition, decoupling means the upper 1 percent gets a bigger piece of a growing pie, Brynjolfsson said, which also accounts for the shrinking middle class. “A lot of these digital technologies have winner-take-all or winner-take-most economics, where you can get a small group of people producing a better piece of software or insight, and once they’ve digitized that, they can replicate it 10 times or a hundred million times, and dominate the market for that,” he said. “You can see it in checkout counter software, you can see it in tax preparation software — there are 17 percent fewer tax preparers than there were a few years ago — you can see it in airline reservations. In more and more categories, software is eating the world.”

 

Software can give legal advice, analyze data and automate data entry, and robots like IBM’s Watson can even diagnose and recommend accurate cancer treatments much better than humans can. One study showed that Watson can diagnose lung cancer accurately 90 percent of the time, compared to a measly 50 percent rate for human doctors. “There’s no economic law that says everyone is going to benefit from technological progress, even if it does make the pie a lot bigger,” Brynjolfsson said. “So both in terms of theory and evidence, I think there’s a potential to be concerned, and I am concerned.”

 

Amazon spent $775 million buying out Kiva Systems in 2012, the maker of a disc-shaped robot used in warehousing. Today Amazon uses the robots to fetch pallets of goods, saving workers the time and energy of running around to find products themselves. The purchase came soon after a report showing that some Amazon warehouse workers were walking 10 to 15 miles per shift. Most workers are probably grateful that their job is now to pack goods and do various administrative tasks rather than play fetch all day, but on the other hand, Amazon doesn’t need as many human employees now. If technology gets automatic and simple enough, it will eventually just be one guy in the Bahamas running the company from his smartphone. That might seem far-fetched, but it was in living memory that the idea of autonomous vehicles and talking robots were science fiction. Now those technologies border on passé.

 

Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory are developing a theoretical model and algorithms that would let robots like the ones used by Amazon communicate more intelligently with one another so they can solve logistical problems on the fly and also communicate with other sensory agents in the environment, human and otherwise. Once robots can talk to each other and solve problems on their own, even fewer people will be needed in those warehouses. When robots like Baxter, a $25,000 production line worker with a calm demeanor, get cheap enough, even sweatshop workers will be out of a job.

 

What the Industrial Revolution did for muscle power, Brynjolfsson said, the second machine age is doing for brain power, and especially so in government. “As you automate and augment a lot of mental tasks, it’s a little less clear whether those technologies will be complements or maybe substitutes for human labor, and that’s one of the things we’re working through now as a society,” Brynjolfsson said. “Government jobs on average tend to include more information processing, and on average the workers in that sector are more educated and doing more knowledge work than in a lot of other parts of the economy. So they, in some ways, are likely to be more affected.”

 

Today’s robots are very poor at doing some things, such as folding laundry (as one YouTube video confirms), and even worse at others, like offering compassion to a young student, or making a sound moral decision as a police officer. Those traditionally human skills are expected to gradually improve in robots, but in the meantime, data analytics and the Internet of Things provide a waypoint for progress. Facilities like the Domain Awareness Center now being constructed in Oakland, Calif., will make monitoring cities for crime and dispatching help a more efficient process. Likewise, predictive crime software is a rising trend in law enforcement in many cities. Making better use of data and distributed sensor networks means that fewer officers will be needed to cover a given geographic area because officers are better informed and more efficient. Even if it’s not the extreme scenario of Robocop taking over for human police officers, technology finds gains in efficiency everywhere and the cost is usually displacing human jobs.

 

Some are optimistic about what all this means for the world, and others less so, but to take either position is to accept that technological progress has a foregone conclusion, Brynjolfsson said, and it doesn’t. “It’s been said that the best idea America ever had was mass public education,” he said. “That helped us make the transition from an agricultural economy to one based on industry and services. It didn’t happen by accident; it happened through public policy. We’re going to have to reinvent what education is and focus more on creativity and interpersonal skills — things that machines are not very good at — and less on having people sit quietly in rows, listen to instructions and carry out those instructions.”

 

Nicco Mele agreed that education and government policy need to be revolutionized and that’s why he teaches future policymakers at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Mele is a consultant to the Fortune 1000 and was named by Esquire as one of America’s “best and brightest.”

 

Modern technology, Mele said, compels us to rethink the assumptions of every discipline. “Look at our health-care policy, look at our retirement policy,” he said. “Those policies are built on this assumption that people have 9-to-5 jobs and stay with one employer their whole lives. That’s profoundly not true for the American workforce and hasn’t been true for well over a decade. A third of American workers are self-employed and another third are contingently employed, which means only about a third of the workforce has a traditional 9-to-5 job. Yet our policymakers and our politicians are building all the policy on the assumption that this is a good way to do it.”

 

American policymakers are on average older and richer, but they also tend to know less about technology, care less about technology and delegate technological responsibilities to others, Mele said, and this is unacceptable in a world where tech influences everything.

 

“Imagine a state legislator saying, ‘I don’t think about money. I don’t worry about money, I don’t worry about the tax rate, I don’t worry about the budget. I just let accountants deal with it.’ We’d kick them out of office, right? That’s not an acceptable answer, and we need that same kind of expectation technologically,” he said.

 

The idea that tech is separate from the rest of the world is rooted in a past era where digital technology was less prevalent. Today, there are remnants everywhere of that old way of thinking that reinforce technological illiteracy in some of government’s most critical positions, Mele said.

 

“One of the things I hate most in the world is the Genius Bar at Apple because it sets up this dichotomy,” he said. “It sets up this world where they’re geniuses and we have to just do what they tell us.”

 

People must demand that their leaders be technologically literate, Mele said, because “it’s profoundly dangerous to have elected officials or policymakers who don’t have any technical literacy to evaluate what’s going on.” A recent Gartner report identified that 60 percent of CEOs dismiss the idea that automated and smart technologies could displace a huge percentage of jobs in the next 15 years.

 

Michael Armstrong, CIO of Corpus Christi, Texas, is not a denier of the second machine age’s power and influence. As a CIO, Armstrong said, the best one can hope for is to influence policymakers.

 

The coming years will bring incredible new changes, he said. Advances in 3-D printing have applications in medicine and other fields that haven’t even been realized yet. Advances in prosthesis are allowing people to live longer, and there are even philosophical questions being opened up about what it means to be human. The Shadow Robot Co., based in London, spent $1 million building the Bionic Man, a robot composed entirely of artificial body parts and internal organs. Life is changing fast for everyone.

 

“I think we’re hitting the knee of the curve and things are getting exponential,” Armstrong said. “Make sure that you understand and your leadership understands what is happening in these areas and what the implications are because that’s going to drive social policy and government policy to a huge degree. A lot of this stuff is happening very quietly.

 

“Government has been shrinking for so long, that’s been an accepted way of doing business. I think this is not going to leave anyone alone. One way or another, it’s going to affect us all,” he said. “In any kind of revolution, we always lose jobs, but there’s always been something to replace all those jobs, and that may not be the case this time.”