The greatest anxiety troubling workers today is embodied in a simple question: How will we humans add value? Popular culture is obsessed by it. Humans, a new series on the AMC network, spins a story from the promise and perils of eerily humanoid robots called synths. That seems to be Hollywood’s 2015 theme of the year. Think of Ex Machina (humanoid robot outsmarts people, kills a man, enters society as a person) or Terminator Genisys (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s humanoid robot must again save the world) or Avengers: Age of Ultron (humanoid robot tries to eradicate humanity) or Chappie (bad guys try to destroy humanoid robot police officer who is reprogrammed to think and feel). The big idea is always the same: For good or ill, machines become just like people—only better. ... Fear of technological unemployment is as old as technology, and it has always been unfounded. Over time and across economies, technology has multiplied jobs and raised living standards more spectacularly than any other force in history, by far. But now growing numbers of economists and technologists wonder if just maybe that trend has run its course. ... How will we humans add value? There is an answer, but so far we’ve mostly been looking for it in the wrong way. The conventional approach has been to ask what kind of work a computer will never be able to do. ... A better strategy is to ask, What are the activities that we humans, driven by our deepest nature or by the realities of daily life, will simply insist be performed by other humans, even if computers could do them?
- Also: Bloomberg - A World Where Man Beats Machine < 5min
- Also: Financial Times - The economic myth of robotics and the robot job-ocalypse < 5min
- Also: Wall Street Journal - We’re Fighting Killer Robots the Wrong Way < 5min
- Also: MIT Technology Review - Rethinking the Manufacturing Robot
- Also: Quartz - Override: A story about the future of work 5-15min
The 3G management model that Buffett so admires is worth a close look because it’s on track to eat the food industry. At its heart is meritocracy, broadly defined. Every employee must justify his existence every day. That’s great news for the very best performers; they are promoted with speed that’s unheard-of in lumbering old food companies. ... Underperformers get fired with the same alacrity. Budgeted costs also are evaluated unsparingly every year, or more often, and are eliminated if they’re no longer judged worth incurring. ... More important than the actual savings is the message. “We think and act like owners of our business, treating every dollar as if it were our own,” the company tells prospective employees. ... A central feature of this model is that it can’t work forever. It builds value only by buying more companies. ... So what’s next? Anyone who might know is not saying. Speculation in the industry is that since AB InBev can expand only outside its industry ... Another, larger factor could frustrate Kraft Heinz’s search for a much-needed takeover target: The entire food industry is “3G-ing” itself before Kraft Heinz can do it to the companies. Ever since 3G bought Heinz, every major U.S. foodmaker has announced an initiative to reduce its overhead significantly. 3G embraces a demanding discipline called zero-based budgeting, in which every unit’s budget is assumed to be zero at the beginning of each year, and every proposed expense must be justified anew.
Why should we care about a Chinese chemical company buying a Swiss agricultural business, however mammoth the deal might be? For starters, it’s part of a wave of global consolidation in agriculture that will put an increasingly large portion of the world’s commercial seed market—roughly 50%—under the control of a few giant multinationals. In addition to the ChemChina/Syngenta union, Dow Chemical is buying DuPont, and Germany’s Bayer is in the process of swallowing up Monsanto, perhaps the most controversial producer of genetically modified seed species. This combined $170 billion deal binge promises to have a profound impact on the future of global agriculture. ... Beyond that, ChemChina’s purchase of Syngenta provides valuable insight about China’s broader view of its future. The deal signals important trends in the country’s policy on innovation, biotechnology, intellectual property, and globalization.