While debate rages about whether artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics would deliver dystopia or utopia, we offer two intriguing viewpoints. The first article considers the soft skills like communication, problem solving, collaboration and empathy that robots can’t master, or put another way, the things that makes us human. In a digital world, it is argued that such soft skills may become more valued than technology, and needed in larger quantities. So, shouldn’t an organisation train its employees in soft skills? According to a study from the University of Michigan, teaching employees soft skills boosts productivity and retention by 12 percent, delivering a 256 percent return on investment.
In the second article, Michael Schrage, a research fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE) and a visiting fellow at the Imperial College Department of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in London, challenges popular, data-driven digital paradigms. Instead of focusing digital innovation on automating people out of processes he advocates empowering individuals with data and technology to craft high-performance versions of themselves. He illustrates with an example: An executive recognises his written communications lack clarity, energy, and forcefulness. He shares his missives and messages with software such as IBM’s Watson Tone Analyser, which proposes revisions that bring force and focus to the prose.
Perhaps it’s time to take stock of the current technology developments – read Knowledge@Wharton’s The future of Artificial Intelligence: Why the hype has outrun reality – and rethink workplace strategy.
In a recent paper entitled Big Data Ethics authors Neil M. Richards and Jonathan H. King note that large datasets are being mined for important predictions that often yield surprising insights. They assert that because of Big Data and the analytics used to examine it, all kinds of human activities and decisions are beginning to be inﬂuenced by Big Data predictions, including dating, shopping, medicine, education, voting, law enforcement, terrorism prevention, and cybersecurity.
Yet while this is occurring, individuals have little idea of what data is being collected, let alone shared with third parties. They suggest that existing privacy protections focused on managing personally identifying information are not enough when secondary uses of Big Data sets can reverse engineer past, present, and even future breaches of privacy, conﬁdentiality, and identity.
In their paper, the authors outline “a set of four related principles that should govern data flows in our information society, and inform the establishment of big data norms”, namely we must recognise:
For further reading see their Ethics and Big Data study. Starting from the position that ethical debates are typically articulated within the context of ethical theories, the study reviews the ethical theories of Kantianism, Utilitarianism, Social Contract Theory, and Virtue Theory as they apply to Big Data.
A cyber storm is shaping up for company directors when mandatory data breach notification laws take effect in the coming months. The risk of prosecution will increase given the low understanding in many organisations around which suppliers have sensitive data – and how to seek assurance around the management and protection of this information – plus the increasing professionalism of cybercriminals.
The risk to individual directors is very real. The recent ASX 100 Cyber Health Check Report revealed that while many of the directors of Australia’s largest 100 listed companies recognise that overseeing cyber risk is a board responsibility, many boards are not adequately carrying out that function. Should there be a failure in cyber resilience, the primary legal question for directors is whether they have adequately discharged their duty of care. Claiming lack of information or understanding would not be a sufficient defence.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) would likely view this as negligence and pursue individual board members. For more detail, read BusinessThink UNSW’s Are directors liable when cyber security is breached? and ANZ bluenotes’ Identity theft: stopping a digital zombie apocalypse. For an insight into cybercrime, read Cyberwar looms as diplomats dither, The dark web goes corporate and School for scoundrels: Now cybercrooks are learning from online courses, too.
With Amazon entering the already challenging Australian retail market, those in the industry may like to examine China for clues to the future. According to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), China has more e-commerce activity than any country in the world today. China’s National Bureau of Statistics report Chinese consumers spent US$750 billion online in 2016 — more than the US and the UK combined.
According to industry estimates, online purchases made with mobile phones will account for 74 percent of total e-commerce in China by 2020, compared with just 46 percent in the US. In addition, the industry is expected to grow by 20 percent annually in China over the next five years — twice as fast as in the US and the UK. Compared to the developed West, China has a highly integrated digital ecosystem (see infographic) which can offer valuable insights.
For example, Unilever saw the average time spent by shoppers at its virtual stores increase by 26% within the first two weeks of using Alibaba’s technology. Read the BCG article here and related articles Can In-store ‘Experiences’ Save Retail? and The Future of Shopping (free, registration required) a 2011 Harvard Business Review article that is still relevant today.
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