Work Futures Daily | Cooperative Evolution

| Robot Stand-In | Killer Bots | Stakewashing | Passion or Duty? | Long-Haul Platforms | Martin Nowak | Welcome to the Econolypse |

Beacon NY | 2019–09–05 | Back from a short Labor Day break. This is a bit long because I’ve been reading and not posting newsletter issues.


Stories

The Next Hot Job: Pretending to Be a Robot | Christopher Mims describes a variety of jobs where humans are ‘piloting’ semi-autonomous delivery robots, drones, security robots, and inventory-control robots.

:::

Killer Robots and the New Era of Machine-Driven Warfare | Humans are too slow so they’ll be pulled out of the loop in future warfare, says Zachary Fryer-Biggs, despite the previous story’s focus on humans piloting drones.

“The problem is that when you’re dealing [with war] at machine speed, at what point is the human an impediment?” Robert Work, who served as the Pentagon’s №2 official in both the Obama and Trump administrations, said in an interview. “There’s no way a human can keep up, so you’ve got to delegate to machines.”

Every branch of the U.S. military is currently seeking ways to do just that — to harness gargantuan leaps in image recognition and data processing for the purpose of creating a faster, more precise, less human kind of warfare.

The Navy is experimenting with a 135-ton ship named the Sea Hunter that could patrol the oceans without a crew, looking for submarines it could one day attack directly. In a test, the ship has already sailed the 2,500 miles from Hawaii to California on its own, although without any weapons.

Meanwhile, the Army is developing a new system for its tanks that can smartly pick targets and point a gun at them. It is also developing a missile system, called the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM), that has the ability to pick out vehicles to attack without human say-so; in March, the Pentagon asked Congress for money to buy 1,051 JAGMs, at a cost of $367.3 million.

And the Air Force is working on a pilotless version of its storied F-16 fighter jet as part of its provocatively named “SkyBorg” program, which could one day carry substantial armaments into a computer-managed battle.

Until now, militaries seeking to cause an explosion at a distant site have had to decide when and where to strike; use an airplane, missile, boat, or tank to transport a bomb to the target; direct the bomb; and press the “go” button. But drones and systems like Sea Mob are removing the human from the transport, and computer algorithms are learning how to target. The key remaining issue is whether military commanders will let robots decide to kill, particularly at moments when communication links have been disrupted — a likely occurrence in wartime.

So far, new weapons systems are being designed so that humans must still approve the unleashing of their lethal violence, but only minor modifications would be needed to allow them to act without human input. Pentagon rules, put in place during the Obama administration, don’t prohibit giving computers the authority to make lethal decisions; they only require more careful review of the designs by senior officials. And so officials in the military services have begun the thorny, existential work of discussing how and when and under what circumstances they will let machines decide to kill.

Go read it.

:::

6 Ways CEOs Can Prove They Care About More Than Shareholder Value | If the Business Roundtable letter is going to be more than just ‘stakewashing’ CEOs will have to actually change how they manage. This is a great list by John Elkington and Richard Roberts, and here’re just a few snippets:

Follow the advice of Judy Samuelson of the Aspen Institute, who has called on companies to “dampen down the intense focus on stock price in CEO pay.”

[…]

To give real teeth to your commitment to serve all stakeholders, ensure that different stakeholder groups are properly represented in your governance structures. Appointing worker representatives to the Board is one tried-and-tested approach; creating independent advisory boards is another

[…]

If these CEOs truly embraced the logic, “they would resign from all trade and industry groups which lobby to slow or stall necessary systemic changes.” They would also “forcefully and publicly lobby for a meaningful price on carbon and for the breakup of monopolies and oligopolies.”

[…]

Several commentators have suggested that companies committed to the interests of all stakeholders should not engage in share buybacks — or, at least, reduce their reliance on the practice.

Andrew Winston also has some comments, in Is the Business Roundtable Statement Just Empty Rhetoric?:

Shareholder primacy is a problem but may not be the real one.

Economist Alfred Rappaport is one of the fathers of the idea of shareholder value. But in his book Saving Capitalism from Short-Termism, he makes a compelling case that our real issue is short-termism and how we think about “value.” Basically, if you manage for long-term value, of course you need to account for customers, employees, communities, and more. When we define value as this quarter’s profits, we don’t invest (and we certainly don’t prioritize long emergencies like climate change). I believe that the current economic model incentivizes the liquidation of natural capital for profit. But how much of that is due to concern about investors per se, or focus on short-term profit only? For this reason, the final commitment in the BRT statement — where they commit to long-term value — is possibly the critical element.

:::

Should Work Be Passion, or Duty? | Firmin DeBrabander channels Seneca, and suggests we should attend to duty not our dreams.

:::

The App Age Has Come Far. Look at Long-Haul Trucking | Julie Weed is focused on the app, not the network, which is dumb.

Trucks move about 70 percent of freight by weight in the United States, but the industry is inefficient, with more than a quarter of trucks on the road riding empty.

Enter platforms to connect drivers with freight shippers.

[Silpa] Paul [of Frost and Sullivan] said on-demand brokerage services like Convoy were one of “the hottest technologies in the trucking industry globally.” An app that can take the place of countless emails and phone calls and provide load and truck availability, rate negotiations, proof-of-delivery and payments is extremely valuable to trucker and shipping company alike.

As part of an industry study, Ms. Paul estimated that services like Convoy’s were expected to grow rapidly, from posting $210 million in broker fees in North America in 2017 to $6.7 billion in 2025. The efficiencies are not expected to cause any truckers to lose their jobs because there is a shortage of over 60,000 of them in the United States, according to the American Trucking Associations.

The apps also promise a positive environmental impact. Improving efficiency means fewer empty trucks on the road, which would lower carbon emissions.

More than 40 companies just in North America have been founded in this business over the last seven years, including Uber Freight, Loadsmart and Transfix, attracting billions of dollars in investment, according to Ms. Paul. Traditional brokers and logistics companies are also trying to modernize their operations, she added.

Ms. Paul said on-demand brokerage services like Convoy were one of “the hottest technologies in the trucking industry globally.” An app that can take the place of countless emails and phone calls and provide load and truck availability, rate negotiations, proof-of-delivery and payments is extremely valuable to trucker and shipping company alike.

As part of an industry study, Ms. Paul estimated that services like Convoy’s were expected to grow rapidly, from posting $210 million in broker fees in North America in 2017 to $6.7 billion in 2025. The efficiencies are not expected to cause any truckers to lose their jobs because there is a shortage of over 60,000 of them in the United States, according to the American Trucking Associations.

[…]

If truckers call their usual brokers and no one has a job, they may need to drive home empty or wait days for a new load. “With a centralized database, there are more jobs available,” Mr. Lewis said.

On the shippers’ side of the Convoy platform, companies award shipments to Convoy, which lists those jobs on the app for carriers to see. Shipping rates typically fluctuate, depending on destination, urgency, available drivers and other factors. Convoy automatically prices the job based on this data and its own algorithms, but truckers can also bid for a job if the stated price seems too low.


Quote of the Day

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of evolution is its ability to generate cooperation in a competitive world.

| Martin Nowak


Elsewhere

Welcome to the Econolypse | Part 1 | Stowe Boyd | We face a top-to-bottom paradigm shift reshaping trade, markets, businesses, and how we live and work.


If you are receiving this you’ve probably signed up for the Work Futures Daily newsletter. If not, sign up here. Support our work by becoming a sponsor, here. Or become a follower on Medium, here, and click on the applause button. Drop a few bucks in the hat, here, if you’d like to support our work on a one-time basis.