Future of work

Should economists be more concerned about artificial intelligence?

There is both growing concern among economists about the potential speed and extent of the disruption caused by automation and also a temptation to draw conclusions from previous industrial revolutions, when apparently similar concerns about apparently similar risks proved unfounded. The not very illuminating conclusion is that it would be a mistake to dismiss the risks too lightly.

Mauricio Armellini and Tim Pike – Bank of England

Data and AI

Weapons of Math Destruction

A polemic against the misuse of big data models by a reformed hedge fund quant – the book’s subtitle, ‘how big data increases inequality and threatens democracy’, is a pretty good indicator of what is to come. Using examples from policing to insurance and teacher evaluation, she shows that the underlying models often encode and reinforce prejudices, rather than being the embodiment of objectivity often claimed for them. It’s very US focused, both in its examples and in its style (a half way decent copy editor could easily make it a third shorter), but it’s a good, simple and readable introduction to some important issues.

Cathy O’Neil – Weapons of Math Destruction

Service design

A view from the other side: perspectives on an emergent design culture in Whitehall

An academic case study of the first year of the Cabinet Office Policy Lab, reflecting on how civil servants see design thinking and the emergence of a design culture for policy. That leads to some interesting reflections on the traditonal model (and culture) of policy making, the power of words (particularly when elegantly assembled), and the difficulty of introducing what may appear to be frivolity to the policy making process.

Jocelyn Bailey and Peter Lloyd – Uscreates/University of Brighton

Future of work Organisational change

Work in progress: Towards a leaner, smarter public-sector workforce

Public services should be designed around the needs of users and to make best use of technology. The result will be improved productivity, the opportunity to break away from traditonal mindsets – and a quarter of a million fewer administrative jobs.

Kate Laycock, Emilie Sundorph and Alexander Hitchcock – Reform

Future of work

Beyond Automation

Or, what should you do to remain gainfully employed? A question answered in ways optimised for slightly anxious readers of the Harvard Business Review, which essentially comes down to collaboration between machines and knowledge workers.

Thomas Davenport and Julia Kirby – Harvard Business Review

Future of work

Harnessing automation for a future that works

Automation will lead to mass redeployment, not mass unemployment. A large proportion of tasks are susceptible to automation, but a much smaller proportion of jobs. And the changes will play out over decades, not years.

James Manyika, Michael Chui, Mehdi Miremadi, Jacques Bughin, Katy George, Paul Willmott, and Martin Dewhurst – McKinsey


Future of work Universal basic income

The Automation Argument for a basic income. Does it add up?

A dissection of the ‘automation argument’ for a basic income – interesting not so much for arguing that automation won’t lead to a life of well-rewarded idleness as for suggesting that a basic income is an inadequate, and ultimately very conservative, approach to the problems automation might bring. Also notable for including a reference to the shoe event horizon.

Katharina Nieswandt – World Economic Forum

Presentation and communication

Doing Presentations

A new compendium of clear and simple guidance on doing presentations well. Very much within the GDS philosophy of a small number of big words, where slides and presenter are interdependent – not suprisingly since the people behind the site helped form that philosophy.

Doing Presentations

Universal basic income

The future of not working

Universal basic income – examined not in Scandinavia but in rural Kenya. This is either Silicon Valley on a very long distance guilt trip or a radical approach to extreme poverty. Are there implications for rich countries?

And despite the title, this isn’t really about not working at all – all the stories are about people being liberated to work smarter once given the margin which allows them to make the change.

Annie Lowrey – New York Times

Behavioural science Service design

The new science of designing for humans

Behavioural science meets service design meets engineering. Some interesting ideas (though the experimental guinea pigs are, as so often, students – that might, or might not, tell us much about the wider population.

Piyush Tantia – Stanford Social Innovation Review