Mon, 10 April 2017
Monique Herena is the Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at BNY Mellon. As Senior Executive Vice President, Herena oversees BNY Mellon’s Human Resources and Marketing and Corporate Affairs departments. In her role as Chief Human Resources Officer, she is responsible for all human resources strategies, policies and practices.
BNY Mellon, founded in 1784 by Alexander Hamilton, has 52,000 employees across 35 countries and 6 continents. They have two main businesses, investment management and investment services. The make-up of the company is diverse - 46% of the US workforce is women and 30% representing ethnically and racially diverse people.
BNY believes that putting people first is critical to every aspect of their mission. It is how people experience the company – through their talent. They invest in people, believing in the power of development- “People can always be better in the next moment than what they are right now.”
They have put together a report, appropriately entitled, People Report, which is told through the voices of the associates and their experiences in a digital only experience. In this, one is allowed insight into what it is like to be an employee at BNY.
Four pillars that are the framework of the company include Lead, Innovate, Impact, Collaborate and Inspire.
Lead includes the desire to be more mobile and be where clients are – making wealth management applications more mobile, socially connect with other people, an emerging leader program – BK University – all which drive the business.
Innovate looks at the workspace becoming even more efficient and includes everything from robotics, to better accuracy, reducing risk and cost savings.
Collaboration is important to BNY. Company-wide leaders look at different ways there are to help each other to work virtually, different digital centers, have chat bot technology and so on, encouraging collaboration across all kinds of ‘borders’.
Inspiring people to be their best includes many facets such as VetNet that supports veterans returning to the workplace. This has doubled the number of veterans at BNY. They are also placing an emphasis on gender equality and are working to achieve this across the industry.
The employee experience is a two-way street. A performance review should not be just the manager’s feedback but how the employee participating in available resources. The employee needs to take a joint ownership in the process. Those that contribute the most are the most successful.
There is a ‘push versus pull’ strategy. The push says – “I’m here, what are you giving me next?” The pull strategy includes creating your brand, working hard which in turn, leads people to notice the person.
Herena’s advice to organizations who want to know what to do to start putting their people first, check out BNY Mellon’s People Report and also, from a leadership point of view – the earlier in your career that you learn to ‘make it not about you - and get other focused’ the more successful you will be in that career
What You Will Learn In This Episode:
Mon, 3 April 2017
This week’s conversation is all about the gig economy. Listen in to find out how big the gig economy actually is, what the skills gap is and how we can fix it and how individuals and organizations can adapt to a rapidly growing gig economy.
This week's Future of Work podcast features a conversation with Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research. Steve has extensive consulting, marketing and general management experience with both large and small companies. He has served as vice president of Corporate Marketing for Macromedia, vice president and general manager of Asia Pacific for Lotus Development Corporation and vice president of marketing for Isys Corporation. Steve's current research and consulting is focused on the future of work, the rise of the independent workforce and the impact of Big Data on small businesses.
The gig/freelance/independent worker economy has two levels; those who have this as their full-time employment and those who use it as a way to supplement their income. There are various estimations of the number of people who are gig workers in the U.S.
Some research shows a low number of independent workers – less than a million people to a high number - 75 million people. The 75 million includes people that have taken surveys online and received payment for it or play a game and get paid for it. So, it is critical to define work when discussing the number of freelance workers.
Emergent Research estimates there are 18 million full-time gig workers and another 22 million Americans who are part-time. Here, full-time is defined as working 15 hours or more per week and it is the primary source of income.
Though the percentages of workers vary, there are three things we can take away:
One trend in the economy is the shift in workers’ perceptions of job security. In 2011, 27% of people believed that independent work was more secure than traditional work. The same question in 2016, found that 47% of workers believe that independent work was more secure.
King’s advice for companies when considering the independent worker is to get a grasp on the number of independent workers they have working in their organization. Often in large organizations, they find that 20 -25 % of full-time employees are freelancing and 8% – 10% of part-time employees are independent.
King also says organizations should work to understand where freelancers are playing an important role in their organization. Often they are found in IT or marketing. Then it is important to understand the role they play, how to attract the right talent and then how to train them.
His advice for individuals thinking about the role of freelancing in their own careers? It is important to be prepared. Success in gig work comes from preparation and choice. People who fail in gig work are those who are not prepared. If you are interested in starting with a gig job go with part time and keep your day job.
Things you will learn in this episode:
Mon, 27 March 2017
This week join me as I talk with Sylvia Metayer, the CEO of Worldwide Services at Sodexo, about the report that Sodexo recently conducted to find the top trends shaping the global workforce.
Sodexo is the 19th largest employer in the world. They currently employ almost 500,000 people, delivering ‘quality of life services’ to 40,000 client sites in eighty countries. These sites include hospitals, schools and a variety of places where people work. The services they provide range from cafeteria, maintenance, cleaning and everything that touches the employees.
Sylvia Metayer manages one-third of the employees at Sodexo, for corporate clients. She sees her role as CEO as one in which she serves her team and her clients to focus on ensuring a better day, believing that when people have an improved quality of life, they perform better at work.
Sodexo recently released a report on trends that are shaping the workplace in 2017. To gather the data they pulled approximately 150 experts from a variety of sources to come up with these ten trends. Metayer said she was initially surprised to find that even though the data looked at global trends they found that the issues were the same, regardless of region.
In the study there were 10 global trends that Sodexo found to be shaping the workplace. The 10 trends are the agile organization, the rise of cross-workplaces, employees without borders, the new Gen of Robotics, intergenerational learning, personal branding goes to work, redefining workplace experience, the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, unlocking the potential of millennial talent and Wellness 3.0.
One of the major trends Metayer is looking at is the role of robotics and automation and how it impacts the work itself. While it is prevalent in some fields – such as automotive manufacturing, it still is often thought of as both scary and interesting. She sees its use expanding beyond manufacturing. For example, there is a need to inspect the roofs of buildings, but this is often a dangerous job. Rather than send up a person to complete this hazardous task, send a drone.
One interesting type of automation that Sodexo is utilizing is an automatic till or cash register. They are testing a new generation that will not only automatically produce a total to be paid but also include the nutritional data for a meal and perhaps even link it to data in the workplace gym. This provides additional benefits to the employee/consumer, integrating their experience into more of a journey than just an end result of a financial bill.
The employee/consumer journey is also tied to the concept found in one of the trends in the report – Wellness 3.0. This considers the shift of organizations from their belief that they must ‘take care of the employees’ to one in which companies are looking to empower workers to take control of their own life and wellness. This is with the focus that an organization’s most important capital is their ‘human capital’. Therefore, if people are healthy they will be more productive, and ultimately, a better performing organization.
Today, two things are forcing companies to be agile. All companies, regardless of size, are in a global world. This is driving the level of complexity to new heights. With that in mind, the old hierarchy is not working. Sodexo believes in the importance of being agile and has undergone reorganization in the last eighteen months. This has included disempowering the top levels of the company to push the emphasis to employees and clients. It is often difficult because it is a matter of going from a hierarchy to a lateral format but this is important to be able to work across ecosystems.
What you will learn in this episode:
Mon, 20 March 2017
Ep 127: Behind the Scenes of Talent Acquisition: What Employees Need to Know and What Organizations Need to Do
Today’s guest is Sjoerd Gehring, the Global VP of Talent Acquisition at Johnson & Johnson. We are going behind the scenes of talent acquisition to explain what it is, how it works and why one size never fits one in this area.
Sjoerd Gehring, was born in the Netherlands and attended universities in Europe. He was with Accenture for almost ten years. The last two years he has been with Johnson and Johnson as Global VP of Talent Acquisition.
When asked for an overview of Talent Acquisition (TA), Gehring indicated that it was a matter of matching talent with opportunity on a massive scale. Specifically, talent needs must be defined and then an understanding is developed regarding the opportunities that are available within the organization.
In the past, HR would look to fill open positions. Now, TA is more strategic and proactive. In fact, last year Johnson and Johnson TA filled 25,000 positions. The need to be strategic at that level is massive.
The proactive strategy includes looking both internally and externally for candidates. When looking within, it provides opportunities for TA to communicate openly about possible career paths in the organization. This type of recruitment process requires transparent communication about available positions within the company.
This is something that is done proactively at Johnson and Johnson – they move people around within the organization. Here, the TA ‘owns’ the entire hiring process. This has process has four distinct steps or ‘buckets’.
1. Strategic conversations with hiring managers.
2. Candidate outreach - daily connecting with potential candidates
3. Selection assessment - assess the ‘slate’ of candidates in a respectful and fair way to lead to making the right talent decisions.
4. Compensation and benefits negations.
When asked about whether candidates should negotiate salary Gehring responded that there were two schools of thought. The first is to be open in the beginning about aspirations. Both candidate and organization need to be within the same range of each other. If not, time will be wasted for both parties. However, salary should not be first thing out of one’s mouth; usually this is at the end of the first conversation.
The second is to look at the total compensation package, rather than just looking at salary and bonus. Consider health care, leave, on-site child care, etc.
When asked if he has any tips for what candidates can do to prepare for an interview, Gehring said to be prepared. Look at the organization’s career website, research the culture. Also, consider bringing a portfolio. Even those that are not designers could potentially utilize this tool to help showcase previous work.
When asked if he has any tips for organizations to find the best employees, Gehring said to focus on the job descriptions. They are often very dry and actually disconnected from the reality of the position. Look at things like the wording and potential gender bias. This can lead to better candidates.
Also, look at selection assessment approach. The number of interviews can be overwhelming. Research has shown that after 4 or 5 interviews there is not much new learned. Additionally, ensure that all interviewers are trained in effective techniques.
What does Gehring see as the future of TA? The emphasis will be on a candidate perspective – more consumerism and transparency. This will be driven by data and personalized recruiting. He expects to take massive leaps forward in this area in the next few years.
From an organizational perspective recruiting will become even more strategic to business leaders. They need to be more agile with better abilities to anticipate the ebb and flow of businesses.
What you will learn in this episode:
Sun, 12 March 2017
This week’s podcast features two guests, both from Acadian Asset Management, Churchill Franklin and John Chisholm. Join us as we discuss what Cognitive Diversity is, why it is important, why companies find it challenging to implement and where the future of finance is going.
Churchill Franklin is the CEO of Acadian Asset Management and John Chisholm is the Chief Investment Officer at Acadian. Acadian is an institutional asset manager, managing roughly 75 billion for investors. They invest in equities all around the world, both in the US and developed markets, as well as emerging markets. Acadian follows a very quantitative approach towards investments. They build models that help predict returns and invest in those securities in which are believed will likely generate the best returns, to build the best portfolios. The culture is one of listening – to both clients and colleagues in trying to be proactive in responding to the market place.
Acadian employs 320 people with a main office in Boston and additional sites in London, Sydney, Singapore and Tokyo. Found are investment, marketing and operation professionals. They come from a variety of backgrounds such as finance, science and math and often there is a benefit to have traditional investment backgrounds - but not always necessary.
Both Churchill and John come from diverse backgrounds. John went to MIT and started in aerospace engineering. After going back to business school, he joined up with Churchill to launch Acadian in the mid 80’s and runs the investment side of the firm. Churchill leads the culture and leadership. He started with a degree in American literature from Middlebury College, was a commercial banker for a while, became a treasurer in a company and then moved to start Acadian.
Churchill and John are examples of implementing Cognitive Diversity. They deeply believe that the more perspectives around the table the better for their business and ultimately for their clients. The diversity is demonstrated by having a variety of backgrounds, personalities and individual perspectives that bring various points of view to discussions.
Research has shown that having groups with diverse thinking styles will generally perform better than having a homogenous group. This is true for mixed gender groups as well – research has shown they perform better, as well. With a more diverse group, discussions can test a variety of theories with other points of view.
These different perspectives bring different ways of problem solving – there may be those that use intuition, some may test out ideas, others may use some type of rigorous, theoretical frameworks to find a solution. Each of these can contribute the thought diversity that is needed to find the best answer to a problem.
Acadian uses a variety of methods to find those employees that are a best fit for their firm. Depending upon the role they are seeking to fill, they may probe a candidate’s thinking processes with questions such as…how much water would it take to fill up an office? The answer is not the critical aspect here; rather it is the thought process that the interviewee took to get there.
The different thought processes might include the fairly common way to go about it – the logical chain of answers. It might also include where one starts at a high level and breaks the problem into pieces or an experimental approach. Each of these may be a valid response and depending on the position being filled may work.
Cognitive Diversity is often a challenge to achieve. It is ‘easier’ to hire people that think alike, laugh at the same jokes and so on. One way to avoid this is to ensure that you have interview teams made up of diverse thinkers. This will help to avoid getting pigeon-holed into a particular style.
When asked how the world of finance has changed in the last decade, Churchill and John noted the huge growth in the availability of data as well as the tools that allow the data to be understood. This has led to a critical demand in the use of a quantitative approach. There is a wide range of interesting and perhaps, unusual types of data available. For instance, the use of satellite data is relatively new. This may include looking at the directions or activity of shipping containers in a particular region. It may also include the brightness of lighting in certain areas. This can assist in forecasting.
One future trend in the finance world is understanding how the role of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing can be profitable. These ‘socially conscious’ investments previously needed to have reduced return expectations on investments but it seems that Europe and Australia are ahead on this aspect and there will be more to come on this subject.
What you will learn in this episode:
Mon, 6 March 2017
David Green joined IBM about a year ago to help IBM customers grow their people analytics and technology. He has been involved with HR since the late 90’s and also writes and speaks about data driven HR.
Historically, HR decisions used ‘gut and intuition’ to drive decisions. Now the use of data in the form of people analytics is providing value, allowing better decisions to be made.
One example is a large, global company that was looking at building in China. However, the head of the analytics looked at the data and discovered that it was not an ideal place to locate the company. It was found that the talent in the region was very ‘thin’. The completion for this work group was high in the area, creating additional shortages. This would have made it difficult to not only hire the initially needed workers but then it would have also limited their planned expansion. This company did not open there - saving money and other possible difficulties.
Though there are examples such as this, there remain three areas of skepticism currently seen in the use of people analytics within the business community. The first is whether the business can adequately analyze the data. Secondly, they are often concerned about the cost of its use. Can they afford to invest in it? Finally, does the HR staff need to be ‘experts’ in data?
Green’s response to those areas of concern focus on the idea that people analytics is a long-term investment. It is not something that can be rolled out over night. His suggestion is to start small. If an organization has a hypothesis of what might be valuable information to gather – start there. Don’t waste time and money on predicting for something that is not a problem for the organization, so give it some thought before you make time and money investments.
Three steps for a healthy start:
People analytics can often uncover counter intuitive issues. For example, it was commonly believed that graduates with high GPAs from Ivy League universities would be the most productive employees. However, Google’s use of analytics found – for them- that a higher GPA was not a good predictor of the best workers.
The caveat here though is that though this may be true for Google, it may not be true for other organizations. It is once again that ‘one size does not fit all’ and each organization must discover what works for them. One suggestion is to start with a small sampling – see if that works. Then validate the insight and work from there.
People analytics do have a subjective component to them. Insights can be skewed based on people’s interpretations or perceptions. This requires that the data is entered is accurately and there are checks and balances. Since this data is about people, it must be augmented with both judgment and transparency.
Transparency is a critical feature of people analytics – both legally and morally. Without it, people will revolt and the data will not provide the insights the company is looking for with its use. Nor will it be good for performance, retention or overall trust within the organization. If employee trust drives the implementation, then positive results will occur. This might include giving people the option to opt out of the program. Or it may include giving employees the data that is revealed. Microsoft has done this with positive results.
Advice for organizations looking at getting into people analytics includes:
Things you will learn in this episode:
Mon, 27 February 2017
Enrico Moretti is a professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. His research covers the fields of labor economics and urban economics. Professor Moretti’s book, “The New Geography of Jobs”, was awarded the William Bowen Prize for the most important contribution toward understanding public policy and the labor market.
His research has been covered by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Atlantic, Businessweek, The Economist, The New Republic, CNN, PBS and NPR. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and the son.
When considering the overall ‘health’ of the US economy, Professor Moretti believes that it is generally good. Compared to the time period of the great recession, job creation has picked up. Additionally, within the last six months, wages have picked up. When asked about how to assess the ‘health’ of the economy, he suggests that rather than look at day-to-day changes, such as the media, focus on the yearly changes. That gives a more realistic perspective.
Overall, American’s with a high school diploma have found their wages reduced by 20% and are less well off than the previous generation. On the other hand, those with associate’s college degrees or above– are doing better each passing year. This includes their standard of living, not only salaries but future outlook, their overall assets, and even their marital stability. This has created significant differences in earnings between those with more education and those with less. In fact, 30 years ago, it was less than a 40% spread; now it’s more than double – at 80%.
For the past 30 years the US has been losing 350,000 blue collar positions in manufacturing per year. A change that is not just a US phenomenon, but is also found in other advanced countries – such as Japan and Germany. This has been predominantly based on increased automation in factories
Automation – robots, artificial intelligence – has had a profound effect on jobs. The new technology and automation have changed the face of jobs in manufacturing plants. Fewer people are required and instead of blue collar workers, they are highly skilled engineers. This change has lead to an increased need for higher skilled workers.
When asked about the US cities that have undergone the most amount of change in the past 30 years, Moretti cited three that have had positive transformations: Austin, Texas, Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina and Seattle, Washington. Each of these has become an area of global innovation, has an availability of an excellent work force and also provides high wages.
In contrast, those he sees struggling are found in the ‘rust-belt’. For example, Detroit and Flint, Michigan as well as Rochester, New York, which have lost population due to a reduction in the need for traditional manufacturing jobs and therefore, lower wages and innovation.
Specifically, Moretti has found that the US can be divided into ‘three Americas’.
1. American Brain Hubs – strong workers with more than 40% of the population which holds a college degree. These include cities such as Boston, New York City and San Francisco. These cities are productive, innovative and provide higher salaries.
2. Former Manufacturing – struggling, shrunk in size, lost in terms of aggregate population.
3. Neither Brain Hub nor Former Manufacturing – maintaining current productivity and fairly stable population
What you will learn in this episode:
Mon, 20 February 2017
Michael Dawisha has been the CIO in the division of Residential and Hospitality Services of Michigan State University for over eight years. He has previously been the CIO of a large medical non-profit organization.
As the global trend toward travel and distant communication continues, businesses are finding themselves competing with a greater number of potential employers. Talented employees are pursued and leadership is forced to make decisions that will effect if these employees stick around.
With a global trend toward technology, how does a large non-profit organization like a university keep their employees while a world of options and bigger offers await? What works and what needs to change to keep up with the new age work force?
Michael Dawisha notes the observable change from recruits being hired in with the expectation of being around for a full career. He wants the most talented employees on his team and he now has to consider the quality of life in his region compared to the world for the 1000 full time employees and up to 7000 part time employees that are a part of his division. Because Michigan State is a University, their focus is on education not profit. This forces talent retention tactics to go beyond the standard pay raise. Dawisha talks about treating people like gold. Instead of viewing management from top to bottom, you build an organization by keeping the employees happy. While Dawisha says this technique has been working well now, he acknowledges that businesses will need to adjust for a future with shorter stays by employees.
One specific technique that is used at MSU is to get people involved in projects outside their core work functions. You might find a web programmer helping design the new room in the organization's dining area. This allows participants to get a first hand experience to the culture of participation and diversity at the organization. Its during the end presentations that you can tell everyone involved was honored to be volunteered, happy to participate, and proud of their work. The programs that people are a part of help enforce the idea that they are making an impact at the company and in the world. This opportunity for remarkable input is in-tune with the desires and beliefs of the young emerging work force.
In addition to the techniques that have been tried and tested- Dawisha mentions using the data gained from their own people analytics. With new technology the personal bias can be taken away from the data collection and better informed decisions can be made. The increase in technology has also opened up new avenues of study, in one case suggesting Dawisha observe the correlation between area code of the employees and the longevity of their tenure. The technology increases help guide Dawisha's decision making, but compared to other organizations that might be for-profit the education industry is behind
To adjust for the future Dawisha talks about becoming nimble. Instead of reacting to employee offers from other organizations, be proactive- cut down on the number of employees seeking other job offers. Employees often are rooted and are not looking for a reason to change their living situation, Dawisha handles these events on a case by case basis- proving that relationships is still a big part of talent retention.
What you will learn in this episode:
Link From The Episode:
Mon, 13 February 2017
Devin Fidler is the Research Director at the Institute for the Future and the Founder of Rethinkery Labs, a software defined organization that specializes in developing technologies to automate management.
Automation is definitely a hot topic these days and it is one that sits at the forefront of many discussions around the future of work. There are mainly two camps of people in this topic of discussion. There are those who feel that automation is inevitable and that while it will take some human jobs, it will also create a lot more human jobs and therefore won’t be as scary as it seems. They also believe that automation won’t take over as many jobs as some experts are predicting. The other group is made up of people who believe that there is no stopping the takeover and that automation will take over a majority of jobs and humans will be displaced.
Fidler believes that automation will definitely disrupt traditional jobs, however, he says it is not all negative. He says one of the real issues is that we really need to reevaluate what we define as jobs. We are likely to see more work for humans, but it’s the jobs themselves that will be the issue. With automation, finding work can become much easier as software will help match up humans to the right task, which means you can spend more time doing the work you love to do. It can also help smooth out the training process and make it more individualized to the employee. Fidler feels that “the [human] jobs question is important, but it’s not as apocalyptic as it’s sometimes framed”. Automation is not the end of human jobs, although it may change the way things like benefits, career progression and retirement are structured.
Up until now automation has really been seen as something that would takeover jobs like cashiers, bankers and factory workers. But Fidler talks about how software is moving into the C-suite and management roles. One example of this is Uber, where they are automating middle management. Today Uber is the third largest company in the U.S. (based on number of employees), right after Walmart and McDonalds. When you look at traditional taxi services the employees report to dispatchers. They rely on the dispatchers to tell them where to go and when, which routes to avoid and for help when they have vehicle issues. Now Uber has automated this process. Uber uses software to route their drivers, schedule pick-ups and even perform employee evaluations.
There is another company that Fidler mentioned that has AI on the board. For every investment decision they have all the board members weigh in and give their opinions on what to do. In this company they have given one of the board seats to an AI program that allows the software to weigh in and give a vote on each investment as well.
So how fast will this shift in our workforce take place? Fidler says we are already seeing a select few companies taking this move towards automating management, so in theory, it’s already here. But it will take some time before it becomes widespread and mainstream. A good guess would be in the next 10 years. Fidler talks about how much change we have seen in the past 10 years; smartphones, Watson, and self-driving car prototypes. Think of how much our world could change in just 10 more years.
In this shift towards a day when software could run the company, Fidler gives advice he feels can span across all levels of workers from newly hired employees in their first job up to heads of organizations who have been there for 30+ years. He says, “you can’t take any momentum and previous advantages that this part of the world has had for granted. It is a new game where rewards will go to those who figure out what the new logic looks like”. You cannot stay complacent and think that you will be safe from automation. It is also important for us to have these conversations now, about what we want the future of work to look like and what we want these automated programs to do while it is in the early stage. Fidler says, “the Industrial Revolution really favored the U.S., if we want the same kind of thing we have to do it deliberately, it can’t be by accident”.
What you will learn in this episode:
Links From The Episode:
Tue, 24 January 2017
This week’s guest is Yuval Noah Harari, author of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Join us as we discuss topics such as the major threats that the human race is facing, how virtual reality is similar to religion and what the future of life is going to look like in 150-200 years.
Yuval Noah Harari is a historian, a tenured professor at the Department of History of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a bestselling author. Harari’s most recent book is, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. The book explores the opportunities and dangers humankind faces in this century and beyond.
Harari has always been one to ask questions and seek out reasons why things are the way they are. He has never just accepted the way we do things, but instead he enjoys digging further to see where his questions about life lead him. Harari believes that most of the big questions in life lead you across a wide variety of disciplines including biology, religion, history, economics and politics in order to find answers.
He began college by studying Medieval military history, however while he was in an Intro to History class he decided to abandon his narrow niche and decided to explore history more broadly. It was out of this class that he decided to write his first book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. In that book he took a look back over the last 70,000 years to show how homo sapiens have evolved over time. After he completed that book he wanted to write another book that explored the 21st century and beyond to look at what “opportunities and dangers humankind is facing in the 21st century and what is the possible future of our species”.
Harari says one of the biggest questions he is asking about the future is, “what are we going to do with ourselves?”. In the past humans have been preoccupied by overcoming three main things in life; famine, plagues and war. But in the 21st century we have been able to control these three elements to a certain extent. Harari states, “More people die from eating too much, than eating too little these days” and says there are more people who commit suicide than there are people who are dying in wars. Of course, he doesn’t deny that there are people who are starving, people who are dying from war and people who are dying from diseases. But these people are not dying because there isn’t enough food or medicine to go around; they are dying in political famines, wars and plagues.
How did we get to this point where we have these three main elements fairly under control? There are two main answers, science and technology. Due to both science and technology we have advances in medicine, food productivity and disbursement and education that have helped with famine and plagues. War, however, is a different story. As Harari mentions, “we don’t have a device that stops war”. Technology did play a part in decreasing war with the move towards nuclear weapons which changed the way the “superpowers” interacted with each other. Humankind also aided in the reduction in violence by “rising up to the challenge technology presented us with”, as Harari explains.
Harari also believes there are threats to our future including climate change and global warming and a disruptive potential of new technology (such as AI and Virtual Reality). One disruption, Harari says, is that new technology could “outperform humans in tasks and push hundreds of millions of people out of the job market” which would in turn create “a class of useless people”. Another disruption is bioengineering and how humans are manipulating “the world inside of us”.
We are used to hearing about people using bioengineering to manipulate plants and animals, but using this concept inside of our own bodies is something new that could have huge consequences if we don’t proceed wisely. There are three main ways that Harari says people can manipulate our internal realities. One is bioengineering where we “tweak” our bodies and brains. A second way would be to combine “old organic bodies with new inorganic parts”, like connecting a person’s brain to a computer and allowing them to use their mind to search something on the internet. The third way Harari mentions is a “creation of completely inorganic entities”, such as uploading human consciousness to a computer. If this third one takes place, Harari says it will be “the greatest revolution in history and biology”.
When it comes to the hot topic of AI and automation taking over human jobs, Harari says he believes that this shift in our economy will both create and take over jobs; the question is how quickly will each side progress? Will more jobs be created quicker than AI and automation can take over or vice versa? The fact is that humans have always had two abilities; physical abilities and mental abilities. Machines took over in the roles that require physical strength in the Industrial Revolution, but now machines are evolving to be able to take over the mental abilities as well. So we as humans have to learn to adapt in order to stay relevant in the workplace.
You may think that the topics we discuss in this podcast, such as bioengineering inorganic entities, AI taking over and leaving a useless class of humans or the ability of machines to read and remember human emotions while reading a book, are too futuristic or sci-fi. But I believe that science fiction gives us a good glimpse into our future. And in the grand scheme of things, I don’t believe these concepts are too far off in the future.
What you will learn in this episode:
Link From The Episode: