Robots, Yes Robots, Could Be Trump’s Greatest Threat

1

The rise of automation is destined to replace some worker employment, and it could increasingly cause friction with efforts to create new jobs, a hallmark of the Donald Trump administration.

Many studies have forecast a day when repetitive and labor-intensive jobs will be recast by automation, though the jury is still out about whether the humans now holding those jobs will be elevated to more meaningful positions that utilize automation or will be replaced outright.

One particular technology, self-driving cars, is on pace to emerge en masse in 2021, right around the next election, as most car manufacturers will offer these features in their fleets. Furthermore, Lyft has partnered with GM to roll out self-driving on-demand fleets, and Uber and Mercedes have forged a partnership with a similar offering. Uber also purchased Otto, which automates large trucks — a move that will have profound effects on safety, speed, and the shortage of truck drivers.

Today, a large segment of working Americans are professional drivers, which means that many will soon find themselves questioning whether they have a career, job, or income. This will leave the current Trump administration at a crossroads of deciding how to respond. Currently, the Trump administration has pinned its campaign and promise on keeping jobs on American soil and keeping products made in America. This played well to the base of the working class and resulted in his rise to the highest seat in politics. Meanwhile, however, Trump has been very quiet on the topic of automation, and some suggest that automation could undermine his core position.

Far from mainstream America, Silicon Valley represents a bubble that reveals parts of what the future will hold. Just last week, I filmed an automated barista serving coffee in San Francisco without the need for humans, and a few months ago, I visited an automated restaurant in the same neighborhood. In my local city, Starship Technologies is already starting to ship food to people’s homes and offices using a robot. Mercedes, Amazon, Google, GE, and many other companies are also quickly advancing in robotics.

It’s not limited to the physical world, either. As bots and artificial intelligence continue to rise, we’ll see that lower-level white-collar and even mid-level white-collar workers will be impacted (either augmented or replaced) by automation. Take, for example, Walmart, which recently laid off 7,000 in its white-collar billing department by using back office automation technologies.

How will this administration respond to automation? I see a few options:

  1. Resist automation and place limitations. The current administration may seek to limit the amount of automation that can be deployed, keeping American workers intact. The risk is that foreign competitors could leapfrog ahead in productivity by deploying robots, as China-based Foxconn is already doing.
  2. Embrace automation, as it lifts American productivity and GDP. The administration might welcome automation, embracing the productivity benefits it brings to company performance, country GDP, and taxes. The risk is that displaced workers who are unable to upskill will be left in the cold.
  3. Upskill workers with STEAM education. All workers whose positions are threatened by automation could benefit from provided or low-cost education that enables them to upskill so they can manage or support automation rather than be displaced. Some have found that robots actually increase the number of jobs in some scenarios.
  4. Embrace universal basic income. In a less likely scenario, I could imagine the current administration embracing universal basic income, which would be a social program to provide all citizens with a living wage (food, clothing, shelter, and education) regardless of employment status or age. The funds would be derived from taxes on the companies that are deploying automation. The hope is that automation increases total productivity, generating more food, goods, and services than ever before, thereby creating a surplus for humanity. However, IDC industry analyst Alan Webber has given me feedback on this scenario that suggests it is at odds with Republican values, an assessment that’s in agreement with government expert Alan Silberberg in a phone discussion with me.

America and other countries can’t stop innovating their automation and risk lagging behind, as that will give other competitors the opportunity to leap forward. Within the next few years, the Trump administration and other global leaders focused on nationalism will need to prepare a message and plan to deal with the automation that will certainly change the job landscape.

My suggestions: The Trump administration (or any administration, for that matter) should quickly: 1) assess which jobs will be automated, 2) make plans to communicate this to the public, 3) prepare its base with upskilling, 4) and prepare to partner with the technology companies that will be driving this new future. This is the best path forward for the people, businesses, government, country, and world — there’s more at stake than political position.

The Rise of the Political Brand

1

Corporations are being expected to take a political stand, a risky proposition that could result in backlash, boycotts, or a raving army of advocates.

Since the dawn of business, the influences of politics have resulted in private political advisors, quiet lobbying in political offices, and funding political programs.

But now, customers are expecting brands to take a public, forward expression on how the brand affiliates with a particular political bent, notion, or value.

Careful, if you do it wrong, boycotts are emerging against brands that don’t align with a political stance of their customer base, which results in app downloads, lost revenues, and a tarnished brand.

This means the CEO, CMO, and other executives must lean forward on deciding if they should make a position. The examples are increasing:

  • Last night’s Superbowl game sported ads from Audi, Budweiser, 84 Lumber and others had political bents.
  • Tech companies just signed an anti-immigration ban document, rallying as a group, clearly indicating their values.
  • Uber CEO pushed to step down from White House advisory board, while Elon Musk states a clear stance on why to stay.
  • Starbucks promised to hire many immigrants, and three years ago, Hobby Lobby, stood by their values, which set off the country in debate.
  • Most noticeably, is last night’s Superbowl performer Lady Gaga, is being analyzed for not taking an overt political stance. As this sentiment grows, brands will need to prepare for questions on why they should — or should not take a political stance.

What does this future hold? A few predictions:

  1. CMOs will hire political-brand advisors. No, I’m not talking about lobbyist or government relations professionals, but experts in political campaigning and brand influence. For example, a few years ago, Uber hired David Plouffe, who worked on the Obama campaign.
  2. A new professional category will emerge, agencies, consultants, authors, speakers will emerge that tie together political and brand strategy that aids the CMO — and achieves bottom line growth.
  3. A new feature of enterprise marketing software will emerge to measure customer political preference and affiliation — with a dashboard for the CMO to manage.
  4. CEOs will lead a discussion at board level, with the CMO to discuss if a brand should take a political stance, after carefully examining the impacts to government relations, regulation, customer preference.
  5. Brands will politically poll their customers, partners, prospects and competitor base to ascertain the political bent of their constituent base. Some bold brands will publish these polls in public.
  6. A more public association between brands and their preferred political ideology and perhaps candidate will emerge.
  7. Customers will sport their favorite product as a form of political activism: Supporting, advocating, or boycotting online and in front of their real world friends.

Companies have no choice to consider their political bent, not just behind closed doors, but now in public.

Automation Is the Next Phase of the Collaborative Economy

5

This may come as a shocker to many, but in the next few years, the peer-based sharing/collaborative economy will shift to automation.

I’ve studied this market closely and want to make some clear predictions on where things will head. Four years ago, I mapped out the Collaborative Economy, which is the phase where humans get what they need from each other (peer-to-peer commerce). In the next phase, the Autonomous World, robots will augment and replace humans, and they will serve humans. In some cases, robots will serve other robots as we advance further.

The transition from traditional business models to the Collaborative Economy and ultimately to the Autonomous World is already creating ripples throughout the world. We are in the midst of global disruption due to widespread mobile Internet and cloud technology, vastly improved processing power and Big Data, and the rise of the sharing economy and crowdsourcing, according to the World Economic Forum. These changes have prompted new waves of geopolitical volatility and the creation of a new middle class in emerging markets.

These innovations are now spawning new energy supplies and technology, the Internet of Things, advanced manufacturing and 3D printing, and societies that live longer — all of which are quickly altering expectations about the future.

The next turn is likely to produce robots and autonomous transport, AI, and breakthroughs in advanced materials and biotechnology. These represent a new frontier that may only be a few years on the horizon. WEF posits that the world could look fundamentally different by 2020.

Let’s indicate how timely this is, and how it lines up with what we see.

How the Collaborative Economy will shift to Automation

Category Automation Phase Examples Impact
Ride Sharing

(Uber, Lyft, Didi, Ola)

Self-driving cars are quickly emerging, most by 2021, from many car manufacturers Uber has experimented with cars, Lyft’s bold pronouncement, and Didi Professional drivers will need to upskill and find a new career
Delivery

(Postmates, Instacart)

Wheeled and flying drones will deliver packages, beyond humans Starship, based in my area, is delivering food, and Amazon’s patents are inspiring Postmates, Instacart and other couriers will be displaced by robots
Home Sharing (Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway) Home automation will enable hosts to offer hospitality without being present Airbnb could offer digital locks, Wi-Fi management, digitized home appliances, and more Hosts can manage more properties, and guests get a personalized experience
Online Service Marketplaces (Upwork/Freelancer) Simple AI bots will complete rote tasks currently performed by online service providers While a plethora of early-stage bots have emerged from M, Alex, and Watson, advanced AI to conduct intermediate tasks hasn’t emerged Online workers will need to specialize their skills for project or robot management, human-based design, community skills, and humanities
What’s next? Anywhere repetitive tasks exist but could be automated Simple machines will replicate human behaviors Jobs will be lost, so humans must upskill or specialize in humanities

 

The implications of these coming changes will likely have a profound effect on the people of the world. Here are some concrete observations:

  1. Only some, not all, humans will be able to upskill, unlike other social economic revolutions. Humans could grasp industrial revolution roles as we shifted out of agriculture because they were taught single repetitive jobs. The challenge now is that robots will always learn faster than humans, as they are networked and can process faster and work at an accelerated pace.
  2. The world will need solutions to unemployment. From a nonpartisan standpoint, the next threat to Western employment isn’t offshore workers but the rise of automation. Predictions from the former White House administration predict that automation could replace 83% percent of lower paying human jobs. The impact to other nations that will develop these automated technologies are also at hand, they must prepare for changes in society and their economy. Humans will need to redefine what purpose means, for those where human labor is the primary driver.
  3. The impetus to push for universal basic income is at hand. The experiments are happening in Finland, Oakland and more, proposing such a policy would provide every human — regardless of age, gender, educational attainment, or intelligence — with a guaranteed living wage to cover basic needs: food, shelter, and clothes. For anything else they want, they will have to earn it. The companies that own and/or profit from these technologies should be taxed to cover this societal benefit. The robots should not only provide more resources to the planet for cheaper, but they should also fund a quality life for others.
  4. Who will maintain employment: Those who manage robots, humanities, nonlinear roles. While we actively try to teach our children coding, technology is quickly advancing that robots will be able to self-code. This means that understanding how to manage systems of robots towards solving problems will be key. Secondly, arts, humanities, entertainment, sports, psychology and other softer skills will rise to the forefront as skills that are needed. It’s assumed that robots will replace many repetitive and rote jobs, humans that can solve complex tasks that are constantly unique, will thrive.

In summary, Uber, Lyft are ushering in self-driving cars and a wave of automation that will cascade across the broader ecosystem as humans are augmented then often replaced by robotic systems.

Four Threats That Could Decay Silicon Valley

5

By Jeremiah Owyang, from Silicon Valley

In many respects, Silicon Valley sits atop the world. Its growth and influence has made it the globe’s top location for innovation, STEM jobs, IT patents, venture capital funding, and Internet and software growth, and Unicorn startups galore.

And yet there’s also been a shift in the Valley’s culture. Growing social and economic rifts have bred fraud, anger and protests. Where housing isn’t in high demand, neighborhoods lay abandoned. One-third of students in East Palo Alto, next to Facebook’s shining new HQ, for instance, don’t even have a home. The new administration poses many questions on the role of tech, labor, and regulation.

One could argue that there’s an emergence of signs that strikingly resemble Detroit in the glory days of the age of transportation. While Silicon Valley will no doubt enjoy many more years as the technology capital of the world, it has its own vulnerabilities.

In Detroit’s case, where I visited earlier this week, the Motor City reveled in its dominance in the 1950s, but growing social unrest soon culminated in a massive riot in the late 1960s. Foreign competition hit next, making the most of economic opportunities to steal market share in the 1970s. Underlying credit problems grew for decades and finally surfaced in the 1990s, and ultimately despite unprecedented bailouts, major bankruptcies hit in 2009, with the city itself declared officially bankrupt in 2013.


Here are four threats, aside from natural disaster, or whole scale physical attack for Silicon Valley today, along with a futuristic probing of their possible conclusions in the coming decades:

Threat One: Complacency and Competition
The byproducts of rampant success are beginning to take their toll on the Valley, especially in the escalating costs of doing business. A concentration of talent and vision that once was a tremendous advantage is now an ever-rising obstacle for new startups or collaborative partners looking to tap into those resources. To think Silicon Valley’s trajectory will continue unabated for much longer represents an arrogance that’s creating a tremendous blind spot for the region.

New tech oases are rising in places across the country — Austin, Texas, is a prime example — and around the world in places like China, India and Korea. In Detroit, Japanese carmakers gained their foothold when a global oil shortage spiked gas prices and opened a door to sell smaller, more efficient cars. Today, there are a lot of regions in the world where tech innovation can be accomplished for cheaper than Silicon Valley. Eventually someone may figure out how to do it faster or better too.

Threat Two: Lack of Economic Diversity Means Fragility
One industry in a single city is a risk. Stemming from that very same tech-obsessed culture comes the liability of being one-dimensional. The threat of a Silicon Valley bubble unplugging from the realities of the rest of America and the world could render its innovations out of touch and useless, whereas a more balanced economy where arts and humanities are also thriving is more likely to produce thinking outside the box.

Historically, iron and steel towns have faltered when global economic shifts happen — they have no backup, and the homes, stores, and businesses that all support that single industry may result in their shuttiner. Additionally, having a variety of industries only breeds a plethora of viewpoints, which can only aid in helping guide a better technology set for humans. Where Silicon Valley is strong with tech, it’s equally deficient in the humanities.

Threat Three: Disappearing Margins as Tech becomes Commoditized.
The open source movement and spread of tech knowledge are diminishing Silicon Valley’s advantage over the rest of the world. There’s an abundant supply of new software developers coming into the market, and technology has a way of democratizing at such a low price point that healthy margins are nearly impossible. And if energy technology succeeds in providing inexpensive renewables in the not-too-distant future, the threshold of entry for competitors will drop even lower. While the iPhone is able to maintain a high price point, China is on their heels with a $25 smartphone. Could other regions in Asia and Europe develop open source versions of technology that smash the price of technologies?

Threat Four: The Rise of AI, Silicon Valley build’s it’s own master
The race to develop artificial intelligence and machine learning could backfire on Silicon Valley if AI breakthroughs displace the need or abilities of its army of tech pioneers. Or the intense pursuit of that goal could unleash uncontrollable machines that wrest power away from the elites. Technology has proven to be a capable disrupter of businesses, industries and entire ways of life. Deliver that kind of disruption on an unprecedented scale and it becomes incredibly hard to predict the consequences.


Any one of these warning threats has the potential to morph into a serious threat to the future of Silicon Valley, and avoiding such eventualities begins with addressing their underlying issues.

Just remember, no industry is hot forever, they all have their own lifecycles the question is, is Silicon Valley just a teething youngster, or in it’s final stages?

Call for Insights: Contribute to our next report on the industry impacts of blockchain

0

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-7-06-35-am

Crowd Companies’ next research report will explore the industry and business impacts of blockchain––beyond financial services––and we’re looking for qualified interview subjects.

We’ve explored many resources, videos, conferences, articles, and books on the topic of blockchain technology, and found a gap in its in-depth analysis around potential opportunities within all industries. Yes, we’ll include financial services (and the stock market) in our research, but we primarily seek to uncover impacts to insurance; healthcare; supply chain management; manufacturing and distribution; retail; travel; media and telecommunications; government, municipal and legal; and farming and agriculture.

Research findings will also reveal hurdles that corporations must overcome before implementing blockchain, as well as specific use cases for blockchain in every industry, from smart contracts; to electronic medical records; to secure transactions; to digital asset management; to Internet of Things (IoT) implications; and more. Crowd Companies research will broaden the horizon of blockchain beyond typical base understanding of Bitcoin to showcase how every corporation can ultimately benefit from this disruptive technology and work its way toward becoming a distributed autonomous organization (DAO).

And, we’re looking for your insights! Do you fulfill one or more of the below criteria for interview?

  • Have a baseline knowledge of blockchain and actively pursuing its applications. Note: Technical knowledge of blockchain is not a requirement, but how it can be applied to your business or industry is.
  • Build new customer experiences (B2B or B2C) brought forth by blockchain.
  • Contribute to company business model changes on an innovation team, IT, digital, legal, or another department responsible for blockchain research and implementation.
  • Work for a startup or vendor that provides blockchain services or applications to fit a specific industrial or cross-industry use case.
  • Have advanced knowledge of blockchain and viewed as a thought leader or subject matter expert.

If so, please fill out the form at this link.

We’ll review every submission and will contact you via email for interview if you fulfill our qualifications. Thank you in advance for your time and efforts in contributing to our research.

(Photo via Pexels)

Industry Impacts of Airbnb’s Shift to Experiential Business Models

1

The future of Airbnb lies in creating memorable guest experiences, and brands will benefit by complementing these experiences in relevant, valuable ways.

Since attending Airbnb Open in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, I’ve been contemplating what Airbnb’s announcements around shifting toward experiential hosting mean for both guests and corporations. Guests will find authentic travel experiences that complement their hospitality choices, while corporations will find opportunities to partner with Airbnb and sponsor these entertainment and cultural adventures.

During the event, executives from Airbnb revealed a few interesting data points:

  • The average business traveler stays at an Airbnb for six nights
  • The average Airbnb host makes $7,530 per year
  • Travel spending is nearly 10% of global GDP ($7.2B)
  • Airbnb had 40M guest stays in 2015 (see graph below), in 34K cities in 191 countries

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-10-51-51-am

With guests staying for nearly a week at their hosts’ abodes, many are looking for immersive experiences in the local scene––activities and sights that can’t be booked through a travel agent or seen from a tour bus. There are already more than 600 experiences available to travelers through Airbnb! The company is also experimenting with on-demand car delivery for off-the-beaten-path travel, as well as prepared food delivery.

What does this mean to you? Corporations have the opportunity to connect directly with tastemakers around the world, inserting their brands and products into diverse experiences with lasting impact. Let’s explore a few of the potential industry opportunities:

  • Consumer Goods: Airbnb is the world’s largest showroom, with the goods in hosts’ homes used to influence buyers as the level of trust between guest and host are high.
  • Retailers: These new “experiences” mean that local retailers will be visited in cities, led by the hosts and tour guides.
  • Hospitality and Travel: For hotels, this new offering is about the entire trip, and they’ll soon offer flight deals and cars, in addition to experiences and homes.
  • Food: Food will be delivered directly to Airbnb locations, and continued on-demand food models will become important.
  • Finance: Hosts are generating a modest amount of income per year, but need money to upgrade their locations, an opportunity for small loans.

What does this mean for all companies? Today’s modern customer is seeking experiences, they show off using digital technologies, and access to physical goods is easy with on-demand models, rather than ownership of a house, car, electronics and more. Established companies need to revisit their strategy to provide customers with experiences that connect to the real meaning of why customers want platforms that enable new adventures and more.