Whidbey Island is a lovely place about 30 miles north of Seattle on the Puget Sound. Most days the tranquil sounds of rolling waves and chirping birds provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. But these days, all is not so serene. Residents are complaining about the ruckus created by humongous container ships anchored off their shore.
“We’ve never seen them this close before,” a Whidbey Islander told a local news station. “We’re hearing the throbbing noise at night. … It’s a nuisance.” The noise has been so loud that residents have been complaining to the county sheriff’s office about it.
Whidbey Islanders are getting a front row seat to the growing U.S. trade deficit, which is hitting record highs. It’s fueled by a surge in demand for imports, mostly from East Asia. There’s so much cargo being shipped to the U.S. from Asia right now that the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are chock-full of container ships.
“We are seeing a historic surge of cargo volume coming into our ports,” says Tom Bellerud, the chief operations officer of The Northwest Seaport Alliance, which manages all cargo processing at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. “The terminals are having a difficult time keeping up with processing all the cargo off these vessels fast enough.”
On both land and at sea, the entire supply chain is struggling to keep up. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s become such a clusterfest that the U.S. Coast Guard has been redirecting boats to anchor off the coast of Whidbey Island and other places they typically don’t park. Ship crews are having to wait days, even weeks, for the chance to dock at the ports and offload their precious goods.
It’s the same story up and down the West Coast. In San Francisco Bay, the traffic jam of container ships has gotten so bad that the U.S. Coast Guard has been asking ships not to enter the bay at all. Robert Blomerth, director of the USCG’s San Francisco Vessel Traffic Service, said last week that there were 16 container ships waiting in the open ocean outside the Golden Gate to get in and unload their cargo. He says it’s “completely abnormal.”
When we spoke to Gene Seroka, the head of the Port of Los Angeles, he said his port had 19 ships waiting to dock and they’re now waiting, on average, about five days to get in. In normal times, they don’t have to wait at all.
Lars Jensen, CEO of Vespucci Maritime, has spent 20 years studying the industry and he says what’s going on is unprecedented. “The container shipping industry is in a state of chaos that I don’t think it has ever been since it was invented,” he says.
The maiden voyage of the first container ship set sail from Newark, N.J., back in 1956. It may be hard to fathom just how big a deal this innovation was. It was just a big ship that carried containers, literally metal boxes. But these metal boxes enabled ships to carry dramatically more cargo, and, by standardizing shipping practices and using new machines to handle the boxes, shippers were able to slash costs and the time it takes to load, unload and transport that cargo.
Now economists are concerned that the plumbing provided by these miracle boxes and the vessels that transport them is clogged. It’s making it more difficult for stores to restock their shelves, manufacturers, carmakers and builders to get the parts they need, and farmers to export their products. It’s an important reason, analystssay, that we’re seeing consumer prices surge.
How did shipping get topsy-turvy?
In the early days of the pandemic, global trade hit an iceberg and sank into the abyss. The decline of maritime shipping was so dramatic that American scientists saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study what happened to whales in the absence of a constant deluge of vessels. The noise from the ships apparently stresses them out — kind of like they’re currently stressing out the residents of Whidbey Island.
Greater tranquility for whales in the first half of 2020 was the result of shipping companies canceling their trips and docking their ships. Then the economy rebounded, and American consumers unleashed a tidal wave of demand that swept through the shipping industry when they started shifting their spending patterns. Unable to spend money on going out, many started spending their money (and their stimulus checks) on manufactured goods — stuff that largely comes from China on container ships.
At first, it wasn’t the ships that were the problem; it was the containers. When the buying spree began, Chinese exporters struggled to get their hands on enough empty boxes, many of which were still stranded in the U.S. because of all the canceled trips at the beginning of the pandemic. More importantly, processing containers here has been taking longer because of all the disruptions and inefficiencies brought about by the pandemic. Containers have been piling up at dockyards, and trains and trucks have struggled to get them out fast enough.
“The pandemic has exacerbated longstanding problems with the nation’s supply chain, not just at the ports but in the warehouses, distribution centers, railroads, and other places that need to run smoothly in order for Longshore workers to move cargo off of the ships,” says Cameron Williams.
He’s an official at the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dock workers, primarily on the West Coast. Dock workers have been working through the pandemic to handle the increased cargo volume, he says, and at least 17 ILWU workers lost their lives to COVID-19. “We continue to work hard and break records month after month to clear the cargo as quickly as the supply chain allows,” Williams says.
It’s been all hands on deck to supply ravenous consumers and businesses with the stuff they want. The resulting traffic jams at West Coast ports means it takes longer to unload stuff, which then extends the time it takes for ships to get back across the Pacific to reload.
That congestion was already creating massive delays on both ends of the shipping supply chain, tying up large numbers of containers and ships and leading to growing backlogs and shortages. Then, in March 2021, the Ever Given, one of the largest container ships in the world, got stuck in the Suez Canal in Egypt. While the blockage didn’t directly affect the Asia-West Coast shipping corridor, it added to the global shortage of ships and containers by stranding even more of them out at sea.
As if all this weren’t enough, last month there was a COVID-19 outbreak at the Yantian International Container Terminal in China, which is normally one of the busiest ports in the world. The Chinese government implemented stringent measures to control the outbreak, and as a result, more than 40 container ships had to anchor and wait. “In terms of the amount of cargo, what’s going on in South China right now is an even larger disturbance than the Suez canal incident,” Jensen says.
The effects on the American economy
With so much shipping capacity bogged down, importers and exporters have been competing for scarce containers and vessels and bidding up the price of shipping. The cost of shipping a container from China/East Asia to the West Coast has tripled since 2019, according to the Freightos Baltic Index. Many big importers pay for shipping through annual contracts, which means they’ve been somewhat insulated from surging prices, but they are starting to feel the pain as they renegotiate contracts.
Rising shipping costs and delays are starving the economy of the stuff it needs and contributing to shortages and inflation. It’s not just consumers and retailers that are affected: American exporters are complaining that shipping companies are so desperate to get containers back to China quickly that they’re making the return trip across the Pacific without waiting to fill up containers with American-made products. That’s bad news for those exporters — and for America’s ballooning trade deficit.
As for when it’s going to get better, none of the people we spoke to believes it’ll be anytime soon. And it’s not even considered peak season for the shipping industry yet. That typically begins in August, when American stores start building their inventories for the back-to-school and holiday seasons. The residents of Whidbey Island may have to continue dealing with the nuisance of gigantic, noisy ships cluttering up the horizon for the foreseeable future.
The robot revolution is always allegedly just around the corner. In the utopian vision, technology emancipates human labor from repetitive, mundane tasks, freeing us to be more productive and take on more fulfilling work. In the dystopian vision, robots come for everyone’s jobs, put millions and millions of people out of work, and throw the economy into chaos.
Such a warning was at the crux of Andrew Yang’s ill-fated presidential campaign, helping propel his case for universal basic income that he argued would become necessary when automation left so many workers out. It’s the argument many corporate executives make whenever there’s a suggestion they might have to raise wages: $15 an hour will just mean machines taking your order at McDonald’s instead of people, they say. It’s an effective scare tactic for some workers.
But we often spend so much time talking about the potential for robots to take our jobs that we fail to look at how they are already changing them — sometimes for the better, but sometimes not. New technologies can give corporations tools for monitoring, managing, and motivating their workforces, sometimes in ways that are harmful. The technology itself might not be innately nefarious, but it makes it easier for companies to maintain tight control on workers and squeeze and exploit them to maximize profits.
“The basic incentives of the system have always been there: employers wanting to maximize the value they get out of their workers while minimizing the cost of labor, the incentive to want to control and monitor and surveil their workers,” said Brian Chen, staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project (NELP). “And if technology allows them to do that more cheaply or more efficiently, well then of course they’re going to use technology to do that.”
Automation hasn’t replaced all the workers in warehouses, but it has made work more intense, even dangerous, and changed how tightly workers are managed. Gig workers can find themselves at the whims of an app’s black-box algorithm that lets workers flood the app to compete with each other at a frantic pace for pay so low that how lucrative any given trip or job is can depend on the tip, leaving workers reliant on the generosity of an anonymous stranger. Worse, gig work means they’re doing their jobs without many typical labor protections.
In these circumstances, the robots aren’t taking jobs, they’re making jobs worse. Companies are automating away autonomy and putting profit-maximizing strategies on digital overdrive, turning work into a space with fewer carrots and more sticks.
A robot boss can do a whole lot more watching
In recent years, Amazon has become the corporate poster child for automation in the name of efficiency — often at the expense of workers. There have been countless reports of unsustainable conditions and expectations at Amazon’s fulfillment centers. Its drivers reportedly have to consent to being watched by artificial intelligence, and warehouse workers who don’t move fast enough can be fired.
“It would have been prohibitively expensive to employ enough managers to time each worker’s every move to a fraction of a second or ride along in every truck, but now it takes maybe one,” Dzieza wrote. “This is why the companies that most aggressively pursue these tactics all take on a similar form: a large pool of poorly paid, easily replaced, often part-time or contract workers at the bottom; a small group of highly paid workers who design the software that manages them at the top.”
A 2018 Gartner survey found that half of large companies were already using some type of nontraditional techniques to keep an eye on their workers, including analyzing their communications, gathering biometric data, and examining how workers are using their workspace. They anticipated that by 2020, 80 percent of large companies would be using such methods. Amid the pandemic, the trend picked up pace as businesses sought more ways to keep tabs on the new waves of workers working from home.
This has all sorts of implications for workers, who lose privacy and autonomy when they’re constantly being watched and directed by technology. Daron Acemoglu, an economist at MIT, warned that they’re also losing money. “Some of these new digital technologies are not simply replacing workers or creating new tasks or changing other aspects of productivity, but they’re actually monitoring people much more effectively, and that means rents are being shared very differently because of digital technologies,” he said.
He offered up a hypothetical example of a delivery driver who is asked to deliver a certain number of packages in a day. Decades ago, the company might pay the driver more to incentivize them to work a little faster or harder or put in some extra time. But now, they’re constantly being monitored so that the company knows exactly what they’re doing and is looking for ways to save time. Instead of getting a bonus for hitting certain metrics, they’re dinged for spending a few seconds too long here or there.
The problem isn’t technology itself, it’s the managers and corporate structures behind it that look at workers as a cost to be cut instead of as a resource.
“A lot of this boom of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship where venture capital made it very easy for companies to create firms didn’t exactly prioritize the well-being of workers as one of their main considerations,” said Amy Bix, a historian at Iowa State University who focuses on technology. “A lot of what goes on in the structure of these corporations and the development of technology is invisible to most ordinary people, and it’s easy to take advantage of that.”
The future of Uber isn’t driverless cars, it’s drivers
In 2016, former CEO Travis Kalanick told Bloomberg making an autonomous vehicle was “basically existential” for the company. After a deadly accident with an autonomous Uber vehicle in 2018, current chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi reiterated that the company remained “absolutely committed” to the self-driving cause. But in December 2020 and after investing $1 billion, Uber sold off its self-driving unit. A little over four months later, its main competitor, Lyft, followed suit. Uber says it’s still not giving up on autonomous technology, but the writing on the wall is clear that driverless cars aren’t core to Uber’s business model, at least in the near future.
“Five or 10 years from now, drivers are still going to be a big piece of the mix on a percentage basis [of Uber’s business], and on an absolute basis, they may be an even bigger piece than they are today even with autonomous in the mix because the business should get bigger as both segments get bigger,” said Chris Frank, director of corporate ratings at S&P Global. “In addition, drivers will need to handle more complex conditions like poorly marked roads or inclement weather.”
In other words, they’re going to need workers to make money — workers they would very much like not to classify as such.
Gig economy companies such as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash are fighting tooth and nail to make sure the people they enlist to make deliveries or drive people around are not considered their employees. In California last year, such companies dumped $200 million into lobbying to pass Proposition 22, which lets app-based transportation and delivery companies classify their workers as independent contractors and therefore avoid paying for benefits such as sick leave, employer-provided health care, and unemployment. After it passed, a spokesman for the campaign for the ballot measure said it “represents the future of work in an increasingly technologically-driven economy.”
It’s a future of work that might not be pleasant for gig workers. In California, some workers say they’re not getting the benefits companies promised after Prop 22’s passage, such as health care stipends. Companies said that workers would make at least 120 percent of California’s minimum wage, but that’s contemplating the time they spend driving only. Before the ballot initiative was passed, research from the UC Berkeley Labor Center estimated that it would guarantee a minimum wage of just $5.64 per hour.
Companies say they’ve been clear with drivers about how to qualify for the health care stipend, which is available to drivers with more than 15 engaged hours a week (in other words, if you don’t have a job and are waiting around, it doesn’t count). In a statement to Vox, Geoff Vetter, a spokesperson for the Protect App-Based Drivers + Services Coalition, the lobbying group that championed Prop 22, said that 80 percent of drivers work fewer than 20 hours per week and most work less than 10 hours per week, and that many have health insurance through other jobs.
Gig companies have sometimes been cagey about how much their workers make, and they’re often changing their formulas. In 2017, Uber agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission $20 million over charges that it misled prospective drivers about how much they could make with the app. The FTC found that Uber claimed some of its drivers made $90,000 in New York and $74,000 in San Francisco, when in reality their median incomes were actually $61,000 and $53,000, respectively. DoorDash caused controversy over a decision to pocket tips and use them to pay delivery workers, which it has since reversed.
Even though Uber is charging customers more for rides in the wake of the pandemic, that’s not directly being passed onto their drivers. According to the Washington Post, Uber changed the way it paid drivers in California soon after Prop 22 passed so that they were no longer paid a proportion of the cost of the ride but instead by time and distance, with different bonuses and incentives based on market and surge pricing. (This is how Uber does it in most states, but it had changed things up during the push to get Prop 22 passed.) Uber’s CEO pushed back on the Post story in a series of tweets, arguing that decoupling driver pay from customer fares had not hurt California drivers and that some are now getting a higher cut from their rides.
In light of a driver shortage, Uber recently announced what it’s billing as a $250 million “driver stimulus” that promises higher earnings to try to get drivers back onto the road. The company acknowledges this initiative is likely temporary once the supply-demand imbalance works itself out. Still, it’s hard not to notice how quickly Uber and Lyft have been able to corner most of the ride-hailing app market and exert control over their drivers and customers.
“When a new thing like this comes on, there’s huge new consumer benefits, and then over time they are the market, they have less competition except one another, probably they’re a cartel at this point. And then they start doing stuff that’s much nastier,” said David Autor, an economist at MIT.
One of the gig economy’s main selling points to workers is that it offers flexibility and the ability to work when they want. It’s certainly true that an Uber or Lyft driver has much more autonomy on the job than, say, an Amazon warehouse worker. “People drive with Lyft because they prefer the freedom and flexibility to work when, where, and for however long they want,” a Lyft spokesperson said in a statement to Vox.
“They can choose to accept a ride or not, enjoy unlimited upward earning potential, and can decide to take time off from driving whenever they want, for however long they want, without needing to ask a ‘boss’ — all things they can’t do at most traditional jobs.” The spokesperson also noted that most of its drivers work outside of Lyft.
But flexibility doesn’t mean gig companies have no control over their drivers and delivery people. They use all sorts of tricks and incentives to try to push workers in certain directions and manage them, essentially, by algorithm. Uber drivers report being bothered by the constant surveillance, the lack of transparency from the company, and the dehumanization of working with the app. The algorithm doesn’t want to know how your day is, it just wants you to work as efficiently as possible to maximize its profits.
Carlos Ramos, a former Lyft driver in San Diego, described the feeling of being manipulated by the app. He noticed the company must have needed morning drivers because of the incentives structures, but he also often wondered if he was being “punished” if he didn’t do something right.
“Sometimes, if you cancel a bunch of rides in a row or if you don’t take certain rides to certain things, you won’t get any rides. They’ve shadow turned you off,” he said. The secret deprioritization of a worker is something many Lyft and Uber drivers speculate happens. “You also have no way of knowing what’s going on behind there. They have this proprietary knowledge, they have this black box of trade secrets, and those are your secrets you’re telling them,” said Ramos, now an organizer with Gig Workers Rising.
Companies deny that they secretly shut off drivers. “It is in Lyft’s best interests for drivers to have as positive an experience as possible, so we communicate often and work directly with drivers to help them improve their earnings,” a Lyft spokesperson said. “We never ‘shadow ban’ drivers, and actively coach them when they are in danger of being deactivated.”
The future of innovation isn’t inevitable
We often talk about technology and innovation with a language of inevitability. It’s as though whenever wages go up, companies will of course replace workers with robots. Now that the country is turned on to online delivery, it can be made to seem like the grocery industry is on an unavoidable path to gig work. After all, that’s what happened with Albertsons. But that’s not really the case — there’s plenty of human agency in the technological innovation story.
“Technology of course doesn’t have to exploit workers, it doesn’t have to mean robots are coming for all of our jobs,” Chen said. “These are not inevitable outcomes, they are human decisions, and they are almost always made by people who are driven by a profit motive that tends to exploit the poor and working class historically.”
Chase Copridge, a longtime California worker who’s done the gamut of gig jobs — Instacart, DoorDash, Amazon Flex, Uber, and Lyft — is one of the people stuck in that position, the victim of corporate tendencies on technological overdrive. He described seeing delivery offers that pay as little as $2. He turns those jobs down, knowing that it’s not economically worth it for him. But there might be someone else out there who picks it up. “We’re people who desperately need to make ends meet, who are willing to take the bare minimum that these companies are giving out to us,” he said. “People need to understand that these companies thrive off of exploitation.”
Not all decisions around automation are ones that increase productivity or improve really anything except corporate profits. Self-checkout stations may reduce the need for cashiers, but are they really making the shopping experience faster or better? Next time you go to the grocery store and inevitably screw up scanning one of your own items and waiting several minutes for a worker to appear, you tell me.
Despite technological advancements, productivity growth has been on the decline in recent years. “This is the paradox of the last several decades, and especially since 2000, that we had enormous technological changes as we perceive it but measured productivity growth is quite weak,” Autor said. “One reason may be that we’re automating a lot of trivial stuff rather than important stuff. If you compare antibiotics and indoor plumbing and electrification and air travel and telecommunications to DoorDash and smartphones or self-checkout, it may just not be as consequential.”
Acemoglu said that when firms focus so much on automation and monitoring technologies, they might not explore other areas that could be more productive, such as creating new tasks or building out new industries. “Those are the things that I worry have fallen by the wayside in the last several years,” he said. “If your employer is really set on monitoring you really tightly, that biases things against new tasks because those are things that are not easier to monitor.”
It matters what you automate, and not all automation is equally beneficial, not only to workers but also to customers, companies, and the broader economy.
Grappling with how to handle technological advancements and the ways they change people’s lives, including at work, is no easy task. While the robot revolution isn’t taking everyone’s jobs, automation is taking some of them, especially in areas such as manufacturing. And it’s just making work different: A machine may not eliminate a position entirely, but it may turn a more middle-skill job into a low-skill job, bringing lower pay with it. Package delivery jobs used to come with a union, benefits, and stable pay; with the rise of the gig economy, that’s declining. If and when self-driving trucks arrive, there will still be some low-quality jobs needed to complete tasks the robots can’t.
“The issue that we’ve faced in the US economy is that we’ve lost a lot of middle-skill jobs so people are being pushed down into lower categories,” Autor said. “Automation historically has tended to take the most dirty and dangerous and demeaning jobs and hand them over to machines, and that’s been great.
What’s happened in the last bunch of decades is that automation has affected the middle-skill jobs and left the hard, interesting, creative jobs and the hands-on jobs that require a lot of dexterity and flexibility but don’t require a lot of formal skills.”
But again, none of this is inevitable. Companies are able to leverage technology to get the most out of workers because workers often don’t have power to push back, enforce limits, or ask for more. Unionization has seen steep declines in recent decades. America’s labor laws and regulations are designed around full-time work, meaning gig companies don’t have to offer health insurance or help fund unemployment. But the laws could — and many would argue should — be modernized.
“The key thing is it’s not just technology, it’s a question of labor power, both collectively and individually,” Bix said. “There are a lot of possible outcomes, and in the end, technology is a human creation. It’s a product of social priorities and what gets developed and adopted.”
Maybe the robot apocalypse isn’t here yet. Or it is, and many of us aren’t quite recognizing it, in part because we got some of the story wrong. The problem isn’t really the robot, it’s what your boss wants the robot to do.
Concepts of artificial servants and companions date at least as far back as the ancient legends of Cadmus, who is said to have sown dragon teeth that turned into soldiers and Pygmalion whose statue of Galatea came to life. Many ancient mythologies included artificial people, such as the talking mechanical handmaidens (Ancient Greek: Κουραι Χρυσεαι (Kourai Khryseai); “Golden Maidens”) built by the Greek god Hephaestus (Vulcan to the Romans) out of gold.
Adrienne Mayor (2018). Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology. Princeton University Press. pp. 205–206. ISBN9780691185446.
Haug, “Walewein as a postclassical literary experiment”, pp. 23–4; Roman van Walewein, ed. G.A. van Es, De Jeeste van Walewein en het Schaakbord van Penninc en Pieter Vostaert (Zwolle, 1957): 877 ff and 3526 ff.
See also P. Sullivan, “Medieval Automata: The ‘Chambre de beautés’ in Benoît‘s Roman de Troie.” Romance Studies 6 (1985): 1–20.
Hemal, Ashok K.; Menon, Mani (2018). Robotics in Genitourinary Surgery. Springer. p. 7. ISBN9783319206455.
70% of GDP growth in the global economy between now and 2030 will be driven by the machines, according to PwC. This is a near $7 trillion dollar contribution to U.S. GDP based around the combined production from artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and embedded devices. This is the rise of a new machine economy.
For those not familiar with the machine economy, it’s where the smart, connected, autonomous, and economically independent machines or devices carry out the necessary activities of production, distribution, and operations with little or no human intervention. The development of this economy is how Industry 4.0 becomes a reality.
Visionary leaders will implement new technologies and combine them with capital investments in ways that help them grow, expand, diversify, and actually improve lives. These machine economy leaders will operate in a new intelligent systems world in thousands of companies that will drive new economic models globally.
Sounds good so far, but all of that autonomous machinery isn’t going to build and operate itself.
Not enough people to do the work
While most people would agree that manufacturing is an important part of our economy, they aren’t recommending their children pursue that line of work. It’s expected that 4.6 million manufacturing jobs created between now and 2028 will go unfilled. Key drivers for this change include the fact that 10,000 baby boomers retire every day without people to replace them.
The workforce is quickly losing the second-largest age group, and millennials (the largest group) have so far not been attracted to manufacturing jobs at large. Instead they tend to be drawn toward technology, engineering, finance. The underlying issue may be one of perception, as the future of manufacturing will in fact include a much higher degree of technology, engineering, and finance in order to function.
Different skills are needed
Manufacturing jobs are changing. The number of purely manual, repetitive tasks are shrinking as technology advances to handle those jobs with robots and automation. Fifty percent of manufacturers have already adopted some form of automation, and now they need people with critical thinking, programming, and digital skills. Tomorrow’s jobs have titles such as Digital Twin Engineer, Robot Teaming Coordinator, Drone Data Coordinator, Smart Scheduler, Factory Manager, Safety Supervisor, and so on.
The shifts in productivity are happening so quickly, humans can’t keep up with them
An unskilled position can be filled relatively quickly as the prerequisite qualifications are limited. It typically takes months to fill a skilled position, and in most cases much longer for an individual to develop the requisite skills before they even think to apply. One alternative is to lower requirements in terms of education, skill, and experience in order to get someone new in the position, but then companies have to absorb the entire expense of training them.
Meanwhile there is increased pressure to utilize existing people’s and teams’ times and skills as much as possible, which can lead to burnout. This is a tenuous cycle that needs to be fortified by making sure our workforce has the skills training they need, when and where they need it.
In order to thrive in the machine economy, we need to invest significantly in people as well as in infrastructure. Focusing purely on infrastructure might lead to short-term and maybe mid-term profits, but ultimately it is not sustainable, and everyone loses. One can’t simply say, “We couldn’t fill the positions,” while there are people who need work.
Level-up our workforce
The human capacity to learn is basically limitless when individuals are motivated and have access to something to learn. There are several ways to tap into that capacity. First, we need to capture the knowledge and experience of the employees we have, so that those relevant skills can be passed on to the next wave of workers. We also need to ensure relevant training is available for people at every level of the company so that new people get up to speed and tenured employees don’t get left behind.
While some technologies need to be learned on the job, there is a level of foundational skill to understand in the machine economy, in addition to the technical and vocational skills required within a given field. An investment in, and possibly partnerships with, local schools could be a wise move for many companies. Lastly, while college is a great path for many people, it’s not the only form of higher education. Investments in vocational training and apprenticeship programs will be critical for our society to thrive in the machine economy.
Just as workers need to rethink and develop new skills, employers need to rethink and develop new ways of nurturing and attracting talent. To fully realize the promise of the machine economy, it is incumbent upon us to ensure people have access to the training and the tools they need in order to not only be successful but thrive. After all, what’s the point of all this technology if it doesn’t make life better for everyone?
With more than 25 years of experience driving digital innovation and growth at technology companies, Kevin Dallas is responsible for all aspects of the Wind River business globally. He joined Wind River from Microsoft, where he most recently served as the corporate vice president for cloud and AI business development. At Microsoft, he led a team creating partnerships that enable the digital transformation of customers and partners across a range of industries including: connected/autonomous vehicles, industrial IoT, discrete manufacturing, retail, financial services, media and entertainment, and healthcare.
Prior to joining Microsoft in 1996, he held roles at NVIDIA Corporation and National Semiconductor (now Texas Instruments Inc.) in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East in roles that included microprocessor design, systems engineering, product management, and end-to-end business leadership. He currently serves as a director on the board of Align Technology, Inc. He holds a B.S.c. degree in electrical and electronic engineering from Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England.
Digital economy refers to an economy that is based on digital computing technologies, although we increasingly perceive this as conducting business through markets based on the internet and the World Wide Web. The digital economy is also referred to as the Internet Economy, New Economy, or Web Economy.
Increasingly, the digital economy is intertwined with the traditional economy, making a clear delineation harder. It results from billions of everyday online connections among people, businesses, devices, data, and processes. It is based on the interconnectedness of people, organizations, and machines that results from the Internet, mobile technology and the internet of things (IoT).
Digital economy is underpinned by the spread of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) across all business sectors to enhance its productivity.Digital transformation of the economy is undermining conventional notions about how businesses are structured, how consumers obtain services, informations and goods and how states need to adapt to these new regulatory challenges.
Intensification of the global competition for human resources
Digital platforms rely on ‘deep learning‘ to scale up their algorithm’s capacity. The human-powered content labeling industry is constantly growing as companies seek to harness data for AI training. These practices have raised concerns concerning the low-income revenue and health-related issues of these independent workers. For instance, digital companies such as Facebook or YouTube use ‘content monitor’-contractors who work as outside monitors hired by a professional services company subcontractor- to monitor social media to remove any inappropriate content.
Thus, the job consists of watching and listening to disturbing posts that can be violent or sexual. In January 2020, through its subcontractor services society, Facebook and YouTube have asked the ‘content moderators’ to sign a PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) disclosure after alleged cases of mental disorders witnessed on workers.
OECD (2014-09-16). “The digital economy, new business models and key features”. Addressing the Tax Challenges of the Digital Economy. OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Project. Paris: OECD Publishing. pp. 69–97. doi:10.1787/9789264218789-7-en. ISBN9789264218772.