#184 Automation and AI  FWD to a friend. 
Exponential View

Azeem Azhar's Wondermissive: Future, Tech & Society
  This issue has been supported by Kindred Capital
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The podcast
🎧 The Exponential View podcast is back! Visit the new season teaser on iTunes or here, if you aren't on iOS. 

Dept of the near future

🔮 A substantial international, cross-industry study by Saadia Zahidi of the World Economic Forum suggests that automation could be a substantial net jobs creator, with the big if, employees can be reskilled for new jobs at the emerging ‘human-machine’ frontier. Full report. (See Dept of automation below.)

🤹 On reskilling, a crunchy analysis from Accenture finds that over the next ten years work would be augmented by technology rather than automated away to a jobless future. But this shift will require a new blend of skills: “Creativity, socio-emotional intelligence and complex reasoning are the skills that are rising in importance across every work role.” Summary here.

💨 Michael Liebreich: The coming electrification of planes, trains, ships and trucks gives us “the right to remain hopeful about our chances of limiting the impact of climate change.” As “a huge market opportunity... could we be about to see the start of a new stage of development in our physical geography: one deeply centered on low-carbon, mass-accessible transportation and logistics?” (See also, extreme weather, whose incidence has worsened due to climate change, has reversed the centuries long-trend of reducing malnutrition globally.)  

📜 The regulators really are coming. The UK government moots new regulatory powers that cover Internet platforms. And the EU takes pre-emptive action to explore whether Amazon is abusing its dual roles as a retailer and a platform for other merchants. (Amazon is also on track to become the #3 advertising business in the US.)

🕯️ Leave no dark corner. A stunning photo-essay on China’s “digital dictatorship"... For some, “social credit” will bring privileges — for others, punishment. (See also, as I’ve argued previously in EV, Apple’s best product is now user privacy because its “business model doesn’t rely on monetizing such information.” And also this, significant step by US insurer, John Hancock, which will only provide life insurance to those who track their health and fitness data.)

Dept of automation and AI

The narrative around automation has shifted. Far from predicting a job apocalypse, more and more recent forecasts suggest net job creation as a result of the gains unleashed by automation. What seems to be the case is that firms who invest in automation and AI technologies do actually free up their staff for better more human activities. The World Economic Forum report  to which I refer above reckons that machines "share of task hours" will rise from 29% to 42% in the next four years. 

However, what is much less clear is whether firms (and society) know how to handle the substantial displacement that will emerge. The WEFs own forecasts suggests 75m people will lose their jobs over the next few years. While 113m jobs will be created, it's important not to lose sight of the 75m, many of whom will move to new roles.

This will also create enormous demand for retraining. These tens of millions will need an average 101 days of retraining by 2022. It's doubtful whether firms, governments or society is well-prepared for this. It does open a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs with scalable approaches to cracking this problem. 

But retrain them in what? Not coding, that's for sure. Data science perhaps. But Accenture's research on this topic identifies that worker time spent in empathy & support and in management & leadership will increase most significantly over the next decade. Those are areas that will need significant on-the-job education.

For another take on this issue, Per Bylund, writing in the libertarian-leaning Mises Institute argues  "the economy, including its physical production, is directed toward the satisfaction of human wants – realized by people acting as consumers.... If robots save us from the toil and trouble of working, that’s one thing. It means replacing leisure for labor, which cannot be a bad thing. But robots cannot replace us as valuers and consumers."


Short morsels to appear smart at dinner parties

Tech’s equity gap. Women make up 35% of equity holders but hold 20% of equity value in this survey of 6,000 firms with $45bn of equity value.

🎥 An acclaimed director shoots a short film entirely in iPhone XS Max native camera app. No filters, no edits to the quality. Lance Ulanoff goes much deeper into the XS's technology.

🎙️At $7.3bn annually, the Chinese podcast industry is 20 times larger than that of the US. Why? Paid-for podcasts focusing with an emphasis on didacticism.

Cryptography expert, Bruce Schneier, on quantum cryptography.

Fortnite may have been partly responsible for 5% of UK divorces this year.

🤑 How much do venture capitalists make

Apple's new watch is an ECG. They will sell so many that we'll have to deal with lots of false positives

Uber in talks to acquire one of Europe's largest startups, Deliveroo.

Profile of Nikolay Storonsky of the challenger bank, Revolut. 

A 558-million-year-old fossil confirmed to be the oldest animal ever discovered.

🐙🎉 An octopus on ecstasy

Interactive exploration of how to build journalism of resilience

End note

I am excited about getting the podcast series running again. The focus of the season will be the political economy of the technology-driven shift we are witnessing today.

I'm humbled by the incredible thinkers who have given up their time to chat with me and explore these ideas. The sound quality is occasionally dodgy: we're working on improving that. But the conversations are fantastic.

So do make sure you've subscribed and have listened to the previous season

There are a few more interesting things happening to Exponential View in the coming months. I am on the look out for a part-time analyst/writer/researcher/editor to help with a few things. The best background would be a super-solid background in business journalism or equity analysis or academic research, as sharp with analysis as you are with the pen. Fire Marija an email, we'd love to hear from you

Thanks for reading,

P.S. If this issue of Exponential View got you thinking, share it with your colleagues: via email, Twitter or LinkedIn

This week's issue of Exponential View has been supported by our partner, Kindred Capital:
Backing founders with spirit.
Read why founders shouldn’t talk to us.

What you are up to

Thanks for sending us your updates—Exponential View readers truly are an amazing bunch! 

  • Reader Paul Millerd speaks with about the concept of 'total work' with Andrew Taggart in his latest podcast episode
  • Several readers are building the decentralised AI network, SingularityNET. They have created a recruitment video, and asked their community to make it better in return for tokens. This was the result. 
  • Chris Wigley is organizing an event on October 10th at 6pm at the Royal Institution exploring how the diversity of mindset, team, data sets and models leads to improved performance. RSVP via email to
  • If you happen to be in Bristol on Oct 4th, check out Richard Norton's event I'll Be Back South West Go 2, which looks into how Creative AI is enhancing creativity and transforming advertising. 
  • That brings us to the end of the second trial of "reader updates". Send more suggestions by email to Marija Gavrilov.
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