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Only Humans Need Apply

Winners and Losers In The Age of Smart Machines

Thomas Davenport and Julia Kirby

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Problems of human workers: they are expensive - add a third to wages for taxes, paid holidays, training, pension contributions, health insurance, sick leave. And then the expense of maintaining a comfortable environment, plus the 'invisible' cost of embezzlement and petty theft.

Computers generally take over entire jobs all at once; they encroach one task at a time. Even if they do 10% of work, it still means 9 people can do the work that used to require 10. And usually it's the crappiest part of the job - the dirtiest or the most boring - so those 9 people are happy to see it go away.

'Physician Advisor' is an impt position in medical admin. His job is to review a doctor's treatment plan for a patient for unnecessary procedures or missed possible diagnoses. It requires diplomatic skills bc need a balance between physician pride and firmness towards achieving management goals. Computer programs such as Watson can provide far more background of prior cases, but also takes the pride out of the equation.

As soon as a field of knowledge becomes explicit, an algorithm becomes possible.

If you believe your job is safe because you are smarter than a computer, you're wrong. Whatever level you're performing at at the moment, a computer will be there in a year.

'Big data' is basically looking at the fire hoses of data that arrive every second, and using computing power to find patterns and make decisions to capitalize on them.

Automation simply replaces a human worker with a robot one; the job gets done faster or better, but it stays the same. Augmentation offers chance of progress.

A study of animal locomotion showed that the condor was the most efficient (used the least energy) to move one mile. Humans were about a third of the way down the list. But then calculated 'man on a bicycle', and it was way more efficient than even the condor. And, as Steve Jobs once said, the computer is a bicycle for the mind.

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