#96 Robots Are Not Coming For Your Job, Part 2: Peter Cappelli

How can we save good jobs?

In part one (episode #95), we spoke with Peter Cappelli of the Wharton School, about the impact of robots and automation on our workforce.  Here in part 2 Peter talks solutions and explains why some of the alarm over the impact on employment is out-of-touch with reality.

Technology is changing how we work, and too many companies are investing much more on technology than in people. Peter says that retraining employees is one solution. 

AT&T agrees. For many years the company has been a major player in new technology,  but as automation changed its workplace many AT&T employees no longer had the skills to run the company’s infrastructure. The solution? Complain about the skills gap?  No. AT&T decided to retrain its 100,000 employees. For the first time AT&T made Fortune’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Peter says a good job is really more about “how people are managed, whether you give them control over what they're doing and whether you take care of them."

Credit: Typorama

Credit: Typorama

Some of the most important factors driving productivity are better management. In the 1980's General Motors, invested 7.7 billion dollars  to automate their production system. But the strategy proved to be a costly failure. Toyota, which used a lean management system, was far more successful, proving that sometimes the best investment is in training people.

Government can also help.  The current tax code and accounting principles stack the deck against investments in human capital. Retraining employees counts as a liability on a corporate balance sheet, while investing in equipment counts as an asset. The Federal Government has also spent billions of dollars to develop robots, and technology, that displace workers.

In a recent Washington Post article, Peter wrote: “Changing the tax code and accounting principles to un-stack the deck against investments in employees is far easier and more likely to succeed than any of the other policies under debate.”

#95 Robots Are Not Coming For Your Job, Part 1: Peter Cappelli

Here's one less thing to worry about: robots are not going to take your job.

Despite the dire predictions of analysts, workplace experts and the government, the impact of robotics and automation on employment may be hugely overstated.

Professor Peter Cappelli, the Director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School is our guest. He has written for The Atlantic, The New Yorker Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes Magazine. Peter was recently named one of the “Most Influential Thinkers of the Decade,” by HR Magazine. In this episode Peter explains why we should challenge conventional wisdom about the impact of automation. 

"The biggest change in technology has not been automation but the ability to do work at a distance via the Internet," Peter tells us. Even in manufacturing, "there has been just about the same productivity improvement as in the rest of the economy."

 

From driverless trucks to pilotless planes, "there are some things that are technologically possible that we just don't want to happen."

 

While disruptive, many innovations eventually lead to a larger demand for workers. One example: there are more bank tellers today than there were before ATMs were invented.

#91 Geoffrey Colon: Pay-to-Play: A Menace to Society?

Do you know where your information is coming from? Shadowy forces are at work to influence what we think, how we behave, and where we spend our money.

They're part of the explosion in pay-to-play. From bots and branded content to political-influence peddlers’, advertisers and even sports programs in public schools, pay-to-play is a growing influence in our lives.  

Critics of pay-to-play say that instead of "We the people,” the online world is controlled by "We the wealthiest people.” 


Geoffrey Colon, an expert on marketing, tech and how to get people's attention, is our guest. A communications designer at Microsoft, Geoffrey is the author of "Disruptive Marketing - What Growth Hackers, Data Punks and Other Hybrid Thinkers Can Teach Us About Navigating the New Normal." He's the co-host with Cheryl Metzger of the popular podcast, "Disruptive FM." We learn more about the threat from fake news and hate sites alt-right bots to our democracy. Geoffrey guides through some of the recent dizzying changes in the online landscape.

Solutions:

  • Education is first. Improvements to the school curriculum are urgently needed. They should fully take into account dramatic online changes. A recent Stanford University study found that most American students couldn’t tell the difference between carefully sourced news and flat-out lies. The authors described the results as "dismaying" and a "threat to democracy."
  • Tech companies should give non-profits the ability to use their platform free of cost; in fact, Google already does this. Google gives non-profits AdWords for free or through a Google “Ad Grant.”
  • A new look at public service announcements - PSA's. Until the 1980's and Reagan-era broadcasters were required to run PSAs in exchange for using the airwaves, which are a public resource. Policy makers and major information providers should consider a new system for the 21st century.
  • A code of conduct by major online information platforms, this would distinguish between advertising, opinion and news.