How many jobs is AI putting on the block?
For years now (or perhaps decades; no, centuries) there has been concern that thinking machines will take away human jobs. The inexorable rise of Big Data/artificial intelligence/machine learning/analytics/bots certainly has its flipside: what are they going to do with us all once they realise that that small box of lines of code can do to the 9-to-5 better than we can? Of course, to an extent, it’s already happened. Washing machines replaced washerwomen and refrigeration and affordable modern kitchens mean we are able to feed ourselves without hired help. But what of the new waves of jobs that are on the block and how big is the threat? Or, a similar question maybe: how long is a piece of string? Analyst firm Forrester Research has stepped gamely into the breach to give us the answer: six per cent. That’s how many jobs AI specifically stands to wipe out over the next five years, it argues. The biggest victims: taxi drivers, customer service and trucking. The taxi business has demonstrated and lobbied states and governments, customer service might tout human interaction, but trucking is taking on the trend on its own terms. A startup called FR8 Revolution is intending to modernise the whole of the industry.
Twitter, so long criticised for not having new, money-making ideas, has seen the future and the answer is, as so often for social networks ultimately asked to turn profits, content. Steaming media, in particular, and the firm’s stock market watch daily online TV show is, in at least one sense, likely to be closely watched.
Remember Digg? The story recommendation/aggregation site might seem a relic of Web 2.0 days but its back… sort of. A new series C round is designed to boost its fortunes and the round is being led by an unusual source whose fame rests on ink on pulped wood: USA Today.
Microsoft to split from the Band?
Finally, the excellent Mary Jo Foley joined the dots and suggested that Microsoft Band, the company’s fitness tracking bracelet may be discontinued, joining an exit line behind clunker Redmond products such as Bob, Zune, Kin and others. How many landfill sites, we wonder, will the trend for “quantified self” (read “self-obsessing and narcissism”) hardware occupy? More positively, Microsoft has released the first fruit of a small acquisition, that of Sunrise, a maker of calendaring software that will adopt organ-donor status for a new version of Outlook. If Microsoft can make a go of this then it could yet come to dominate a category that has long lacked a technology leader or inspirational disruptor.
Phil Muncaster reports on China and beyond