Reading Notes - 12.14.16


1. Our Automated Future (New Yorker - Elizabeth Kolbert)

The estimates differ but the consensus is that any job that can be automated will be. This article mentions many examples and mentions the time IBM's Watson won at Jeopardy (video above). A 2013 Oxford study estimates half of all jobs in the US will be automated in the next 10-20 years. Great. The next decade or two will bring a lot of painful change and will likely suck. Machines also don't process or organize information like humans do. If you don't understand their logic, then it's going to suck more for you. 

The jobs of the future can be divided into 4 groups:

• Manual - Routine: assembly line jobs - machines will take those. 

• Manual - Non-Routine: emptying bedpans, folding towels - machines can't do these but they won't pay well. 

• Cognitive - Routine: accounting type jobs - processing payroll etc - machines will take these too. These are largely middle class jobs today. 

• Cognitive - Non-Routine: jobs requiring creativity and imagination - designing ad campaigns, writing tv shows, managing hedge funds - these jobs will pay the most. 

The fear is that human society will be divided into two - the ultra rich and the poor. Perhaps fragmentation, niche, deep or local markets will provide opportunity for the enterprising amongst us. 

So what to do? Learn to code, throw our the rule books and learn to create. 


2. Does your journey to work break the limits of commuting? (BBC)

The average commute (one-way) is 30 mins and that's what most humans will put up with. Average commutes in London, NY and Paris clock in higher. In the past 30 years, US commute times haven't changed much at all. Distances may be changing but commute times are pretty much the same. This means that early humans traveling on foot had a travel radius of 2.5km. Today, using public transportation it's 10km. This could impact the structure and success of megacities and home construction (see next link). 


3.  The home office is dying. (Bloomberg)

Old school telecommuting required a desk at home, phone/fax line, filing cabinets. With wi-fi, no one needs or wants to be chained to a desk. The sofa or pool are better environments to work from. Home offices aren't as much as a selling point in residential real estate (but what about the tax code and write off?) and home builders are now favoring more open floor plans.