Algorithms: Killing Jobs, Narrowing Our Personalities, says Douglas Rushkoff

Published on Apr 23, 2016

The history of industrialization is the separation of workers from their labor, says media theorist Douglas Rushkoff. And it continues today in the digital marketplace where online companies seek to replace human labor with algorithms. Rushkoff’s latest book is “Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity

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Transcript – What people have to remember is that the object of industrialism wasn’t to make more stuff better and faster, it was to disconnect labor from the value they created. So if I have a shoe factory, I don’t want to hire expensive shoemakers and cobblers in my business, I want to go to the Home Depot parking lot, find a bunch of undocumented aliens and pay them two cents an hour. So I’m going to teach them something that’s going to take me 15 minutes to teach them how to nail one nail into the shoe and then pass it onto the next guy. The person who understands how this all works is actually my enemy.

So you fast forward to today when we implement digital technologies we try to do them in ways that get rid of people. We don’t want employees. If you need human beings, well then how are you going to scale up? It has to be able to be an algorithm. The easy way to think about it is most people’s first interaction with a computer was probably a telephone answering system. And sure, I understand a company has a human receptionist that sitting there. She’s got a salary. She’s got benefits. She’s got a health plan. Get rid of her; put in a computer so people who call your company are going to have to take a little bit more time to get through all those menus, you’re going to save a lot of money and it makes you look kind of high tech.
But while you save money everybody who calls the company now spends more time going through those menus. You’ve actually created more work rather than less. You’ve externalized the cost of your human receptionist onto everybody else. So then what do they do? Well now they all have to get computer operators because they have to externalize the cost to everybody else. So we all end up now spending more time and energy going through those menus than we did when we hired somebody, but because we’re so biased against hiring, because a company’s stock price will go up, if it can show that it’s hired less people we end up perpetuating that system.

So when we implement digital technologies, in order to get people out of the way, in order to get them out of the company we end up really killing the only expertise we have. If you’re using algorithms and big data to figure out your next product line rather than designers, what’s your competitive advantage? The other company is using that same data and probably hiring the same big data analytics company to figure out the future trend. So now you’ve been turned into a commodity. No, you’ve got to reverse in a digital age. What you want is the most qualified people you can find so that your business actually can differentiate itself from all of the other automated algorithmic nonsensical platforms out of there. Read Full Transcript Here: http://goo.gl/wg2Nva.

Algorithms: Killing Jobs, Narrowing Our Personalities, says Douglas Rushkoff
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