Issue #[[item.issue__number]] published [[timeFormat(item.date)]]


Will tech change the way we eat? A rhetorical question because it has always done so ever since some enterprising homin first cooked meat over fire. Fascinating conversation with Steve Ells who is launching perhaps the most highly automated fast food retailer yet. Far less human workers, but the ones who are there are better paid - is this an example of a model to be replicated across the economy? Very interesting listen, once you get past the ads…H/T to brainfooder Bas van de Haterd for the share
Issue #399 published 2 Jun 2024
Early retirement is not always a choice, especially for those who work in physical jobs. How about using AI + robotics to reduce injury risk and prolong working life? Nice story here about positive use of AI to keep people in work, rather than replace them. Though, with Unitree G1 Humanoid robot going onto the market for $16K, it might just be another matter of time.
Issue #397 published 19 May 2024
Where Are The Workers?
BBC Economist Editor Faisal Islam with a fantastic tweet thread of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi’s sensational debut as an EV manufacturer, selling over 100,000 cars in 72 hours of launch. The innovation may be less in the vehicle but more in the highly automated ‘dark factory’ in which they were made. The AI / Automated future will collapse the costs of goods & services (great for consumers, cost of living) precisely because they reduce the most expensive input - human workers (not so great for said workers). Entire thread is well worth the reading
Issue #391 published 7 Apr 2024
There probably isn’t a more admired CEO at the moment than NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang, whose big gamble a decade ago that AI chips not only saved the then struggling company but has since catapulted it into maybe the most important company in the world. Full keynote of the March GTC here.
Issue #389 published 24 Mar 2024
Hollywood is Broken
With the news this week that Hollywood studios are in discussions with OpenAI on text-to-video product SORA.ai, this video collage from a movie producer TikToker is timely and poignant. If we wanted to know what industry wide disintermediation looks like, it will be something like this.
Issue #389 published 24 Mar 2024
Last week’s video of Huawei’s EV factory turned out to be a hit - and guess what? Every country and company are doing the same - roboticising manufacturing as much as they can. One inadvertent outcome of workforce automation is the shrinking of the physical footprint of the factory - turns out, if you get rid of the human workers, you can condense the space to create ‘microfactories’. Fascinating video
Issue #382 published 4 Feb 2024
Here’s the solution to the headaches that come from employing people….simply don’t. Chinese telecoms giant Huawei have recently entered the burgeoning EV market and are using highly automated factories to make their cars, whilst running a TikTok account livestreaming the action. We human beings are entering into an uncomfortable squeeze - the fight for the better working conditions increases the cost of employment to companies who care only about servicing the market. The aforementioned Amazon, incidentally, installed 750,000 robots into their logistics functions last year up x 2 from 2021 installation figures.
Issue #381 published 28 Jan 2024
$32,000 for your own trainable semi-autonomous robot seems like a bargain to me. What’s more the fact that source code is open source, means that the distribution of embodied AI like this is much more likely spread throughout society than the walled garden approach favoured by the likes of Apple. It’s an unquestionably impressive demonstration, and a clear signal that manual, on-premise work is not safe from disintermediation either.
Issue #379 published 14 Jan 2024
I thought this chart was the most relevant of the 9 discussed in this review post by the World Bank. Working age population flatlines in direct correlation to economic development. Have we timed this perfectly, so that AI / Automation take on human work just at the moment we run out of humans to do it? Or is the talent shortfall in the exactly those sectors where robots no matter how smart can do the job? Lots to think about going into 2024
Issue #376 published 24 Dec 2023
The Games Development industry is massively under reported on brainfood - and it’s something I will be doing a better job of covering in 2024. Reports like this 80 Level is a suprisingly in-depth breakdown of the industry, which significant real estate dedicated to core TA / HR issues like workplace culture, hiring trends, comp & bens and the job search. We don’t have an equivalent for the TA / HR sector, somebody should really create one.
10. World Bank 2023 in Nine Charts: A Growing Inequality
I thought this chart was the most relevant of the 9 discussed in this review post by the World Bank. Working age population flatlines in direct correlation to economic development. Have we timed this perfectly, so that AI / Automation take on human work just at the moment we run out of humans to do it? Or is the talent shortfall in the exactly those sectors where robots no matter how smart can do the job? Lots to think about going into 2024
Issue #376 published 24 Dec 2023
Robots At Amazon
AI is not just coming for the elites of course, they were always coming for the manual workers too. Fascinating long read on the history of robot installation at one of US’s biggest employers, Amazon. Remember that Amazon currently employees 1.5 million plus workers and recently overtook UPS and FedEx to become the leading parcel distributor in the US. How many people work in these companies today, how many will work in these companies tomorrow? UBI needs to come back into the public discourse, stat…
Issue #373 published 3 Dec 2023
Kudos firstly to Boston Dynamics marketing team who fully understood from the very beginning the visceral impact of video. Seeing the robot ‘Atlas’ in context, supporting a man at work, effectively replacing a man at work is an unnerving experience - they are getting remarkably good a performing agile, manual work and can probably already do it better than a human if you take endurance, sleep and performance degradation due to tiredness into account. One of many companies building robots, for one of many countries increasing robot installation capacity. Revolution in white collar work, is being matched by a revolution in blue collar work.
Issue #328 published 22 Jan 2023
The persistent (and perhaps permanent) candidate shortage in many industry sectors will accelerate the adoption of robots. Right now the concentration is in heavy industry, but it will become real to us when it gets into pizza.
Issue #305 published 14 Aug 2022
The requirement of Starbucks, Morton Williams and other US food retailers to hire security and limit hours in order to keep operating is not only a sad statement of affairs but also a futile gesture when underlying issues producing societal collapse remain unaddressed. In the interim, expect workforce automation to be one of the ways for food businesses to stay viable.
Issue #302 published 24 Jul 2022
One of the main challenges to workforce automation in agriculture is the picking of soft fruit. Apples machines can do, blueberries have always been another matter, instead requiring legions of human fruit pickers to not damage the fruit. That challenge now seems to be solved.
Issue #300 published 10 Jul 2022
Software writing software is the inevitable future of programming; GitHub Copilot brings that future much closer than we ever might thought, especially at the ridiculously accessible $10 per month price point. Think of this like a coding auto-correct / auto-filler - providing tremendous productivity boost to software engineering, whilst improve code quality, promoting standardisation and therefore interoperability. It really is an incredible innovation and it will basically mean ‘less coders required’
Issue #298 published 26 Jun 2022
3D printing hasn’t had a lot of buzz during the past few years (world has had other stuff going on..) but the progress of the hardware has been astonishing. Now mobile printing units can go out and landscape an entire park, speeding up construction, saving energy and …reducing labour requirements. Output still looks a bit fugly but still, aesthetics will come.
Issue #295 published 5 Jun 2022
Babbage: Rise of the robots
Love this podcast, mainly because it feeds my technophile bias. A sequence of smart interviews with engineers and scientists working on smart machines who are going to help humanity do better. We obviously need as much help as we can get. H/T to brainfooder Bas van de Haterd for the share
Issue #281 published 27 Feb 2022
Entirely plausible story of a the single technology expert in a non-tech environment, working remotely in the Covid era. Stuff like this is a reason why there is a boss vs worker disconnect on the return to the office. Because if you can get away with it, why wouldn’t you? And indeed, if the output is what we are paying for, what would be the problem?
Issue #277 published 30 Jan 2022
Excellent compilation of automation statistics, put together in an interactive website which allows easy navigation to the parts most relevant to current needs. Lots for us here, including which sectors automation will have greatest impact and jobs for the future in light of automation. One of those resource posts which you bookmark for referencing to all year.
Issue #273 published 2 Jan 2022
‘Management’ - a concept already under pressure from the revelations of distributed working - will get a further body blow when the robots arrive, according to this study at Wharton. It’s the managerial jobs which will go first. Have a listen
Issue #262 published 17 Oct 2021
Fascinating research on the impact of an earlier era of tech induced unemployment and labour reallocation. Bottom line? Younger workers quickly re-skilled to other roles, whilst older workers suffered permanent reduction in income and opportunity. Long read but summary is accessible and plenty of food for thought.
Issue #258 published 19 Sep 2021
Tax Not The Robots
Persuasive argument against the Bill Gates position of taxing robots which displace human workers - it will simply discourage robot adoption, leading to less competitive businesses who are precisely those firms which employ less humans as well as robots. One to think about folks, especially as it does dip into an interesting side discussion as to how to define a robot….
Issue #257 published 12 Sep 2021
When we think of workforce automation we often think it is going to be a ‘bottom first’. Compelling argument that perhaps it really should really be other way round. It’s not entirely a joke. Have a read
Issue #238 published 2 May 2021
Do You Love Me?
…. would be rather weird if you did, but this is not about you and I it’s about a Boston Dynamics robots dancing a New Year celebration to The Contours 1962 hit. The motor control is amazing, especially if you compare to 10 years ago. The robot workforce is here.
Issue #221 published 3 Jan 2021
Great essay detailing the impact of industrialisation on the bootmakers of 19th century England. Tech unemployment was real then, and whilst it did lead to new job opportunities, those new jobs were often in a different location to the old ones displaced, necessitating relocation. Rare to see this type of quantification of previous eras of tech disruption. Must read
Issue #219 published 20 Dec 2020
How far away are we from fully automated factories? Soon, it seems according to Chinese phone manufacturer Xiaomi. This video promo might give you a bit more of flavour than the article. The assembly line is coming to an end and future isn’t going to wait around for us to get comfortable with it. H/T to brainfooder Bas van de Haterd and Martyn Redstone for the share in the fb group
Issue #213 published 9 Nov 2020
Will Robots Take My Job?
How susceptible is your job to computerization? Fun to try with ‘recruiter’ or 'HR’ of course, but an interesting exercise to intel on which job types are more or less likely to be resilient against automation - and therefore good or bad markets to focus on if we need to port over. Cool tool and H/T brainfooder Martin Poole for the share
Issue #210 published 18 Oct 2020
Big tech bad report, excoriating Amazon for using ‘employer surveillance’ technology to manage worker productivity. Which is another way of saying that they are tracking workers for signs of potential labour organisation and unrest. Productivity, profit and politics - sounds like a topic for a Brainfood Live at some point. H/T brainfooder Petar Vujosevic for the share
Issue #204 published 6 Sep 2020
There’s this feeling of, “You don’t need them. They make mistakes. They make demands
The quote refers not to robots but to human workers. We strike, we get sick, we complain, we litigate, we retire, we leave. Robot workers will do none of these things. A non working future is kind of staring us in the face, as this beautifully rendered post explains. H/T Martyn Redstone for the share in the fb group
Issue #203 published 30 Aug 2020
UK data set from Office of National Statistics but interesting reading for all. Seniority seems to provide insulation from automation, even if the occupation is the same - is there a case to be made for climbing the career ladder as quickly as possible, now? Brainfood for sure - take a look at the report here
Issue #129 published 23 Apr 2020
Interesting survey results from Deloitte Insights on worker expectations of automation. Generally, everyone confident and optimistic that automation will augment human work, not make it obsolete. We all suffer from outcome bias
Issue #176 published 23 Apr 2020
Meaning human beings with responsibilities for robot workers. Fascinating conjecture based on research by Gartner on the rapid adoption of robots across industries - who will be responsible for the robot workforce? Not sure it’s going to be HR, but perhaps it is something we should embrace. Brainfood for sure - have a read
Issue #175 published 23 Apr 2020
Stunning interactive storytelling from Pudding Cool, one of the new wave of data visualisation blogs out there. Truckers vs Developers compared on ‘automate-ability’. Truckers don’t fare well but likely overoptimistic on developers also I’d say. Have a play here
Issue #96 published 23 Apr 2020
Evidence on what we already know - jobs in small cities will likely be hit hardest by workforce automation. Research from NorthWestern University, presented in a decent interactive tool. The politics of the ‘left behind’ is only going to accelerate
Issue #81 published 23 Apr 2020
Interesting headline research from Oracle and the Future Workplace, especially on the regional variance. It seems the more we work with robots, the more we like them - even if they are our bosses. Easy read - check it out and have a think here
Issue #166 published 23 Apr 2020
It’s not only humans that have to fear tech unemployment - it’s also humankinds best friends are in the line of fire. Fascinating story from New Zealand on the coming redundancy of the venerable sheep dog.
Issue #171 published 23 Apr 2020
Trump is 15-20 years behind the times. There have been more tweets about Saturday Night Live than the real reason why rust belt American has suffered economic decline. Will robots be the next bad guy to get the blame?
Issue #16 published 23 Apr 2020
Fascinating report from McKinsey Global Institution on the distribution of job displacement by automation. Key insight? population in areas most at risk, are least willing or able to move. The website is great, and you can also download full report here
Issue #145 published 23 Apr 2020
Automation is a C-Level Issue
The bosses want the robots, but the workers are less enthusiastic. The tension between the two will shape the future of organised labour. Easy reading research from the Economist - download the PDF here
Issue #145 published 23 Apr 2020
Of Robots and Men
Excellent essay from Enrique Dans on the history of workforce automation. Workers will initially fear it - maybe even sabotage it - but it will lead to increased productivity in the end. 
Issue #28 published 23 Apr 2020
The question has moved beyond whether this is happening. It’s about what we’re going to do about it. Some dystopian reading to start you off with.
Issue #26 published 23 Apr 2020
As workforce automation begins to move from fringe concern to mainstream news, data analysis is catching up to what has been evident on the ground in local communities. This report from the St Louis Fed tracks the potential connection between robot adoption vs %age of population employed in routine manual jobs in the US rust belt.
Issue #164 published 23 Apr 2020
Amazing gif of a warehouse in China where an army of self charging robots sort 200,000 parcels per day, 24/7. The few humans in attendance (maybe 3?) are reduced to placing parcels on top of the bots to deliver. Soon, they’ll be gone too. We’re on the cusp of an economic revolution folks. 
Issue #27 published 23 Apr 2020
Robots are coming for everyone, including Germany where precision engineering remains a mainstay of Europe’s strongest export economy. The widgets are still going to be made, but more than ever, it will be done by other machines. 
Issue #51 published 23 Apr 2020
Warnings about job-stealing robots miss the other automation crisis: in warehouses, call centers, and other sectors, intelligent machines are managing humans, and they’re making work more stressful, grueling, and dangerous.
It’s ‘automated management’ and it’s already here. Long, important read
Issue #178 published 23 Apr 2020
How To Program Your Job
When workers automate their own duties, who should reap the benefits? Ethical dilemmas abound in this fascinating long read from The Atlantic, which presents the perspective from ‘self-automator’s’, the people who’ve automated their own jobs.
Issue #104 published 23 Apr 2020
Before you freak out, the video is fake. But it’s not far away as Amazon has those patents and the financial muscle to make it happen. It’s still a stunning video of the near and inevitable future - take a look here.
Issue #130 published 23 Apr 2020
The next industrial revolution is poised to rewire the global workforce. We need to be having the post jobs conversation now argues Moshe Vardi, Professor of Computer Science at Rice University.
Issue #12 published 23 Apr 2020
Fascinating story on some internal processes at Amazon’s fulfilment centres, measuring performance by amount of time ‘on task’ and firing those who fall beneath the bar. Is this worse than being fired by a human boss? Intuitively, it’s a yes, but. then….why? Worth brainfood.
Issue #133 published 23 Apr 2020
The Real Story of Automation
 Scott Santens tracks the historical trends of workforce automation. Turns out, robots have been with us for a long time, just hiding in plain sight. It’s time we realised where we’re headed. 
Issue #56 published 23 Apr 2020
Driving trucks is the most individually popular jobs in the majority of the States in the US. Automation is going to have huge socio-political implications, as this handy map from Axios will show
Issue #21 published 23 Apr 2020
‘Professions’ will be the next to go, maybe at the same time as truck drivers. We’re going to see a squeeze on white and blue collar, at the same time. Have we got a plan? We don’t have a plan. 
Issue #21 published 23 Apr 2020
The Amazon Go employee-free retail experiment might be run foul of certain  laws in the US but the idea of a 100% human free shopping experience won’t go away, especially in China. Huawei opens its first smart unmanned store in Wuhan to usher in the new decade - and perhaps the inevitable future of on-premise retail.
Issue #169 published 23 Apr 2020
“Everything we did, you could program a robot to do it.”. Not tweets, because yellow peril is easier. 
Issue #15 published 23 Apr 2020
Taxi lobbyists battling Uber ask New York State Governor Cuomo to ban autonomous vehicles for 50 years. The New Luddites are here

Issue #15 published 23 Apr 2020
Xenophobic nationalism based on the promises made by venal politicians on a future that cannot be delivered. No politician has a plan for workforce automation. Certainly no politician is tweeting about it. We’re in trouble folks. 
Issue #15 published 23 Apr 2020
There are no dramatic plant closings, and no easy solutions. But blaming ‘the other’ is a well established vote winner. Political piece on peak jobs, Donald Trump and the future of employment. 
Issue #15 published 23 Apr 2020
Japan is routinely fascinating but this story from the Economist describes a possible future for all of us when there is a surplus of human labour in the advent of AI / automation. Will we become like the police in Japan - overmanned, over officious, inventing crimes for want of things to do? Have a read and let me know what you think….
Issue #147 published 23 Apr 2020
The technical potential for automation differs dramatically across sectors and activities. Mckinsey - of course - have a framework for analysing which jobs are going to go. Long read with a bonus infographic they want you to download (to be fair, it’s pretty good)
Issue #20 published 23 Apr 2020
This is a cool twitter bot which tweets exclusively about other bots, specifically ones that are directly replacing humans at work. It’s a visual exploration of the world of automation and well worth a follow folks. 
Issue #50 published 23 Apr 2020
We’re all over the map in predicting what AI + Automation will do to jobs, so how very handy of MIT to compile the relevant studies into single chart, complete with links to the primary sources. One to bookmark folks. 
Issue #70 published 23 Apr 2020
For now, Amazon’s the 300K+ workers are mostly safe as much of the stowing and picking of items, which require fine motor skills and discernment, is done by human brains and hands. That is changing, however, as robots become increasingly more sophisticated.
Issue #14 published 23 Apr 2020
What a 19th-century rebellion against automation can teach us about the coming war in the job market. The lesson: even optimistic projections do not deny that transition will be painful. 
Issue #14 published 23 Apr 2020
Robot Security Guards on Patrol
It’s hardly ED209 but the creep factor is nearly as bad. Still, arguments can be made for the greater security that comes from surveillance state. Do we just need to get over our fear of these mobile CCTV’s? Maybe
Issue #97 published 23 Apr 2020