Work

Real Virtuality

Much has been written about 2016 being the year of Virtual Reality, (or not) but at CES and beyond, one theme that I’ve been noticing is Real Virtuality. The phrase – I meant it as innocent wordplay to describe the thought I had, but the irony is that it is actually the name of a game! Irony, because my thoughts were around ‘real’ businesses (with obvious physical manifestations) entering relatively more virtual environments. ‘Virtuality‘ in philosophy is what is not real, but displays the full qualities of the real. 

While it had been floating around in my head, this post on GigaOm, on car manufacturers and their self-renewing straddle attempt in the future of the car economy, is what lent it a bit more solidity. The post mentions a few partnerships – Ford with Amazon for a virtual assistant service, GM and Lyft potentially for driverless cars. Ford is also well into its own autonomous vehicles agenda, has a partnership with DJI for drone-to-vehicle communications, (via) and has launched a wearables lab to test smartwatch integration with its cars. The car manufacturers are also developing their own systems, and are thereby in frenemy zone with the OS folks – Apple & Android.  More

The transience of consumption & marketing

Rajesh wrote a very interesting post recently on ownership, and how it would impact brand/marketing/purchase. My own view of ownership has undergone a massive change in the last couple of years, thanks to a combination of factors like increasing life spans, the changing nature of jobs, and the rise of on-demand services. Add to that extreme income disparity, economic flux, and technological advances that have the potential to create obsolescence faster than ever before, and I’m reasonably sure the concept of ownership is up for a revamp.

Rajesh brings up two factors that caused previous generations to value ownership – financial success (trophies) and asset building. If I have to analyse my own motivations in the past, both of these would find a place. If I dig deeper, I also see a couple of others. One would be lack of access on demand. (eg. music/movie CDs, books, even say, photographs) You can see how streaming and cloud storage have changed this. The other subtext I can vaguely discern is ‘control’. A car, home, all lend an air of certainty and being in control. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in middle class India which had quite a lot of experience with scarcity. But in the line of anti fragile thinking, the key skill going forward would be agility rather than trying to retain control. In essence, a whole lot of cases for ownership that no longer seem relevant.  More

A worked up future

One of the most fascinating reads I’ve come across online recently is Breaking Smart. I’ve only reached Chapter 5 of 22 in Season 1, but it’s already given me a whole lot of insights and perspectives not only on its primary premise – “software is eating the world” – but also on the future of work and employment, an area I have been very interested in for a while now. Chapter 3 (Getting Reoriented) for instance, dwells upon how classic generational conflicts of previous eras is playing out as an economy-wide technological disruption nowThis chapter also talks of the dilemma that pretty much everyone faces these days, (though I can’t be sure how many have thought about/acknowledged this) should I abandon some of my investments in the industrial social order and join the dynamic new social order, or hold on to the status quo as long as possible?  More

Empathy & Monoculture

Thanks to Shefaly, I saw this excellent video on Aeon about “outrospection.” As opposed to discovering who we are and what we do in this world by looking inwards (introspection), “outrospection” is about discovering it through cognitive empathy – consciously looking to understand the perspectives of others, and going beyond the labels we might have made for them. The idea is that outrospection is the ask of the times we live in, and not introspection.

I quite disagree with that either-or view, and think both have their place in this era. They both work in tandem. For example, to let go of my prejudices, I’d have to understand why they exist in the first place and then proceed to change my perspective. Here outrospection follows introspection. Once I let go of my biases and listen more objectively, my worldview and my view of myself starts shifting again. In this case, introspection follows outrospection. As Lao Tzu says,

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Algorithms, the institution of the future!

Tom Goodwin’s precise summing up of the shifting business environment is now legend – Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening. 

Institutional realignment is now on an accelerated path. In this superb, nuanced post titled ‘Uber and AirBnB make the rules now – but to whose benefit?“, Vili Lehdonvirta brings up very interesting perspectives. (To paraphrase)

– If buyers switch to a new market, sometimes sellers have no choice but to follow, irrespective of whether it brings them gains or losses (eg. if there is very little business outside of Uber to be had)

– Even if everyone participates with interests intact, the collective effects on society may not always be positive (eg. AirBnB rooms causing nuisance to neighbours)

– These conflicting interests are usually reconciled by political institutions, but they face the challenge of siding with incumbents or upstarts.

And towards the end of the article, this very important thought – these new platforms appear to provide access to those who have been denied it by the institutions and processes thus far, but is it that simple? In this context, the new jobs being created are quite different from the typical ‘job’ description. That brings me to a key institution – the traditional workplace.

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Brand Storytelling

Recently, on Netflix, I caught something that I had read about almost a year back – an easter egg of sorts. On my feed, I saw shows ‘watched by Frank Underwood’. For those who haven’t watched House of Cards, that’s the name of the show’s protagonist, played by Kevin Spacey. (fantastically, I’d add) The shows selected seem absolutely true to (his) character, which is manipulative, scheming, and truly Machiavellian!

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The Future of Work : Complex & Chaotic

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered the writings of Taylor Pearson. I first came across “The Retirement Catch-22: Why Those Who Want to Retire Most, Can’t” and through that “The Commoditization of Credentialism: Why MBAs and JDs Can’t Get Jobs“. The reason it resonated with me is that it provided the larger context of what I had written about in The Entrepreneur & The Professional and Re: Skill.

The first (Pearson) post notes how the industrialisation of education makes us take a finite game approach to career, but how, in the entrepreneurial economy, approaching your career as an infinite game is not only more fun, but safer and more profitable. In his other post, he introduced me to the Cynefin model, (image via) as he applied it to one’s career. I thought it made for a fantastic framework of the future of work.   More

Of destinations and feeds

In An Ambient Future, I had written about how Google was potentially poised for something really interesting because technically, it had things in place to harness mobile, social and sensor data and overlay it with machine learning and AI. An early version of how this data could be surfaced contextually and be shown in an interface would be Google Now, as Christian Hernandez had pointed out. And that was why I was quite surprised and dismayed when I read that most of the team that had been working on Google Now had left!

The larger context though is about content discovery and two possible approaches to it – destination (platform?) and feed. I remember reading Neil Perkin’s post on the subject last year (it’s a fascinating rabbit hole of related reads, you’ve been warned!) and it has had me thinking ever since, especially in recent times, with apps increasingly replacing the traditional website as a destination. So far, the feed largely served as a distribution method to destination, but I believe it is no longer that simple on the web, let alone mobile.  More

Re-framing employment

For untold generations work was simply a matter of maintaining the status quo.

Across the world, the debates on productivity, reduced work hours, 4 day work weeks, DND after work hours etc are intensifying. Add to this the narratives of “the end of employment” and the “gig economy”, (and therefore the case against full time employment) and the signs of an upheaval of our concept of work seems imminent. I can vouch for that from my own experience as well – expressed to a certain extent in earlier posts –  The Entrepreneur & the Professional, and Re-skill. My posts on AI and its impact on employment are also related to this in a “bigger picture” way.

It is personal in a different way too, because it’s increasingly an application of a broader life framework and worldview. In fact, I was accusing myself of over thinking this, until I read this fantastic piece – How Not to Let Work Explode Your Life. That’s where the quote at the start has been taken from. It traces the origin of the clashes we are facing in our work-life environments now to trends that have been forming for centuries. Long, fascinating read, and a confirmation of many of my complicated thoughts! More

Money : AI :: Present : Future

Thing

I might have found a remedy for the Mad Men withdrawal symptoms. “Halt and Catch Fire” – that’s where the line is from. While the show has me glued, it also made me really consider the connection between money & AI.

A key factor that is driving the increasing adoption of AI in the work context is efficiency. Somewhere in the equation of calculating efficiency lies money, and how much of it can be saved. I am ignoring ‘time’ for now, because even that, mostly comes down to “time is money”. Jobs increasingly become task oriented and the objective is to make each task more and more efficient. If we continue that way, the pessimistic AI future is easy to imagine – it will happen in a ‘frog in boiling water’ manner, but it will happen. More

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