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The Real Work of the 21st Century

Yet another version of my book talk, this time at Harvard Business School, on March 28, 2018. This one had fewer slides with less connecting narrative so that I could spend more time interacting with the audience. I think it went pretty well. As usual, the speaker notes contain the narrative that goes with the slides, which are mostly images.

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The Real Work of the 21st Century

  1. The Real Work of the 21st Century Tim O’Reilly @timoreilly Harvard Business School March 28, 2018
  2. How is work changing? What does technology now make possible that was previously impossible? What work needs doing? How do we make the world prosperous for all? Why aren’t we doing it?
  3. We have to let go of the maps that are steering us wrong In 1625, we thought California was an island
  4. Growth goes on forever?
  5. Technology has a fitness landscape In my career, I’ve watched a number of migrations to new peaks, and I’d like to share with you some observations about what happened, and why. And then we’ll talk about some lessons for companies like Google, but also for the overall economy. Personal Computer Big Data and AI Smartphones Apple
  6. Big Data and AI Generosity takes us to the next peak Tim Berners-Lee, 1990 The World Wide Web Linus Torvalds, 1991 Linux
  7. Generous or “Long-term greedy”?
  8. We are all living and working inside a machine
  9. The Equinix NY4 data center, where trillions of dollars change hands
  10. A Business Model Map of Uber  A magical app that lets drivers and passengers find each other in real time  A networked marketplace of drivers and passengers  Augmented workers able to join the market as and when they wish  Managed by algorithm
  11. “My grandfather wouldn’t recognize what I do as work.” – Hal Varian
  12. Algorithmic systems have an “objective function” Google: Relevance Facebook: Engagement Uber and Lyft: Passenger pick up time Scheduling software used by McDonald’s, The Gap, or Walmart: Reduce employee costs and benefits
  13. The runaway objective function “Even robots with a seemingly benign task could indifferently harm us. ‘Let’s say you create a self-improving A.I. to pick strawberries,’ Musk said, ‘and it gets better and better at picking strawberries and picks more and more and it is self-improving, so all it really wants to do is pick strawberries. So then it would have all the world be strawberry fields. Strawberry fields forever.’ No room for human beings.” Elon Musk, quoted in Vanity Fair billion-dollar-crusade-to-stop-ai-space-x
  14. What is the objective function of our financial markets? “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits” Milton Friedman, 1970
  15. “The art of debugging is figuring out what you really told your program to do rather than what you thought you told it to do.” Andrew Singer Andrew Singer
  16. Oikonomia vs Chrematistike
  17. “Doughnut Economics” Kate Raworth
  18. Divergence of productivity and real median family income in the US
  19. Creating a “thick marketplace” Markets are outcomes. A better designed marketplace can have better outcomes.
  20. All of the great tech platforms are using new kinds of algorithmic curation to build networked marketplaces
  21. The great opportunity of the 21st century is to use our newfound cognitive tools to build better marketplaces
  22. “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren” The world of his grandchildren—the world of those of us living today— would, “for the first time . . . be faced with [mankind’s] real, his permanent problem—how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.” John Maynard Keynes John Maynard Keynes
  23. The fundamental economic question is no longer how to incentivize production but how to incentivize fair distribution of the fruits of increased productivity Brian Arthur
  24. There’s plenty to go around. It’s just not going around!
  25. Will there really be nothing left for people to do? Is there really nothing left for humans to do?
  26. What happened when Amazon added 45,000 robots
  27. Jeff Bezos calls this “the flywheel”
  28. Dealing with climate change Rebuilding our infrastructure Feeding the world Ending disease Resettling refugees Caring for each other Educating the next generation Enjoying the fruits of shared prosperity
  29. “Biophilic work” Natasha Iskander
  30. This is what technology wants “Prosperity in human societies is best understood as the accumulation of solutions to human problems. We won’t run out of work until we run out of problems.” Nick Hanauer
  31. Let the machines do as much of the work as they can. Let humans get on with the real work of the 21st century.
  32. Tim O’Reilly  Founder & CEO, O’Reilly Media  Partner, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures  Board member, Code for America  Co-founder, Maker Media @timoreilly • O’Reilly AI Conference • Strata: The Business of Data • JupyterCon • O’Reilly Open Source Summit • Maker Faire • Foo Camp • … • 40,000+ ebooks • Tens of thousands of hours of video training • Live training • Millions of customers • A platform for knowledge exchange • Commercial internet • Open source software • Web 2.0 • Maker movement • Government as a platform • AI and The Next Economy